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Cashman: A-Rod is 'by far the best option' at third

GM also says he hopes Cano stays, but he's earned right to test free-agent market

BOSTON -- Alex Rodriguez's future remains in question while his appeal of a 211-game suspension is heard, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Sunday that the team would "absolutely" be better with Rodriguez on the field during the 2014 season.

"It's not like going down to Home Depot and pulling something out that you need that's broke and you've got to fix it," Cashman said during an interview with ESPN Radio.

"Ultimately, from a baseball operations standpoint, taking out all the areas of controversy, having Alex Rodriguez man third base is obviously by far the best option for the Yankees than what the alternatives would be in theory."

Should Rodriguez's suspension be upheld, the Yankees' options to fill third base project to be rather limited. Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix were among their in-house replacements this season after Kevin Youkilis was limited to just 28 games due to injury.

They could attempt to re-sign Mark Reynolds, who hit six homers in 36 games after starting the year with the Indians. Jhonny Peralta, Juan Uribe and Michael Young are among the other third-base choices set for free agency.

The Yankees do not figure to engage quickly with any of those players. Cashman said that until he is told otherwise, Rodriguez and his $25 million salary will remain on the Yankees' books for their 2014 planning purposes.

"It comes down to, would we want the player we signed to be playing that position without any problems? Absolutely, no question about that," Cashman said. "I think that if people think there's some sort of benefit by losing that talent, I mean, it's not easy. You can't replace it.

" ... It's not like, all right, we'll take that money and go in this direction. I think you saw this year, our fan base saw that when we lost significant players at various positions, it was not easy to plug holes, because the talent just doesn't exist."

Earlier in the wide-ranging interview with Ian O'Connor, Cashman said that he expects second baseman Robinson Cano to reach free agency. Cano has reportedly asked for a 10-year, $305 million contract. Last week, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said that the club wants to retain Cano but is not willing to offer a deal of that length.

"Robbie is going to go free agent," Cashman said. "He's earned the right to talk to all clubs and see what the market bears. He's gotten this far, and I think that next step isn't a big one now, so I think our next conversations will take place as he's in the free agent world."

Cashman said that he does not have a gut instinct of whether Cano will be with the Yankees in 2014, noting that "we certainly would like that to happen" but also stating that "free agency is a wild card."

The Yankees will begin negotiating with manager Joe Girardi's coaching staff this week, Cashman said, with the intent of retaining all personnel. Cashman said that he believed "the Cubs were a real threat" to pry away Girardi, who instead finalized a four-year, $16 million contract extension last week.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

New York Yankees, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez