NEW YORK — Joe Girardi’s return as manager of the New York Yankees was all about family.
Girardi signed a four-year contract that could be worth up to $20 million today to stay with New York through 2017.
With the Yankees missing out on the playoffs this season for the second time in 19 years, the 48-year-old Girardi got an early start on determining his future. He went over several possible scenarios with his wife, Kim, and three children that included taking a year off, pursuing a broadcasting job or managing somewhere else. But they quickly came to the conclusion that six years in New York was not enough.
“It wasn’t ever a lot of thought that I might not possibly come back. I just had to make sure that everyone was still on board,” Girardi said on a conference call.
Girardi was in the final month of his second three-year contract (worth $9 million) with the Yankees since taking over for Joe Torre after the 2007 season, and he asked for a fourth year in the new deal.
The contract includes $16 million guaranteed and up to $4 million in bonuses, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because financial details were not announced.
“Our lives have been here for six years,” Girardi said. “I think stability is important.”
The pull of returning to his native Illinois to manage the Chicago Cubs, the team he grew up rooting for, did not factor greatly into his decision because once his family agreed he should manage it was set on New York.
“Chicago is special to me. And I think it’ll always be special to me,” Girardi said. “But this place is really special to me, too. Because of what I’ve experienced here. ... And my kids and my wife are established in the community here. We just thought it was important to stay.”
In a 15-year career as a catcher, Girardi won three World Series titles with the Yankees from 1996-99. As manager, he has led New York to the playoffs in four of his six seasons, winning the World Series in 2009.
Under Girardi, the big-spending Yankees have gone a major league-best 564-408 (.580) since 2008.
Even though New York finished tied for third in the AL East at 85-77, Girardi had what many believed was his best season as a manager. He kept the Yankees in the playoff chase until late September despite significant injuries to stars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.
“I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think we could win a championship,” Girardi said. “I know there’s a lot of work to be done. I know there’s a lot of holes that we have to fill. There’s people leaving and people retiring. But I have faith in our organization.”
Girardi is sticking with a team that places the utmost premium on winning championships but is entering the offseason with uncharacteristic uncertainty. Girardi thinks it may be the most uncertain time during his tenure in New York.
“It was something that I definitely thought about. What would the New York Yankees look like in 2014, and beyond?” he said.
Quite different, it turns out.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte just retired, Jeter played only 17 games this year after breaking his ankle last October and A-Rod is appealing a 211-game suspension.
All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano is a free agent, as are pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and Granderson. Cano could be seeking a 10-year contract worth up to $305 million.
Also, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said the team is determined to get under next year’s $189 million luxury tax threshold — which includes about $177 million for player salaries. General manager Brian Cashman, though, recently said it’s unclear if staying within that limit is possible.
“I think $189 million’s still an awful lofty number,” Girardi said.
He acknowledged the Yankees will have to mix in players from their minor league teams to help remake the roster. Steinbrenner has expressed disappointment in the farm system after several players failed to produce when thrust into major league roles this year.
But Girardi, the NL Manager of the Year in 2006 when he led a young Florida Marlins team to a 78-84 record in his first year as a manager, is hopeful.
“We want to see these guys move, and move quickly,” Girardi said. “And you’d like to be able to say you have a core again of young players, which I think would be important to this organization.”