The Yankees owner was asked Wednesday about the possibility of pursuing the free agent slugger, who played for the crosstown Mets last season.
At first, Steinbrenner jokingly changed the subject, Newsday reported.
"It's a beautiful old building, don't you think?" he said of the lobby at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, where he was attending owners meetings.
But he followed that up with a rather ambiguous statement.
"I'm comfortable where payroll is right now," Steinbrenner told the newspaper. "But we're always looking to improve the club. You never know with us. We've surprised people in the past."
After batting .291 with 35 homers in 2015, Cespedes, 30, is reportedly seeking a contract in the ballpark of six years, $120 million.
The market for him, however, has been slow to develop. Two of his possible landing spots -- Baltimore and Detroit -- are likely no longer options after those teams struck big-money deals this week with power-hitting outfielders Chris Davis and Justin Upton, respectively.
The Mets made a trade-deadline deal with Detroit in July to bring Cespedes on board. He instantly gave the team's lagging offense the infusion it needed, batting .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs in 57 games.
The Mets have been reluctant to offer the outfielder a long-term deal, but they have been staying in touch with Cespedes in hopes of signing him to a two- or three-year contract.
The White Sox, Giants and Angels are among the other teams rumored to be interested in him.
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