David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Even after introducing Brian McCann in pinstripes, with Jacoby Ellsbury to follow next week, Hal Steinbrenner made it clear Thursday that he wants more offense for the Yankees -- and that money will be no object.
So why does it appear as though Steinbrenner is about to allow himself to be outbid by the Mariners for Robinson Cano?
Cano is one of the most lethal bats in the sport, a homegrown Yankee and a player who someday could be immortalized in Monument Park. But as of late Thursday night, with Cano en route to Seattle and a source confirming that the Mariners were considering a nine-year offer worth roughly $225 million, the Yankees weren't flinching.
Just the opposite.
With contingency plans already drawn up, the Yankees acted as if they are ready to move on, and a source familiar with the negotiations didn't sound at all surprised by the possibility that Cano will end up in Seattle.
A few hours earlier at the Stadium, it was almost as if the front office were bracing for his departure, understanding that a team could swoop in and sway Cano with an astronomical bid.
"We would love to have him," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "Just like we took Brian McCann from the Braves and any other suitor, it's because we were willing to pay a certain amount. That can certainly happen to us in the Robbie Cano sweepstakes, too. That's the way the process works. Some people wind up signing elsewhere for more money than the home club was willing to give."
The Yankees didn't hesitate to make blow-away bids for McCann and Ellsbury, going above and well beyond what others figured to be the market rate for each player. As Cashman said of McCann, "We made it hard for him financially not to come here."
That seems to be exactly what the Mariners are doing with Cano, and the Yankees have no desire to match it despite Steinbrenner's wish list for this offseason.
As a person familiar with the Yankees' thinking explained Thursday night, the Mariners' offer will have no bearing on the Yankees' stance. Steinbrenner said earlier in the day that he hopes Cano's camp will give the Yankees a chance to match before he signs elsewhere, but if the Yankees have no intention of upping their offer -- and definitely not into the $200-million range -- there would seem to be no point.
Steinbrenner and Cashman stressed that the Yankees still have many holes to fill, and if they believe going overboard for Cano would prevent them from adding more impact players, the hard line with him might be warranted.
But if that's the case, what about giving $153 million to Ellsbury? After listening to the Yankees cap him at $175 million, Cano must not have liked seeing an outsider be wooed for not much less.
Probably not the way a "great Yankee" -- as Steinbrenner referred to Cano -- would prefer to be treated, even in a blood-sport like contract negotiations. But Cano's prime objective this offseason is to worry about Cano; the Yankees are thinking much bigger picture.
Or maybe puzzle is a better word. The left side of the infield is murky at best, with Alex Rodriguez awaiting the verdict on his looming PED suspension and Derek Jeter trying to be an everyday shortstop again after being limited to 17 games (13 at short) in 2013 because of his surgically repaired ankle. The starting rotation also needs serious work with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova the only proven commodities.
Here's what the Yankees have done this offseason: spent $238 million -- and not a dime of it on Cano. If the Mariners follow through on their plans to make Cano an offer he can't refuse, he'll be taking Seattle's money instead, and the Yankees will find themselves with another significant hole to fill.
They're betting that they can. Judging by the speed in which the Yankees grabbed McCann and Ellsbury, it probably won't take long, either. But stockpiling more players isn't the same as replacing Cano. We'll see where that money goes soon enough.