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Yankees' payroll will be a key concern for Brian Cashman  

New York Yankee GM Brian Cashman speaking at

New York Yankee GM Brian Cashman speaking at afternoon post season presser. Credit: Howard Simmons

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Yes, Yankees fans, Brian Cashman will be talking to agent Scott Boras regarding two of his highest-profile free-agent clients, righthanders Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.

“Of course we're going to talk to Strasburg and we’ll talk to Cole,” Cashman said Monday after the first day of the general managers' meetings at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. “We’ll talk to the higher-end guys, clearly, and have conversations there.”

But that doesn’t mean either pitcher should be fitted for pinstripes just yet.  

Although Cashman said bolstering the Yankees' starting rotation is his priority this offseason, that improvement may well come in ways other than bestowing the kind of multiyear, big-money contract managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has been hesitant to approve in recent years.

“Hal’s always open-minded, regardless,” Cashman said. “Certainly, we’ve got some heavy investments, whether they’re short-term or long-term, that collectively add up to a lot right now.”

That's a statement that should not be glossed over.

The Yankees already have roughly $212 million committed in payroll for 2020, already putting them over the first luxury tax threshold. The second threshold is $228 million, which the Yankees are likely to surpass. The third is $248 million, a level  that Steinbrenner currently is not keen on going over, based on all indications.

“It’s hard to improve on a 103-win team,” Cashman said, several times mentioning the trade market as an avenue that could yield pitching options.

Cashman said the rotation – which currently is composed of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ – already is “strong.” It could be bolstered by in-house pitchers such as Jordan Montgomery, who should be fully healed from 2018 Tommy John surgery, and 20-year-old righty Deivi Garcia, the organization’s top pitching prospect, who ended the season in Triple-A.  

There also is the matter of some of his own free agents, three of whom Cashman has an interest in re-signing. He already has talked to the agents for  Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances.

Gardner would be the odds-on favorite of the three to return, followed by Betances and then Gregorius, who already has drawn some early interest from teams such as the Reds and Twins.

“That’s why you have to wait and watch this stuff play out and see how the dust settles,” Cashman said, speaking generally of the long offseason ahead. “Time will tell what our roster eventually looks like when we get through this winter, but it's a good, strong roster as it is right now.”

Cashman confirmed that Carlos Mendoza will take over for Josh Bard as the Yankees' bench coach.

“Josh in the summer was starting to explore in conversations about trying to be closer to home if possible,” Cashman said of Bard, the Yankees' bench coach the last two seasons, who has lived in Denver in the offseason for years and has a scouting background. “Josh did a great job and Mendy, obviously, is a real up-and-comer.”

Mendoza, who just finished his 11th year with the club, is highly regarded by the Yankees for a variety of reasons. Among them: his attention to detail and fluency in and general acceptance of the analytics that are increasingly driving the organization. Mendoza will continue as infield coach.

This is the second significant shakeup to Aaron Boone’s staff this offseason. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was fired Oct. 28 and replaced Thursday by Matt Blake, who had been with the Indians. Rothschild has since been hired by the Padres as their pitching coach.

“As we move forward, I felt I wanted to gravitate toward somebody that had a little bit more in-depth knowledge of some of the newer technology out there,” Cashman said. “Doesn’t mean Larry hasn’t been exposed to it. I think Larry’s one of the better pitching coaches in the game. I think San Diego’s got a great one.” 

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