Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Yankees Suddenly Turn into Lions in Winter

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Yankees Suddenly Turn into Lions in Winter

Article excerpt

Admit it, you and most everyone else in the baseball industry rode shotgun on the Yankees' quiet winter. The idea of Hal Steinbrenner shutting off the spigot, ludicrous at first, became more and more believable as free agents came and went in a blur, beginning with C.J. Wilson and ending with Edwin Jackson.

Ownership wouldn't budge -- payroll was, for once, frozen. At least that was the mirage until Friday night, when the notion of Yankee inertia was smashed into fine powder. In a matter of hours, Brian Cashman rebuilt his starting rotation and turned the Bombers into the East's superpower.

With Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda onboard, the Yankees have their best group of starters since 2009. Combined with what should be the division's No. 1 offense, the Yankees' front three - CC Sabathia, Pineda and Kuroda -- should catapult them ahead of the Red Sox and Rays.

But this isn't to say the off-season is finished, not by a long shot. The Sox, who like the Yankees were trying to limit their spending before opening day, will have to respond to Cashman's moves, even if it means taking on the pricey Jackson. But there's no doubt the Yankees have become the team to beat in the East and, barring injuries, have a path to the World Series that's at least as clear as the Angels or Rangers, depending on the outcome of Texas' negotiation with Yu Darvish.

If nothing else, Friday's acquisitions speak to Cashman's patience and savvy. While it appeared the GM was doing nothing other than riding out the last month to pitchers and catchers, he actually was measuring how to exploit the Yankees' best bargaining chip - Jesus Montero -- while waiting for Kuroda's asking price to come down.

Cashman got his wish, as Kuroda finally caved, agreeing to come to New York for one year at $10 million. But it took just as much finesse for Cashman to convince Steinbrenner to add to the payroll. Had it not been for ownership's high regard for their GM, it's possible Steinbrenner would've decided the Yankees had enough in- house talent to win 95 games and get back to the playoffs without any further tweaking. Once there, anything would've been possible, evidenced by the wild-card Cardinals' surge to the World Series.

Insiders say Steinbrenner is obsessed with beating the luxury tax in 2014 by holding payroll under $189 million. More and more, it seems, the Boss' son has made it clear he's interested in making money and winning championships, but only in that order.

Cashman had to navigate around this evolving business plan, making the case that his trade talks with the Mariners and bargain with Kuroda were more than simple tweaks - these were significant upgrades, both of which were necessary. Peeling away the layers of the front office's rhetoric, no one believed A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes were dependable enough to pitch the Yankees to 95 wins, let alone the postseason. …

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