Yankees quiet on the Manny front
Although not officially out of running, club unlikely to sign free agent
NEW YORK -- The grins had barely faded from Mark Teixeira's grand introduction when several officials, drawing their paychecks from the busiest club of the winter, cautioned not to expect another major free-agent signing in the Bronx anytime soon.
But with less than six weeks before gates are unlocked at George M. Steinbrenner Field, many fans have hit the Internet banging drums for one more big addition -- Manny Ramirez still needs a home, the thinking goes, and the Yankees may need one more big bat.
Never in hot pursuit of Ramirez, the Yankees also have never officially bowed out. The case on one side makes some sense -- after all, if you're going to write $423.5 million in checks for CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Teixeira, what's one more megadeal?
At some point, the public perception of the Yankees transformed into that of a club playing above the fray, with Monopoly money. But even as a franchise that can call upon financial promises from a new stadium and a prosperous television network to navigate the uncertain economic climate, the Yankees appear to be done making it rain.
There is no question that adding Ramirez to Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the heart of the order would create a powerful trio -- one that could help end the Yankees' World Series drought of eight years and counting, alleviating concerns for a lineup counting on strong returns from Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui.
But while Hal Steinbrenner said that the Yankees continue to look at all options every day, the club co-chairman also noted recently, "We accomplished a lot in the last month." There's always the possibility of a last-minute Scott Boras swoop-in -- see Johnny Damon, 2005, and Teixeira, 2008 -- but it seems unlikely this time.
"The decisions we made this winter would complicate my ability to be aggressive in the free-agent market as we move forward," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I'll leave it at that."
The closest the Yankees appeared to pursuing Ramirez was in late December, when many bought into a misdirection: A report from the Dominican Republic claimed that negotiations had advanced and the Yankees were ready to sign Ramirez to a three-year, $75 million contract.
Cashman quickly shot down the story, and two days later, the Bombers secured Teixeira with an eight-year, $180 million deal. Ramirez would not sign before Teixeira did, and the Yankees had suddenly stepped back as one of Manny's most likely suitors.
The $25 million annual salary in that debunked report is close to what the Yankees could offer for Ramirez, if they wanted to steal him away from his most interested suitors -- at this moment, the Dodgers and Giants. But there are no indications the Yankees plan to do so.
Cashman would not say if he had any money left to spend under the budget, but it is believed that if the Steinbrenners were going to authorize additional money for Ramirez -- as they did late for Teixeira -- it would have happened already.
Incredibly, because they shaved more than $80 million off their 2008 payroll with the departures of Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu and others, the Yankees are still on target to pay out less in 2009. Pursuing Ramirez would challenge that, and as Steinbrenner said, "I think what you're going to find is that our payroll is going to be less this year."
The Yankees already own control of the four biggest contracts in the game -- A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Teixeira and Sabathia -- and their spending is not complete. New York still has to finalize agreements with Brian Bruney, Melky Cabrera and Xavier Nady, all of whom filed for arbitration on Thursday.
A clear indication of the forecast may be found in the Yankees' stance with Andy Pettitte, who no longer can count on $10 million, even though both sides still have interest. Instead, the Yankees are planning to select a fifth starter from a crop of prospects and non-roster invitees.
And while Ramirez's production in Los Angeles was outstanding, few have forgotten how the final days in Boston played out. The Yankees had an up-close look on July 6, when Ramirez was called upon to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of a tied game in New York. Ramirez looked at three consecutive pitches from Mariano Rivera and slunk back to the bench.
Some have pointed to that incident as one of the breaking points in Ramirez's Red Sox tenure, and it was little wonder that Terry Francona later would say Boston's second half -- the post-Manny era -- was the most fun he's had as a manager. It is fair to wonder how Ramirez would react to the close-cropped administrative style under Joe Girardi.
When properly motivated, of course, Ramirez is a dangerous offensive performer. The Dodgers were smitten with his production down the stretch -- .396 with 17 homers in 53 games -- and have sworn to do everything possible to bring Ramirez back to Chavez Ravine.
The lure of that production is why some clamor for the Yankees to further disrupt an outfield mix that already grew crowded with Teixeira's addition.
With Nady and Nick Swisher already on the trading block, accommodating Ramirez would probably necessitate moving leadoff hitter Damon -- due $13 million this year -- in a swap. Designated hitter Matsui, also earning $13 million, is coming off surgery and has a full no-trade clause.
Boras acknowledged the Yankees' outfield logjam when discussing Ramirez's situation recently, but noted these parting words as he attempted to find the slugger's next home: "I can say this -- anyone who really wants to win should take a run at Manny."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.