DALLAS -- A year ago, Brian Cashman rappelled off a building near his home as part of a Christmas tree lighting ceremony before heading to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the winter meetings to, in his words, "hit the ground running."
Circumstances couldn't be more different a year later.
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Cashman, once again in an elf costume, descended the 22-story Landmark Building in Stamford, Conn., but he was in no rush to get to the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Dallas.
In fact, Cashman has an early-afternoon flight Monday and won't arrive until 5 p.m. or so.
Last year, part of the "running" for Cashman was continuing the organization's full-court press to land Cliff Lee, who eventually signed with the Phillies. There also was the not-so-small matter of wrapping up the tense negotiations that resulted in a new contract for Derek Jeter.
In 2011, Cashman said of the free-agent class, "There's not a primary, obvious, stated target that everybody knows about."
Asked Sunday if he is confident about getting something done this week, he said: "I would say no. It doesn't mean nothing will happen. We've got a good team; we're going to do everything we can to make it better."
Although some in the industry are skeptical of the Yankees being so laid-back, it goes without saying -- though some still need to hear it -- that Hal Steinbrenner's Yankees are not his father's. As an opposing talent evaluator said, "It's just a whole different Yankees. They're not as impulsive as they were under The Boss."
In other words, the days of spending because, well, that's what the Yankees do, are over.
So although the Yankees see C.J. Wilson as a quality No. 3 starter, they won't pay him the ace-like figures he's demanding. And though they think highly of Mark Buehrle -- quite a few in the organization see him as a better fit than Wilson -- they won't overpay. Same for free-agent lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez, whom the Yankees like and extensively discussed during the organizational meetings in October.
A name to add to the free- agent starters' pool is Hiroki Kuroda, whom the Yankees have thought well of for several years. They tried to obtain him at last July's trade deadline but he invoked his no-trade clause.
The 36-year-old righthander, who went 13-16 but had a 3.07 ERA in 2010, was thought to be a shoo-in to re-sign with the Dodgers or return to his native Japan. But with the Dodgers essentially cutting bait with him Friday when they signed Chris Capuano, and with indications that Kuroda still might be interested in pitching in the United States, watch out for the Yankees.
As far as trades, the Yankees like the White Sox's John Danks and the Cubs' Matt Garza. An organizational insider said of Cashman, "He loves Garza." But probably not enough to deal a prospect such as Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances.
With Zach Schonbrun