Faced with the choice of picking up Brackman's expensive option for next season or letting the 25-year-old test the free agent waters, the Yankees chose the latter option.
Even before declining his option, the Yankees talked with Brackman about coming back to the organization under different terms. The two sides continued to have conversations about such a scenario.
"I haven't ruled out him returning at all,'' general manager Brian Cashman said. "With the amount of money (due Brackman) at (the Triple-A level), it wasn't a hard decision. But we still have interest in him.''
When the Yankees selected Brackman out of North Carolina State with the 30th pick in the draft four years ago, they understood he would be a project. For one thing, his commitment to basketball meant that he had worked limited innings as an amateur. For another, the Yankees knew he would require Tommy John surgery after signing.
Yet New York believed Brackman had impact potential, so they signed him to a four-year major league deal worth at least $4.55 million. With options and escalators the deal could have been worth $13 million.
New York picked up Brackman's $1 million option following the 2010 season because he climbed to Double-A Trenton and posted a 3.01 ERA and 70-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 81 innings there.
Brackman's 2011 season proved to be such a nightmare, however, that he admitted to his father on a phone call after a disastrous outing at Durham that it might be time to think about life after baseball.
"I don't have an answer," Cashman said of Brackman's horrendous 2011 season for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes/Barre. "It's a tough sport, and he struggled in Triple-A.''
Control was the biggest issue. In 96 innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Brackman walked 75, whiffed 75 and threw 19 wild pitches. He went 3-6, 6.00 in 13 starts and 20 relief appearances.
• Both Billy Eppler, head of pro scouting, and Damon Oppenheimer, head of amateur scouting, interviewed for the Angels GM job that went to Jerry Dipoto.
• Farm director Mark Newman's contract expires following the 2012 season. The same goes for Eppler and Oppenheimer.