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Hal Steinbrenner: 'We let our fans down'

MILWAUKEE -- The words were delivered softly, without The Boss' bluster, but the content was unmistakably Steinbrennerian.

"We let our fans down in the playoffs, there's no doubt about it," said Hal Steinbrenner, younger son of the late George M. Steinbrenner and the principal owner of the New York Yankees, as he arrived at the Pfister Hotel for the owner's session of baseball's GM meetings.

"And they know that, and I know that and (GM Brian) Cashman knows that. But our team from last year for the most part is intact. There's some concerns and we're going to address them."

The Yankees lost to Detroit in the American League Division Series. But instead of getting fired, or even reprimanded, Cashman recently wsa signed to a new three-year contract. CC Sabathia, who was unable to win either of his two starts in the ALDS, just had his contract extended. And the new boss raised the alien possibility that the Yankees may go through this offseason without making another major free-agent signing.

"We're looking at everything and looking at everybody, as we do every offseason," Steinbrenner said. "We've got a couple of areas that we've addressed where we need to improve and we're going to look to do that. But I'm not going to get into who or how much or anything else."

Steinbrenner addressed the Yankees' areas of need as starting pitching and perhaps adding a left-hander to the bullpen. But he did not rule out the possibility that, as they did in 2011, the Yankees would seek to fill their pitching vacancies with lower-profile -- and lower price tag -- pitchers along the lines of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, rather than with high-end free agents such as C.J. Wilson or Japanese phenom Yu Darvish.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we did, it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't," Steinbrenner said in response to a question about possible free-agent signings. "It's just too early for that. I hate to be vague, but it is mid-November."

On Tuesday, Cashman confirmed that he had met with Bob Garber, the agent for Wilson and Roy Oswalt, another high-profile free-agent starter, but team insiders have expressed concern over the likely pricetag for Wilson, expected to be in the area of $100 million for five years, and Oswalt's back problems, which have plagued him for several seasons and caused the Phillies not to pick up his option this year.

Steinbrenner refused to address individual players but stressed that the Yankees' well-publicized failures with other high-profile free-agent pitchers from foreign markets, notably Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu, would not affect his decision making on Darvish, a 25-year-old right-hander expected to enter the posting process to leave Japan for a career in Major League Baseball, or for Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, an outfielder.

"Every person's different, every player's different," he said. "We're going to look at every single one. We're going to look at every single option and we're going to analyze it, whether it's a go or a no-go. We look at each person as an individual, each player. That's not going to affect anything, at least not for me."

Steinbrenner said he was satisfied with his club's offense and did not anticipate any major additions to the lineup, but dodged a direct question about Jorge Posada's future as a Yankee. Last week, the 40-year-old Posada, whose contract ran out at the end of the season, expressed doubt that he would return to the Yankees in 2012.

"He's been a great Yankee, obviously, but that decision hasn't been made yet," Steinbrenner said. "I have not had a conversation with Jorge. We'll see how the roster shakes out in the weeks to come. It's still pretty early."

One player Steinbrenner hopes to see improvement in next season is the highest-paid player on his roster: Alex Rodriguez, who hit .276 and fell to career lows in home runs (16) and RBI (62) in an injury-marred regular season,, and then batted just .111 in the ALDS.

"I think we all need Alex to be Alex again," Steinbrenner said. "The fans expect it. The fans want it. Alex expects it. And he knows that. Nobody's harder on himself than him. He will show up in spring ready to play. He'll be in shape and he'll be doing his work. He knows he needs to do better than that."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.