LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Brian Cashman took to the skies in characterizing the status of his attempts to add to his rotation, the Yankees No. 1 offseason priority.
“Right now we’re circling the airport and we’re waiting for clearance on the runway,” he said late Wednesday afternoon. “And that’s not from ownership. That means we’ve got the signal that it’s a safe landing spot and we’re comfortable with it. We’ve got enough gas in that tank that we can keep circling for a while.”
More to the point, Cashman said the indication he’s gotten on the free agent front — which includes CC Sabathia, a top target of the Yankees — is that the process so far is a deliberate one.
“It seems to me, by a lot of the conversations I’m having with free agents, it’s a slow moving market from their perspective,” Cashman said. “I’ve heard things like, ‘we’re still in the first quarter,’ those [kinds] of terminologies.”
Cashman said he’s talked a few times with Sabathia’s representatives this week, but there might be competition for the lefthander. For example, the Angels and Blue Jays have also met with Sabathia’s agent here, though that could be a leverage play to try to get the Yankees to up their offer.
“He’s been a great performer for us and there may very well be a chance for us to continue working together, there may not,” Cashman said. “It’s a business on both ends . . . He’s certainly of interest. But because of who he is and what he has continued to do, he’s of interest elsewhere, too.”
Cashman, with a deep reservoir of prospects in his farm system, has been engaged on the trade front as well, touching base with teams with starters available such as the Tigers (Michael Fulmer), Pirates (Gerrit Cole), Royals (Danny Duffy) and Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke).
If the Yankees do bring Sabathia back into the fold, which remains the safe way to bet, it won’t preclude them from adding one more starter should the right opportunity present itself.
“We have an interest in CC, and we’re engaged with a number of other opportunities, whether it’s the trade market or making sure we’re doing our [other] assessments on the free agent side,” said Cashman, who is also exploring various infield options after dealing Chase Headley Monday.
The GM successfully cleared $13 million from the payroll with the Headley trade to the Padres, which included Bryan Mitchell. Cashman, under orders to bring payroll under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, is interested in clearing more.
The Yankees would love to move Jacoby Ellsbury and the $68 million he’s owed over the next three seasons. But the outfielder isn’t exactly a desired commodity — the Yankees would have to eat most of that money and likely would have to attach a solid prospect or two — and also has a full-no trade clause in the seven-year, $153-million contract he signed before the 2014 season. Ellsbury’s agent, Scott Boras, made it sound Wednesday as if the 34-year-old, who hit .264/.348/.402 with seven homers, 39 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 112 games, had little interest in waiving that no-trade.
Cashman has said, as of now, Ellsbury will compete for the starting job in center with Aaron Hicks.
“He’s pretty excited, I talked to him yesterday,” Boras said of Ellsbury. “I was talking to Cash [Cashman] and we were both agreeing how much he did down the stretch to help the Yankees get into the playoffs. [Ellsbury] feels he’s going to be a major part of what they’re doing.”
Pineda to Twins. Righthander Michael Pineda, who underwent Tommy John surgery July 18, signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Twins. The 31-year-old Pineda, acquired from the Mariners as the centerpiece of the Jesus Montero trade before the 2012 season, went 31-31 with a 4.16 ERA as a Yankee.