One of the story lines during the just-completed winter meetings was the shocking silence of the New York Yankees. In the days of The Boss, George Steinbrenner, they would automatically be considered a major player for each and every “name” on the free-agent market, and they would wind up landing more than their share.
But the theme this year was the new austerity of the Yankees under the leadership of the Steinbrenner sons. It seemed they were deadset on getting under the luxury tax threshhold, which means lowering their payroll to $189 million by 2014. Ken Rosenthal began a column on the “uncharacteristically thrifty” Yankees this way: “Where the hell are the Yankees?”
Well, we might have our answer: Lurking in the weeds on Josh Hamilton. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted today: “The #Yankees, but not GM Brian Cashman, quietly running background check on Josh Hamilton, rival GM says”
And Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who knows the inner-workings of the Yankees as well as anyone, writes today that the Yankees are “incredibly touchy” about the criticism that they have gotten stingy. He says, “So forgive me if I will only believe the Yankees are truly out on Josh Hamilton when I see him at a press conference for another team.”
Sherman also writes:
Over the past five days, numerous officials from other teams offered me some version of: “When do the Yankees go after Hamilton?”
“I would never rule them out,” said an executive from a team interested in Hamilton. “They have been eerily quiet.”
Joel offered a more detailed take later today.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about how the Mariners are well positioned for Hamilton, as well as Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. When it came to Hamilton, that was based on the assumption that the Yankees weren’t a player. I should have known better, right? If that’s not the case, obviously the dynamics change considerably. Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote today that Hamilton and his agent are still holding out for a six- or seven-year deal in the 25-million range. If that’s the case, you know and I know and the American people know that the Yankees would be in the best position to accomodate, never mind the luxury-tax threshhold.
It’s an interesting new wrinkle that bears watching.