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Brian Cashman leaves door slightly open for Yankees moves

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman answers

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman answers questions from the media during an end-of-season press conference at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Brian Cashman said he is “99.9 percent plus” done shaping the roster of the 2017 Yankees. But the general manager, in an appearance Monday night on the YES Network, said he is still talking trades and engaging on free agents, especially with the glut of available talent on the free-agent market and the possibility that prices are dropping to bargain-basement levels.

“I spent some time on the phone today regarding free agency,” Cashman said. “Just to make sure I keep our oar in the water as the market probably is collapsing for a lot of guys this close to spring training. So you want to make sure that you keep your finger on the pulse, so I can make sure Hal Steinbrenner is aware there could be opportunities at cheaper prices than expected. But realistically, the trade front has been the more active conversations, not that there’s anything pending. I do believe we’re at 99.9 percent plus that what we have is what we’re going to camp with, but you have to continue to stay engaged.”

The free-agent market is filled with sluggers such as Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli and Chris Carter, but the Yankees aren’t looking to abandon the youth movement they began last July. Cashman’s biggest need is starting pitching, and the free-agent market is barren in that area.

That’s why the Yankees have been linked in trade talks with the White Sox for lefty Jose Quintana. But Cashman didn’t sound optimistic.

“I’ve stayed in touch, clearly,” Cashman said. “They are a team, like we were last summer, open to moving players and pressing their reset button . . . I think it’s created a really high sticker price out there, which more likely than not prevents a deal or deals from being more easily made. So we’ll stay engaged, but I’d say again sticker price of what the market is out there for anybody — not just the White Sox, anybody — it’s tough to do business under these current conditions.”

Cashman did say he already has offered some of his prized prospects in proposed deals this offseason.

“I’m willing to put some high-end prospects on the table to get deals done and I have done that so far this winter,” he said. “But the price tags out there are even higher than that.”

On other matters:

- Cashman said Steinbrenner favorite Aaron Judge is not necessarily a lock to win the rightfield job out of spring training and mentioned Aaron Hicks as a contender. Cashman said Judge was at Yankee Stadium last week working with hitting coach Alan Cockrell on using his lower half to cut down on the strikeouts that plagued the big slugger’s first major-league taste. He’s got options,” Cashman said. “So if he’s not quite ready, he gets to go down [to Triple-A] and finish himself off until he’s ready.”

- Cashman called Greg Bird “a question mark, still, in fairness,” because of the shoulder injury that caused the lefty swinger to miss the 2016 season. He mentioned Tyler Austin as a contender for the first-base job.

- Cashman said the Yankees are kicking around the idea of splitting up Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order.

- Cashman said he is hoping inconsistent righthander Michael Pineda takes a huge step forward in his free-agent walk year.

“Last year, it’s shocking to see some of the numbers that he got victimized by,” Cashman said. “Because if you do a fly-by looking at his strikeouts-to-walk ratio, it’s ridiculous. You’d be looking in theory maybe at one of the better starting pitchers in the American League. But the home runs that he gave up and how he got victimized when he was ahead in the count — pitchers’ counts — was pretty impossible to comprehend. I’ve got to believe that we’ve got, as long as he stays healthy, a much better result as we move forward. Certainly he’s going to have a chance as he enters free agency to hopefully cash in because what’s good for him is good for us. He’s an extremely talented kid and hopefully this is the year we finally see all that he’s capable of being.”

Pineda went 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. In 175 2⁄3 innings, he walked 53, struck out 207 and allowed 27 home runs.

- Cashman and manager Joe Girardi are entering the last season of their contracts. It has been Yankees policy not to address an extension until the contracts are over.

“I know that he would love to be back,” Cashman said. “I would love to be back and I think if we have some positive things take place, hopefully we have that opportunity. But that’s all for another day.”


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