Yankees' third-base pool of free agents is drying up

Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis fields

Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis fields his position during a game against the Detroit Tigers. (Sept. 17, 2012) (Credit: AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A third-base market Brian Cashman called "limited" Tuesday became even more so Wednesday.

Two of the Yankees' top choices to fill the void left by Alex Rodriguez, who more than a few in the organization think is unlikely to play at all in 2013 after he undergoes hip surgery in January, came off the free-agent board Wednesday.

Eric Chavez, a Yankee the last two seasons, agreed to a one-year contract worth a reported $3 million with the Diamondbacks. Jeff Keppinger, whom the Yankees hoped to platoon with the lefthanded hitting Chavez, agreed to a two-year deal, worth a reported $12 million, with the White Sox.

"The Yankees have traditionally been high bidders, yes," manager Joe Girardi said of the team being under financial restraint given the ownership mandate to get payroll under $189 million by 2014.

That has kept the team from going after high-profile free agents like Josh Hamilton.

But the edict also has hindered the club's pursuit of more minor deals, causing Russell Martin to choose the Pirates after the Yankees never made an offer, and never seriously entering the bidding for Keppinger and Chavez.

Not surprisingly, the approach isn't popular with super-agents like Scott Boras, who counts Rafael Soriano among his stable of big-name clients.

"I think the model to be a Goliath is wholly different than the approach they're taking,'' Boras said Wednesday.

"You have to start thinking about what do you do next when guys go off the board," Joe Girardi said.

What next, indeed.

The Yankees talked again with the agents for Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds, and also expressed an interest in Jack Hannahan, non-tendered by the Indians last week.

"Good enough fielder," one AL executive said of Hannahan. "Very limited, to put it generously, with the bat.''

The lefthanded hitting Hannahan, 32, hit .244 with a .312 on-base percentage last season with Cleveland, including .270/.331 against righthanders.

The righthanded hitting Reynolds hit .221/.335 last season with 23 homers and 69 RBIs. Twenty of the homers and 55 of the RBIs came against righthanders.

Youkilis is the most complete player of those left on the third-base market, but has had difficulty staying healthy.

While third base has taken over as the priority, the Yankees still have major holes to fill at catcher and rightfield.

Cashman has maintained all week the former is likely to be filled from within -- Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine are on the 40-man roster -- while Ichiro Suzuki, Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz have all drawn significant interested from the Yankees as options in right. The team has liked Hairston all offseason. But Schierholtz reportedly reached a one-year agreement Wednesday night with the Cubs.

The Yankees have made it known that anyone under their control without a full no-trade clause -- such as Curtis Granderson -- can be had. But the problem is matching up.

Nothing, of course, is won in November and December in baseball, a good thing because Girardi acknowledged his current lineup doesn't look very Bronx Bomber-like.

"I think that's fair to say right now but I don't necessarily think it's going to be that way come Feb. 10, when we get ready to go to camp," Girardi said. "But right now we don't know who's going to play rightfield, we don't know who's going to play third base.''

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