The Yankees landed one big name, so now the expectation is that they will grab others.
So, why is the club talking to second-tier free agents such as outfielder Nate McLouth?
Because catcher Brian McCann is only one piece, and the rest of the Yankees’ offseason has yet to unfold.
It’s quite a complex puzzle, actually. And, yes, there are scenarios in which the Yankees might want a relatively inexpensive outfielder such as McLouth, with whom they remain in contact, according to major league sources.
Let’s say the Yankees, after securing McCann for $85 million over five years, re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano and right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and also land Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
At that point, it would seem unlikely that they also could add a high-priced outfielder such as Carlos Beltran or Shin-Soo Choo — unless, of course, they ditched their stated goal of remaining under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.
Enter McLouth, or someone like him, to an outfield that currently consists of — ahem — Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki.
Beltran, one of the most popular players on the market, figures to sign before the end of the winter meetings. But Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, both of whom are represented by the slow-playing Scott Boras, likely will take longer.
Cano also could linger, depending upon the state of his market. Tanaka’s availability remains in doubt because of the dispute over the Japanese posting system. And don’t forget third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whose 2014 salary — and luxury-tax charge — hinges on the length of his suspension.
No other team can match the Yankees for Unresolved Issues, capital “U,” capital “I.” McLouth ultimately could fit, or not. But players comparable to him already have shown that they will not necessarily wait for big-market salvation.
Chris Young, who could have been a platoon partner for Jackie Bradley Jr. in Boston, instead signed with the Mets for one year, $7.25 million. David Murphy went to the Indians for two years, $12 million, Marlon Byrd to the Phillies for two years, $16 million.
McLouth, 32, ranks behind Beltran, Choo and Curtis Granderson on the Yankees’ wish list, sources say. A trade of Ichiro and his .639 OPS could open another spot, but few teams, if any, want him at $6.5 million for 2014. Besides, if signing Ichiro was the brainstorm of Yankees ownership — it was — then trading him also would figure to require approval from the top.
The Orioles retain interest in re-signing McLouth, and presumably other clubs are in the mix. The chances of him becoming a Yankee would appear slim. But the mere fact he is in the conversation speaks to the tangled web of the Yankees’ offseason, one that is not likely to unravel anytime soon.
Could Tigers still move Scherzer?
Some interpreted the Tigers’ trade of first baseman Prince Fielder to the Rangers as a move designed to create financial flexibility for the re-signing of right-hander Max Scherzer.
The theory assumes that Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, is eager to negotiate an extension with the pitcher entering his free-agent year. In reality, Boras always prefers elite talents such as Scherzer to determine their values on the open market.
The Tigers, meanwhile, also might be pondering an extension for Miguel Cabrera, who is two years away from free agency. So, why should the chances of them trading Scherzer be any less than they were before?
The Tigers are in the same place with their rotation that they were prior to trading Fielder. They’ve got six starters for five spots, a desire to stick left-hander Drew Smyly in the rotation and a willingness to move a righty — Scherzer, Rick Porcello or Doug Fister.
“A lot of things are just getting started,” said Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, who already has finished what might be the offseason’s biggest trade, Fielder for Ian Kinsler.
“Will you listen? You always listen to be in position to get better with your club. Would we move one? If the right deal came up, we would. But it would have to be the right deal.”
It’s difficult to imagine what the right deal for Scherzer might be, but then, it was difficult to imagine the Tigers trading Fielder.
The Cardinals’ fascinating choice
Maybe the biggest thing the Cardinals lacked last season was athleticism. They had a sufficient number of big, hairy-chested sluggers, but few of them could run and the team’s offense occasionally sputtered because of it.
The trade for center fielder Peter Bourjos will help solve that. So will the installation of Kolten Wong at second base and the eventual promotion of outfielder Oscar Taveras, probably sometime next season.
In some ways, the signing of shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million free-agent contract is a step in the other direction. But advanced defensive metrics are relatively kind to Peralta, portraying him as an average to slightly-above average defender. And Peralta’s offense at the position will be a major upgrade over what the Cardinals got from Peter Kozma.
On the other hand, Peralta will be 32 on May 28, and the questions will linger about how much his use of performance-enhancing drugs influenced his production; his performances in 2011 and ’13 were among the best of his career.
Well, Peralta sure didn’t look ready to turn into another Melky Cabrera in the postseason, producing an .898 OPS in 34 plate appearances. And if he slips defensively — something that seems likely over the course of his contract — the Cardinals always could move him to third.
The trade of third baseman David Freese opened up third for Matt Carpenter and second for Wong, and the Cardinals again could use their depth to their advantage in the future, juggling the pieces as they see fit.
The bottom line: The Cardinals addressed their needs without losing a draft pick (as they would have for Stephen Drew) or trading any of their premium young pitching (the likely requirement for acquiring the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus or Angels’ Erick Aybar).
Instead, the Cardinals used financial flexibility as their currency and also avoided an all left-handed-hitting infield by choosing Peralta over Drew.
Peralta’s teammates in Detroit loved him. His former manager, Jim Leyland, often pointed out that the Tigers won a ton of games with Peralta at short.
Not a bad move. Under the circumstances, not bad at all.
AROUND THE HORN
• If the Angels wouldn’t go four years on left-hander Jason Vargas, 30, then it seems unlikely that they would go three on righty Bronson Arroyo, who is more accomplished than Vargas but six years older.
Righty Bartolo Colon, 40, could make sense on a short, high-dollar deal. But after Tanaka, the market — from the Angels’ perspective — appears unappealing.
It’s doubtful the Angels would sign a pitcher who received a qualifying offer, such as Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, and lose a first-round pick for the third year in a row.
A trade still seems like the logical way to go.
• Free-agent left-hander Randy Wolf, who missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, auditioned for eight teams last week.
Wolf, who will pitch next season at 37, threw 87 mph to 89 mph with a good curve and already is receiving offers, according to a major league source.