The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Cashman: Montero can catch at the big league level01.29.11

In a good question and answer session with Josh Norris, Brian Cashman once again said the Yankees believe Jesus Montero can catch at the big league level. In fact, Cashman said Montero is already better than some of the catchers in the Majors.

“The minor leagues is (where you) work out your problems,” Cashman said, “and he’s certainly closing the gap. He’s not there yet, but he’s pretty damn close. We believe he’s better than some starting catchers, defensively, in the big leagues right now.”

Check out the full interview over at Josh’s Minor Matters blog. Cashman discussed his drafting strategy, his dedication to building a top-rate scouting department and the value of developing talent.

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Swisher: “I don’t want to leave New York”01.27.11

Nick Swisher was on the Mike Francesa’s radio show this afternoon, professing his love for the Yankees, the Bleacher Creatures and all things New York.

“I don’t want to leave New York,” Swisher said. “This is the place to be. I love it. I absolutely love it… Meeting my wife, and Kevin Long, and the city of New York just completely resurrected my career.”

Coming off the best season of his career, Swisher has stuck with his offseason routine. We already know that Long has been to California to work with Swisher this winter.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Swisher said. “Continuing to do the same thing. Just trying to keep that same mentality. Really trying to stay consistent with something.”

It’s a nice, quick interview that’s available over on the YES Network website. Swisher talks a lot about his transition to New York, his popularity in New York and his upcoming honor at next week’s Thurman Munson dinner. It’s Swisher, so you know it’s entertaining.

A few other notes and links from today.

• Newsday has a cool photo gallery showing some of the oddities of Brian Cashman’s offseason, everything from the Derek Jeter negotiations to the Rafael Soriano press conference to last night’s bartending experience.

• My good friend Bryan Hoch did a nice job wrapping up last night’s bartending event. “I think I’m keeping (the fans) happier right now tending bar than I am in terms of finding a starting rotation that they can be comfortable with,” Cashman said. “But in time, we’ll do that, I promise.”

• Make sure you check out Buster Olney’s take on what the world of Twitter might have looked like with a George Steinbrenner account. My favorite fictional tweet: Mattingly’s hair has gotten so long that he looks like one of the Beatles — one of their girlfriends, I mean.

Vladimir Guerrero’s most logical next step might be a one-year deal with the Orioles. As Ken Rosenthal pointed out, there aren’t many teams still looking for a designated hitter.

The Nationals designated Justin Maxwell for assignment. If the 40-man weren’t full, and the Yankees hadn’t already added Jordan Parraz for outfield depth, I’d suggest Maxwell might be a solid target for the Yankees. He was pretty bad in Washington last year, but Maxwell raked in Triple-A and seemed to be developing into at least a fourth outfielder not too long ago. That said, I’m not sure outfield depth is as much of a concern now as it once was.

• ESPN says that the best unknown high school player in the country is a kid from my hometown (though I went to a different high school). My dad really likes high school basketball, so I’ve actually heard about Otto Porter quite a bit. The last high school kid in that area to create this sort of buzz was probably Tyler Hansbrough.

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Cashman talks Jeter, Pettitte and his own future with Michael Kay01.25.11

Good stuff from today’s Michael Kay Show, where Brian Cashman went on the air to address any number of Yankees offseason topics. Of course Cashman talked about this morning’s Derek Jeter comments, but far more time was spent discussing Andy Pettitte’s ongoing retirement decision.

Cashman said he’s been in constant contact with Pettitte, including a phone call today.

“He’s not hurting us, he can only help,” Cashman said. “If not, we will find something to make us better. That’s the job. It’s going to take longer than everyone will like… Because of the available situation in front of us right now, patience is required.”

Given the current free agent market, Cashman said Pettitte’s indecision is not preventing the Yankees from making any sort of move. Cashman has told Pettitte that he doesn’t want the lefty to come back because of pressure from teammates or because of desperation from the fans. He only wants Pettitte back if he’s 100 percent committed to coming back.

“His heart’s got to be in it,” Cashman said.

• If you don’t listen to the entire Cashman interview, at the very least I highly recommend the part around the 20-minute mark when Cashman addressed his comments at the Rafael Soriano press conference. Cashman said he felt the need to acknowledge that he wasn’t onboard with the signing because he had previously told agents, GMs and the media that he didn’t want to spend that much money for a setup man. He needed all of those parties to know that he wasn’t lying. “You have to have credibility,” Cashman said.

• Along the same lines, Cashman said he and Hal Steinbrenner talked before the Soriano press conference, and Steinbrenner knew Cashman planned to make his feelings public. No one was blindsided. “It was not the first time I was overruled,” Cashman said. “And it won’t be the last”

• Cashman also addressed the speculation that he might be unhappy with the Yankees, wanting to prove himself with a smaller market club. “I think all things are pretty good (with the Yankees), and I’m proud to be a part of that,” Cashman said. “So why would I want to jump ship and run somewhere else?”

• Cashman said he’s proud of the fact he’s transitioned the franchise away from being strictly a “checkbook” organization, working to both buy the right pieces and build the right prospects. He called the amateur draft, “the most important day of the year.”

• The final word on the Derek Jeter position change situation: “We have no intention of moving Derek at this point. We’re not talking about moving Derek at this point.”

• Will Jeter stay at shortstop throughout this contract? “It’s hard to say,” Cashman said.

• On Joba Chamberlain: “The stuff as a starter has been watered down. I think we’ve seen enough of a sample.”

• Had the Yankees signed both Cliff Lee and Pettitte, Ivan Nova would likely have opened the season as a long man in the bullpen.

• Cashman indicated that in-house young pitchers could compete for the fifth starter spot in spring training. He specifically mentioned Adam Warren and David Phelps, saying they could be, “Nova or better.”

Associated Press photos

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Cashman: “It wasn’t a declaration of any kind”01.25.11

For better and worse, Brian Cashman is generally a candid speaker when he’s in a relaxed environment. He puts up his shields when he has to, but when there’s an easy back and forth, he’s more willing than most general managers to go along with it and speak his mind.

That’s what he did today, and it became a story that Cashman never expected until his phone started ringing off the hook with reporters asking about Derek Jeter moving to the outfield. Step-by-step, here’s how Cashman described this morning’s Jeter discussion at a WFAN breakfast/Q&A.

1. A fan asked whether Jeter would remain at shortstop. Cashman said right now there are no plans to move him away from the position.

2. Mike Francesa, serving a kind of host for the event, brought up his idea that Jeter could eventually move to third base and Alex Rodriguez could move to designated hitter.

3. Cashman, rolling with Francesa’s hypothetical, said that he prefers more power in the corners and said that — given Jeter’s athleticism and offensive style — a move to the outfield would be more likely.

That was the back-and-forth. Cashman was willing to go along with the hypothetical situation of Jeter leaving the shortstop position, and guessed that a move to the outfield would be more likely than a move to third base. It’s interesting and it’s newsworthy, but there’s no indication that the Yankees are planning or preparing for such a change.

“It wasn’t a declaration of any kind,” Cashman said.

To me, the more interesting news coming out of Cashman’s breakfast was his acknowledgment that Joba Chamberlain has not been the same since injuring his shoulder in Texas back in 2008. I don’t remember the Yankees acknowledging the impact of that injury, but Cashman said he’s said all of this in the past.

“That’s not the first time,” Cashman said. “… (Chamberlain) hasn’t been since that episode in Texas. I still think he has a chance to be an exceptional pitcher. It’s just not the same physicality he had prior to that.”

In particular, Cashman pointed out the diminished velocity, which used to reach into the high 90s whether Chamberlain was working as a starter or as a reliever. The velocity was higher as a reliever, certainly, but it was still up there as a starter, much more so than it has been since the injury.

“I don’t think that equipment necessarily exists now,” Cashman said.

As Rob Neyer pointed out on ESPN, it could be that Chamberlain is just another in a long line of pitchers who couldn’t quite hold up to throwing 100 pitches every five days. Chamberlain had been pitching professionally less than two years when that injury occurred, and he’s currently been in the organization only four years. It’s not especially unusual to discover things like this in a pitcher’s first four years in organized ball. The difference for Chamberlain is that the discovery came at the big league level, in the spotlight of Yankee Stadium.

A few other notes from my conversation with Cashman.

• The open competition at catcher is for the backup job, not the starting job. “Russell Martin is our everyday guy,” Cashman said.

• The Yankees obviously could still use a starter, and there are still some risk-reward starters on the free agent market. The fact the Yankees have not yet signed any of them, Cashman said, does not mean they won’t eventually sign one of them. “I wouldn’t say I’m out,” Cashman said.

• When the Andruw Jones signing becomes official, the Yankees will have their fourth outfielder. They already have internal candidates for the utility infield role and the backup catcher role. That leaves one bench job open, either for an in-house candidate or a free agent. “We’re never finished,” Cashman said. “We’re always open to doing things.”

Associated Press photos

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Decision makers, relievers and a few links01.15.11

Reports of a divided Yankees front office continue to surface in the wake of the Rafael Soriano signing. It might not be a huge issue — baseball people disagree all the time — and it should come as no surprise that the people in charge of the money ultimately have the ability to spend it as they see fit. Brian Cashman might have disagreed, but he reportedly didn’t try to stand in the way when it became clear that ownership wanted to make the move, and Cashman reportedly still has the “full backing” of the Steinbrenners.

Frankly, from the very beginning, the Soriano signing never seemed like a Cashman signing. It goes against his bullpen strategy of the past three years, and it goes against his public comments of the previous week. But in the end, this is not his team, and if ownership wants to make a move, ownership can make a move.

Some other notes and links:

• Of course, good perspective on the Soriano situation comes from Tyler Kepner, who writes that at some point — probably when the signing becomes official — Cashman will have to address the perception of an organizational split, as well as the perception that he wasn’t honest when he said the Yankees would not sacrifice a first-round pick this winter. Kepner also calls the Soriano signing “a clear indictment of (Joba) Chamberlain.”

• Just a few words of my own on Chamberlain: Cashman seems to believe Chamberlain can once again be a reliable and possibly dominant reliever. Cashman seems to like Chamberlain in that spot. It seems to be ownership — and the fan base — that’s not so convinced.

• Speaking of Chamberlain, today the New York Post quoted a talent evaluator who said Chamberlain has value on the trade market but, “in the past two years his stuff has gone backwards.” The source said that there are still “some people” who believe Chamberlain can be a Major League starter.

• In a mailbag, Padres beat writer Corey Brock reports that San Diego is not expected to pursue former Yankees utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. Brock guesses that Hairston will get roughly $2 million on the free agent market.

The A’s are reportedly in the running for Brian Fuentes. This news comes just one day after they agreed to terms with Grant Balfour. Oakland already has a very good young rotation, and it’s added some solid pieces to its weak lineup, now the A’s seem to be focused on building an awfully good bullpen leading up to young closer Andrew Bailey.

Associated Press photo of Cashman

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Cashman: “I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick”01.07.11

Essentially taking himself out of the running for Rafael Soriano, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said this afternoon that he absolutely will not make a move that costs the Yankees their top draft pick.

“I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” Cashman said. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.”

Most Type-A free agents have already signed — including Lee — but Soriano and Grant Balfour are still on the market. The Yankees have been linked to Soriano quite often, but Cashman said it’s possible to link the Yankees to just about every free agent out there. Cashman checks on the availability and asking price of pretty much everyone — “That’s my job,” he said — but those conversations don’t necessarily go any further.

“Talking about somebody doesn’t characterize a level of interest in any guy,” Cashman said. “And obviously this winter we’ve done a lot of talking.”

The Yankees most serious discussions centered on Lee. Aside from their own free agents — Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera — it was Lee who best fit the Yankees offseason needs. The Yankees made an aggressive push, but Lee ultimately settled into a deal with the Phillies. In the weeks since Lee signed, the free agent market has gone from bad to worse.

“It wasn’t strong,” Cashman said. “It’s certainly a lot less strong since (Lee) made his decision.”

What remains at the top of the free agent market is a group of designated hitters and a group of late-inning relievers. The Yankees have no spot for a DH, and they feel no need to be overly aggressive in chasing a reliever. That said, former closers Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch are among the relievers still on the market who would not cost a draft pick.

“We’re going to show up in Tampa, and we’re going to have a team that we’re proud of,” Cashman said.

If only because I’ve gotten a surprising number of emails on this topic… In theory, the Yankees could work out some sort of sign-and-trade scenario to land a Type-A free agent without losing a draft pick. Cashman called such a move a “legal maneuver” but also acknowledged that those sort of trades are complicated and difficult to pull off. They rarely happen in baseball.

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Yankees luxury tax drops more than $7 million12.21.10

I’ll leave this one to The Associated Press.

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees lowered spending on players by $12 million this year, cutting payroll by $5 million and slashing their major league-leading luxury tax by more than $7 million.

New York was hit with an $18 million luxury tax Tuesday by Major League Baseball. The tax was New York’s lowest since 2003 and down from $25.7 million last year, when the Yankees won the World Series.

“Atta baby. And right now we’re in the $170s,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, looking ahead to his 2011 payroll.

Season-ending payroll information and the tax was sent to teams Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press.

Boston is the only other team that will have to pay. The Red Sox, who missed the playoffs this year, exceeded the payroll threshold for the first time since 2007 and owe $1.49 million.

New York’s payroll was $215.1 million for the purpose of the luxury tax, down from $226.2 million, and the Yankees pay at a 40 percent rate for the amount over the threshold, which rose from $162 million to $170 million. Boston’s luxury-tax payroll was $176.6 million, and the Red Sox pay at a 22.5 percent rate.

“We’re doing a better job of managing our payroll and managing our decision-making as we enter the free-agent market,” Cashman said. “Our payroll doesn’t necessarily have to live at that level, but it’s nice to know that our owners are committed to allow us to get there if we need to.”

To compute the payroll, Major League Baseball uses the average annual values of contracts for players on 40-man rosters and adds benefits. The Yankees failed to land free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee despite being given permission from ownership to make a $150 million, seven-year offer. Lee agreed to a $120 million, five-year deal with Philadelphia.

“We weren’t going to exceed where we were this past year, but the bottom line is that now that the Lee thing has declared itself, it would be hard-pressed for us to get up to that level,” Cashman said.

Some notes and links:

ALCS Rangers Yankees Baseball• A.J. Burnett is getting himself ready to work with Larry Rothschild next week in Maryland. Ken Davidoff reports that Rothschild is expected to visit Burnett for a week to 10 days.

• In the notes of the Davidoff story is this quote from Cashman about why Joba Chamberlain is no longer considered a rotation option: “His stuff plays so much significantly (better) out of the ‘pen. We had given him an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, and the velocity dropped. It’s just not the same stuff.”

Governor David Patterson has been charged $62,125 for his tickets to the 2009 World Series. The charge includes the face value of the seats, plus fines.

• The Yankees aren’t the only ones finding the price of pitching a little extreme. The Mets are also waiting for the prices to drop.

Austin Kearns on his return to Cleveland: “I enjoyed playing here. There are a lot of good guys on this team. Guys I’ve maintained relationships with. They have a lot of talented young guys on this team.”

• The Plain Dealer listed three right-handed outfield alternatives to Kearns. Two of them are familiar names: Shelley Duncan and Chad Huffman.

Associated Press photo

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Patience before and after Cliff Lee12.14.10

Yankees Wrapup BaseballAmid one report that the Rangers tried and failed to make a trade for Matt Garza last night, Brian Cashman this afternoon preached nothing but patience. He’s been using that word a lot this winter, and he seems to believe it’s as prudent as ever in the wake of Cliff Lee’s signing with Philadelphia.

“I think the first phase of this will be people trying to test us a little bit,” Cashman said. “The price tags are going to go up a little bit to see if we’ll bite because they’re going to sense blood in the water. I assure you we’re going to take patience. We’re going to pursue what we think makes sense. If it doesn’t, we’ll wait and we’ve got a good team.”

It’s easy to look back at this and think the Yankees should have been more aggressive this winter, but as I’ve written several times, it’s hard to find a completed signing or trade that made sense at the time. Nothing fit the Yankees quite the way Cliff Lee fit the Yankees.

“I’ve said he was worth waiting for,” Cashman said. “That is true. He was worth waiting for even though he’s not going to come here.”

There will obviously be plenty of second guessing in the coming days and weeks — and months — but I don’t look back and find anything the Yankees did wrong. They knew what they wanted, and they went after it. Lee also knew what he wanted, and he went after that.

Patience didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong approach.

“The one thing The Boss has taught me personally is the fact that you have to get in the arena and fight,” Cashman said. “Sometimes you win the fight, sometimes you lose the fight, you get knocked down and you have to pick yourself back up and keep fighting. The Boss is a fighter, the Yankees are fighters and I’m going to keep working. We’re not down and out at all.”

Associated Press photo

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Waiting game continues for the Yankees12.10.10

Yankees CashmanWhen Brian Cashman bolted from the Swan and Dolphin yesterday morning, I followed. Cliff Lee’s agent was already gone, now the Yankees general manager was also hitting the road. I decided to get to the airport five hours early and try to fly standby. It worked, and I shared a flight with … you guessed it … Brian Cashman. And as a perfect metaphor for the past four days, our flight was delayed two hours.

Cashman was once again forced to wait.

It’s hard to argue against the Red Sox being the big winners of the Winter Meetings. They got the best offensive players available on the trade and free agent markets, replacing and possibly upgrading on the losses of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. They needed offense, and they got it.

The Yankees, though, don’t need offense. They need pitching, and pitching is taking a while.

Before he left, Cashman once again reiterated that he was never a serious player in the Carl Crawford sweepstakes. But wasn’t Crawford a backup plan?

“That’s not true,” Cashman said. “We never made an offer. I’ve reached out to everybody and anybody, but that’s not a need for us. We have Gardner, Granderson and Swisher, and I have a certain amount of money I can spend. I’m going to be aggressive on the areas of need, not areas that aren’t of need.”

Yankees fans can be and probably should be worried about the Red Sox upgrades — no team made itself better this week the way Boston made itself better — but the Yankees have more important things to spend their money on than Crawford, and they have no need to trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Offense came off the board quickly, and the Red Sox took advantage. That’s why they won the Winter Meetings.

“We’ll do what makes sense for us in our world,” Cashman said.

The Yankees have to wait for what they need. And that’s why they came home with nothing officially accomplished.

Associated Press photo of Cashman. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired to posting pictures of him in that elf suit. Too funny.

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Notes from Day 3: Cashman edition12.08.10

ALCS Yankees Rangers BaseballAndy Pettitte called Brian Cashman today. The message was vague and uncertain, but the purpose was direct and to the point. Pettitte still hasn’t decided whether he’s going to retire, but he had to make sure his indecision wasn’t negatively affecting the Yankees offseason.

“If I had to bet at some point, I think he’ll play,” Cashman said. “But he’s telling me right now he’s leaning the other way. He just doesn’t want to hold us up.”

Cashman said there was nothing Pettitte said that gave him reason for optimism, he simply believes — because “this is what he always does” — that Pettitte will eventually have a change of heart and decide to pitch one more year. For now, though, it’s completely up in the air.

“He hasn’t put himself in play yet,” Cashman said. “We’re just going to stay in touch with one another… I’m focusing on what’s in play. He knows that.”

Cashman is not waiting for Pettitte. The Yankees are going to make the moves they have to make. What if Cashman spends all of his budget, and then Pettitte decides to come back?

“I never have a problem knocking on Hal’s door and asking for more money,” Cashman said. “I have a problem sometimes with Hal saying yes. I know my title is general manager, but I consider myself the director of spending for the New York Yankees. I don’t make it. I spend it.”

All-Star-Baseball3_t300• While they’ve stayed in touch, the Yankees and Pettitte have never talked money. Cashman said he has no idea whether that will become a problem, but he doesn’t expect it to be an issue like it was two years ago. That, Cashman said, was a problem of communication, and there will be no such problem this time.

• Cashman would not confirm nor deny reports that he had dinner last night with Carl Crawford. His only comment on last night’s dinner: “I had steak.”

• For whatever it’s worth, Cashman never shot anyone down when they asked a Crawford question. He once again referred to the “wide net” he’s cast into the free agent and trade markets.

• Speaking of the trade market: “There are definitely pitchers out there available,” Cashman said. “And I know that we can line up with teams because of the deep farm system I think we have, and I think people recognize that. There are some players that are available on the trade market.”

• Cashman once again spoke to Kerry Wood’s agent, but said he has no idea whether Wood has been offered a closer job. He’s also not ready to push the Wood talks forward at this point. “Right now we’re going to wait on Cliff,” Cashman said. “By my choice.”

• I might have been wrong, but when Cashman said, “by my choice,” I took that as him making it clear that he’s choosing to wait right now. His choice could change at some point.

• It’s not only Wood who’s being put on hold. “There are different things that are within range,” Cashman said. “There are things that we could potentially conclude, but I described before (as) Hannibal Lecter in a straightjacket waiting on this Cliff Lee thing. It’s kind of restricting my movements a little bit.”

• Cashman would not comment on rumors of the Yankees being interested in Mark Prior.

• Cashman also would not say whether he has enough money to sign both Lee and Crawford.

• According to Cashman, Pettitte specifically said that he wants the Yankees to sign Lee.

• If some sort of opportunity presents itself and Cashman needs to stay in Orlando tomorrow night, he’s ready and willing to do that, but for now he’s planning to attend the Rule 5 draft and then get on a plane back to New York. Most likely, he’s done all he’s going to do at these Winter Meetings.

Associated Press photos

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