NEW YORK -- The Yankees have "absolutely no intention" of trading Brett Gardner to clear room in center field for Jacoby Ellsbury or to fill a need elsewhere, according to team president Randy Levine.
Appearing Sunday morning on ESPN Radio's "The Ian O'Connor Show," Levine declined to comment on reports the Yankees rejected a Gardner-for- Brandon Phillips trade offer from Cincinnati but did say he fully expected Gardner to be in the Opening Day lineup.
"We think he's going to be on the roster," Levine said. "One of the reasons the baseball people signed Jacoby Ellsbury is the two of them together present a tremendous dynamic one-two or nine-one, whatever Joe Girardi decides to write in at the top of the lineup.
"One will play left, one will play center, and it's a tremendous defensive situation. So no there's absolutely no intention to move Brett Gardner. We get inquiries about every single one of our players all the time, [GM Brian Cashman] listens, but there's no attempt here to trade or move Brett Gardner."
Levine said the Yankees are also planning on having Alex Rodriguez in the Opening Day lineup. Rodriguez's 211-game Biogenesis suspension is now in the hands of an arbitrator who is expected to rule on the contested penalty next month.
"From our planning purposes, we have Alex Rodriguez in our budget as is if he will be playing," Levine said. "And that's the way it will be until there's a change of circumstance. As we sit here today there is no change of circumstance as of yet. ...
"We're planning to have Alex Rodriguez play third base from a financial point of view, but we always have contingencies. Our presumption is that he's going to be here for the Yankees playing third base until we hear anything else. His money is in the budget."
Will that budget exceed the $189 million luxury-tax threshold the Yankees are so desperate to get under, with or without A-Rod? Even though Robinson Cano took $240 million of Seattle's money over 10 years, the Yanks invested a combined $299 million on Ellsbury ($153 million), Brian McCann ($85 million), Carlos Beltran ($45 million) and Hiroki Kuroda ($16 million) alone.
"We have a shot right now to stay under 189," Levine said. "I think that Hal [Steinbrenner] has said all along, I have said, that 189 is a goal, not a mandate. It has to be consistent with fielding what we believe is a championship team.
"But as we stand now, we have a shot to get to 189. ... I don't think it's a long shot. I think it's a fair shot. It all depends on what type of players become available to us, and what choices we have to make."
Levine raised eyebrows Friday at a Yankee Stadium news conference to introduce Ellsbury when he spoke of the team's decision to offer the 31-year-old Cano only a seven-year deal for $175 million as opposed to a longer term that might be offered a younger star the likes of 22-year-old Mike Trout, who isn't scheduled to hit free agency until 2017.
"If Mike Trout was here," Levine said then, "I'd recommend the 10-year contract."
Levine called Angels president John Carpino to apologize, and contacted MLB officials after hearing the league was planning to investigate for possible tampering.
"I felt very badly because the Angels are wonderful people," Levine told "The Ian O'Connor Show."
The Yankees president said officials told him "the matter is over, and I've confirmed with them that matter is over. It's not tampering. It has nothing to do with tampering, and that's just the world we live in today."
Levine maintained again that Cano is "very disappointed" that he's no longer a member of the Yankees because the second baseman "loved his time being here.
"I think this team fit him, and he made a decision that nobody can quarrel with," Levine said. "I don't quarrel with it."
Levine also acknowledged that the hole at second base isn't his team's only area of weakness.
Asked about his thin starting rotation, Levine conceded: "We have a couple of big question marks. ... I think we'll be fine, but judge us by the time we get to the bell in April."