Yankees still have needs to fill after winter meetings

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks on the Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks on the phone on the field during batting practice against the Detroit Tigers during game four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park. (Oct. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Few teams entered the winter meetings coming off a more exciting week than the Yankees. But the meetings themselves were a different matter.

Even before the Rule 5 draft began at 9 a.m. Thursday, general manager Brian Cashman departed empty-handed.

He will speak with reporters this morning when Jacoby Ellsbury is introduced at the Stadium after agreeing to a seven-year, $153-million deal last week. The Yankees also have agreed to terms with Carlos Beltran on a three-year, $45-million deal and officially introduced their new catcher, Brian McCann, signed to a five-year, $85-million contract.

Oh, and you might have heard about Robinson Cano departing for the Mariners.

"I'd like to be able to leave with a number of players. I just don't know if that will happen or not yet," Cashman had said earlier in the week. The reasons he did not were varied, and it wasn't for lack of trying. But he has found the prices too high on both the free-agent and trade markets.

CBSsports.com reported Wednesday night that the Yankees nixed a deal in which the Reds would have sent them second baseman Brandon Phillips for Brett Gardner.

That was not a surprise; people with knowledge of the club's thinking have said all offseason that the Yankees have never been all that enamored of Phillips, 32. He is owed $50 million over the next four seasons and has a no-trade clause.

Cashman said all week that he would not trade Gardner unless the offer was too good to refuse. Such an offer almost certainly would have to include a solid starting pitcher.

"I would definitely not look at Brett Gardner as expendable," Cashman said. "I'm open for anybody to throw ideas my way, if it makes sense. [But] Brett Gardner's supposed to be a piece to this team that should help us next year in a significant way. That's how we've entered this winter and previous winters. We're big fans of Brett Gardner. I haven't picked up the phone once and offered his name anywhere."

Questions still swirl whether Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees' top pitching target, will be made available. Yozo Tachibana, president of the pitcher's Rakuten Golden Eagles club, said this week he doesn't know if his organization will post him.

Sources have said the Yankees aren't in on any of the high-end starters on the market such as Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza, though that could change.

He continues to operate under orders from Hal Steinbrenner to try to bring the payroll down to $189 million, the luxury-tax threshold. Besides the rotation, he has holes to fill in the bullpen and at second, third and possibly shortstop.

Omar Infante, to whom the Yankees made a three-year offer (CBSSports.com said he's looking for four), and Michael Young remain on the team's board, but prices are high for the two infielders. "We just want to pull down the best players we can for the money that we have," Cashman said.

Notes & quotes: The Rockies selected righthander Tommy Kahnle, whom the Yankees thought they would lose, in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Lefty Freddy Lewis, a pitcher the Yankees thought they'd lose but hoped to keep, was not picked.

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