With baseball's annual winter meetings underway and teams throughout the league working to improve their rosters, the Yankees are hurrying to stay ahead of the rest of the league, going as far as to engage in bidding wars for numerous free agents they have no interest in or can't even identify by name.
"This is standard operating procedure for us," said general manager Brian Cashman. "Mr. Steinbrenner has always made it clear, if a free agent is being offered a contract by a competitor, we submit a much more lucrative counteroffer. Doesn't matter who it is."
Cashman says that specific scenario is currently being played out with nearly a hundred different free agents.
"We just offered some guy I think he's a shortstop or maybe a reliever on the Padres, or is it the Mariners? anyway, we offered him six years, $90 million because we heard rumors that the Mets, Red Sox and Angels were interested in possibly signing him to a minor league contract," said Cashman. "We're committed to not letting him slip away to our rivals, whoever he is."
The architect of the Yankees' big-spending philosophy, long-time team owner George Steinbrenner, has passed that approach onto his sons, mandating a standard response if the team is contacted by an available player's agent.
"I've reminded Brian and all the guys that nothing has changed," says Hank Steinbrenner. "If some agent tells us he has an offer on the table from another team, just say: 'We'll triple the dollar amount and double the years. Think it over and get back to us.' That approach usually lets us get our man in the end."
Such an aggressive style has enabled the Yankees to land some of the biggest free agents over the years, but has also stuck the franchise with some stinkers.
"Granted, it backfires from time to time," said Cashman. "Tony Womack, for example. We gave him two years, $4 million after I got an anonymous call that Boston was about to sign him. Turned out it was just a prank call from Theo Epstein."
In addition to the bidding war over the shortstop or possibly reliever from the Padres or Mariners, the Yankees have multiyear, ten-figure offers on the table to according to Cashman "this one starter who used to pitch for the Pirates," "a Dominican outfielder from an NL West club, or at least I hope he's Dominican," "a few Royals players," "and an infielder named Jack or Jay or something, something with a J," among others.
Cashman says the Yankees are specifically focused on the Jack or Jim guy.
"I don't want us to be kicking ourselves come next September because what's-his-name with the J is making a name for himself starring for the Red Sox," he said.