By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Brian McCann arrived at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 19 and was greeted on the field by CC Sabathia and the pitcher’s kids.
McCann toured the opulent clubhouse, then went to a hotel room arranged by the team at the $695-and-up Mandarin Oriental overlooking Central Park. McCann merely had to take an elevator downstairs for a dinner with manager Joe Girardi and three other team executives at Porter House New York, a sleek steak restaurant in the Time Warner Center, filled with cherry wood floors and leather seating.
Four days later, he had a deal for an $85 million, five-year contract, the start of a new spending spree by the Yankees that also includes a pending $153 million, seven-year agreement with outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
“When the Yankees call you and then you go through the process that I went through, you leave blown away,” McCann said Thursday during a news conference at his new home ballpark. “There’s a reason that they’re the New York Yankees. You walk in here, everything’s bigger. They put attention to detail with everything. They make you feel the way that you want to feel.”
“It was,” he added, “a perfect fit.”
While the Yankees are adding players, they appear less likely to re-sign Robinson Cano. New York believes it may be outbid by the Seattle Mariners for the All-Star second baseman, who at first sought a 10-year deal for more than $300 million.
“We’re still talking, but obviously we’re a decent distance apart,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said.
General manager Brian Cashman met last month with Jay Z, going to the office of the rap mogul who is one of Cano’s agents.
“Our club has negotiated very hard with Robinson Cano and has made fair offers to Robinson Cano,” Girardi said.
Himself a former Yankees catcher, Girardi was excited about upgrading with McCann, a seven-time All-Star who joins a lineage that includes Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada.
“We think we have the next great Yankee catcher here with us,” Girardi said.
Cashman went further, calling McCann “a potential Hall of Famer.”
New York was 16th in the major leagues with 650 runs this year, its lowest ranking since 1991, according to STATS. McCann and Ellsbury, who hope to benefit from Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field, appear to be just the start of an upgrade.
Ellsbury and Brett Gardner should help form a superior defensive outfield.
“These guys are going to cover a lot of ground,” Girardi said. “They both can put a lot of pressure on a pitcher when they’re on the basepaths, and their ability to go from first to third or first to home on a number of base hits.”
Assuming Ellsbury’s deal gets finalized, New York’s luxury tax payroll will be about $138 million– starting to approach the roughly $177 million for salaries under next year’s $189 million tax threshold. The Yankees hope to get under the threshold– but that appears unlikely unless Alex Rodriguez is suspended for most or all of next season– eliminating his $25 million salary.
“I think we can do it, but it’s not going to come at the expense of fielding a good team,” Steinbrenner said. “Right now we’re still under it. Right now, we’ve still got a decent amount of money to spend, quite frankly. And we’re going to. We’re going to put it back into the team the way we always do.”
Cashman said he thinks pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who turns 39 in February, wants to return for a third season with the Yankees. Their rotation is uncertain behind Sabathia and Ivan Nova, and New York is interested in Masahiro Tanaka if he is made available by his Japanese club under a new posting system. And while Girardi says David Robertson is the favorite to take over as closer from Mariano Rivera, the Yankees need more relievers.
“We’re not done with pitching, one way or the other. That’s for sure,” Steinbrenner said. “And we need another bat or two.”
McCann said the Yankees made him feel extremely wanted during his quick tour last month, and the dinner stretched on for three hours. Girardi and the 29-year-old catcher were joined by team President Randy Levine, Cashman, assistant general manager Billy Eppler and B.B. Abbott, the catcher’s agent.
McCann beamed during the news conference as wife Ashley looked on along with their two young children and other relatives.
McCann wore No. 16 with the Braves, but that number has been retired by the Yankees in honor of Whitey Ford. McCann is switching to No. 34 because it was used by friends Eric O’Flaherty and Derek Lowe on the Braves.
Cashman presented No. 34 onesies jerseys for son Colt, born in July 2012, and daughter Colbie, born in September.
“There’s a lot of numbers retired here. It’s slim pickings,” McCann said. “I only had like four, five to choose from.”
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