"Beggars can't be choosers," Brian Cashman, general manager of baseball's wealthiest team, said Tuesday.
While the Boston Red Sox have added Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino this week, the Yankees are taking a slow approach and appear focused on getting their payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014.
Dependable catcher Russell Martin already has left New York, right fielder Nick Swisher appears certain to follow and reliever Rafael Soriano also is likely to depart.
"I think sometimes people assume that the New York Yankees are the New York Yankees and there's no budget constraints and there aren't things that we want to stick to," manager Joe Girardi said about Martin. "But there are. So I think that's part of the reason why he wasn't re-signed."
New York has paid the luxury tax every year since it began in 2003 and the Yankees have been the top-spending team every season from 1999 on. By dropping under the threshold which includes benefits in 2014, New York would lower its tax rate in 2015 to 17.5 percent from 50 percent. And the Yankees would become eligible to get some of their revenue-sharing money back in 2014, known as a "Market Disqualification Refund" under baseball's new labor contract.
Girardi thinks moves may become even more limited.
"I don't think we'll get a true flavor until next year. When I say next year, I mean 2014," he explained, "and maybe it's July 28th, and you're talking about adding a guy, and it puts you over the cap. I don't think we'll really get a true idea of what it's like until then."
New York's moves thus far have been a trio of one-year contracts for pitchers nearing the ends of their careers $10 million for Mariano Rivera, $12 million for Andy Pettitte and $15 million for Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees are uncertain of right field and catcher, and third base is open for at least the first half of the season because Alex Rodriguez needs surgery on his left hip.
Eric Chavez, Rodriguez's backup, also is a free agent. Cashman said he has talked with the agents for Ichiro Suzuki, Kevin Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski.
"I'm prepared to drag this thing out," he said.
Rodriguez's hip injury, detected during an examination last month, complicates matters.
"When you go into an offseason, you feel you have to address certain areas, and all of a sudden you get a surprise in a sense," Girardi said. "It's a pretty big hole to fill. It may not necessarily be with one person. We're not sure exactly how we're going to do it. We'll let things play out here. It's not what we were expecting."
A-Rod was pinch hit for and benched during a dismal postseason. The Yankees say now the injury likely caused the production decline.
"He wasn't the Alex we saw before the injury, and now we have a reason possibly why," Girardi said. "He kept trying to play and kept trying to be productive for us. Obviously, he wasn't even sure what was going on. But he knew that his hips weren't working the way he was accustomed to them working."
New York hopes to sign Chavez or another player who can fill in. Finding that player isn't easy.
"There's not a lot of choices out there," Cashman said. "It's a very limited sandbox to play in."
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.