You all know that I love the West Wing, and I’m especially fond of President Bartlet’s ability to move on quickly with a two-word catch phrase: “What’s next?” That phrase kept popping into my head during today’s Brian McCann press conference because, let’s face it, he’s last month’s news. What’s next is Robinson Cano.
“At the end of the day, usually it just comes down to the financials and where we sit versus the field,” Brian Cashman said. “I don’t know what the field is doing and how they’re doing and what people are willing to do. I just know, at the end of the day, we will have — or have put forward already — offers that we are very comfortable with and higher than where we thought we would be to try to retain him.”
The Mariners have emerged as an aggressive candidate for Cano. One report today suggests they’re willing to go up to $230-240 million to sign him. Another reports says they’ve made an offer no higher than $200 million. Either of those figures seems higher than the Yankees want to go.
“Look, we’re still talking,” Hal Steinbrenner said this afternoon. “Nobody has given up. We’re still talking, but obviously we’re a decent distance apart. We’re just going to have to see, day by day. That’s all we can do. … Robbie has been a great Yankee, Robbie is a great player. We’re going to keep plugging away at it until it either happens or it doesn’t. There’s only two options, right? Only two possibilities here.”
Cashman said he met with Jay Z in person some time after last month’s GM Meetings. Conversations, Cashman said, have been ongoing. The Yankees are certainly giving every indication that they still have enough money budgeted to give Cano a significant contract and still stay beneath $189 million in total payroll.
“It’s an absolute goal, yes,” Steinbrenner said. “I think we could do it, but it’s not going to come at the expense of fielding a good team. Right now we’re still under it. Right now we’ve still got a decent amount to spend, quite frankly, and we’re going to. We’re going to put it back into the team the way we always do.”
• McCann basically announced the Jacoby Ellsbury signing during his official press conference, and Joe Girardi talked about Ellsbury as if he were already on the official roster. Cashman, though, wouldn’t confirm the signing, saying he could only talk about moves that are officially completed.
• Girardi made it clear that he expects to play both Ellsbury and Brett Gardner next season. “I think it gives you obviously tremendous defense in your outfield, where these guys are going to cover a lot of ground,” Girardi said. “They both can put a lot of pressure on a pitcher when they’re on the base paths, and their ability to go from first to third or first to home on a number of base hits. We think Jacoby’s home run total will probably rise a little bit playing in this park compared to Fenway. Yeah, I’m excited to have both of them.”
• It seems Alfonso Soriano will have to slide into right field fairly often, but Girardi wasn’t willing to commit to that. “That’s something that internally we’re going to have to talk about,” Girardi said. “This has happened pretty quickly with Ellsbury, and I haven’t had a chance to talk with Brian about what our plans are in the outfield, but it’s something we’re going to have to evaluate, yes.”
• Presumably because of the Ellsbury signing, Cashman was asked whether he has plans of trading Ichiro Suzuki. “Do I have any plans to trade Ichiro?” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t comment other than the fact we’re trying to improve our club in every which way. But there’s really nothing more I can add on that.”
• As they’ve said all winter, the Yankees once again declared Derek Jeter to be their starting shortstop for next season. “Nobody is going to work harder to get back than him, we know that,” Steinbrenner said. “We’re not going to know (about his progress) until Spring Training. He’s our starting shortstop right now.”
• With Hiroki Kuroda clearly a target at this point, isn’t there some concern about his brutal final month or so? “I think that’s the wear and tear, and us maybe having to push him a little harder than we wanted to,” Girardi said. “I think he’ll be okay. He seemed to respond pretty well coming back last year.”
• The Yankees say they’re looking for relievers, but whether they’ll go after a closer remains to be seen. “(Dave Robertson)’s obviously going to get every opportunity right now, as it stands,” Girardi said. “I can’t really tell you what’s going to happen as we move forward here, but he’s going to get every opportunity. … It’s a new role for whoever comes in. I can’t tell you that the closer won’t be signed, and I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. But right now he’s the favorite.”
• Clearly McCann is an offensive catcher, but Girardi said he’s sold on McCann’s defense. He bases some of that on the success and improvements of the Atlanta pitching staff through the years, but Girardi also gained confidence based on conversations with McCann. “We talked about how he likes to study hitters, and his approach to doing it,” Girardi said. “We talked about having to make in-game adjustments. We talked about the other hitters that you have months and months of statistics, but how sometimes how important it is to watch what they’ve been doing the last week or two as well. Sometimes guys will chase pitches they wouldn’t normally chase when they’re in a rut. We see hitters go into slumps, and it’s important that you recognize short term and long term, and what your pitcher has. And I think he knows how to do that.”
• The Yankees made no secret — why would they? — that they’re intrigued by the idea of McCann’s left-handed pull approach in Yankee Stadium. “If you look at my career, a lot of my fly balls go right-center field, sometimes down the left-field line,” McCann said. “But the majority of my home runs go to right field. In Atlanta, you sometimes have to pick your count and kind of cheat to hit a home run. (Playing in Yankee Stadium) is going to make me a better all around hitter.”
• McCann will wear No. 34. He wore No. 16 in Atlanta, but that wasn’t available with the Yankees. So how did he choose No. 34? No kidding, he said it’s because Eric O’Flaherty and Derek Lowe wore that number, and he really liked playing with those two guys. “There are a lot of numbers retired here,” McCann said. “There’s slim pickens.”
• Any hesitation to enter the New York media circus? “Not at all,” McCann said. “I welcome that. When you grow up, you want to play this game at the highest level. The Major Leagues is that, and this is an extra step. Everything you do is magnified. But what a great opportunity it is, a great opportunity.”
• Final word might as well go to Steinbrenner, who was asked about the team’s roster priorities going forward: “I think at this point, we’ve added a great catcher,” he said. “We need more hitting, we know that. That was our Achilles heel to a certain extent, not to mention injuries, last year. We need more hitting, but we also haven’t signed Kuroda, he’s still out there. There’s a few other pitchers out there. We’re not done with pitching, one way or the other, that’s for sure. We need another bat or two.”
Associated Press photos