Speaking to YES Network during an interview recorded last month and aired Monday night, Hal Steinbrenner made it clear the Yankees’ door for free agents is far from shut.
“Let me just say all options are open as far as I am concerned,’’ the team’s managing general partner said when asked about the free-agent market that includes right-handed aces Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg in addition to four key members of his own club. “Anything that rolls across my desk I am going to be looking at real seriously. We are going to be active in the free-agent market.’’
The industry belief is that Cole will avoid The Bronx and that Strasburg will return to the World Series-winning Nationals, the only organization he has ever been with.
And there is no ignoring how much the duo, each represented by Scott Boras, will sign for. There has been speculation each could haul in more than $250 million. And while Steinbrenner understands there is no limit to how much starting pitching a team has, he understands the repercussions of passing the third level of the luxury tax at $248 million.
“It’s something we would prefer not to do,” he said. “There are June draft ramifications. There are numerous ramifications.’’ said Steinbrenner, who praised the returning rotation but understands what starting pitching means to a team. “It’s a good rotation but starting pitching, you just can’t have enough. Like last year that’s going to be my focus. You will have to ask [Brian Cashman] if he agrees with me.’’
Like a lot of voices within the Yankees’ organization, Steinbrenner, who recorded the interview Nov. 12, said he didn’t believe the rotation was the reason the Astros ended their season in six ALCS games.
“I think the problem was the hitting, timely hitting,’’ Steinbrenner said. “Three or four key hits, two or three maybe, might have made a difference.” We left a lot of guys on base. I think a lot of the hitters went away from the discipline they showed all year long in the strike zone.’’
Steinbrenner knows the expectations surrounding the Yankees are always high and understands how some people believe the season was a failure. Yet, Steinbrenner didn’t think the body of work was a failure.
“We enter every October with the mindset of winning a championship and we failed to do that. There is no way to sugarcoat that,’’ he said. “In the end, in October, we failed. That doesn’t mean the season, of course, was a failure.’’
While the Yankees will be chasing free agents from other clubs, they have four of their players out there, too.
Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Brett Gardner and Austin Romine are free agents. The Phillies, who hired former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, have interest in Gregorius, Betances and Romine. Gardner is likely to sign a one-year deal that will include a raise over this past season, when the longest-tenured Yankee earned $9.5 million.
The Yankees said they have tendered contracts to all 40 players currently on the 40-man roster and was a savior in center field when injuries limited center fielder Aaron Hicks to 59 games.
Hicks will be out at least until June this coming season due to Tommy John surgery on the right (throwing) elbow.
The 36-year-old Gardner hit .251 with career highs in homers (28), RBIs (74) and OPS (.829).