Yankees manager Joe Girardi watches in the first inning of...

Yankees manager Joe Girardi watches in the first inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader. (May 13, 2013) Credit: AP

Joe Girardi is a self-described "optimist," a characteristic on display Wednesday while he discussed his new four-year contract to continue as Yankees manager.

But during the 30-minute conference call with reporters, Girardi interspersed a healthy dose of reality as well.

He knows the offseason will be filled with challenges, and he was never more realistic than when he discussed free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano, the Yankees' best player, who could end up elsewhere.

"As I've always said, we've seen crazy things happen," Girardi said. "It takes two to tango. It's a matter of a player wanting to come back and a matter of the contract working out for all parties involved."

He used as an example Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals two offseasons ago when the Angels blew everyone out of the water with a 10-year, $240-million deal. That's the exact kind of mega-contract Hal Steinbrenner is on record as saying the Yankees won't give Cano, who turns 31 Oct. 22.

The Yankees, insiders say, are looking at something in the neighborhood of seven years for $160 million to $170 million. Cano, sources have said, has asked for a 10-year, $300-million-plus deal -- the second baseman has disputed that -- so a protracted, and perhaps acrimonious, process is likely to play out.

"There's been a lot of players you thought would retire in a certain uniform, and sometimes it doesn't happen," Girardi said. "But he's obviously been very important to our club over the last seven, eight years, and if he comes back, he'll continue to be important."

Having Cano would make Girardi's job easier next season, but not easy. Many see the Yankees as a team in decline, and although Girardi wouldn't go quite that far, he knows the offseason will be pockmarked with issues.

The Yankees need insurance on the left side of the infield -- the reason Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew could be a target when free agency starts -- and potentially three starting pitchers, a reason they've scouted Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka so heavily.

General manager Brian Cashman has spent the last week overseeing the pro scouting meetings at the Stadium. In those meetings, the club's scouts and members of the personnel department discuss every potential free agent as well as players who might be available via trade.

Cashman will begin to make recommendations to Hal and Hank Steinbrenner at the organizational meetings later this month. They ultimately will decide whether the payroll will dip to $189 million -- the safe bet remains it will -- or if that long-stated goal will get scrapped.

"From what I know of the franchise, from the time I came here in 1996, I think it is a little different right now just because of the uncertainty of what our club is going to be like next year," Girardi said. "I'm the optimist and I believe we're going to have a chance every year and it comes down to how we perform during the season . . . I don't manage to just work, I manage to win championships. And I really believe the club is going to do the best they can."

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