New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner says his family wouldn’t speak to him for weeks after the trade, and while the Yankees could certainly use him next season, Steinbrenner has no regrets about trading away reliever Andrew Miller last summer to the Cleveland Indians.
“That was a sensitive one,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday at the MLB owners’ meetings. “He’s an unbelievably great individual. That was a tough call. But when you have the ability to get the four players we got of that caliber, it has to be a deal that good to consider getting rid of a guy like him.
“There’s no doubt we miss him, and there’s no doubt we miss (Aroldis) Chapman.”
The Yankees, who received four prospects in the trade — outfielder Clint Frazier, left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen — now are desperately searching for someone to fill Miller’s spot. Their top target may be Chapman, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs a week before Miller in July, and is now a free agent.
It hardly will be a bargain considering Chapman is expected to receive at least a five-year, $75 million contract, but it may be a necessity.
“Look, any time you can get a guy who’s already proven he can play in New York,” Steinbrenner said, “then that’s a plus in the column.”
The Yankees, who will shed nearly $58 million in salaries from last year’s payroll with the departures of Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Miller and Chapman, still would like to get below the current $189 million luxury tax threshold before the 2018 season. Yet for now, they plan to re-invest a portion of their savings, perhaps distributing it to Chapman.
“We have money coming off the payroll for the first time in a few years,” Steinbrenner said, “and we’re going to put a decent portion of it back in the club, like we always do.
“There are areas we need to work on. I think the bullpen is the top priority. If we can’t fill them from within, if we can’t figure out a trade of some kind, then there’s the free-agent market. We’ve always been involved in the free-agent market and always will be. We’ll just have to see.”
The way Steinbrenner and the Yankees figure it, they could perhaps add Chapman or another premium closer like free agent Kenley Jansen and still have wiggle room in their budget, depending on the new luxury tax figure once the new collective bargaining agreement is finalized.
“My long-term plans haven’t changed,” Steinbrenner said. “My long-term plans are to get below the threshold, whatever the threshold is. Even if it stays the same, or goes down, we’re going to continue to work on lowering payroll. Now that we finally have what looks like some good young players, it’s going to give us some flexibility that we just haven’t had in several years.”
The Yankees will also be able to shed another $45 million off their payroll after the 2017 season with the expiring contracts of CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was released last August but is still owed $20 million in 2017, and will be a special instructor in the organization.
“Clearly my focus is to put a great product on the field that more and more people want to see, an exciting product,” said Steinbrenner, who also plans to spend about $20 million apiece in renovations at Yankee Stadium and Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. “It will be a product of our key players and veterans, because we need them as mentors.
“It’s New York. It’s a marquee kind of town.
“(To) finally have that base of young players, a lot of people are excited. That’s what I want. I want to bring excitement back to the stadium.”
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale