11/22/2013 11:53 A.M. ET
Cashman focusing attention beyond just Cano
General manager looking to plug holes in rotation, behind plate, bullpen
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- The Yankees continue to express interest in re-signing Robinson Cano, but considering the wide gap between the two sides in contract negotiations, general manager Brian Cashman has been focusing attention on other needs at this early stage of the offseason.
Team president Randy Levine said this week that Cashman "is engaged with five or six other free agents," and the club is believed to have at least made contact with the representatives for other players in recent weeks.
Levine said that "if guys are ready to make deals, we'll make deals with those" players, a clear sign that the Yankees do not intend to hold up business while waiting for Cano to move off his reported demands for a 10-year contract in excess of $305 million.
Here, then, is a general rundown of where the Yanks stand with their offseason targets:
Cashman said that it is a priority to add approximately 400 innings behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, who are their only rotation locks at the moment. The Yankees would like to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, but thus far, the veteran has not relayed his plans for next season.
Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka is the Yanks' top target. A 25-year-old right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013, but his availability is on hold while Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball negotiate changes to the posting system.
The Dodgers are expected to be heavily in the mix for Tanaka, who has been compared nicely to the Rangers' Yu Darvish, and many other teams have expressed interest. Tanaka is even more appealing to the Yankees, because the posting fee required to negotiate with him would not count toward next year's luxury tax threshold.
The Yankees have also made contact with right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who is in the market for a four-year offer, and various reports have connected the club to the likes of Bronson Arroyo, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Dan Haren and Ubaldo Jimenez.
It is clear that there will be sticker shock for starting pitching, considering the news of Jason Vargas' four-year, $32 million deal with the Royals. A move for David Price has been suggested by numerous fans, but even if the Rays would consider dealing their ace within the division, a trade is unlikely as the Yanks do not have the Minor League chips to go to battle with deeper clubs.
David Robertson may be the in-house choice to grab Mariano Rivera's closer role, but the Yankees aren't ready to hand the keys over just yet. The New York Daily News reported this week that the Yanks have "peripheral interest" in Joe Nathan, who saved 43 games for the Rangers this past season.
Grant Balfour's name also has come up, boasting a 38-save season for the Athletics this past year. The Yankees also touched base with lefty specialist Javier Lopez before he re-signed with the Giants, which suggests that Boone Logan may not return in 2014.
New York clearly wants to upgrade over this past year's catching group of Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine. Free agent Brian McCann is believed to be a top Yankees target, but he will not come cheaply. With the Rangers and Yanks both thought to be heavily interested in his services, the winning bid for McCann could wind up surpassing $100 million.
McCann and other free-agent catchers like A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia certainly weren't upset to see veteran Carlos Ruiz land a three-year, $26 million deal with the Phillies, raising the bar for available help behind the plate this winter.
McCann has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past six seasons; his left-handed power would be a nice fit, especially at Yankee Stadium and coming after the Yankees got unimpressive results from their defense-first approach. Cashman said that Cervelli will "absolutely" be tendered a contract for next season, but he did not make the same assurance for Stewart.
The Yankees would love for Cano to return, but the $300 million price tag is a non-starter. The Yanks weren't rattled when Cano's representatives, including Jay-Z, dined with the Mets this week to gauge their market outside the Bronx. Levine said that the Yankees have "Plan B, C, D and E" in place, and one of those backup options has to include free agent Omar Infante.
This week's trade between the Rangers and Tigers adds a new wrinkle to Cano's situation. Having dealt Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder, Texas may well slot Jurickson Profar in as its new second baseman, though it is not impossible to imagine a scenario where the Rangers have an even bigger play in mind. Perhaps it would dangle Profar or Elvis Andrus in a trade to clear room for Cano.
The Yankees are close to finalizing a deal with slick-fielding Brendan Ryan, who played 17 games with the club last season, as a backup for captain Derek Jeter. That is not expected to be their last move at the position, considering Jeter's injury-plagued 2013 as well as the uncertainty of Alex Rodriguez's situation at third base.
Jhonny Peralta is on the Yankees' radar and could play either shortstop or third base. It has been reported that the 31-year-old Peralta, who served a 50-game drug suspension last year, is seeking a three-year contract. The Yanks have also been connected to Stephen Drew, who is looking for a multiyear deal and has Draft compensation attached because he declined a qualifying offer from the Red Sox.
The Yankees have been reported to have serious interest in Carlos Beltran, who would be a nice fit if he would accept a two-year deal, but they may be able to fill right field with an even more familiar face. Cashman told the New York Post this week that Curtis Granderson remains "a serious part" of the club's offseason plans.
Cashman said that the Yankees would like to upgrade over their current outfield alignment of Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells. Top free agents Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury and would also fulfill that need, but the Yanks would like to stay away from those longer commitments if possible. Like Drew and McCann, Choo and Ellsbury would cost New York a compensatory pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft.
Raul Ibanez has also not been forgotten after his ridiculous September and October 2012 performances; the Post reported that he is also a Yankees target, though the team's interest in the 41-year-old is believed to be more for the designated-hitter role against right-handed pitching.