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Ellsbury deal part of bold offseason for the Yankees

New York being aggressive with additions of McCann, Ellsbury to lineup
12/04/2013 11:25 AM ET
By Jack Curry

The Yankees expect OF Jacoby Ellsbury will add speed and power to New York's lineup in 2014.(AP)
When the 2013 season ended without a postseason spot for the Yankees, they had internal discussions about being aggressive shoppers in the offseason. The Yankees wanted to move smartly and quickly to address the issues that loomed over them. So far, they are following that plan.

By signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7-year, $153 million contract, the Yankees continued to show that they don't want 2014 to be a repeat of 2013. The agreement with the former Red Sox center fielder came a few hours after the official announcement that the Yankees had signed catcher Brian McCann to a 5-year, $85 million deal.

So the Yankees signed two marquee players for $238 million in contracts and they aren't done adding players. The Yankees believe they can still sign Robinson Cano, although they are firm about not stretching their offer beyond the 7-year, $170 million range. If Cano wants to bolt to Seattle because the Mariners make a superior offer, the Yankees have told him they won't engage in a bidding war.

As the Cano situation evolves, the Yankees will stay busy. The Yankees are close to signing Kelly Johnson, a second baseman and left fielder, to a one-year deal for about $3 million. While Johnson isn't a solid defensive player, he gives the Yankees some insurance if Cano signs elsewhere. Again, the Yankees would love to have Cano in their lineup. But they want to do that at their number, something they have said again and again.

If the Yankees sign Cano, they could field a lineup of Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, Cano, Mark Teixeira, McCann, Alfonso Soriano, a third baseman to be determined, Johnson or Brendan Ryan (depending on whether Jeter is the designated hitter that day) and Brett Gardner. That is a vast improvement from the team that managed 650 runs last season, a season in which the bottom three in the order were often black holes.

But, as impressive as that lineup would be, the Yankees also need to strengthen their starting rotation. Manager Joe Girardi has said his only certainties in the rotation are CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. The Yankees have made a one-year offer to Hiroki Kuroda and are optimistic that he will return. If Major League Baseball officials and Japanese baseball officials agree on revamping the posting system, the Yankees would be major players for Masuhiro Tanaka, too. Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren will likely compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.

In an offseason that has featured discussions about Alex Rodriguez's arbitration case and more chatter about how the Yankees will keep their payroll under $189 million, the attention switched to Ellsbury on Tuesday. The Yankees have raved about Ellsbury's speed, defense and ability to get on base and they also think he will hit more homers at Yankee Stadium. Ellsbury was an important name on the Yankees' shopping list, a player they feel will help make sure 2014 ends differently than 2013.

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