In a meeting with Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola yesterday, the Yankees learned that Arizona hadn’t yet decided whether it would trade Johnson. The Diamondbacks plan to speak with Johnson about a contract extension, though it’s believed he will use that talk to ask for a trade to a contender.
“I don’t think there’s a true No. 1 starter on the market right now,” Brian Cashman said, without naming specific names.
So the Yankees turn their attention to what is on the market right now.
Today is the first day teams can make offers to free agents, and baseball officials familiar with the Yankees’ plans say the team will move quickly to make a three-year offer to left-hander Eric Milton (above) for between $21 million and $25 million. The Yankees also plan free-agent pursuits of lefty starter Al Leiter, right-handed starters Carl Pavano and Brad Radke, and lefty reliever Steve Kline, though the timetable on those talks isn’t clear.
“We’re not patient,” Cashman said. “We usually move faster than others when it comes to putting our team together.”
Cashman said he couldn’t remember a winter in which he was dealing with such an inflexible roster, a circumstance that is the result of big contracts that have no-trade clauses. Cashman is actively trying to rid himself of Kevin Brown, which would clear a third spot in the rotation, and center fielder Kenny Lofton, who would clear a spot for the Yankees’ inevitable pursuit of free-agent center fielder Carlos Beltran.
There has been much interest in Lofton, with Arizona, Colorado, Philadelphia and San Diego among the teams that have expressed interest. And the Phillies surprised Cashman by telling him they would be interested in Brown if the Yankees paid the bulk of his $15 million salary. The Yankees had hoped that Atlanta would be interested in Brown, since the native Georgian likely would waive his no-trade clause to play for the Braves. But in a meeting yesterday afternoon, the Braves told the Yankees they would only be interested in Brown if it were a total dump by the Yankees — meaning the Yankees would have to pay all or most of the salary and accept very little in return.