On Wednesday night, Hal Steinbrenner met with Scott Boras, the agent for Edwin Jackson, whose named had been linked to the Yankees at various points this winter. Word of the sit down led many to speculate that Steinbrenner might once again override Brian Cashman’s better judgment by extending an offer to the right hander. After all, just last offseason, another Boras’ client, Rafael Soriano, parlayed angst within the Yankees’ front office into an above-market three-year deal.
As we now know, history did not repeat itself. Less than 48 hours after meeting with Boras, the Yankees acted quickly and boldly by not only trading for Michael Pineda, but also signing Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal. Was the timing a coincidence? Or, did the Yankees use the perception of organizational conflict to their advantage in getting Kuroda and Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik to consummate their respective deals?
Based on initial accounts, it seems as if Cashman and Zduriencik had been discussing a possible deal for some time. In fact, the Yankees first target was actually Felix Hernandez. However, when the Mariners’ refused, the Yankees turned their focus to Pineda. According to reports, Zduriencik first demanded that Ivan Nova be a part of the deal, but this time Cashman balked. How long did the standoff last? We may never know, but considering the Mariners accepted Hector Noesi as a substitute, not to mention included one of their own top prospects in the deal, it does seem as if the compromise came from Zduriencik’s side.
What could have caused the Mariners to relent on their demands? It’s pure speculation, but it’s easy to envision a scenario in which Cashman told Zduriencik, explicitly or implicitly, something along the lines of: if we don’t wrap up this deal now, my owner is going to go over my head and make an offer to Edwin Jackson. Normally, such a tactic would be perceived as an obvious bluff, but after last year’s Soriano signing, Zduriencik may not have been willing to take the chance.
While negotiating with the Mariners, Cashman may have also placed a call to Kuroda’s agent, letting him know that things were moving fast. For months, the right hander seemed to be dragging his feet, but the possibility of losing the Yankees as suitor may have forced his hand. If Kuroda really wanted to wear pinstripes in 2012, he’d have to finally make up his mind.
Is that really how things unfolded? If such a strategy was used, Cashman would obviously never reveal it. Also, it may not have even been a premeditated approach. Maybe the higher-ups in the Yankees’ organization were starting to get an itchy trigger finger, or maybe Zduriencik and Kuroda’s agent took it upon themselves to make that assumption? Then again, the timing may have just been a coincidence. In many ways, the uncertainty works to the Yankees’ advantage. Like a hitter digging in against a pitcher with a reputation for occasionally letting one get away, GMs and agents around the game may be distracted when negotiating with Cashman, which isn’t the best way to approach a ninja.