Steinbrenner: Yanks not done adding
Managing general partner 'leaving no stone unturned'
NEW YORK -- Winter news conferences at Yankee Stadium are always a spectacle, with bright lights set upon the glow of a new acquisition fitted in pinstripes for the first time. Hal Steinbrenner said that there may be more of these affairs to come before the Yankees are ready for 2010.
Shortly after Curtis Granderson smiled for the cameras and spoke about his hopes for leading the Yankees to back-to-back World Series titles, New York's managing general partner promised that there is still room in the company coffers for at least one more acquisition this offseason.
"I don't believe we're done yet, because I believe there are a couple of areas we're still looking at," Steinbrenner said. "We always worry about pitching. Every team does. Granderson is going to go a long way to replace the offense there, but I still think we're looking for a bat.
"We'll see where we end up. As I say every year, we're leaving no stone unturned and examining all of our possibilities -- free agents, trades. We'll continue to do that until it's done."
The Yankees accomplished two objectives at the Winter Meetings, trading for Granderson and re-signing Andy Pettitte to a one-year deal. New York remains interested in bringing back Johnny Damon as a left fielder and designated hitter, but its thoughts are more in the range of two years and $18 million to $19 million.
General manager Brian Cashman has spoken often about his budget limitations for 2010, which is believed to be a number south of $200 million, and it is not believed the Yankees will pay Damon the $13 million he was making annually. But Steinbrenner said that there could be some flexibility if a situation demands it.
"I think Brian understands that if it's a matter of getting one player, I'm not going to slam the door in his face -- let's put it that way," Steinbrenner said. "But I am a budget person and he did get a budget. We've already spent $17 to $18 million and I don't think we're done yet. We'll see where we end up, but my door is always open to him. I'll listen to what he has to say."
Cashman said that it was not likely he would be rapping on that door anytime soon in this market, saying, "We will have the highest payroll in baseball. It will be reduced, though."
Last year, Cashman spent $180 million on Mark Teixeira and then had to lobby for more dollars to lock up Pettitte, a situation which he does not envision again given the talent pool out there.
"That budget number is hard and set," Cashman said. "As we move forward, we have obviously [Derek] Jeter and [Mariano] Rivera coming up next year. We were very aggressive last year in the free-agent market, and it turned out, for good reason. There were terrific players available. This market is a lot different.
"We played in a better market last year. We'll be less aggressive in this market. As we move forward, we've got to be careful, because we have a lot of commitments we've got locked in on with quality players that we're excited about."
In the intra-office discussions of which players the Yankees should or should not pursue, Steinbrenner said he would not hesitate to help close negotiations -- shades of the stance his father often took. But the younger Steinbrenner is also content to allow his baseball people to do what they are paid for.
"I know my limitations," Steinbrenner said. "I am not a baseball person -- I didn't play it professionally and there are many people who are more knowledgeable than me. I absolutely listen to Brian and everyone he listens to, [manager] Joe [Girardi] and the coaches and our scouts. We have a good network of people who are very knowledgeable. I rely on all of them."
Some might speculate that the Yankees should simply fill their need for a left fielder by backing a Brinks truck up to the homes of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, and Cashman has heard some of that discussion flying around the rumor mill. But it represents fantasy spending in a lot of ways.
"There's always talk," Cashman said. "That's the great thing about the Hot Stove. You hear a lot of things get debated, and this would be perfect. Some of them are more realistic than others. I'm just saying we're going to operate within this number."
So the Yankees will be careful with the course that lies ahead. Given the choice between a power bat and another solid arm, Girardi said that he would lean on the side of adding pitching.
"I don't think you can ever have too much starting pitching, especially with the age of some of our starters," Girardi said. "You don't want to feel like you have to push them too far. I liked being able to not have to pitch guys on short rest if you don't have to."
Steinbrenner said that there is no change in the urgency to win a World Series title just because the Yankees were able to be the last team standing in 2009. Rather, the importance of continuing their winning ways may have even increased now that the public has had another taste of Yankee success.
"Every year, I know what the fans expect," Steinbrenner said. "Every year, they expect a championship. That just doesn't change from this year to the next. Is it tough to win two in a row? Of course.
"But Joe has been here as a player, so he understands what he's up against. He can't let anyone take a breath. We've got to get right back into it in March and hit it hard, because we've got some stiff competition the way we do every year."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.