I don’t know for sure, but I have to think Brian Cashman was the last General Manager to arrive at the Winter Meetings this year. He checked into the Hilton Anatole at about 4pm local time on Monday, a sign that GMs don’t need to huddle in one place to get things done and that the Yankees don’t have any pressing business at the moment. They’re not seriously engaged with any of the major free agents, at least not publicly, and the smaller stuff — meaning the bench and various depth players for Triple-A — will wait until later.
“The focus on the front of the winter has mostly been on higher end type things so that can reinforce our pitching,” said Cashman to reporters after arriving. “I have to watch our payroll, so I can’t spend a lot on the smaller stuff right now — even though they’re important players — that kind of restricts me from doing something that might come along that’s still a bit bigger, or a lot bigger. That’s why I’m making sure I exploit all the various potential pitching acquisitions, both on the free agent and trade market. When I get a strong enough feel for how that’s going to go or not go, then I’ll focus on the bench.”
Those hundred or so words boil down to “we’re going to keep our options open.” Andruw Jones is a great fit for the bench, but he’s also not the most irreplaceable player in the world. Rather than re-sign him for $3M or so right now, the Yankees are going to wait to see if a solution to their more pressing need — the rotation — comes along first. Once they get a little deeper into the offseason, they’ll figure out if Jones fits into their budget. He didn’t agree to terms with the Yankees until January 17th last winter following a 2010 season that was very similar to his 2011 season, so there’s no rush.
“I’m not down here to sit back and order room service for four days and be content,” added Cashman while continuing to acknowledge that he’s not optimistic about getting something done this week. “I’m going to keep trying, but I just don’t want to be stupid. Obviously if we do something, I want it to be something we feel really good about. I’m not going to do something just to do something because that’s what you do at this time of year.”
Not being optimistic about something and not being prepared are two totally different things. I don’t think the Yankees will get anything done down here, but if something worthwhile comes along, I believe they’re ready to pounce quickly. We’ve seen it in the recent past — most notably with the second Javy Vazquez trade and the Cliff Lee non-trade — the Yankees tend to take care of business very quickly. There aren’t weeks of rumors, these things happen overnight. The bench is important, but it can wait until the pitching picture clears up.