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Are Yankees ready to make another splash in free-agent market?

Max Scherzer will have no shortage of suitors

Max Scherzer will have no shortage of suitors during MLB's winter meetings from San Diego. Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

The moves came in rapid succession for the Yankees.

They emerged as winners for elite free-agent reliever Andrew Miller, outlasting what had been a crowded field for his services. It was their second major score on a busy Friday that began by turning a back-of-the-rotation arm into Didi Gregorius, Derek Jeter's successor at shortstop.

The dust had yet to settle before rivals around the game began wondering: Could the Yankees be ramping up for another splash, perhaps for one of the top starting pitchers on the market?

At this time of year, with the winter meetings set to get underway in San Diego on Monday, the question is rarely "if" the Yankees will make moves to send waves through the rest of the game. It's often about "how" they'll go about strengthening themselves, a question that has grown in urgency, given that they've missed the playoffs in consecutive years.

And that means plenty of speculation about the Yankees splurging -- such as making a run at top free-agent arms such as Max Scherzer and Jon Lester -- even though they have given no indication that they will veer from their plan to avoid such a megadeal this offseason.

Still, after Friday's flurry, the question remains: What comes now?

"I don't think we can prioritize it," said general manager Brian Cashman, who has the Yankees positioned to go in several different directions.

Lingering uncertainty about Alex Rodriguez has the Yankees in the market for help on the left side of the infield. They could pursue a reunion with Chase Headley, the best third baseman still available.

Or the Yankees could stay on the course they seemed to chart Friday. Their two moves -- acquiring a lockdown reliever in Miller and a defense-oriented shortstop in Gregorius -- signaled a focus on run prevention.

Creating a monster bullpen could be within reach. Even after signing Miller -- a worthy counterpart to shutdown reliever Dellin Betances -- Cashman did not close the door on bringing back closer David Robertson. A trio of Miller, Betances and Robertson would give the Yankees one of the game's most dominating bullpens.

Of course, such a concept would be predicated on the Yankees and Robertson closing a perceived gap. Robertson is believed to be seeking a four-year deal worth more than $50 million. The Yankees have shown no willingness to match those years and dollars.

The Yankees also could channel their efforts toward settling the other end of the pitching staff, the starting rotation.

Signs still point to Lester and Scherzer landing elsewhere. But with the pitching market expected to begin shaking out during the winter meetings, the Yankees could focus on reinforcing a rotation that is shrouded by the threat of being compromised by injury.

"We do have some risk, a number of guys, whether they're bouncing back from health issues or have had prior health issues," Cashman said. "So it is important for us to make sure we try to keep that in mind."

Several rival executives and talent evaluators considered the Gregorius trade a good one for the Yankees, who parted only with Shane Greene, a back-end starter who some believe is better suited for the bullpen. Still, moving Greene thinned the Yankees' pitching depth.

A reunion with Brandon McCarthy remains on the radar, though the Yankees have tried to protect themselves by reshuffling their own pieces.

Cashman raved about righthander Adam Warren, whom he called "a dynamic arm for us" after his move to the bullpen. But Warren and fellow righthander David Phelps have been told to arrive in spring training prepared to compete for a spot in the rotation.

Of course, the Yankees intend to explore other options.

Said Cashman: "We are still evaluating all opportunities in this marketplace."

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