Not thrilled by the return of Chris Capuano? Don't hold your breath waiting to see Max Scherzer in pinstripes.
Despite having a rotation beset by numerous health questions, the Yankees opted for back-end insurance Tuesday by signing Capuano to a one-year, $5-million contract. Brian Cashman flat-out said he doesn't see them pursuing the most expensive arms still available, such as Scherzer and James Shields.
"I do not anticipate playing in that high-end free-agent market,'' Cashman said Tuesday during a phone interview.
Last year, the Yankees spent nearly $500 million to reload after missing the playoffs for only the second time in two decades. That included a seven-year, $155-million contract for Masahiro Tanaka -- on top of a $20-million posting fee.
But it's important to remember the Yankees were freed of Alex Rodriguez's $25-million salary for 2014 -- thanks to the full-season PED suspension -- and now have him back on the '15 books for $21 million.
That's a huge bump, and the Yankees evidently aren't in the mood to get in a bidding war with agent Scott Boras, who suggested during last week's winter meetings that Scherzer deserves a contract similar -- if not greater -- than the seven-year, $215-million deal Clayton Kershaw got from the Dodgers last January.
The Yankees could always change their minds, of course, especially if Scherzer's price falls over time. But Cashman sounds firm at the moment, and adding a cheaper piece such as Capuano after passing on Brandon McCarthy, who signed a four-year, $48-million deal with the Dodgers, certainly gives the appearance of a more modest investment in this year's rotation.
"We're open to consider any legitimate opportunities that come my way,'' Cashman said. "As in legitimate within our circumstances.''
Those "circumstances'' are an apparent fiscal restraint after what the Yankees already have added for the upcoming season. Counting the return of A-Rod, along with the trade for Martin Prado last July and the signing of Chase Headley, Capuano, Andrew Miller and Chris Young, that's adding roughly $65 million for 2015 alone.
The Yankees had about $39 million coming off the payroll from last season, so they're still well over $200 million again and seemingly don't feel like pushing that much further with another long-term deal for a $20-million per year pitcher. If Jon Lester can get $155 million from the Cubs, there's no telling where the market will go for Scherzer.
Cashman was able to trade for Derek Jeter's replacement in Didi Gregorius, then spent $52 million to install Headley as A-Rod's successor at third base. Although those were holes that had to be filled, the rotation has serious issues as well. Tanaka will be pitching with a small tear in his elbow, CC Sabathia is returning from knee surgery after only eight starts last season, Michael Pineda has a history of shoulder problems and Ivan Nova, who won't be ready for Opening Day, is coming back from Tommy John surgery.
That leaves the 36-year-old Capuano, David Phelps and potentially Adam Warren as the healthiest starters heading into spring training. The Yankees could make a run at Hiroki Kuroda if he waits on retirement, but he hasn't made a decision. Otherwise, Cashman will need to get creative to fortify the rotation, and there's the possibility they could roll the dice with the arms they currently have in place.