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With Martin gone, Yanks evaluate alternatives

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Brian Cashman said that he was "sorry" to learn that Russell Martin has decided to depart for the Pirates, but the Yankees' general manager acknowledged that the club never made the catcher a contract offer after the season.

With the Yankees focused on fulfilling their pitching needs, Martin agreed to a two-year, $17 million deal with Pittsburgh on Thursday, a move that now figures to add starting catcher to the Yankees' shopping list this offseason.

"I like Russell Martin -- I'm a big Russell Martin fan," Cashman said. "But ultimately, we have a lot of holes to fill, and we have to be very careful how we spend our money. The market for Russell was aggressive, as it should have been, and again, our focus has been our pitching."

Cashman was in Stamford practicing for his third year participating in the city's Heights and Lights holiday event, rappelling down the 22-story Landmark Building with former big league manager Bobby Valentine. The duo will take part in the main event on Sunday.

The Yankees' GM said that Martin's decision did not catch the team off guard. After expressing willingness to sign a contract extension during Spring Training -- reportedly three years and $20 million -- Martin and the Yankees never revisited the topic, according to Cashman.

"We need to be careful how we allocate our remaining funds to make sure that we can fill all the holes," Cashman said. "I feel fortunate to have had Russell Martin for the two years that we had him, and I'm sorry to see him go. The Pirates got a really good one, but at the same time, I think we'll find ways to cushion the blow, like we always try to do."

The top catching options on the free-agent market appear to be A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli, but Cashman said that seeking a replacement for Nick Swisher in right field is a higher priority.

Cashman said that he has been engaged with each of the other 29 clubs regarding possible trades on a variety of interests and needs, but he floated the idea that the Yankees may already have their Opening Day catching tandem in-house.

"It's possible that our catchers are right here on this roster, right now," Cashman said. "That is very well possible and more likely than not, to be honest. We'll see. Patience is a virtue, and good things come to those who wait."

New York's stockpile of catching help is comprised of Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside, none of whom has been a big league regular.

Cashman said that he was prepared to accept an offensive dropoff from what the Yankees had in Martin, who hit a career-low .211 with a career-high 21 homers in 133 games this past season.

"At the end of the day, we have holes to fill," Cashman said. "In the catching area, we do have placeholders there. We have people that can handle and run the game. The offense is an area that, currently, what the rest of our roster provides will be a downgrade from what we're used to."

The Yankees have spent most of the offseason aiming to re-sign their own free agents, inking right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $15 million deal and securing left-hander Andy Pettitte with a one-year, $10 million pact that can be worth an additional $2.5 million in awards-based incentives.

A $10 million deal with closer Mariano Rivera is expected to be formally announced on Friday, but the Yankees still have yet to make a single contract offer to a position player, something that could change when the team arrives in Nashville, Tenn., for the start of the Winter Meetings on Monday.

"In a very pragmatic way, we're addressing, step by step, the priorities that we have," Cashman said. "Clearly, those priorities will turn once the pitching is completely resolved, then we'll be in a position to continue the dialogue. We've had dialogue with the marketplace about position players. We just haven't been in the negotiating arena yet."

New York Yankees, Russell Martin