If New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman ran for president, he would have a draconian economic plan. Cut spending; reduce waste; balance the budget.
He has long credited the late George Steinbrenner for giving him his opportunity in Major League Baseball, but Cashman and The Boss had a very different philosophy when it came to operating a baseball team. Steinbrenner had a window-shopper's mentality and wanted the best on display: the brightest, the gaudiest. And, as the owner of baseball's richest team, he didn't really care much about the cost.
Cashman, on the other hand, has voted repeatedly against massive expenditures in his tenure as general manager. He wanted to hold the line on Bernie Williams in the fall of 1998, until Steinbrenner stepped in to make the deal and increased the Yankees' offer from $60 million to $87.5 million in the span of about 20 minutes.
Cashman spearheaded the acquisition of Alex Rodriguez in the winter of 2004, when the Rangers agreed to eat about 35 percent of his salary, but when Rodriguez opted out of his deal after the 2007 season Cashman advised his bosses to not re-sign him because he believed they could spend the $275 million more wisely.
Cashman was the bad cop in the Derek Jeter negotiations, arguing that the team shouldn't pay the future Hall of Famer way beyond his market value -- publicly inviting Jeter to test the market if he wasn't satisfied with the Yankees' offer.
Cashman has always believed that the Yankees should be able to do more with more, and that it's the responsibility of the baseball operations department to build a winning team with the sport's largest payroll. Hal Steinbrenner has stated he wants to get the Yankees' payroll in line with the luxury tax threshold of $189 million, a vision Cashman has long embraced.
This is why the Robinson Cano contract talks could have an outcome far different than anyone expects. Because the Yankees are the richest team, it stands to reason that they would work out a deal with their best player, regardless of cost.
Cano is going to finish near the top of the AL MVP voting next week, again, after hitting .313 with 33 homers. He finished second in the majors in WAR, and he is one of the best defensive second basemen in the sport. There is this, too -- Cano, like Miguel Cabrera, always plays; he's missed a total of 12 games over the last six seasons.
Cano will want to get paid for all of that next fall, when he turns 31 years old. He has hired Scott Boras to represent him, and when Boras is involved, there is no hometown discount. He'll probably ask for a contract a decade long, a deal that could threaten Rodriguez's as a benchmark in the sport.
The comparison between Rodriguez and Cano will probably be part of the Yankees' internal discussion, as well. If Cashman holds to his history as an economic conservative, his rhetorical questions to the Steinbrenners and the others in the room will be: Do we want to pay megadollars to Cano for the second half of his career as we did with Rodriguez? Do we all see what Rodriguez is at age 37 and know this is what Cano could become?
The Yankees already are feeling pinched by the contracts they still have on their books: $114 million owed to Rodriguez over the next five years; $90 million to Mark Teixeira for the next four years; $99 million to CC Sabathia for the next four seasons, a figure that might increase to $119 million if Sabathia's 2017 option vests.
It's always possible that the Steinbrenners could step in, on behalf of their brand -- their father's brand -- and make a deal happen, as they did with Rodriguez, as he did with Williams, many years ago.
But Cashman is likely to be willing to draw a surprisingly hard line, in what figure to be really tough and contentious negotiations with Cano.
Boras indicated to Joel Sherman that he doesn't expect Cano to sign this winter.
Cashman is thinking small as he considers offseason moves for the Yankees, writes Mark Feinsand.
Around the league
• Walt Weiss is the favorite to be the Rockies manager, write Troy Renck and Patrick Saunders.
• The GM meetings start today, and over the next few days there will be discussions about instant replay, about another perceived wave of performance-enhancing drugs -- a growing concern in the sport -- and about some other issues.
But mostly, these meetings will be a forum for trade talks and discussions with the many agents who have also descended on the winter meetings site.
For some players, taking a one-year deal is probably a better idea than going for a multi-year deal, because the player is better off re-establishing his value.
Francisco Liriano, for example, is probably going to go for a one-year deal.
Other one-year deal candidates:
James Loney: He needs to go somewhere and establish that he can be a better run producer.
Stephen Drew: He'd probably like to get paid, in a multi-year deal, as an every-day shortstop in the middle of his career. But there are a lot of questions among executives about what kind of a player he really is. With a good season on a one-year deal, he could hit the market next fall at age 30.
Melky Cabrera: Right now, he could get a decent multi-year deal. But if he had a strong season in 2013 without testing positive, again, he would be one of the most coveted free agents next fall.
• Ben Cherington's work will begin in earnest at the GM meetings, writes Brian MacPherson.
Jacoby Ellsbury is a trade chip for the Red Sox, writes Michael Silverman. He'd be a great fit for the Rangers if Texas decides to turn the page on Josh Hamilton -- but the Rangers would have to be comfortable with the situation, knowing that Ellsbury will become a free agent next fall, as a Scott Boras client.
• I wrote here yesterday that some executives are speculating that the Cubs-Angels deal blew up after Chicago officials reviewed the medical records of Haren's back and didn't like what they saw.
Haren's agent, Greg Landry, said on Tuesday, "Dan is healthy."
For what it's worth: Haren made 13 starts after serving some time on the disabled list in midseason, and in those games, he had a 3.58 ERA. His fastball velocity was down slightly in the second half of the year, and in those 13 post-DL starts, he registered an out in the seventh inning in three of them.
• You'd have to figure that the Giants will work on a whopper long-term deal with Buster Posey sometime this winter. Posey has demonstrated he is all the way back from his shattered ankle, having generated an MVP-type season in 2012, and he also has the athleticism to make a position switch whenever the Giants determine that is in their best interest.
• The Tigers' next long-term answer at closer could come from within - a prospect with a 103 mph fastball, as Lynn Henning writes.
From the story:
[Bruce] Rondon is 6-foot-3 and listed these days at 265 pounds. The figure is probably low, although, again, the Tigers aren't worried.
"Nobody's gonna tell you he's a little skinny guy," Avila said. "He's always been big. But you can be a big guy if you're in shape. And he's a guy who does all the arm exercises to protect his shoulder and his back, which keeps his legs and arm straight.
"If you put him on a vegetarian diet, you probably wouldn't see a big difference. He's just big. You want to make sure he doesn't gain weight. But his work ethic is there."
Rondon is still young, and developing. The numbers that have jumped out at me are his walks - 34 in 40 innings in 2011, then 26 in 53 innings in 2012. But as Lynn writes, he's a converted catcher and is still clearly learning his craft.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. Miami signed an infielder, as Joe Capozzi writes.
3. Alex Anthopoulos will put off his managerial search for a few days -- although knowing Anthopoulos, he'll always be gathering information.
4. Agree with what Dan Connolly wrote within this piece: It's great to see Dave Trembley back in the big leagues, as part of Bo Porter's staff.
5. The Mets need Moneyball magic, writes John Harper.
8. The Indians' needs are crystal clear, writes Paul Hoynes.
10. Some upgrades for the Twins' spring facility were approved.
11. Kevin Towers is prepared for trade talks.
From the piece: