Will the Yankees get into the mix for Max Scherzer?

Division Series - Detroit Tigers v Baltimore Orioles - Game OneThe Yankees did not get seriously involved in the negotiations for free agent left-hander Jon Lester, who agreed to terms on a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs late on Tuesday evening.

That moves the Hot Stove spotlight prominently onto Max Scherzer, a pitcher whom Yankees executives are said to prefer over Lester and fellow free agent James Shields.

The price tag will be steep for Scherzer, who turned down a seven-year, $160 million proposal from the Tigers last year, according to agent Scott Boras. Speaking on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, Boras said that he believes Scherzer would make a lot of sense in the Bronx.

“I think the Yankees have always been — again, that model of having 50 wins and 600 innings [in the rotation] to win has worked very well for them,” Boras said. “You can go back and find when [Roger] Clemens was the No. 1 or [Mike] Mussina was the No. 1, or [Andy] Pettitte. They won a lot of world championships with that formula.

“The idea of them having No. 1 pitchers certainly would add protection to where their current pitchers are, take innings off of them, give them a little bit of an umbrella where you have someone to lead and be the No. 1. I can’t predict what the Yankees are going to do, but I can tell you that a guy like Max fits into their starting rotation to develop a World Series-caliber set that is similar to what they’ve had in the past when they’ve won.”

That’s a case Boras surely will make directly to the Yankees, assuming it has not already been delivered.

Asked specifically this week if he planned to get involved in a chase for a pitcher of Scherzer’s caliber, general manager Brian Cashman kept his words to a minimum, replying, “It’s not in my best interests to say.” Cashman is scheduled to speak with reporters later tonight.

  • Boras also noted that Stephen Drew has received interest from clubs about playing second base, and that he is open to that idea. The Yankees have spoken about having prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela compete to serve as the Opening Day second baseman in the event that Martin Prado is manning third base.

    Asked for his opinion of last week’s Didi Gregorius trade, Boras said:

    “It’s not a traditional Yankee placement where they would maybe go out and get a veteran player to replace Derek Jeter. But certainly going out and doing what they’re doing in the bullpen, and other pursuits that could go on this offseason would lead you to be believe that of course they’re trying to compete.”

Yankees at the Winter Meetings, Day 3

Things have started to move with more urgency here at the Winter Meetings, with the Jon Lester logjam finally clearing last night. As you know, Lester selected the Cubs and their six-year, $155 million offer over a chance to return to the Red Sox.

The Yankees were never seriously in on Lester, despite speculation that they could make a last-minute pounce (a la Mark Teixeira ’09), but pitching remains at the top of Brian Cashman’s wish list. Yankees people have been said to prefer Max Scherzer over Lester anyway, though it remains to be seen if Hal Steinbrenner can stomach another nine-figure pitching contract after issuing a couple to CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka already.

Brandon McCarthy’s market seemed to pick up a baseline this week when Francisco Liriano inked a three-year, $39 million extension with the Pirates, and if the Yankees could bring McCarthy back for those kinds of numbers, the sense is that they’d jump on that. McCarthy has expressed interest in returning.

On the relief front, the Yankees have talked to the agent for Jason Grilli and could give a serious look to Sergio Romo, who is also reported to have nibbles from the Giants and Tigers. Luke Gregerson – a name the Yankees weren’t really connected to – came off the board early today, with the hurler accepting a three-year deal with the Astros. Houston also inked Pat Neshek.

Even without another move, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances could do the job, in theory. Cashman said yesterday that he doesn’t know if the Yankees have their 2015 closer on board.

“We’re not a finished product,” Cashman said. “We are having a number of conversations with clubs and agents. Our closer might be on this roster, he might not be here right now. I just don’t know yet.”

Chase Headley’s situation also should come into focus now that the Giants have resolution on their Lester chase; the defending World Series champs were runners-up in the hunt for Lester, Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas, so they could use a first-place finish on something.

The Marlins are said to be interested, but not heavily, in Headley, and we still don’t know where that reported four-year, $65 million offer came from. Joel Sherman of the New York Post offers this perspective on Headley’s market:

For what it’s worth, Cashman declined to identify a No. 1 priority on his list of Yankee to-do items.

“My top priority is to solve whatever I can solve, because we have multiple areas of need,” Cashman said.

This and that:

  • Those reports that the Yankees hired Marcus Thames as the assistant hitting coach are false, Cashman said, adding that Thames was not even interviewed for the Yanks’ coaching vacancies. Cashman said that he would have to hire a head hitting coach before entertaining the idea of bringing in an assistant. Finding replacements for Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher has become a lower priority than the trade and free agent market, he said.

    We’ll have more from San Diego later today on yankees.com.

  • Yankees at the Winter Meetings, Day 2

    A significant domino in the Yankees’ offseason plan fell late last night, as David Robertson accepted a four-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox — Mr. “Sweet Home Alabama” opting to make it “Sweet Home Chicago.”

    Robertson isn’t the highest-paid closer in history, falling shy of the mark still held by Jonathan Papelbon, but he certainly will be well-paid on the South Side. Turning down the Yanks’ $15.3 million qualifying offer seems like it was the right move for Robertson, a home-grown Yankee who now leaves the club with only four remaining members from the ’09 World Series club.

    As news of Robertson’s deal moved through the hotel lobby last night, my thoughts flashed back to the final game of the season at Fenway Park, when I asked Robertson if he’d considered the chance that he just took off a Yankees uniform for the final time. I thought there might have been some sentimentality involved for him during those last few innings in the bullpen, but I was wrong.

    “Yeah, I’m not going to discuss that at all,” he replied. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, we’ll just see how things play out.”

    So, this is how it played out — the Yankees had expressed some hope of re-signing Robertson early in the free agent period, tossing him verbal bouquets about his performance in taking over Mariano Rivera’s old job, but that optimism had seemed to wane in recent days. General manager Brian Cashman’s public commentary regarding Robertson essentially had reduced to, “We’ll see.”

    In New York’s eyes, they obtained some insurance for Robertson’s possible departure by inking Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million contract late last week, and Dellin Betances is coming back from a dominant All-Star season. There is also some appeal to the compensation pick that the Yanks now have in the 2015 Draft.

    Jack Curry of the YES Network offers this detail:

    So Robertson moves on, leaving the Yankees with a question mark at the closer spot. Miller and Betances would be the likeliest in-house fits, unless the Yanks sign a free agent like Jason Grilli or Sergio Romo, or can trigger a trade. As we wrote in last night’s wrap, pitching is the Yanks’ focus here at the Winter Meetings, though Chase Headley is still available and there have been rumblings that he could pick a team by Thursday.

    Speaking of picking a team, getting that whole Jon Lester logjam cleared up might move a few other things along, though the Yanks don’t necessarily view it that way. The Yankees still haven’t been definitively connected to the “big three” of Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields, unless we count a few puffs of smoke like this:

    Last week, a few of the MLB.com reporters were asked to rate the chances of Lester coming to certain teams on a scale of 1-10, where one was near-impossible and 10 was a mortal lock. I put down ‘4’ for the Yankees, even with the absence of any solid link between them — hey, it was only a few years ago that Cashman slipped out the back door of the Bellagio and slapped $161 million on CC Sabathia’s Vallejo, Calif. doorstep.

    The Yanks like to pull off those kinds of stealth moves if they can. The talk has been about waiting for guys like Brandon McCarthy, and that interest does seem sincere. (The Pirates re-signing Francisco Liriano to a three-year, $39 million deal provides a guide for McCarthy’s next contract.) Still… until we see any of the bigger arms holding another team’s hat, I’d prefer to leave the light on for a stunner.

    Today should be a busy day at the Winter Meetings — Cashman is expected to meet the media at some point, and Joe Girardi is scheduled to hold his manager availability session at 6:30 p.m. ET. We’ll have more thoughts and updates here and on yankees.com later in the day.

    Yankees at the Winter Meetings, Day 1

    “San Diego, drink it in. It always goes down smooth.” – Ron Burgundy

    greetings-from-san-diegoHello from the Manchester Grand Hyatt in beautiful San Diego, where the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings are officially underway. The Yankees’ executive contingent is due to arrive sometime after lunch, as general manager Brian Cashman spent his Sunday evening serving as one of Santa’s elves in his annual 22-story rappel down the side of the Landmark Building in Stamford, Conn.

    As we’ve detailed in our previews for the Meetings, the Yankees come here with several needs to fill. In recent days, they’ve addressed the back end of their bullpen by signing left-hander Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million contract, and found a possible replacement for Derek Jeter by acquiring shortstop Didi Gregorius from the D-backs in a three-team deal that shipped right-hander Shane Greene to the Tigers.

    That follows earlier winter activity that included signing Chris Young to serve as the fourth outfielder and picking up reliever Justin Wilson from the Pirates in exchange for catcher Francisco Cervelli.

    Still on the agenda: at least one starting pitcher (the Yanks have stayed in touch with Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda and Chris Capuano, while steering clear thus far of the fray for the bigger targets like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer), help for the left side of the infield (Chase Headley remains on the radar, even though it appears he may require a four-year commitment) and an answer for the closer role. For that final slot, David Robertson doesn’t seem to be budging off his four-year, $50 million-plus demands, not that there’s any reason for him to do so. The White Sox and Astros are said to be in the mix for Robertson.

    Here’s a rundown of what’s doing here in the hotel from the Yankees’ perspective. We’ll update this blog post as the day goes along.

    — Miller joined the Yankees beat reporters on a conference call this morning and explained some of his thinking in accepting the Yanks’ offer, leaving a larger offer from the Astros (confirmed by MLB.com to be four years and $40 million) on the table.

    “I think New York had a few things to sell that nobody could compete with,” he said. “One of the things for my family that’s huge is being in Tampa for Spring Training. That’s two months that I get to spend at home that I wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s one less move for my wife and my child to make. That’s certainly makes life easier. I don’t know that that’s the kind of thing that I can put a financial value on. We discussed it quite a bit. That was certainly something that we enjoyed.

    “With the Yankees, I knew that no matter what there is an expectation to win and there’s going to be the wherewithal to win every single season. That’s what I want to be part of.”

    – Could the Yankees be back in the lead for Headley’s services? Perhaps, according to ESPN, which reports that the Yanks are now willing to offer a fourth year to the infielder. That comes with a catch, in that it must be “at the right price.” There have been rumors that Headley is sitting on a four-year, $65 million offer, but some have questioned the existence of that offer. It is not believed to have come from the Yankees, Giants or Marlins.

    – A few names bouncing around behind the scenes: the Yankees checked in with the Braves about Craig Kimbrel and the Marlins about Steve Cishek, then asked the Royals if they were thinking about dealing closer Greg Holland or setup man Wade Davis, according to the New York Post.

    David Robertson “letting it all play out”

    Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley joined me for a phone interview this week, participating in a Thanksgiving feature that will appear on yankees.com over the holiday. During our conversation, we touched upon the situation with free agent closer David Robertson, who recently turned down a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Yankees and is reportedly seeking a four-year pact.

    “We’ve talked once in a while; I’ll shoot him a text, or we have a little bullpen group message feed that we keep in touch with,” Kelley said. “Not a lot about baseball, but I’ve texted him personally to see what his thoughts are. Honestly, I think he’s just kind of letting it all play out at this point. Since he turned the qualifying offer down, he might as well hear what the teams have to say and see what the best situation is personally for him.”

    Kelley, who just completed his second season with the Yankees, believes that Robertson has strong feelings about the idea of staying in pinstripes.

    “I know he loves New York, I know he’s close with Mariano (Rivera) and wants to kind of follow in Mariano’s footsteps,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a big part of him that probably wants to stay in New York, but he’s got to do what’s best and see what’s out there. That’s where he’s at in his career right now. I’ll support anything he does. We’re close friends, we always will be and I want what’s best for him and his family.”

    As the top closer available on the open market, Robertson and his representatives made a calculated gamble in declining the Yanks’ qualifying offer. One report suggested that Robertson is seeking “Jonathan Papelbon money,” approaching the $50 million pact that Papelbon signed with the Phillies, and Kelley said he couldn’t resist ribbing Robertson about what he’d turned down.

    “I even texted him, just joking around, and said, ‘Man, did you ever think you’d be turning down $15.3 million?'” Kelley said. “But if you look into the circumstances, there are obviously a lot of reasons why it probably makes more sense. But if you just think about being a little kid and someone said, ‘Hey, I’ll give you $15 million to play one year,’ I think it would’ve been hard to turn down.”

    With an eye toward the Hot Stove, Kelley also likely echoed the reaction of many American League East pitchers after hearing the Red Sox had signed both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

    “I’m thinking their lineup is getting a little tougher; it already did when they got (Yoenis) Cespedes and now Hanley and Pablo,” he said. “That’s going to be a dangerous lineup. I always hope that those free agents sign with National League teams so I don’t really have to face them. That’s part of it and teams are positioning themselves to put together 25 guys that are going to take them to the World Series. It’s not getting any easier in our division.”

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