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Steinbrenner: Yanks ready to start talking to Cano

Managing general partner says club is set to kick tires on negotiations with slugger

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Yankees have not held discussions with Robinson Cano's camp since free agency opened, but managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said on Tuesday that is about to change, kicking off what promises to be an eventful offseason for the club.

Shortly after arriving at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, Steinbrenner said that the Yankees plan to return to the negotiating table with the free-agent All-Star, hoping to reach common ground that will keep the sweet-swinging second baseman in pinstripes.

"As of now, we've had no meetings the last week or two since free agency began," Steinbrenner said. "We're going to be talking to him, whether it's in person or on the phone. We're going to start the process."

Retaining Cano is widely regarded as a key piece of the Yanks' winter blueprint, but there is ground to cover between the sides.

Cano has reportedly requested a 10-year deal worth $305 million, while Steinbrenner has said the Yankees will not offer a deal spanning a decade. The club's thinking is believed to be closer to seven or eight years at $180 million to $200 million for the 31-year-old Cano.

"I'm sure in the next week, we're going to sit down and talk to him," Steinbrenner said. "We haven't really had any communication regarding any specifics yet. But it's the beginning of the process."

Steinbrenner said that as of now, the Yanks continue to assume that Alex Rodriguez will be their starting third baseman. If Rodriguez's 211-game suspension is upheld, it will add just one more item to a busy checklist that general manager Brian Cashman is being trusted to tackle.

"Time will tell. We've obviously got a lot of holes to fill, and we've got a lot of concerns," Steinbrenner said. "But we're going to keep plugging away, leave no stone unturned as always, and try to field the best team we can."

Even without a resolution to the appeal of Rodriguez's suspension, Steinbrenner said that the Yankees have "a fair amount of money to start spending" this offseason. Steinbrenner said that a speedy conclusion to Rodriguez's case would be a positive.

"I think that would be best for everybody involved, including the sport itself," Steinbrenner said.

Steinbrenner noted that the Yankees have concerns in the pitching department, both in their rotation and the bullpen. Japanese standout Masahiro Tanaka has the Yanks' attention, and he is even more appealing to the club because a posting fee would not count against next year's luxury tax.

"We've been in on those things before and we certainly like him," Steinbrenner said. "He's a great player, without a doubt. We'll just have to see. I'm sure there will be numerous teams in on him. He'd be a great, great catch for anybody."

Steinbrenner again reiterated that while a $189 million payroll figure is a goal for 2014, it is not a mandate.

"Not at the expense of fielding a championship-caliber team," Steinbrenner said. "We're not going to do that. We know what the fans expect of us. We're going to field the best team we can. Is it a goal? It's absolutely a goal, but not at the expense of fielding a championship-caliber team."

Because of a free-agent crop that is perceived to be weaker than past years, Steinbrenner expressed uncertainty that the Yankees will be able to land the players they covet without exceeding $189 million.

"We're just going to have to start fixing the problems," Steinbrenner said. "We have to start filling the holes one by one and we'll cross each bridge as we get to it."

Steinbrenner said that while the Yanks have made some personnel moves in the wake of this past season, which included Steinbrenner's statements that he had been disappointed by the lack of big league-ready players in the farm chain, "the vast majority of the changes have been procedural."

Mark Newman is continuing as the senior director of baseball operations, overseeing the Minor League system, and Damon Oppenheimer remains the club's amateur scouting director in charge of the Draft.

Steinbrenner said that the Yankees evaluated their chain for months and have made an effort to secure top-notch roving personnel to oversee the farm system.

"It's been disappointing with players like [Dellin] Betances and [Manny] Banuelos, guys we thought would really do well," Steinbrenner said. "As of yet, they haven't. But we looked at this thing from top to bottom.

"It's really easy to say, 'Get rid of this guy, get rid of this guy, get rid of that guy.' There are certainly some owners that might do that, but that doesn't always solve the problem."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

New York Yankees, Robinson Cano