Someone from the Yankees checked out Josh Hamilton

This is just a very, very strange report from Bob Nightengale:

I say it's strange because, well, why is someone other than the GM doing this? After all, yesterday the story was that Cashman lacked the authority to make any offers at the Winter Meetings because ownership was already clamping down on their payroll spending, and now today someone other than Cashman (so presumably someone above Cashman's head) is running a background check on the top position player on the free agent market? Talk about night and day.

Of course, checking up on someone isn't the same thing as being all that interested in signing him, and I would still put the odds that Hamilton lands with the Yankees at somewhere between slim and none. Then again, there is a distinctly similar feel to the way the Mark Teixeira signing went down: a middle of the order bat the Yankees could certainly use just sitting in limbo on the free agent market, with no one seemingly making a particularly strong push to sign him. That gave the Yankees the chance to come in and swoop up Tex, and I suppose the Yankees could do the same thing here with Hamilton. Conversely, if no one is enthusiastic about giving Hamilton the 4-5 year deal he wants right now, maybe the Yankees ar just seeing if he can be had on a shorter term contract.

Either way, the picture we're getting of the team's front office right now is really the most interesting thing going in Yankeedom. Unless it's all a Hot Stove smoke screen, it would appear from here that Cashman has less authority now than he has in recent years.