LOUD AND CLEAR
The New York Yankees pulled the trigger once yesterday and fired two shots across the bow.
The first went across the bow of the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, the second went across the bow of their own free agent second baseman and his new management team, led by rapper Jay Z.
The Yanks, on the same day they finalized a five year deal with free agent all star catcher Brian McCann, agreed to terms on a seven year, $153 million dollar deal with free agent Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a deal that could top out at a $169 million if the Yankees pick up the option on an eighth season. Ellsbury will be 37 at the end of the initial deal. He’s coming off a season in which he hit .298 with nine homers and 53 ribbies while leading the majors with 52 stolen bases, the third time he’s done so in six years, scoring 92 runs. His career numbers are impressive, a .297 average with a .355 on base percentage. Ellsbury in center field would move Brett Gardner to left and with those two setting the table the Yankees will be speeding a lot more runs around the bases than they were able to generate last season.
The signing of McCann wasn’t as great a message to the Red Sox, but a message non-the-less, as the Sox had also been pursuing him as their number one guy behind the plate with David Ross as the backup. Instead they settled for 37 year old A.J. Peirzynski to split the duty with Ross for one year.
The shot across Robinson Cano’s bow was a message that the Yankees are moving forward, their seven year, $168 million offer is still on the table. The Ellsbury contract, with the amount of potential money reaching what Cano has been offered, may also mean the Yanks are willing to negotiate a little and the figure could go as high as 200 million, but it’s Cano’s decision. He’s in, or he’s out, with the Mariners and Rangers reportedly also making offers.
The Yanks committment to catching the Red Sox includes a one year offer to Hiroki Kuroda, their mound ace for most of last season, with only two starters from last year’s rotation still in the fold, Ivan Nova and C C Sabathia. But highly regarded young pitcher Michael Pineda is expected to finally be good to go on opening day and, while they’re still intent on staying below the $189 million salary cap, the Yanks are targeting what would have been luxury tax money dispersed to other teams as posting money instead on Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka.
Meanwhile the Yanks have their eyes on a couple of middle infielders they believe could replace Cano’s defense at second or, if they keep Cano, give them some breathing room with aging Derek Jeter at short. They also have new found depth at catcher and in the outfield that could give them something to offer in return for a rotation filler.
The response may not come from Cano, but from his representation. Jay Z may turn the Yankees away cold just to establish himself as a player among player agents. The Red Sox aren’t slumbering. The Pierzynski move was just the first. Most moves don’t come until after the winter meetings, which are still a week away.
73 days to pitchers and catchers and the first shots have already been fired.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.