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Yankees unlikely to add top starting pitcher in free agency

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he doesn't

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he doesn't anticipate making a blockbuster deal for a top pitcher such as Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A weak free-agent market for starting pitchers will make it more difficult for the Yankees to improve their rotation, a priority of Brian Cashman’s this winter.

That means Cashman likely will have to pursue the trade route, but the general manager said Tuesday that the kind of megadeal some fans have fantasized about — such as landing top-of-the-rotation lefty Chris Sale of the White Sox, who could be available at the right price — probably isn’t in the offing.

“That’s a finish-off deal where you feel like you’re one player away (from a championship) maybe, and I feel like we’re still building,” Cashman said on the second day of the GM meetings. “It doesn’t mean we can’t accomplish special things next year, but I just think that in the wintertime I don’t anticipate us making that type of move. I can’t speak to (Sale) specifically, but just generally (to get) one of these high-end guys it’s going to take four or five players. A blockbuster type deal like that, I don’t see that happening.”

That doesn’t mean an inactive winter for the Yankees. Far from it.

Cashman reiterated Tuesday that he feels the need to add to the rotation and the bullpen. He has touched base with Aroldis Chapman’s agent and the representative for Kenley Jansen. Cashman said he plans to talk soon with the agent for Mark Melancon. Jansen and Melancon, a ninth-round pick of the Yankees in 2006 who pitched for them briefly in 2009 and 2010, are the other top relievers.

Cashman said he plans to reach out to the agent for lefthander Rich Hill, one of the top arms in that weak starters’ market, but by the end of the winter there probably won’t be an agent he hasn’t talked to.

“I have a to-do list which I’m working through,” Cashman said. “(Agents) speak to me about all of their players and then I tell them the ones I’m interested in.”

There are several bats on the market, Kendrys Morales is one, but Cashman said designated hitter isn’t an area he’s pursuing now. That could change if he deals Brian McCann, who has two years left on a five-year, $85-million deal and already has drawn “a lot of interest” from other teams.

“The catching market’s very thin,” Cashman said.

McCann, slated to mostly DH and catch only on days Gary Sanchez has off, does have a full no-trade clause, so he’ll have the final call on any deal.

The Yankees’ openings in right and first are likely to be filled by Aaron Judge and Greg Bird, respectively.

“We have players in all positions and we have kids taking their shot in rightfield and first base,” Cashman said. “Because of that I don’t see myself changing much on the offensive side. Doesn’t mean I’m not open-minded to it, we might run into some things that change the puzzle pieces, but from your perspective what you should be focused on is the pitching. How are we going to continue to try and add to or improve our pitching?”

Cashman typically downplays what can be completed at these meetings, but he has swung deals the last two years. He acquired lefty reliever Justin Wilson two years ago for catcher Francisco Cervelli, and sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Twins last November for outfielder Aaron Hicks.

Is he confident something may get done by the time he leaves here Thursday?

“It’s never good to be confident,” Cashman said. “I’m always wired the other way, it serves me better. Confidence will slow you down.”

Still, Cashman didn’t dismiss the chances of something happening by week’s end, either.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

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