Levine: Jeter's last year, Tanaka's first, could be special
Club president sits down with MLB.com for a Q&A addressing the state of the franchise
This Presidents Day, MLB.com is reaching out to check in with club presidents around the league, including a discussion about the state of the Yankees with team president Randy Levine.
MLB.com: Let's start with this: What was your reaction to Derek Jeter's announcement that he plans to retire at the end of the season, and did you have any idea that it was coming?
MLB.com: We all know what Jeter has meant to the Yankees on the field. What has he meant to the team off the field, in the clubhouse and even the front office?
Levine: I think his impact is that he's a winner. He's a phenomenal person. He's somebody who is a leader and somebody who has good judgment. Most important, everybody always knew that he always had the best interests of the Yankees at heart. That's why he and the Boss got along so well, because they both really were about having the Yankees win the world championship every year and doing what was best for the Yankees.
MLB.com: We just saw how Mariano Rivera's career was celebrated last year. How do the Yankees plan to handle Jeter's retirement?
Levine: I think we don't know yet. We'll sit down with Derek, Dr. and Mrs. Jeter, and [Jeter's agent] Casey Close. We'll figure out something that is worthy of him and something that he has to be a part of, that he buys into, and that he's comfortable with. I'm sure we'll come up with an exciting and interesting plan that's worthy of his great career.
MLB.com: Moving on to Masahiro Tanaka, one thing that kept coming up at the press conference was how the Yankees view his confidence. How did Tanaka impress you?
Levine: He impressed me an awful lot. As I've said, when we went out to Los Angeles [on Jan. 8], he showed tremendous maturity, poise and confidence, which he also showed at the press conference. Confident, but not in an arrogant or boastful way. It's a confident determination that reminded me a lot in disposition of Hideki Matsui.
So that's how he was. He said that he wanted to take the ball. Our pitch was, you're going to be one of the greatest pitchers in the world, you should play for the greatest franchise, the greatest brand and the greatest city in the world. And he embraced that.
MLB.com: He wasn't the only major signing of the winter. With Jeter on the way out, do you feel like some of these moves -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, maybe Carlos Beltran, too -- will help build a new core?
Well, I think that we still have a lot of really terrific Yankees who are still here. Brett Gardner is still here, Tex [Mark Teixeira] is still here, David Robertson is still here. There are many, many great Yankees who are still here.
I think, clearly, the idea of signing Brian McCann and Ellsbury and Tanaka and Carlos was -- especially the first three -- they're young players who are still in the prime of their careers, who come from winning environments.
MLB.com: The $189 million payroll was such a big topic of the winter, and that seemed to go out the window after Tanaka signed. Would you expect any more moves to come before the beginning of the season?
Levine: That's really up to Cash [general manager Brian Cashman], but I think all of our major moves are done.
MLB.com: The offseason went a lot differently than a lot of people thought it might. Robinson Cano is in Seattle, but a lot of new players are coming in. Do you feel this team is better than the 2013 team?
Levine: I think we have a championship-caliber team. I think we're going to compete very hard. The most important thing is we stay healthy. Last year was just a very, very tragic year as far as our health.
MLB.com: With pitchers and catchers now in camp, what do you view as the most important storylines to watch this spring?
Levine: I think it's going to be a great, exciting Yankees season. Hopefully we'll be competing to win the American League East. Obviously, Derek's last year and Tanaka's first year -- I think it's going to be an exciting year for us.