Yanks rebuild, reload

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- These are down times for the New York Yankees.

In more ways than one.

The Yankees are 0-for-6 the previous six Octobers, including four first-round post-season exits.

George Steinbrenner teams have been bullish in the free-agent China Shoppe, but this off-season?

They dealt starting pitcher Randy Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for young pitching and signed free agent Andy Pettitte. They moved outfielder Gary Sheffield to the Detroit Tigers for prospects.

They added import lefty Kei Igawa from Japan and moved Jaret Wright to the Baltimore Orioles for a young arm.

"I don't think this off-season was different than the last couple of years," Yanks general manager Brian Cashman said. "We're trying to be consistent: Stressing youth, reducing payroll.

"The previous two years we added Chien-Ming Wang, (second baseman) RobinsonCano and (outfielder) Milkey Cabrerra."

Believe it or else, but this season is the second straight year the Yankees' payroll has declined. In 2005, it was at $203 million US.

A year ago, it dropped to $190 million. This season Cashman expects his payroll to be $167 million-170 million.

That's not the way the Yankees of old operated when Steinbrenner thought the industry could be reduced to three words: Highest payroll wins.

Instead of having a minor-league cupboard where the best prospect next to right-hander Philip Hughes was the ball boy at single-A Staten Island, Cashman wisely replenished his minor-league system. All the better for down the road, whether it's next year or the July 31 trade deadline.

This winter the Yanks added and added. Pettitte and Igawa join Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Wang in the rotation.

Reliever Luiz Vizcaino appeared in 70 games for Arizona, going 4-6 with a 3.58 ERA. Vizcaino has a Paul Quantrill type arm that manager Joe Torre can use over and over, along with Scott Proctor, to get to closer Mariano Rivera.

"We weren't looking to trade Randy (Johnson), but when he said he was comfortable going back to Arizona, it gave me a reason," Johnson said.

Johnson brought three players from double-A Tennessee Steven Jackson (8-11, 2.65), Russ Ohlendorf (10-8, 3.29) and infielder Alberto Gonzalez (.290, six homers and 50 RBIs); Sheffield landed Humberto Sanchez (5-3, 3.86, triple-A Toledo) and Kevin Whelan (4-1, 2.57, single-A Lakeland); with the Wright trade bringing Chris Britton (0-2, 3.35 with Baltimore in 52 games).

Pavano went for an MRI yesterday after being hit on the bottom of his foot by a line drive throwing batting practice Saturday. The Yankess might be reaching, expecting him to make 30 starts as he has not pitched in the majors since June 2005.

"We concentrated on youth, waited on Pettitte before making an offer so not to lose any draft picks," Cashman said.

Where Pettitte pitches, Roger Clemens follows ... at least that was the case two years ago when the lefty signed with his hometown Houston Astros and Clemens followed after a few winter workouts with Pettitte.

"I never asked him to come out of retirement and play for the Astros," Pettitte said yesterday. "But Roger saw the excitement in the city and we gave it two good runs."

Is he recruiting, trying to get Clemens back in pinstripes?

"That's a decision he has to make, he knows I love pitching with him," Pettitte said. "If he plays is a decision Roger has to make."

Meanwhile, Bernie Williams, the anchor of this early Yankees dynasty Series winners in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000, was not offered a contract as the Yankees go with a 12-man pitching staff.

Rather than Williams having 420 at-bats as he did in 2006, the Yanks prefer situational lefty Mike Meyers.

"You never really know about young pitching," Cashman said. "In the 1990s we had Sterling Hitchcock, Mark Hutton, Bobby Munoz and Mariano Rivera in the minors. Not many thought Mariano would be the best. But there's power in numbers."


Videos

Photos