Offseason off to a fast start for Cashman
Yankees GM has already spoken to Lee, Jeter, Posada, others
NEW YORK -- A small window to unwind finally presented itself to Brian Cashman, who made an appearance on Thursday at Chelsea Piers along with numerous celebrities and prominent Yankees in support of Joe Torre's Safe at Home foundation.
The Yankees' general manager has been a busy man recently.
While reaching out to several free agents to open the door for future negotiations -- "Our name's on the board North, South, East and West," Cashman said -- he's also been racking up the airline miles. Cashman was in Tampa, Fla., recently to meet with Derek Jeter, then discussed a potential role change with Jorge Posada in New York before heading to Little Rock, Ark., for an inaugural face-to-face meeting with the most coveted free-agent pitcher, Cliff Lee.
"You know, although it's the first time I've met him, you've seen enough of his interviews, he's the same guy, pretty easy demeanor," Cashman said of the Yankees' No. 1 free-agent target outside the organization. "Just seemed like a great guy. Not very excitable, excellent at what he does, knows what he wants to do -- he wants to put his family in the best position possible, wants to be happy, wants to be successful, part of a winner."
Cashman is hoping the Yankees fill all those requirements for Lee -- and he doesn't feel a recent incident involving Lee's wife at Yankee Stadium will play a factor. During the American League Championship Series games in New York between the Yankees and Rangers, fans reportedly mistreated Kristen Lee by spitting, throwing beer and shouting obscenities.
"She loves New York," Cashman proclaimed. "I don't want to speak for her, but I don't have any fear of any of the New York experiences that she's had being an issue here.
"I can tell you, the feeling I got from her and him is that this is a place that intrigues them a great deal. But, unfortunately, there are other places that I'm sure will intrigue them, as well."
Cashman, who traveled alone to Arkansas, didn't say whether he exchanged any figures with Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker. But the ace left-hander will no doubt sign a lucrative deal -- and the Rangers are expected to be among several teams also heavily involved.
As for Lee, who won two games against the Yankees in last year's World Series and dominated them in Game 3 of this year's ALCS, can he pitch in New York?
"That was a question that he probably answered when he went from Cleveland to Philly, went from the situation in Cleveland to Philly and was phenomenal in a big market, tough setting, big stage, World Series, all that stuff, and nothing affected him," Cashman said. "He seems like a pretty steady person."
A few days before the Lee encounter, Cashman -- along with owner Hal Steinbrenner and president Randy Levine -- sat down with Jeter and his agent, Casey Close, in Tampa. Both sides summed up the meeting as rather informal, and Cashman said the two sides are still in the "infancy stages" of their negotiations.
Afterwards, Cashman had the type of conversation he admittedly dreads.
He told Posada, his longtime catcher and an integral part of the Yankees for over a decade, that his days behind the plate could be very limited. Cashman said the 39-year-old, who had surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, handled it "like a pro."
"We had a good, honest, direct conversation, and he was professional," Cashman said. "All he wants to do is win, and he wants to play. If things go the way we're drawing it up, he'll be in the lineup as a DH. But I told him he needs to prepare as a catcher at the same time. It doesn't mean things will go the way you expect. You've got underperformance, you've got injuries, you've got a whole number or host of reasons that could derail the best-laid plans, so he needs to be available to us to catch, if necessary, when called upon."
Here are some of the other subjects Cashman broached prior to the gala on Thursday night:
Jesus Montero is a raved-about prospect, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli could also be in the mix for the starting nod behind the plate -- and Cashman is looking forward to the competition in Spring Training. But the GM added that he "wouldn't even close the door on looking out in the marketplace to see if I can secure somebody else out there as a cushion." The free-agent pool of catchers is rather deep this year, with John Buck, A.J. Pierzynski and Rod Barajas among those available.
Cashman called the 38-year-old Andy Pettitte shortly after the conclusion of the season, but still doesn't know whether he's leaning toward retirement. "He's going to try to decompress first, like he usually does, and then talk with his family," Cashman said, adding that he won't give Pettitte a deadline.
The Yankees' GM also met face-to-face with Fernando Cuza, the agent for Mariano Rivera, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., but didn't have any comment -- and the 40-year-old Rivera said, "I don't know anything." Rivera's contract is expected to be resolved quicker than Jeter's.
With Dave Eiland no longer with the team, Cashman began searching for a new pitching coach on Thursday, when he conducted interviews with bullpen coach Mike Harkey and Athletics roving pitching instructor Gil Patterson. Cashman said he has a deeper pool of candidates to interview, but wouldn't reveal their names.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.