Yanks depart Winter Meetings quietly

Yanks depart Winter Meetings quietly

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The 2006 Winter Meetings saw several players land contracts worth a combined hundreds of millions of dollars.

Not one of them was handed out by the Yankees.

Instead, New York zeroed in on a familiar face, targeting Andy Pettitte as its top priority on the free-agent market.

Despite a brief flirtation with Ted Lilly, the Yankees were relatively quiet this week at the Dolphin Hotel, letting teams like the Red Sox (J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo), Dodgers (Jason Schmidt, Luis Gonzalez), Phillies (Freddy Garcia) and even the Royals (Gil Meche) make the headlines.

Cashman opened discussions with agent Arn Tellem about Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa, whose rights the Yankees won last week with a posting bid of more than $26 million. Cashman expects to hear from Tellem again soon to continue their talks, but said he didn't believe he was close to completing any other deals.

"I never feel close until someone says they want to do something and I'm in a position where I have to go to George [Steinbrenner] with a recommendation," Cashman said. "Since I'm not in that spot, I don't feel close."

That doesn't mean that Pettitte won't be slipping into his old No. 46 pinstriped jersey before too long. The left-hander's agent, Randy Hendricks, announced Wednesday that the 34-year-old planned to pitch in 2007, leaving the Astros and Yankees as the two primary candidates for Pettitte's services.

"I'm not surprised," Cashman said of Pettitte's decision not to retire. "At his age, with his abilities, that doesn't surprise me at all. I always felt he would play."

The Astros appear close to a deal with the White Sox for Jon Garland, which could signal their desire to move on without Pettitte. The Yankees have offered Pettitte a one-year deal worth $15 million, though the pitcher could be seeking a two-year contract.

Either way, it would make more economic sense for the Yankees to sign Pettitte than it would have for them to go after Lilly, Meche or any of the other pitchers on the free-agent market. Lilly received $40 million over four years from the Cubs -- a contract which would have cost the Yankees $56 million when the luxury tax was figured in.

Lilly's decision came down to the Yankees and Cubs, but Cashman opted not to make an offer to agent Larry O'Brien by Wednesday night.

"I knew he had decisions to make, and I didn't want to hold him up," Cashman said. "I had enough discussions with him, they were very fair in the process, and the last thing I wanted to do was drag it out and cost him any opportunities that were sitting in front of him."

The only official moves the Yankees made this week were the signing of catcher Raul Chavez to a Minor League contract on Wednesday and the selection of Josh Phelps in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. Chavez is expected to compete with Wil Nieves for the backup catcher job, while Phelps will battle Andy Phillips at first base. Shea Hillenbrand remains a possibility, but only if he is willing to take a one-year deal.

"I'll continue to see what else is out there," Cashman said. "If anything makes sense, I'm not afraid to move."

Deals done: Signed Chavez to a Minor League contract.

Rule 5 activity: Selected Phelps from Baltimore with the 16th pick in the Major League portion; lost Double-A outfielder Victor Hall to the Phillies in the Minor League portion.

Goals accomplished: The Yankees didn't do much to their roster, though they learned that Pettitte will pitch in 2007, opening the door for his return to the Bronx.

Unfinished business: New York still needs a utility infielder, with Miguel Cairo the likely candidate to return in that role. The fifth outfield spot remains unsettled as well, while the Yankees decide whether to bring Bernie Williams back for a 17th season.

GM's bottom line: "You come down, spend a lot of time trying to push the envelope on a lot of things. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you don't." -- Cashman

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.