- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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On Tuesday afternoon, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he was likely to offer arbitration to Kerry Wood, who, after being acquired at the trade deadline, became an invaluable part of the Yankees bullpen.
By Tuesday evening, Cashman had decided not to offer arbitration to any of the eligible players on the Yankees' roster except for Javier Vazquez, who by May had become a quite dispensable member of the starting rotation.
"I'm thinking yes on Wood,'' Cashman had said. "We'll do them a favor. If we put them into an arbitration setting, then we can take them out and make a fair market value offer to them."
But by 6 p.m. Tuesday night, the Yankees had declined to offer arbitration, as expected, to Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, Marcus Thames, Nick Johnson and Chad Moeller, and unexpectedly, to Wood.
Even more unexpectedly, the Yankees did offer it to Vazquez, who struggled to a 10-10 record and 5.32 ERA and was left off the post-season roster despite his $11.5 million paycheck.
In a text message to ESPNNewYork.com Tuesday night, Cashman said after discussions with Wood's agent, Pat Rooney, he decided not to offer Wood arbitration. No explanation was given for the offer to Vazquez.
Cashman declined to pick up an $11 million option on Wood despite a two-month stretch in which he allowed just two earned runs in 26 innings (.069 ERA) and outpitched Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson to assume the second-most important spot in the Yankees' bullpen.
Offering him arbitration would have been the first step toward re-opening negotiations for a return to pinstripes next year for the 33-year-old Wood, who has a long history of injury problems but remained healthy during his brief tenure as a Yankee.
Wood's agent, Pat Rooney, did not return a call seeking comment and it is unclear if the veteran pitcher, who struck out 20 batters in a game in his fifth career start as a 20-year-old for the Chicago Cubs in 1997, had received offers from any other teams.