Yanks reportedly out of Santana race
Impasse leads Steinbrenner to call off negotiations with Twins
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Yankees may have closed the door on their pursuit of Johan Santana, but the club remained open for business at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center as the Winter Meetings reached their halfway point.
Unable to reach a satisfactory compromise with the Twins regarding a package for the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, pulled the plug on trade talks on Tuesday, despite reports that the Red Sox may be closing in on a deal for the left-hander.
"A deadline is a deadline -- it was pretty much done as of this morning," Steinbrenner told The Associated Press. "He's a fine pitcher, but there's a lot of things that go into this. This isn't fantasy baseball.
"For a while, there's no question, they asked for too much. To tell you the truth, toward the end, Minnesota negotiated in good faith. They really did. I have no problem with them. It was something we just couldn't do."
The decision keeps right-hander Phil Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and -- ultimately, the sticking point in the trade -- right-hander Ian Kennedy in pinstripes. Speaking in generalities, general manager Brian Cashman said that the Yankees' priority remains to improve their pitching staff as the Winter Meetings press on.
"We've had conversations that may lead to things, and they may not," Cashman said. "It's really hard to get a feel for how close we really are. We've had some smaller balls in the air right now that may lead to something."
Though Cashman would not comment specifically with regard to Santana or any other target, reports indicated on Tuesday that the Yankees had shifted direction toward A's right-hander Dan Haren, who is more affordably priced than Santana, with $16.25 million remaining on his deal through 2010, assuming an option for the final year is picked up.
Cashman said the Yankees would not push to react in the event Santana winds up with the Red Sox, saying that control of New York's internal decision-making process was more important.
But the same criteria that short-circuited the club's pursuit of Santana may also make a player like Haren difficult to acquire, as the A's could demand a package just as rich as the Twins had hoped to land.
That could conceivably lead to a bumpy path similar to the Santana negotiations, which were marked by the Twins' repeated insistence on acquiring the 21-year-old Kennedy when Cashman met with Minnesota executives late Monday.
Part of the Twins' desire to deal Santana was rooted in their refusal to offer the large multiyear contract extension that the left-hander desired, something the Yankees could have produced.
Instead, New York insisted it could begin Spring Training with the same pitching arrangement it hopes to soon boast on its roster, expecting to come to terms with left-hander Andy Pettitte on a contract for 2008.
With Pettitte deciding on Sunday to put off retirement and continue his career, the Yankees can have a rotation comprised of three proven veterans -- Pettitte, 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina -- to support their young, developing staff.
But depth will be of importance, because as impressive as Hughes, Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain have been in their brief Major League careers, the Yankees insist they will be cautious and demand that those hurlers will be held to undisclosed innings constraints so as to protect their arms.
"We're not going to run certain guys out there for 225 innings, let's put it that way," Cashman said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi rejected the idea of a six-man rotation but said he envisioned competition for roster spots in Spring Training. He did not rule out making in-season alterations if players start to creep into new workload territory.
"If people start getting to certain levels, adjustments will have to be made," Girardi said.
In addition to the pitchers mentioned as part of their projected rotation, the Yankees could also find roles for players such as Kei Igawa, Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner and others.
"You don't have it down to an exact science who the 12 names are going to be," Girardi said. "There's going to be some competition in Spring Training, which I think is a great thing. I think competition brings out the best in people."
Of course, those rosters would be subject to change all the way until pitchers and catchers begin to unload their luggage in Tampa, Fla., more than two months from now.
"I think the way the club is constructed today, there's a good chance it's not going to be constructed that way Feb. 14 when we report," Girardi said. "I'm confident they will do everything in their power to put the best team in that clubhouse."
New York did agree to one deal in the overnight hours between Monday and Tuesday, acquiring 25-year-old right-handed reliever Jonathan Albaladejo from the Washington Nationals for right-handed starter Tyler Clippard, who made six starts for the Yankees in 2007.
Cashman said he could not speak to the particulars of the transaction because it has not yet been finalized, but a Major League source with knowledge of discussions confirmed the trade. Albaladejo could fit into the Yankees' middle-inning relief mix, but more importantly, the move could be a sign of more to come.
"We're going to stay engaged with all 29 clubs if there are any fits," Cashman said. "It's as simple as that."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.