Yankees offer arbitration to none
Pettitte, Abreu head list of players not to be tendered
NEW YORK -- The Yankees have decided not to offer arbitration to any of their eligible free agents, general manager Brian Cashman said on Monday evening in a statement released through the club.
The decision -- a surprise in some circles -- could impact the immediate futures of outfielder Bobby Abreu and left-hander Andy Pettitte, among others. It had been expected that the Yankees would offer arbitration to at least one of the two, and Cashman said the club remains open-minded to retaining their services for the 2009 season.
"We certainly have been going through this process for quite some time," Cashman said. "First and foremost, unlike in past years, we're ... in a position to be able to sign these players as we move forward. That's the most important thing."
By offering six-year free agents arbitration by midnight ET on Monday, clubs can guarantee two Draft picks for any Type A free agent it loses, and one Draft pick (sandwich pick) for a Type B free agent. A club cannot receive compensation for any free agent it loses if it does not offer arbitration.
Cashman said that because the Yankees can still negotiate with Abreu and Pettitte -- unlike in previous years, prior to a Basic Agreement change -- Monday's deadline was more about compensation and salary, and not a lack of interest in either player.
"Bobby was a Type A and Andy was a Type A, so the determination that we made today was to make sure that we control what amount we'd be spending, at least in the event that we're fortunate enough to bring those players back," Cashman said.
Discussions with the 36-year-old Pettitte have grown cold in recent weeks, even as the Yankees have sought starting pitchers as their top priority of the winter. Through his agent, Randy Hendricks, Pettitte has informed the Yankees of his desire to pitch in 2009 and often said that he would only want to play for New York next season.
After the season, Pettitte said he liked the idea of helping to open the new Yankee Stadium and returning for at least one more shot at another World Series title. But Pettitte may not be willing to accept a pay cut from the $16 million he earned in each of the past two seasons, and a published report also linked Pettitte to discussions with Dodgers manager Joe Torre concerning a possible opening there.
If the Yankees offered Pettitte arbitration and he accepted, he would have become a signed player under control for the '09 season, with his salary determined by the arbitration process.
Pettitte was 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA in 33 starts in 2008, and though the club's top priority is adding and retaining starting pitching, Cashman said that the uncertainty of what that price tag would be prompted the Yankees' decision.
"We did not want to put ourselves in the position of having that determined by a third party without knowing what that figure would be," he said.
Abreu has expressed interest in staying in New York, but he is thought to covet a three-year contract. The 34-year-old Abreu hit .296 with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs for the Yankees in '08, completing a 2 1/2-year run as the club's starting right fielder.
New York tentatively projects Xavier Nady as the Opening Day right fielder in '09, with Johnny Damon manning left field. With Hideki Matsui largely considered a designated hitter, center field would be decided between Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner.
"The arbitration time period falls in early February, so obviously as we attempt to put this team together, in Andy's case and in Bobby's case, they made $16 million a year," Cashman said. "It's been tough in the past to try and deviate from previous years' earnings in an arbitration setting.
"We just wanted to control the cost that we would allocate for every position on the club by offering them arbitration, even though we wanted Draft picks if we lost anybody. By offering arbitration, we would lose our ability to at least determine a final cost. By doing [this], we chose to go a different direction, not offer the arbitration, and we'll still stay engaged with the entire free-agent market, including those two players."
Arbitration offers for the club's other free agents were considered unlikely. Jason Giambi would not have merited compensation if he signs elsewhere, as the 37-year-old's seven seasons in pinstripes appear up after he clubbed 32 homers and 96 RBIs in '08. The Yankees may have acquired his replacement in last month's swap for Nick Swisher.
Also not receiving arbitration offers were pitchers Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Sidney Ponson, plus catchers Ivan Rodriguez -- a Type B free agent -- and Chad Moeller.
Mussina announced his retirement on Nov. 20, and the Yankees have little interest at this time of retaining Pavano or Ponson. Jorge Posada began a throwing program on Monday in Tampa, Fla., and he is expected to be the Opening Day catcher, leaving little need for Rodriguez; understudy Jose Molina and rookie Francisco Cervelli would hypothetically be next in line if Posada experiences a setback.
Major League players receiving arbitration offers have until Sunday to formally accept or reject.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.