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November 18, 2005

Newsday: Yankees' pen has disappearing ink
by SG

From Newsday, some disappointing news:

Improving their bullpen figured to be the easiest part of this Yankees offseason. Yet just one week into the free-agency period, their top targets are looking elsewhere.

The Yankees' dream of B.J. Ryan setting up for Mariano Rivera has all but ended now that the lefthander has made it clear he would rather close elsewhere. He and his agent were in New York the last two days, but they visited only the Mets.

The Yankees thought highly enough of Scott Eyre, meanwhile, to have manager Joe Torre place a recruiting call Tuesday, but it wasn't enough. Eyre's agent, Tommy Tanzer, called Wednesday to turn them down, and Eyre agreed to terms with the Cubs last night.

The Yankees now are concentrating on free-agent righthanders Kyle Farnsworth and Bob Howry, keeping tabs on the market for Tom Gordon and scanning the thin list of effective lefthanders looking for jobs (Mike Myers, Joey Eischen and Ricardo Rincon).

General manager Brian Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman flew to Tampa yesterday to meet with George Steinbrenner and team officials to reassess their strategy.

Although Ryan said toward the end of September that he was open to setting up for Rivera, it appears to have been nothing more than a negotiating tactic. He recently told a friend he does not want to deal with the "stress" of pitching for the Yankees.

His preference is to close for a team with at least a chance of competing for a world championship, according to a person familiar with his thinking, which is why he chose to visit the Blue Jays, Tigers and Mets this week and not the Yankees.

The Yankees were among the 23 teams that contacted Tanzer regarding Eyre, who went from being an obscure middle reliever to a hot free agent after a career year for the Giants. Eyre, 33, held lefthanders to a .182 average and had an overall ERA of 2.63.

Tanzer informed teams that Eyre was narrowing his field this week, and Torre called him. Eyre told Tanzer he answered the phone by saying, "Hello, Mr. Torre. I really appreciate the call. I'm a big fan. I really admire how you handle your team."

But Eyre ultimately decided he wanted to stay in the National League, narrowing the field to the Cubs, Cardinals, Braves and Astros before coming to terms last night.

Torre also reached out to free-agent outfielder Brian Giles on Tuesday, and they are in a game of phone tag. Giles returned the call Wednesday night and left a message, agent Joe Bick said. The Yankees are interested in signing Giles to play centerfield and are thinking about making a three-year, $33-million offer if they're sure he will come.

The Yankees also have been in contact with Gordon's agent, Rick Thurman, but they are reluctant to meet his asking price of a three-year offer at closer money. Gordon, who turns 38 today, is coming off a two-year, $7.25-million deal and still wants to close.

Well, that sucks. With Scott Eyre getting a ridiculous contract, I can't even imagine how much better options like Ryan, Howry, and Dotel are going to get. Further reason to stop relying on free agency and start developing your own players.