NEW YORK -- As the General Managers Meetings opened on Monday in Carlsbad, Calif., Brian Cashman sidestepped inquiries about interest in sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, though the veteran Yankees decision-maker shed some light upon the early stages of the pursuit of starting pitching.
The Yankees agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal on Tuesday night to bring back veteran lefty Carsten Sabathia, pending the completion of a physical, and they have interest in retaining J.A. Happ, according to Cashman, who said that reinforcing the rotation via the free-agent and trade markets is among the organization's top offseason priorities.
"I think we'll just gravitate to anything that will make sense," Cashman said. "It could be a combination; something could make sense via trade in the same category as free agency. I'm interested in adding more than one pitcher. I need to, I think, add multiple. If I can do so, we'll see."
Cashman said the Yankees feel no urgency to make a quick splash to steal the spotlight from the Red Sox in the wake of their championship.
"The Red Sox winning doesn't change the hunger level of trying to deliver a championship, sooner than later, for our fan base," Cashman said. "They're getting a championship-caliber effort regardless of the results. With that being said, we're going to continue with the processes that served us well and put us in a position to be contenders again and dream big.
"Ultimately, we're going to continue to apply that process and see if it comes to the conclusion we're all looking for, which is a championship. The hunger and the effort and the passion is there, despite the horrible outcome that took place in the World Series this year."
It is believed that Patrick Corbin is atop the pitching wish list, along with Happ. The 29-year-old was 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts for the D-backs this season, striking out 246 batters in 200 innings. Playing in New York would be a selling point for Corbin, who grew up idolizing Andy Pettitte in upstate Clay, N.Y.
There has also been speculation that if the Indians are willing to listen on offers for Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber, the Yankees would be interested.
"I'm going to be engaging the entire landscape and the free-agent market," Cashman said. "I'm not going to say who and when. We will make sure that we check every box in terms of evaluating what's available and the cost associated with what's available in both marketplaces, free agency and trades."
With Sonny Gray expected to be traded before Opening Day, the only locks in New York's rotation at present are Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Cashman said he is receiving interest in Gray, who was 11-9 with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games (23 starts) this season and seems destined to be remembered as a modern-day Ed Whitson.
"Once we feel comfortable with the return, then we'll make the decision to move him," Cashman said. "The plan is to move him, because I don't want to keep going through the process of something that won't work here, even though it will work somewhere else."
Cashman sees a better fit with the 36-year-old Happ, who was 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 31 starts for the Blue Jays and Yankees this year, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts after being acquired by New York in late July. He lasted two-plus innings in his only postseason start, entrusted with the nod in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park.
"He did a great job for us," Cashman said. "He checks all of the boxes, so I would think that there will be a lot of interest in him regardless. He has a great reputation as a pro and the performance level was exactly what we needed. He put himself in a good position as a free agent."
The 38-year-old Sabathia was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts. A Yankee since 2009, Sabathia has said he intends to retire after 2019.
"He's been a great Yankee, and he has some time on the clock still," Cashman said.
While Harper and Machado headline the free-agent position players, the Yankees moved last week to retain Brett Gardner, adjusting the outfielder's salary to $7.5 million for 2019. Gardner also received a $2 million buyout when the Yankees declined his $12.5 million option.
Gardner batted .236 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 140 games this season, and after losing playing time to Andrew McCutchen down the stretch, Cashman said Gardner "has a chance to" reclaim his title as the everyday left fielder.
"We're happy to have him back," Cashman said. "I think he provides a lot to us, defensively and offensively, despite the second half. We had a lot of injuries and we weren't able to back off of Gardy a little bit like we would have liked to. That's the way he is. He's there for us regardless. It's good to have him back in the fold for the 2019 campaign."
Cashman declined to provide details of the Yankees' budget for next season. New York came in under the $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2018, the first year they have avoided paying a penalty since the tax was instituted in 2003. Cashman said the Yankees will try to be "aggressive and wise" with regard to next year's threshold, which is approximately $206 million.
"I think the goal is always to win a championship and to do it in a cost-effective manner," Cashman said. "As I say cost-effective, we're still a strong, heavy-loaded payroll. We got under the tax, but we're still one of the higher payrolls in the game, as you would expect and as it should be. We'll just take every individual decision in a vacuum and go from there."