Yankees won't wait around to bolster roster
Despite uncertainty over A-Rod and Cano, club will eye targets beyond McCann
The New York Yankees have made it clear they are tired of being the outlier in baseball's payroll structure.
They are coming off a record-setting $228 million payroll in 2013 -- their sixth consecutive season in excess of $200 million -- but have their sights set on coming in below the $189 million level for 2014 in an attempt to put themselves in position to avoid being hit with baseball's payroll excise tax.
At least that's the intention.
There's one thing to remember, however.
The Yankees are more concerned about winning games than saving money. After doing little last offseason and then failing to advance to the postseason for only the second time in 19 years, the Yankees are back in business this offseason.
They have won 27 World Series championships, but only one of those has come in the past 13 seasons, which doesn't satisfy the Yankees.
They claim they'll keep that goal of staying beneath the $189 million threshold, and they say the budget is being drawn while factoring in $25 million for Alex Rodriguez, in case he does win his appeal of the 211-game suspension handed down last summer.
Time will tell.
What has become obvious is the Yankees aren't winter wallflowers this time around.
They want to play in October again, and they aren't going to sit at home and hope for a miracle. The likes of Chris Stewart and Lyle Overbay and Jayson Nix and Austin Romine and Kevin Youkilis and Luis Cruz and Francisco Cervelli and Reid Brignac and Chris Nelson and Alberto Gonzalez and Brennan Boesch and Brent Lillibridge and Travis Ishikawa were not the answers this past summer.
That means the Yankees plan to be busy this winter.
The club made that loud and clear when it agreed to terms with catcher Brian McCann on a five-year, $85 million deal, filling the void created by last winter's loss of Russell Martin as a free agent and last summer's inability to find a satisfactory replacement.
With the signing of McCann, the Yankees are obligated for roughly $115 million in 2014 salary, thanks in part to the Cubs, Angels and Blue Jays combining to pick up $36 million of what is owed to veteran outfielders Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano.
But the Yankees are in limbo at third base in light of Rodriguez's battle to be reinstated; at shortstop in light of uncertainty of the durability of Derek Jeter, who at the age of 39 is coming off a season in which he played only 17 games; and at second base, where Robinson Cano is shopping the free-agent market, looking for a 10-year, $310 million deal.
With all due respect to Jeter, the Yankees know they need to have an alternative at short, which is why Stephen Drew's name has come up in conversations for 2014.
And the Yankees aren't sure what to think about second base, where their preference is to re-sign free agent Cano. However, they are thinking more along the lines of a seven-year, $168 million package.
The question is how much either side will give to get that deal done.
That's something the Yankees would like to get an answer to sooner rather than later, because they don't want to get sidetracked with the pursuit of Cano, have the talks fall through, and be too late to make additional moves to beef up the roster. And they have kicked the tires on Omar Infante -- the next-best available option, although he's not close to being in the class of Cano.
The Yankees are moving ahead in pursuit of free agent Carlos Beltran, balking at his three-year request in light of the fact he will turn 37 in April, preferring to guarantee only two years but with the idea they could include a third-season option that could become guaranteed if Beltran reaches makeable triggers.
There remain indications that the Yankees won't be shy when (or if) Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is given the go-ahead to go to a Major League team.
And all of those efforts are shadowed by the uncertainty of Rodriguez. It's going to be at least another six weeks before the Yankees will know whether they will have Rodriguez on the roster or whether they will be off the hook for his salary in 2014.
The Yankees aren't waiting around this year.
They are up to their old tricks.
They are looking to make things happen.
Sitting around in October has the Yankees back on the offseason move, again.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.