"We were concerned about pitching last year, and it ended up working out pretty well," Steinbrenner, the team's control person, said on Wednesday upon arriving at Major League Baseball's Owners Meetings here. "I'm still a little concerned about our rotation."
That concern does not necessarily mean the Yanks will land C.J. Wilson, Roy Oswalt or any other top starter on the free-agent market. But it is a good bet that New York will research and evaluate most of this year's available pitchers, including potential Japanese import Yu Darvish.
Steinbrenner said that general manager Brian Cashman cannot concern himself with past mistakes on such foreign pitchers as Kei Igawa and Jose Contreras, and must simply make the best possible decisions with the information he has. If Cashman believes that Darvish -- or any other risky investment bet -- suits the Yankees, his owner will not balk at shelling out the necessary cash.
"I really do have to heavily rely on our scouting and our development people, particularly when it comes to young kids in foreign countries," Steinbrenner said. "But there have certainly been players that have come out of those countries that have been great. There's just less intel and there's less to go on, so you've really got to depend on the guys that have seen them."
It is a process that may take some time, given that so many teams and agents are not yet ready to commit. Cashman was among more than a half-dozen GMs to meet this week with Bob Garber, the agent for Wilson and Oswalt, and he acknowledged afterward that this is shaping up to be a clear seller's market. With so many teams interested in so few pitchers, the Yanks' only option right now is patience.
"I've had a hard time getting dollar figures from agents, to be honest," Cashman said.
Regarding the rest of the roster, Steinbrenner said that he has not spoken with Jorge Posada, nor can he gauge whether the longtime catcher might return to New York. Cashman did receive word on Thursday that backup third baseman Eric Chavez plans to stave off retirement for now, though a return will depend upon his demands and the Yankees' needs.
Steinbrenner also believes that a healthy Alex Rodriguez will be critical to the Yanks' chances. To that end, Cashman touched base on Wednesday with Rodriguez's agent (who also represents free agents Carlos Beltran and Albert Pujols) in Milwaukee. And he feels that the pitching staff -- both the rotation and bullpen -- remains incomplete.
From a broader perspective, Steinbrenner realizes that the Yankees will return the core of a roster that won 97 games last season and breezed to the American League East title before falling to the Tigers in the AL Division Series.
"We have a team ... that had the best record in the American League," Steinbrenner said. "So we've got a good team.
But the Yanks' flaws are evident.
"We let the fans down in the playoffs, there's no doubt about it," Steinbrenner said. "They know that and I know that and Cashman knows that. Our team from last year is pretty much intact. There are some concerns, and we're going to address them."