The Yankees are working to give Joe Girardi what the New York Post screamed across Wednesday’s back page: “OFFER HE CAN’T REFUSE.”
[RELATED: Yankees GM pushing to keep Girardi in New York]
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met with Girardi’s agent, Steve Mandell, on Wednesday in New York, trying to hammer out a new contract with the current deal set to expire on Oct. 31.
Girardi could be facing a “Godfather” decision and feeling those push-pull dynamics with the Cubs. But if he really wants to return to the North Side, he’s going to have to force the issue and play hardball with the Yankees.
The Cubs could appeal to Girardi’s ego and sense of history. Instead of being another guy in New York, one industry official said, “Girardi would be a king here.”
[MORE: Girardi or bust? Pressure is on Theo to deliver next manager]
But is that what Girardi really wants? Or is he just using the Cubs for leverage?
After firing manager Dale Sveum, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein mentioned “the idiosyncrasies of the marketplace and the franchise,” what Lou Piniella once diagnosed as “Cubbie occurrences.”
Girardi would have to know what he’s getting into after playing parts of seven seasons with the Cubs. Mandell has a base in Chicago. Former Cubs president/future Blackhawks CEO John McDonough was said to prefer Girardi when Jim Hendry, the general manager at the time, chose Piniella to replace Dusty Baker after the 2006 season.
That triggered back-to-back division titles and a financial reckoning. Girardi would have to believe the Ricketts family will boost major-league payroll and president of business operations Crane Kenney can deliver a renovated stadium and new television deals.
The hope would be Epstein’s farm system is as good as advertised. The Cubs need someone to help shape those young players.
[RELATED: Theo says Cubs job will sell itself]
Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and San Diego Padres executive A.J. Hinch are on the radar. Certain names rumored in scouting and industry circles are not viewed as top targets: Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus; Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo; ex-manager Eric Wedge (Indians/Seattle Mariners); Los Angeles Dodgers coaches Trey Hillman (bench) and Tim Wallach (third base).
Cashman had once been floated as a candidate to be the next Cubs GM in the summer of 2011, when Ricketts fired Hendry. Cashman, who wound up hiring Hendry as a special assignment scout, called that speculation overblown and didn’t think he was really in those plans.
As Epstein zeroed in on Sveum in November 2011, Cashman stood inside the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee and explained why he’s stuck with the organization that gave him his start as a 19-year-old intern in 1986.
“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know,” Cashman said during the GM meetings. “I’m not afraid of it. But I’ve taken a long time (here). A lot of the people I work with are the people I personally hired. Do I want to go through a process of letting certain people go and trying to get permission to hire other people? That’s extra work that I’m not afraid of doing. But I’ve already done it.
“I know our media. I know our fan base. I know our owners. I know my team president. And I know what makes them all tick.
“There’s power and knowledge in that. I’m not afraid of the learning curve going somewhere else. But there is a learning curve, so why volunteer yourself for that? That’s my route.”
Girardi, who grew up in Peoria and met his wife Kim at Northwestern University, will have to figure out what path he wants to take. He has also talked about the life his family built in Westchester County and downplayed his connections to the Midwest.
[MORE -- Hired to be fired: Cubs officially end Sveum Watch]
“Our home has been here,” Girardi told the New York media over the weekend. “My kids are engrossed in schools here. I haven’t lived there since 2006. I have a couple of brothers there, but my father’s gone, my mother’s gone. So there’s not as much there as there used to be.”
During Tuesday’s state-of-the-team news conference at Yankee Stadium, Cashman addressed the organization’s luxury-tax goal of cutting payroll to $189 million in 2014.
“The only confident thing I can tell you is when the last name is Steinbrenner,” Cashman said, “the effort’s going to be there in terms of making a full push for having the best team on the field you can possibly have.”
For the Evil Empire, that means Girardi in the dugout – unless the Cubs get that chance to make an offer he can’t refuse.