The Yankees came very close to having both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo in the same outfield for next season. That was always a consideration in putting together a contingency plan for the possibility of losing Robinson Cano.
But according to Yahoo Sports, it was Choo who prevented that from happening by reportedly turning down a seven-year, $140-million from the Yankees, who signed Carlos Beltran hours later on Dec. 6.
The Yankees refused to comment Wednesday on the website's claim. But according to two people familiar with the team's thinking, Choo was a phone call away from joining them as soon as Cano showed up in Seattle the night of Dec. 5 to negotiate his eventual 10-year, $240-million deal.
Two days earlier, the Yankees already had stunned the baseball world with a quick-strike signing of Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153-million contract -- a move that seemed to push out Beltran but left the door open for Choo, a player the team had targeted for weeks. It also annoyed Cano, who had grown frustrated by what he perceived to be a lack of effort from the Yankees to re-sign him.
While the Yankees stood firm on the seven-year, $175-million offer to Cano, he traveled to meet the Mariners. At that point, team officials figured Cano was history, and when he called them later on the night of Dec. 5 for a counteroffer, the Yankees knew they needed to ready offers to both Beltran and Choo.
Before the Ellsbury signing, Scott Boras had pitched a combination of both Ellsbury and Choo to the Yankees as an alternative to Cano, according to a person familiar with the situation. Initially, they went with Ellsbury, with a pledge to revisit the talks on Choo depending on how the rest of the week unfolded.
Yahoo Sports reported that Choo got his $140-million offer after Cano's agreement with the Mariners. When he turned down the Yankees, they switched to Beltran, who accepted his three-year, $45-million offer later that evening.
In terms of the $189-million luxury tax threshold, the net AAV difference between Choo and Beltran turned out to be $5 million for next season, so the length of the contract wasn't that big of a concern in putting together both offers. As it stands now, the Yankees are at roughly $177 million -- including Alex Rodriguez's $26 million -- with another $10 million to $12 million in benefits still to be factored in.
The Yankees need a large portion of A-Rod's 2014 salary to be wiped out by his looming suspension for them to have any chance of getting under $189 million for next season. That also would be the key to creating payroll space to sign Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitching star who is waiting to see if he will be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles.