The Yankees can, apparently, say no.
In an offseason in which New York is once again making a run at every costly free agent over the age of 30, the club won’t pursue a deal for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, according to multiple reports. Phillips would have filled the hole left by free-agent departure Robinson Cano, who took care of the middle bag for the Yankees for the last nine seasons.
The Yankees discussed swapping Phillips for outfielder Brett Gardner, but the team’s interest was dulled by Phillips’ contract and possible desire for an extension, as well as the organization’s interest in keeping Gardner. The 30-year-old outfielder is one of the few homegrown players remaining on the Yankees, and his speed (161 stolen bases in six seasons) and defense have been an asset.
Phillips has four years and $50 million remaining on his contract, as well as a large no-trade list that includes the Yankees, according to the New York Post. No-trade clauses often indicate that players want their contracts restructured, often with more money or an extension, before they’ll allow a trade. The Yankees weren’t interested in that, and they were also wary of Phillips’ history of public displeasure with Cincinnati ownership, according to the Post.
The Yankees will now only trade Gardner if they can get good starting pitching in return, according to the Post, despite New York having more than enough options in the outfield after adding free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran as well as still holding the contracts of Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday that many teams inquired about Gardner after the Yankees signed Ellsbury.
“The only way I am interested in moving Brett Gardner is somehow feeling we are putting ourselves in a position to feel better about ourselves in the short and long run,” Cashman said at the winter meetings. “… I would never look at Brett Gardner as expendable. I am open for anybody to throw ideas my way and if it makes sense we will drill down further. Brett Gardner is supposed to be a piece to this team that should help us next year in a significant way. We are big fans of Brett Gardner. I haven’t picked up the phone once and offered his name anywhere.
“I have certainly received a number of inquiries about Brett Gardner after the Ellsbury signing and for good reason, but we envision having both Brett and Ellsbury manning the outfield together. … We would be a better team for that.”
While the Yankees’ outfield is overstocked, New York is hoping Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, who are both returning from injury, and Alex Rodriguez, who is fighting a suspension for allegedly violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug use policy, are all able to return to play effectively in the infield. Kelly Johnson, signed to a one-year deal, is available to play second base.