As they struggle to convince their top choices to sign with them, the Yankees are exploring a wide range of free agents and other options to fill their needs in center field and in the bullpen.
A baseball official familiar with the Yankees' plans said they recently reached out to the Oakland A's to ask about the availability of center fielder Mark Kotsay. The official said the A's aren't opposed to moving Kotsay, but that talks stalled when Oakland asked about second baseman Robinson Cano and pitcher Chien-Ming Wang -- the two players everybody keeps asking the Yankees about.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner expressed some concern at last week's organization meetings in Tampa, Fla., about the team's inability (so far) to secure its top free- agent targets. The meetings were held just after the Yankees found out that left-handed reliever Scott Eyre was signing with the Cubs. The Yankees wanted Eyre so badly that they had manager Joe Torre place a recruiting call to him, but they didn't even make Eyre's final four list of teams. The Yankees are pessimistic about their chances of signing top relief-pitching targets such as B.J. Ryan, Bob Howry, Kyle Farnsworth and Tom Gordon, and they're moving down the list to lesser names.
Howry was said yesterday to be nearing a deal with those same Chicago Cubs -- a three-year contract worth more than the $11 million the Cubs gave to Eyre. And Farnsworth, Ryan and Gordon all are exploring opportunities to be closers for other teams rather than setup relievers for Mariano Rivera in the Bronx. The closer market isn't expected to get moving until Billy Wagner, who visited the Mets yesterday, picks a team.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are making calls to the agents for various other relief pitchers, including right-handers Julian Tavarez and Octavio Dotel and left-handers Ricardo Rincon, Mike Myers and Joey Eischen. They also called to see if Jose Mesa would be interested in signing with them, but he told them he wasn't interested in pitching in New York.
The other player Torre was asked to help recruit, outfielder Brian Giles, was leaning toward a return to the San Diego Padres, according to several baseball officials yesterday. But the Yankees still believed they had a chance to sign him, and he hasn't told them they're out of it.
The Yankees would like to be able to lure center fielder Aaron Rowand from the Chicago White Sox, but as of yesterday the White Sox were working on a deal that would send Rowand to the Florida Marlins for center fielder Juan Pierre.