Brian Cashman disappointed about losing Robinson Cano, now has chance to replace him

Brian Cashman listens while talking with the media

Brian Cashman listens while talking with the media at the annual baseball general managers meeting. (Nov. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Robinson Cano's massive deal with the Mariners isn't official yet, but that didn't stop Brian Cashman from discussing it for the first time since losing the second baseman Friday morning.

"We're disappointed,'' Cashman said Sunday night in Stamford, Conn., after rappelling the 22-story Landmark Building as part of the annual Heights and Lights Holiday Tree Lighting. "He's been a great player, a great Yankee. I know they're dotting I's and crossing T's in Seattle, but they're getting a great player. We lost a great player.''

One who must be replaced. That's the reason -- despite the flurry of activity last week in which the Yankees lost Cano but gained Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Hiroki Kuroda -- that Cashman still has plenty of work to do this offseason.

He'll have a good opportunity to explore ways of filling those needs -- finding a second baseman, bolstering the starting rotation and gaining additional infield depth -- this week at the winter meetings, which begin Monday.

Cashman declined to prioritize, at least publicly, any of those, but it's clear that starting pitching is near, if not at, the top of his list.

Bringing back Kuroda on a one-year deal worth $16 million helped, but that still leaves two rotation holes that must be plugged. It's almost a certainty that there will be a competition among David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuño and Michael Pineda for one spot. The Yankees would prefer not to fill two spots from a group with such limited big-league success.

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"They might be right here, right now,'' Cashman said of filling out the rotation in-house. "If I can find it outside, great. But there's no guarantee I will.''

Their top pitching target throughout the offseason has been Masahiro Tanaka, but the status of the Japanese righthander remains unclear because a new posting process hasn't been implemented.

Reports out of Japan suggest that Yozo Tachibana, the president of Tanaka's current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, will attend these meetings and that an announcement regarding Tanaka could come sometime this week.

Cashman has maintained a dialogue with the top free-agent pitchers on the market -- including Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana -- but the prices remain exorbitant.

With a sudden glut of outfielders, Brett Gardner could be used as trade bait to land a pitcher, but the Yankees aren't in a hurry to deal one of the few outfielders they have with youth, relatively speaking, on his side (Gardner is 30).

Gardner, though drawing plenty of interest, isn't likely to be enough to land a starter of consequence, and the Yankees are further hampered by a weak farm system.

"We're having a lot of conversations and we have more work to do, so we'll see,'' Cashman said. "We've been trying to get things done sooner [rather] than later, but it just takes time.''

As for Cano's departure for Seattle after landing a 10-year, $240-million deal that still has the baseball world shaking its collective head, Cashman declined to get into specifics of the negotiations.

Sources have said the Yankees' offer maxed out at seven years and $175 million, not dramatically different from what they offered last spring.

"I don't want to go through with this publicly yet,'' Cashman said. "So I can't say anything other than he's been an amazing Yankee. He's going to continue his journey in Seattle, and it's been a Hall of Fame journey so far.''

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