Fourth year the key to Joe Girardi agreeing to remain as Yankees manager

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi speaks during

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi speaks during a news conference at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 11, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Conventional wisdom was that Joe Girardi had the leverage in his negotiations with the Yankees. The deal officially announced Wednesday proved it.

Girardi agreed to a four-year contract worth $16 million that, if certain postseason incentives are met, could be worth even more.

It makes him baseball's second highest-paid manager -- behind the Angels' Mike Scioscia, who makes $5 million a season -- but the most striking part of the package is the fourth year. It was something suggested by those representing Girardi, who previously signed a pair of three-year deals, and the Yankees agreed.

"It's a special place to manage because of the opportunities you have every year, the tools that they give you,'' Girardi said. "Just to be able to put on the pinstripes, as a coach, a player, a manager, I think is special.''

Girardi played for the Yankees from 1996-99. Should he finish the contract, he will end up being their manager for 10 years. He said that appealed not only to him, but also to his family, with whom he spent much of the week discussing the next step in his career.

"You hear stuff and you think about things,'' Girardi said, speaking specifically of the interest of his hometown team, the Cubs. "But our lives have been here for six years. And to be able to stay as a manager of a professional baseball team . . . if you have an opportunity to spend 10 years in one city and watch your family grow is extremely lucky. I think that's important, I think stability is important.''

What gave Girardi leverage?

First and foremost, nitpicking from some fans and media aside, he's recognized throughout the sport as being particularly good at his job. That reputation was only enhanced this season, in which the Yankees, beset by injuries all year, stayed in the playoff race until the final week, finishing 85-77.

And so the Yankees, themselves looking for stability, head into the choppy waters of this offseason that very well could result in a rougher 2014.

With the uncertainty of the winter, which will be dominated by the Robinson Cano negotiations, then trying to fill multiple roster holes, all while attempting to cut payroll to $189 million, Girardi asked for a fourth year.

"That was something that we brought up to them,'' he said. (Earlier in the 30-minute conference call, Girardi said he wouldn't have returned if he didn't believe the team could win another championship in that time.) "They were OK with it, and it's good for both of us.''

On Tuesday, Yankees ownership said that although they wanted Girardi back, they weren't going to wait forever for him to make up his mind.

Girardi received an initial offer from the Yankees on Friday, although not believed to be the version to which he ultimately agreed. Partly responsible for the delay were the in-depth discussions with his family -- his wife, Kim, and their three children, Serena, Dante and Lena.

But there was also the pull of Chicago, which multiple sources inside and outside the organization said was very real for Girardi, who will turn 49 Monday.

The native of Peoria, Ill., grew up rooting for the Cubs and made his major-league debut with them in 1989. They were interested in speaking with him and prepared to match their interest with money.

The Yankees did not give the Cubs or the Nationals permission to speak with Girardi, whose three-year deal didn't expire until the end of this month. Girardi said that was fine with him and that he never asked the Yankees for permission to be granted.

"Chicago is special to me and I think it will always be special to me,'' Girardi said. "It will always hold a special place in my heart, but this place is really special to me, too. This place has been really wonderful for our family. My kids and life are established in the community here, and we just thought it was important to stay.''

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