While the calendars have turned to a new year, Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees continue to work on improving the roster they ended 2011 with.
We sit roughly seven weeks from the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training and thus far, the Yankees have only focused on retaining their own—extending CC Sabathia's contract, picking up options on Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher, and re-signing Andruw Jones and Freddy Garcia.
Ideally, the Yankees would like to upgrade at a number of positions, including the starting rotation.
Whether or not they are enamored with the options before them remains to be seen.
After the jump, read the biggest stories floating around the Bronx.
Lets get this one out of the way first.
Recently, reports have circulated that the Yankees are up against their budget for the season and, seeing as how they would like to avoid paying the luxury tax, it's believable.
But that simply is not the case.
Team President Randy Levine had this to say to Mark Hale of the New York Post last week:
“There’s obviously room to improve the team...I don’t like to get into the amounts, but obviously there’s room to improve the team.”
Some fans have become impatient and frustrated at the team's perceived lack of even attempting to make improvements, something that Levine answered as well:
“We are always looking to improve...[GM Brian Cashman] is on the phone 24-7. And there’s a long way to go between now and spring training. So whenever there’s an opportunity to get better, we will get better.’’
Could Levine be blowing smoke to appease people?
Sure, but I doubt it.
Rumors of the Yankees having "budget constraints" simply are not accurate.
A mediocre starter in both leagues with a career record of 60-60 record along with a 4.46 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 9.6 hits per nine innings, 28-year-old Edwin Jackson is considered to be one of the better pitchers still available via free agency.
Jackson, who is represented by Scott Boras, is said to be seeking a five-year, $60 million contract.
On Monday, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Yankees like Jackson, but do not have the room in their budget to fit him in.
While $12 million a year is likely in the ballpark of what Jackson's actual market value is due to his experience and age, there is simply no way that the Yankees would lock up $60 million over the next five years for someone who has played for six teams over a nine-year career.
Especially when they expect to have home-grown options, namely Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, ready to step into the mix for the 2013 season.
While no team has been named the clear-cut favorite to land Garza, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports believes that the Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers likely have the best chances of acquiring him, with the Boston Red Sox and Miami Marlins also in the mix.
We have seen what young starting pitchers who have more than one year remaining on their contracts bring back in a trade—we only need look at the events of the past few weeks, when we saw Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos all switch teams.
According to ESPN's Wallace Matthews, the Cubs are demanding at least two, if not all three of the Yankees top prospects—namely Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos—in return for Garza.
Matt Garza is a good, solid pitcher, but that price is surely too steep for the Yankees to have any substantive discussions about Garza.
Nakajima, the 29-year-old starting shortstop for the Seibu Lions, was posted in early December and the Yankees submitted the high bid of $2 million, giving them a 30-day window to sign him.
As to when the 30-day window closes is a matter of debate: Some, like Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, says that the deadline is today, January 3rd, while others, such as Wallace Matthews of ESPN, say that the deadline is actually Friday, January 6th.
Regardless of when the deadline actually is, there is virtually no chance that Nakajima will reach an agreement with the Yankees. Heyman went on to report that the sides were far apart on the terms of a contract.
Not only is he the starting shortstop for the Seibu Lions, but he's also their captain. Combine that with the fact that following this season, he would become a free agent, making him no longer subject to the posting process and free to sign with whomever he likes.
If you were him, would you leave your team a year early to be a backup player making a few million a season, or would you wait a year and be able to find a better situation?
Chances are, he'll return to the Lions for the 2012 season and then look to sign with Bobby Valentine and the Boston Red Sox in the offseason.
We looked at the Yankees potentially signing Hiroki Kuroda last month. Back then it made quite a bit of sense for both sides.
Kuroda, 36, was finally willing to consider playing on the east coast while seeking a one-year deal in the $12-13 million range.
The Yankees were looking for an experienced starter who would take a short-term deal at a reasonable salary.
Now, some, such as Wallace Matthews of ESPN, are of the belief that the Yankees have no real interest in Kuroda due to the aforementioned "budget restraints" and merely expressed interest in order to drive the price up for the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees have wanted to add Kuroda to their rotation for months—and now that he's available, suddenly they don't have the cash to sign him?
That's a nice theory, but not one I put much merit into.
A more likely scenario is that the Yankees are considering Kuroda amongst a number of options before them, whether they be via free agency or trade, and are merely waiting for the pieces to fall into place before making a decision on anyone or anything.
Of course, Kuroda may ultimately decide that he really does not want to leave the west coast, but as of now all indications are that he is open to pitching anywhere.
Back in 2005, before he signed with the New York Mets, Carlos Beltran wanted to be a Yankee, sending word to the Bombers that he would take less money from them than what the Mets were offering to make it happen.
The Yankees passed.
Now, seven years later, the Yankees have spurned Beltran's advances a second time.
The Yankees considered Beltran to be an upgrade over Nick Swisher, but ultimately decided that his knees were too much of a concern to bring him on board.
Just before Christmas, we looked at Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and wondered aloud if he has been the Yankees' primary free-agent target all along.
Some, like Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, reported that the consensus amongst baseball insiders was that the Yankees wanted Cespedes badly.
Others, such as Marc Craig from the Star-Ledger, said that there is virtually no chance that the Yankees would sign Cespedes.
So which is it?
Probably a little of both.
There is no denying that the Yankees are interested in Cespedes, but there is a question of whether or not they are willing to pay him, as they would pay a 26-year-old free-agent outfielder, which is how "Team Cespedes" is marketing him—they want teams to not view Cespedes as a Cuban free agent, but simply as a free agent.
Just about two months ago, we looked at the possibility of the Yankees trading Nick Swisher, who will become a free agent following the 2012 season.
Additionally, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Yankees have been quietly shopping around* for someone to potentially replace Swisher.
Nick Swisher's fate likely rests in whether or not the Yankees sign Yoenis Cespedes or not.
If Cespedes signs, expect Swisher to be dealt.
If Cespedes signs with someone else, expect Swisher to play out the season and then leave the Yankees as a free agent at the end of the year, when he is sure to command more money and years than the team is comfortable giving him.
*ESPN Insider subscription required to view full article
Noticeably absent are the Yankees, which may allude to the fact that they are, in fact, in on Jurrjens.
While Brian Cashman has been lambasted by fans and the media in the past, one thing nobody can deny is that he is a master of misinformation.
Remember, the Yankees were not considering Mark Teixiera back in 2009.
What team did he sign with again?
Just because the Yankees are not named as a suitor for someone does not mean that they have no interest.
Jurrjens makes a lot of sense for them on a number of levels—he is young, under team control for a few years and the Braves likely do not seek pitching in return.
Not having to potentially include Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances in a package makes Jurrjens a more likely target than Matt Garza in my opinion.
Apparently you don't need a medical degree to prescribe treatment for Alex Rodriguez—you only need be a professional athlete.
Taking a cue from Kobe Bryant, A-Rod traveled to Germany to have Orthokine therapy performed on his balky right knee and ailing right shoulder.
Orthokine therapy is very much like platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP), which is approved in the US and has been performed on a number of professional athletes. The notable exception is that Orthokine adds a "healing activator" to the plasma.
While not approved in the US, Rodriguez was given the blessing of both the Yankees and Major League Baseball to undergo the treatment, one which is not banned by MLB or WADA, the World Anti-Doping Association.
Yet with his past history of steroid abuse, some will question exactly how on the "up and up" this treatment really was.
If this treatment means that the Yankees can get 130 games out of him at 3B where he plays solid defense and hits .280 with 20 HR and 100 RBI for each of the next two seasons, they should be ecstatic.
But the fact of the matter is that A-Rod is no longer a 40 home run, 130 RBI player; he's just another aging veteran who is not worth the money he is being paid.
The Yankees have work to do if they plan on hoisting the World Series trophy anytime soon, and if we know that, then rest assured, they know that as well.
While patience is not a virtue many seem to have any longer, fans are going to have to be patient with Brian Cashman.
There is a method to his madness, and he knows what he's doing.
It is entirely possible that the issues revolving around the starting rotation are not handled via trade or free agency, but rather by using the assets they already have—and I am not talking about Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances.
Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell all could see time with the Yankees in 2012 in the event of an injury or a string of poor performances.
As for the Killer B's, I wouldn't expect to see them until late in the season, if at all.
The next 12 months will be an interesting time in the Bronx, and we at Bleacher Report will be all over it.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.