Could Josh Hamilton be a fit for Yankees?

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton looks up as

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton looks up as he stands on deck during a game against the Oakland Athletics. (Sept. 24, 2012) (Credit: AP)

There are red flags with Josh Hamilton. He has a history of injuries and well-documented problems with substance abuse.

Still, if the star outfielder can't find the megadeal he's looking for on the free-agent market, the Yankees can't be ruled out from making a run for him. "They're looking at it," a person with knowledge of the team's thinking said Friday. "Just being prepared if the market drops."

To be clear: In many ways, this is simply the Yankees doing their due diligence, as they do with myriad free agents about whom they never get serious.

The belief remains that Hamilton's first choice is the Rangers and that they ultimately will be his landing spot. If not Texas, maybe the Mariners or Red Sox, who have shown interest.

But Hamilton's past has teams wary of committing significant years, and if his demands drop significantly -- say he would accept a two or three-year deal -- the Yankees might be lying in the weeds. It would take some "creative budgeting," the person with knowledge of their thinking said, but the Yankees, still without a rightfielder, could make it work.

The creative budgeting is important to note because all indications are that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner still isn't considering coming off his mandate of bringing the payroll to $189 million by 2014.

But there are no such restrictions for 2013, and the one-year contracts of Hiroki Kuroda ($15 million), Andy Pettitte ($12 million) and Mariano Rivera ($10 million) will come off the books after the '13 season.

The concept of Hamilton in pinstripes still is an incredible long shot. One talent evaluator said, "With that past, I just don't see it as a good fit," a sentiment plenty in the organization share.

The Yankees have had a relatively quiet offseason, though signing Rivera, Pettitte and Kuroda hardly were insignificant achievements.

The Yankees have made one known offer to a position player, Kevin Youkilis. The third baseman is mulling the Yankees' one-year, $12-million offer but also is considering a two-year offer from the Indians, who are managed by his longtime manager with the Red Sox, Terry Francona. The Cleveland offer has been reported to be for $18 million, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer said Friday that it "could be a little higher" than that.

Speaking at a charity event Thursday night, Youkilis didn't sound as if a decision was imminent. "I've got good choices, I can't deny it. I have good choices and good people," Youkilis said, according to the Providence Journal. "That's all I can give you on that one . . . I'll sit down with my family and talk all the decisions through, and hopefully it will come soon.''

Robinson Cano, attending David Ortiz's charity golf tournament in the Dominican Republic on Friday, endorsed signing the Yankees' longtime nemesis, saying Youkilis could help the Yankees "a lot."

"I've gotten a chance to talk to him and he's a nice guy," Cano said, according to the Boston Herald. "I've had a chance to meet him at the All-Star Game, and he always seemed cool in talking with everybody. There's some guys that, you know what, the way they play the game, you say this guy's not a nice person. But he's a great person."

Notes & quotes: The Yankees announced they have agreed to terms with Brett Gardner on a one-year contract for a reported $2.85 million, avoiding arbitration . . . It appears the Yankees will play the Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team, which features Cano, March 6 at Steinbrenner Field . . . Jayson Nix cleared waivers and was outrighted to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster.

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