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Nova: Yanks better after offseason moves

NEW YORK -- Entering the offseason, right-hander Ivan Nova represented one of the Yankees' few guarantees when it came to returning starters in 2014. So it's without much surprise that, while Nova has gone about working on his own game over the past two months, his team has undergone quite the makeover.

Through it all, however, Nova told on Thursday night that he believes the Yankees are in better shape now than when the season ended.

Five-time All-Star Robinson Cano departed the team last week to sign with the Mariners, but the Yanks wasted no time in making some big moves of their own. In the wake of Cano's departure, New York quickly agreed to a deal with eight-time All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran and has also added fellow All-Star outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and All-Star catcher Brian McCann.

"Seeing Robbie go, it's definitely not what you want. But this is a business, and you've got to understand that," Nova said. "We've got to move on, and we brought in some really good players that are going to do everything they can to help this team win games. I think we're in a pretty good position right now. I think we're better than what we were last year."

It's certainly a lofty claim from Nova, and one that will ultimately depend on a number of current unknowns.

Despite the loss of Cano, the Yankees have clearly taken great strides to replace his production offensively. They could also receive boosts from a healthy Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, if the duo can bounce back in 2014.

The biggest question marks, however, rest within the pitching staff. Along with needing to replace legendary closer Mariano Rivera, the Yanks' Opening Day rotation remains very much up in the air.

Aside from Nova, the Yankees will have Hiroki Kuroda, whom they recently re-signed to a one-year deal, and ace CC Sabathia, who is coming off a forgettable season.

Nova knows there is still work to be done at the bottom of the rotation, but the 26-year-old has no concerns about the top half.

"I know that CC is going to be way better than he was [in 2013]," Nova said of Sabathia, who is coming off posting career worsts in losses (13) and ERA (4.78). "He's not perfect, but he's a workhorse. One bad year. It happens. I'm looking forward to seeing him back next year."

As for the rest of the rotation, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman left this week's Winter Meetings without a clear plan in place. With the current asking prices for pitchers making it difficult to close out deals, Cashman said the matter may not clear itself up until Spring Training.

"Non-roster invitees might be key," Cashman said. "I'd rather go the easier route and pull something down that someone's like, 'Good move,' but I don't know if that's going to happen. I might have to go the harder, longer route. We'll see."

Whomever the Yanks ultimately call on to fill out the rotation, Nova believes that the club's new catcher will make the transition an easy one. A seven-time All-Star during his nine seasons with the Braves, McCann worked with his share of young pitchers during his time in Atlanta.

"I don't really know him myself, but I know he's a veteran guy, and that's the most important thing," Nova said. "He knows how to handle pitchers, and he can help young guys and veteran guys, too. We'll all get to know each other in Spring Training, and he should really help our team."

As for Nova's offseason, personally, the righty said it hasn't been any different than his past ones. He said he's focused on building strength and further improving his command on the mound -- all in all, an uneventful offseason for him, thus far.

The past two weeks have been anything but for his team, but Nova is trying to stay focused on his own role. That said, the flurry of recent moves has Nova eagerly awaiting the arrival of Spring Training.

"We're moving in the right direction right now, but I just focus on what I can do and I don't really worry about that other stuff," Nova said. "We've got a really good GM for that kind of stuff, and I know he's going to do everything he can to always make our team better.

"For me, I'm just looking forward to Spring Training to see how this all goes."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.

New York Yankees, Ivan Nova