Staying for more? Yankees offer Bernie arbitration

DALLAS -- Bernie Williams might be back with the New York Yankees.

The free-agent outfielder was offered salary arbitration before Wednesday night's deadline, giving him and the team another month
to work out a possible deal. Williams has until Dec. 19 to accept,
but the sides likely have an understanding that he will decline.

The Yankees told Williams, their longtime star center fielder, that they are interested in bringing him back in a reserve role similar to the one filled by fellow switch-hitter Ruben Sierra the past 2 years.

"The purpose of this mechanism is only to buy some more time,"
general manager Brian Cashman said at baseball's winter meetings.
"He's given a lot to this franchise."

Players who became free agents and weren't offered arbitration cannot re-sign with their former clubs until May 1. Those offered arbitration have until Dec. 19 to accept and can re-sign through
Jan. 8.

"We're going to try to exhaust the situation with the Yankees
before we move forward," Williams' agent, Scott Boras, said
earlier in the day.

New York also offered arbitration to left-hander Al Leiter and reliever Ramiro Mendoza. They also are expected to decline.

The Yankees did not offer arbitration to any of their other free agents, including Kevin Brown, Tino Martinez and Sierra.

Leiter has not decided whether he wants to pitch again next season or retire, and the Yankees might be interested in him as a left-handed relief specialist.

The 37-year-old Williams has been slowed by knee and shoulder injuries the past three years. His offensive production has
declined and his defense has deteriorated. He hit .249 with 12 home
runs and 64 RBI in 141 games last season.

A fan favorite since he came up to the Yankees in 1991, Williams
has helped the Yankees to four World Series titles and six AL
pennants. He is the career leader in postseason homers (22) and
RBI (80).

The Yankees could fill their hole in center field via trade or the free-agent market. Another option is Bubba Crosby, who had six RBI in 98 at-bats last season.