These are the big topics at Yankees' meetings

October 22nd, 2018

NEW YORK -- With the Yankees idle for their ninth consecutive World Series, the framework for their offseason will be constructed beginning on Monday, as general manager Brian Cashman prepares to head the club's annual professional scouting meetings at Yankee Stadium.
Cashman's baseball operations department is gathering the analytics numbers-crunchers with their more traditional scouts, spending the better part of three days highlighting which areas the club can improve upon to ensure they play deeper into the autumn of 2019.
The Yankees' decision-makers will evaluate the free-agent market and list their preferences, engage other clubs about what is available on the trade front, then weigh that information against the internal talent pool.
"I think it's been a very healthy process for us to run through every year, to set up the winter program," Cashman said. "It'll take us wherever it takes us, so we'll be in a better situation to evaluate any outside opportunities, be it trade or free agency, whether it's pitcher or position player. We'll factor it all in."
Here are some of the most significant topics that will likely be discussed:
Manny Machado
Didi Gregorius' surprise Tommy John surgery inspired calls for the Yankees to pursue Machado, who will become one of the premier free agents in this class when his Dodgers' World Series run concludes. His recent "Johnny Hustle" comments aside, the Yankees expressed interest in acquiring Machado from the Orioles in July and little has changed to sway that viewpoint -- even with a price tag that could exceed $300 million. Another piece of a Machado pursuit: if he were to slide to third base at some point, how would that impact , who may well be the American League Rookie of the Year Award winner?
Middle infield
What if Machado signs elsewhere? With a June-to-August window for Gregorius' anticipated return, the Yankees will need help in the keystone. is considered their most capable internal shortstop and could slide over to the other side of the second-base bag, with and having been listed among their other in-house options. is about to become a free agent, but he could be amenable to a return. was also a useful pickup and would be worth considering.
Starting pitching
Cashman said that seeking starting pitching will be a "focus point." There are vacancies to be filled, with J.A. Happ and eligible for free agency, and the club open-minded toward moving in a trade. is believed to be among the Yankees' top targets and has made no secret of his desire to wear pinstripes. The left-hander would probably fall behind and as a solid mid-rotation starter, albeit one who could be immensely valuable. Cashman said that he hopes the Yankees are "lucky enough to sign" Happ, and Sabathia would like to return. is also about to become a free agent.

First base
Did prove that he is the real deal? Does Greg Bird deserve another chance after his lost season? Those viewpoints will certainly be volleyed as the Yankees debate their first-base situation. Some in the organization believe Bird was never fully healthy in 2018 and could still provide the impact left-handed bat that was expected, though Voit has earned first crack at the job. Cashman said Voit "kicked the door in" and turned out to be the best bat moved at this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The outfield
The longest-tenured Yankee has an uncertain future in the Bronx, as 's $12.5 million team option comes with a $2 million buyout. The 35-year-old is an important part of the team's chemistry and an excellent defender, but he batted a below-average .236/.322/.368 in 2018. The mix is crowded with , and all requiring playing time, plus the expected returns of and from injuries. Could it be time to extend Hicks? Also, fit in nicely after his Aug. 31 acquisition and could entertain a return.
The relief crew should still be a strength leading up to closer , but there are calls to be made here. The most prominent could be Zach Britton, who was a nice pickup in late July and has said he doesn't necessarily need to be the ninth-inning guy. would also like to return; it is interesting that Robertson has elected to forego an agent and will be representing himself this winter. is in his last year of arbitration eligibility.
Dollars and cents
Cashman said that it represented "mission accomplished" to keep payroll below $197 million in 2018, resetting the penalty rate for the competitive balance tax. As such, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner should be more amenable to huge expenditures as he outlines the budget for '19. That's why a spending spree for the top free agents -- Machado, , perhaps even -- can't be ruled out. The Yankees could be the biggest noise-makers at the upcoming Winter Meetings, to begin Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.