CHICAGO - While the Yankee world anxiously awaits Brian Cashman's decision whether to stay or leave as GM, another potential high command defection could be forthcoming if Gene Michael is unable to get his authority and responsibilities restored.
It has been learned that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who are looking for an experienced player evaluator to work with 24-year-old Andrew Friedman - a baseball neophyte who has been put in charge of the baseball operations by new owner Stuart Sternberg - have put Michael at the top of their list, if they can get permission to talk to him. In that regard, Michael is expected to meet with Yankees general partner Steve Swindal in Tampa today or tomorrow in an effort to resolve his situation. He has three years remaining on a contract that pays him $650,000, purportedly to head up their postseason scouting and have major imput on all trades and signings.
However, in the last year and half, Michael has not been part of any of the organization planning meetings in Tampa, his opinions on players have been rarely sought and then two months ago he was told that Damon Oppenheimer and Bill Emslie, two of the major operatives in the Tampa office, would be taking over the postseason scouting from him. The issue at hand is whether the Yankees are in breach of Michael's contract.
It is believed that, as long as his role remains as it is, the 67-year old Michael wants to be able to talk to other teams. Besides the Devil Rays, the Phillies also are interested.
"Stick's a perfect fit for the Devil Rays and what they want," said one baseball person close to Michael.