NEW YORK -- A year ago, Brian Cashman was still elbow deep into conducting an extensive managerial search, which delayed the Yanks' entry into what proved to be a slow-moving offseason market. There is no such distraction now, which is fortunate, because the Yankees general manager says that he has
NEW YORK -- A year ago, Brian Cashman was still elbow deep into conducting an extensive managerial search, which delayed the Yanks' entry into what proved to be a slow-moving offseason market. There is no such distraction now, which is fortunate, because the Yankees general manager says that he has lots to do.
The Yankees are on the hunt for two more starting pitchers, preferably of high-end caliber, and have spoken with both Zach Britton and Player Page for David Robertson about potential returns to the bullpen. Cashman is also deciding how the Yankees should handle Didi Gregorius' absence, and there has been internal talk about offering extensions to Dellin Betances, Gregorius or Aaron Hicks.
In short, Cashman will be busy over the next few weeks. While the loudest buzz has connected the Yankees to free agent infielder Manny Machado, Cashman and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner have repeatedly said that starting pitching is their priority. The team figures to be noise-makers when the baseball world descends upon Las Vegas for next month's Winter Meetings.
"I think we're always open-minded to being big or small players," Cashman said. "I don't think it really matters what we wind up doing, as long as we do well enough that we become the best team in baseball. We're capable of being big-game hunters. We've reset our luxury tax.
"Hal Steinbrenner and the Steinbrenner family have always been massively supportive of this franchise for the fans. We're capable. We'll see if we execute on that level, if this is the winter that we choose to do that, or if we go a different direction. Everything we try to do is in the best interests of the franchise, present and future."
Cashman, who participated on Thursday in a Sleep Out event to benefit Covenant House, said that there has been no date set to meet with Machado, whose postseason comments about not being a player who hustles were "troubling" in Steinbrenner's view.
Steinbrenner told reporters on Wednesday in Atlanta that he would like to hear an explanation from Machado. It would be in Cashman's realm to ask those types of questions, something that he said he has done before with other potential free-agent fits.
"I've definitely met with players in free agency many times over, and had that good, honest dialogue," Cashman said. "It has either brought us more interest in the player, or actually it was beneficial that we walked out of the room saying, 'Wow, there's no way I could bring that particular player to New York.' It's a healthy environment.
"We like to educate people about who we are and where we want to go and get a feel back if there's an alignment there, if that player can fit in our culture and our New York environment or not. There's times I've walked away refreshingly, feeling strongly about, 'I'm glad he was so candid because this is not going to be a good fit.'"
If the Yankees were to handle Gregorius' absence internally, Gleyber Torres would be their likeliest option to slide over to shortstop, leaving Cashman to find a second baseman. Free agent Neil Walker is a possibility to return, while Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade are in house.
Cashman said that it is on the Yankees' radar to discuss long-term extensions with some of their arbitration-eligible players, mentioning Betances, Gregorius and Hicks. Those talks have not yet opened, he said.
"Is it something that's on the list of things to talk to and walk through and get to? Yes," Cashman said. "I wouldn't rule anything out. Have we kicked it around in a very small scale way in the offices? Like, it's now or never? Yeah, we have."
On the starting-pitching front, Cashman said that it is too early to determine if they are more likely to add via free agency or trade. Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ and Dallas Keuchel are among the free agents whom the Yankees have expressed interest in.
The Yankees have reportedly contacted the Indians (Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber) and the Mariners (James Paxton) to check on swaps, and New York would be willing to part with some of its young prospects under the proper circumstances.
"I can't predict. It's interesting; there's a lot of players available on the trade market," Cashman said. "I'm curious how that affects the free-agent market, but there's a lot of quality choices on the free-agent market. Pitching is key."
Cashman added that he has spoken to Robertson, who is opting to represent himself this offseason. Cashman said that the Rhode Island resident has expressed a preference to pitch for a team in the Northeast.
"Does he want to come back? Yeah, but he said the same thing to me that he said to the public -- he's got to do what is in the best interests of his family," Cashman said. "He's looking for the best deal he can get. He must have already went to agent school; that's normally the first thing you hear. There must be a playbook."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.