CARLSBAD, Calif.— No disrespect to Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia, but those were the easy ones.
With those two clubhouse leaders back in the fold for the Yankees, Brian Cashman can go about taking care of the even more significant matters of his winter.
“Another agenda item taken care of, and an important one,” the Yankees general manager said Wednesday after Sabathia’s one-year, $8-million deal for 2019 became official. “But we have a lot more important ones moving forward to take care of to help, hopefully, put us back in a position to be a postseason team and a potential World Series contender.”
Sabathia and Gardner, brought back last week on a one-year, $7.5-million deal, did not make a huge dent in doing that, but Cashman believes he laid some groundwork toward that end.
“We are very active, I’m very tired,” Cashman said having spent much of the week meeting with agents about their clients and other GMs about players who might be available via trade. “I’m certainly hopeful to do business sooner than later on everything. If I can check all our boxes, I’d do it today if I can. But it’s just not how it works.”
The biggest box is starting pitching. Sabathia is back as a fifth starter, meaning there are two slots to be filled to go along with those occupied by Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.
The Yankees’ top target is Diamondbacks lefthander Patrick Corbin, who has expressed a wish to wear pinstripes.
The Yankees want to bring back J.A. Happ and the lefthander’s agent was among many with whom Cashman has talked. Cashman also had discussions with the Indians, who are listening on starters Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer as well as the Mariners, who could try to move James Paxton.
Until top free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sign, both will be linked to the Yankees, even though indications remain that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner would prefer to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
“The timing has to be right to have the match and the need has to be there and the financial wiggle room has to be there,” Cashman said, not speaking specifically about Harper and Machado. “We’ll assess this marketplace, then prioritize what’s truly available that fits our needs and fits in our universe.”
In addition to the rotation, the Yankees will try to upgrade their bullpen. The group was one of the best in baseball, but Zach Britton and David Robertson, two relievers the Yankees have an interest in retaining, are free agents. A reunion with Andrew Miller can’t be ruled out.
On Thursday the Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with catcher Ryan Lavarnway. That came after Gary Sanchez underwent surgery on his left shoulder that will sideline him for the next three months.