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Cashman: Yankees want Girardi back

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NEW YORK (AP) - If anything, the Yankees like Joe Girardi even more now than when they hired him to manage the team six years ago.

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General manager Brian Cashman praised Girardi's handling of the team during a disappointing season and is about to offer him a new contract.

``He knows we'd like to have him stay and continue as manager of the New York Yankees as we move forward,'' Cashman said Tuesday. ``I feel we hired a good one. He's been a world champion player for us. He's been a coach, a broadcaster and obviously a world champion manager. So we've benefited from having him and we'd like to do that going forward, but we'll have to speak with him and see how it plays out.''

Girardi has led the Yankees to a 564-408 record and a World Series title. Crippled by injuries, New York had its poorest season since 1992, missing the playoffs for the second time in 19 years and finishing tied for third in the AL East at 85-77.

Cashman met Girardi for coffee on Monday, a day after New York's season ended, and plans to have lunch Wednesday in New York with Girardi's agent, Steve Mandell.

``We're entering the sensitive conversations that will either lead to a deal or lead us to the understanding that there won't be a deal,'' Cashman said.

Girardi won out over Don Mattingly to replace Joe Torre after the 2007 season and was given a $7.8 million, three-year contract. He is completing a $9 million, three-year deal.

The Chicago Cubs may be interested in Girardi after firing manager Dale Sveum. Girardi grew up in Illinois, went to Northwestern and played for the Cubs. But Girardi is under contract through October, and Cashman wouldn't say whether he would give the Cubs permission to speak with the manager.

``I think he likes it here,'' Cashman said. ``We're going to give him a real good reason to stay, and he's earned that through his six years with us so far.''

Heading into the offseason, the Yankees face numerous questions, especially about their pitching staff and infield. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are retiring. Second baseman Robinson Cano is a free agent, as are pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and outfielder Curtis Granderson.

Shortstop Derek Jeter played just 17 games this year after breaking an ankle last October and third baseman Alex Rodriguez didn't return from offseason hip surgery until August, and he may have to serve a lengthy drug suspension next season.

Cano, a five-time All-Star who turns 31 on Oct, 22, can become a free agent after the World Series and may be seeking a 10-year deal worth $305 million or more.

Cashman will meet with the Yankees' professional scouts starting Monday to formulate his offseason plan.

``We'd love to have Robby back,'' Cashman said. ``He's been a great Yankee. I think if he stays he has a legitimate chance to experience what you just saw for instance a little bit from Mariano, where maybe he has a chance to be the first Dominican-born player to be in Monument Park.''

Cashman also said it's unclear whether the Yankees will be able to get under next year's $189 million luxury tax threshold, which includes about $177 million for player salaries.

``It's not a mandate. It's a goal that we have if it's possible,'' Cashman said. ``There's a lot of benefits to staying under that, but it's not a mandate if it's at the expense of a championship run. It just depends on what the opportunities are before us, and the costs associated with it.''

He also plans to address the Yankees' lack of power this season. Injuries and the departures of Raul Ibanez, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez as free agents caused home runs to dropped from a team-record 245 last year to 144, the Yankees' fewest in a non-shortened season since they hit 130 in 1989. Not counting strike years, it was the largest falloff in baseball history, topping a decrease of 96 for the 1988 Chicago Cubs.

``We love guys with plate discipline and power from the offensive side. And that's been our history, and that's been our philosophy for a long time that's worked,'' he said. ``We got derailed this year by decision-making as well as injuries. They're all my responsibility, and the best we could produce unfortunately was an 85-win team. That's not Yankee standards.''

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