The work on the 2014 Yankees and beyond began in earnest Monday when Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi chatted over coffee. In a hour-long media briefing Tuesday the general manager avoided predictions on whether the manager will be back or not. But Cashman did say he was to meet Wednesday with Girardi’s agent Steve Mandell. If Girardi were simply going to take a year off to spend more time with his family then the GM-agent powwow would be unnecessary. So this has to be viewed as a likely first step to the Yankees retaining their manager. Now it could be Mandell will listen to the pitch and then shop it around to the Cubs and Nationals who have managerial openings and Fox which is looking to replace Tim McCarver in its national booth for next year. Girardi and Mandell have proven to be tough negotiators before so there would be no surprise if that were the case again especially since it is clear the Cubs and Fox are interested at the highest levels of their companies. But Cashman did say this: “I think [Girardi] likes it here and we are going to give him a good reason to stay.” Translated that sounds like an offer Girardi can’t refuse. Mike Scioscia with his 10-year $50 million contract is currently the highest-paid manager. The Yankees aren’t about to do a 10-year deal. However my gut says they would be willing to bump Girardi from the $3 million he makes annually toward the $5 million Scioscia receives. A contract in the range of three years at $12 million to $16 million — or maybe even a fourth year — is plausible. I don’t sense near the organizational anger from the top that existed when Joe Torre received bushels of credit for the Yankees’ success and translated that into record pay for a manager. Quite the opposite. The Steinbenners and influential team president Randy Levine are huge Girardi supporters. While acknowledging how much acclaim Girardi received for holding the Yankees together in 2013 through substantial injury and l’affaire de A-Rod Cashman said it was no different than previous seasons because “I personally believe he has been exceptional since we got him [in 2008].” But the Cashman comment that made me believe the Yankees are not going to haggle with Girardi — and will instead attempt to get to a dollar figure that secures him quickly — had nothing directly to do with Girardi: “We have a lot of work to do.” Indeed the Yankees have more offseason issues on the agenda than any time in the last two decades namely due to age injury the lack of a good farm feeder system the uncertainty around Alex Rodriguez and the plans to get under the $189 million luxury tax. This would be easier to navigate with a manager they know and trust easier still if they can get the manager’s contract off the to-do list as expeditiously as possible to focus time and energy on the mountainous chores ahead. If that costs the Steinbrenners $500000 or even $1 million more per year than ownership will simply view that as a surtax for stability and comfort regarding this vital job. It is not as if the manager’s pay counts toward the luxury tax anyway. So this is a place the Yankees can spend without trying to count every penny to stay under the $189 million roof. Look Cashman sold getting under the threshold “as a goal not a mandate.” The Steinbrenner decree he said remains unaltered — fielding a championship-level team.