It was a little curious this offseason when after the Yankees refused to offer anybody a multi-year contract and even turned down a reasonable one-year offer from Russell Martin only to see them sign a 39-year-old Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year deal.
Sure, Ichiro finished very strong while he was with the Yankees, but in his final year and a half with the Mariners he looked very much like an old man with rapidly declining baseball skills. With Nick Swisher about to leave town it made a little sense to re-sign Ichiro, but on a one-year deal, there seemed little reason to risk a multi-year deal especially when they weren’t giving anybody multi-year deals.
It turns out that his deal might not have come from Brian Cashman after all and instead came from Randy Levine.
In his column yesterday, Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that there was a split on re-signing Ichiro within the “top of the Yankees hierarchy” as to whether or not they should keep him. It’s hard to know exactly what Sherman meant, but it’s easy to speculate that Cashman, in charge of baseball operations, didn’t want to bring the 39-year-old back while Levine, in charge of off-the-field interests, did.
It’s no coincidence, after all, that Ichiro entered this season 394 hits away from 3,000. And while it’s hard to justify giving a 39-year-old a multi-year deal coming off a year and a half of poor play it’s not hard, from a merchandising standpoint, to see them wanting to keep a future Hall of Famer on the precipice of a big milestone.
If this is true it’s troublesome. They are already having trouble fielding a championship caliber team while they try to cut payroll to $189 million by 2014. When off-the-field issues take precedence over on-the-field ones it makes it even harder to compete.
It’s also troublesome because it could be evidence of a further rift in the Yankees front office. Cashman has been bothered in the past when the Yankees have stepped on his toes. First when they re-signed Alex Rodriguez after he opted-out despite Cashman’s vow that he wouldn’t negotiate with him if he did. Then there was also the time they signed Rafael Soriano against his wishes that made him so upset that he aired out his grievances during the press conference to announce the signing.
None of this, if true, can possibly be good for the organization and would explain why their plan to cut payroll seems so schizophrenic. It’s hard to tell right now and we probably won’t know for sure until it comes time for Cashman and the Yankees to negotiate his next deal after the 2014 season.
Or perhaps, if the Yankees are equally as frustrated with Cashman as he probably is of them, then they could fire him when he’s a lame duck GM a year from now. That seems unlikely though. Either way though, trouble could be brewing in the Yankees front office.
• The Yankees and Indians were obviously rained out last night and instead of playing a doubleheader today, they will play a makeup game on May 13.
• The Yankees will skip Ivan Nova‘s turn in the rotation. His spot isn’t in jeopardy after one bad start, yet, but Joe Girardi would rather go with Phil Hughes even though he’s sick. In fact, Girardi seemed to indicate that even if Hughes is too sick to pitch today he might even go with David Phelps before Nova.
• A big step for Michael Pineda yesterday as he threw live batting practice, the first time he’s faced hitters in any capacity since shoulder surgery. With no setbacks, he seems like he’ll be ready in June although the Yankees could option him to the minors to slow down his arbitration clock.
• The Yankees 2010 first round draft pick, 20-year-old shortstop Cito Culver, not only abandoned his left handed swing, but he’s also made changes to his right handed swing too. In a very small sample size, it has paid off so far.
• Yankee Stadium is the “preferred venue” for the NHL’s Winter Classic in 2014. They’ve wanted to play that game in the Bronx for a while now, but it’s been difficult with the other events held at the stadium during the offseason. It would be exciting if it finally happened.
(Photo by Flickr user Kowarski).