David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The sign out front says the Opryland Hotel. Inside, it feels like the Twilight Zone.
With the Mets prepared to unveil David Wright and his $138-million deal Wednesday on the main stage here, the Yankees are rummaging through the bargain bin in search of a corner outfielder and reinforcements for the left side of the infield.
Tuesday night, in speaking about his options, Brian Cashman actually uttered the words, "Beggars can't be choosers."
It was about that time I expected my alarm clock to go off. This had to be a weird dream, brought on by a vitamin D deficiency caused by staying indoors for 48 hours straight. But no, Cashman did indeed refer to the Yankees as "beggars," specifically on whether he could sign a righty bat rather than a lefty to better balance his outfield.
Well, Scott Hairston was still available. But would he fall to the Yankees' price range? (Again, I can't believe I just typed that). OK, we're half-kidding about that one. Even the Mets are considered in the running for Hairston.
The Yankees already have $168 million sunk into next season's payroll -- on only 10 players -- so it will be well north of that by the time they put together the required 25-man roster. But that's not as much of a concern as 2014, with ownership's mandate to stay below $189 million for luxury tax purposes.
Hal Steinbrenner made known his intentions in spring training. But the Yankees are just starting to feel the effects, especially after the announcement that Alex Rodriguez will miss four to six months of the season because of hip surgery.
As the Rangers and Dodgers battle over the privilege to give Zack Greinke more than $150 million, and the Red Sox spend $78 million on Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, the Yankees have been exploring what it might take to lure Eric Chavez, Kevin Youkilis or Hiroyuki Nakajima as A-Rod fillers. This is after letting Russell Martin -- their everyday catcher -- jump to the Pirates for the relatively low, low price of two years at $17 million.
"I understand that things happen for a reason," Joe Girardi said. "I think sometimes people assume the New York Yankees are the New York Yankees and there's no budget constraints and there aren't things we want to stick to. But there are, so I think that's part of the reason why he wasn't re-signed."
Sounds logical. It's just going to take some getting used to. Whoever thought of budgets in the Bronx? Those were for other teams, ones without their own powerful TV network. Don't get the wrong impression. They'll always have one of the top payrolls, but belt-tightening isn't very Yankee-like.
"Maybe I'd be at a disadvantage to other clubs that have more dollars to spend at this particular time," Cashman said. "But they're already disadvantaged because I have a lot of assets currently signed that they don't have. I don't feel that I'm disadvantaged at all."
It's not the greatest position to be in, paying A-Rod $28 million in 2013 for what may amount to extended rehab and wondering what Derek Jeter ($17 million) will provide coming back from serious ankle surgery.
The Yankees have issues, and for the first time in recent memory, they do not plan to write a large check or two to make them go away. Cashman insists he is comfortable with that, and Girardi doesn't have much of a choice.
"I don't think we'll get a true flavor until 2014, and maybe it's July 28, and you're talking about adding a guy and it puts you over the cap," Girardi said. "I don't think we'll really get a true idea of what it's like until then."
It's already feeling a little weird.