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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Brian Cashman isn't kidding about reshaping Yankees roster

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, center,

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, center, speaks to member of the media as he attends the baseball general managers' meetings, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Boca Raton, Fla. Credit: AP / Wilfredo Lee

BOCA RATON, Fla. - As trades go, John Ryan Murphy for Aaron Hicks isn't exactly Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. But it does tell us a couple of things: Brian Cashman isn't kidding about reshaping his roster, and if he sees a trade he likes, he'll pull the trigger, sooner rather than later.

"Why wait?" Cashman said. "If it makes sense, do it."

The GM's hyper-caffeinated approach to this offseason resulted in a pair of trades Wednesday, the first sending Jose Pirela to the Padres for Double-A righthander Ronald Herrera, followed by the Murphy-Hicks swap soon after.

Although it's true Murphy was stuck as a backup behind Brian McCann, and Hicks became expendable in Minnesota with the recent shift of slugging Miguel Sano to the outfield, it's probably wrong to simply characterize this deal as an exchange of impact bench players.

Cashman had a pair of highly coveted young catchers to use as trade chips this winter, and he chose to use Murphy, the more proven major-league commodity, before the hot stove season was even warm to the touch. That leads us to believe Murphy is only the first domino to fall in Cashman's 2016 reboot, and adding the switch-hitting Hicks, also an excellent defender, instantly pushes Brett Gardner further toward the middle of the table.

And Cashman didn't attempt to defuse any of that speculation, not when Gardner remains one of the most movable commodities in pinstripes, along with Andrew Miller. If Cashman opts to cash out with Miller, who still is due $27 million through 2018, he still has Dellin Betances ready to step into the closer's role. Previously, the GM didn't have a ready-made replacement for Gardner, but that changed Wednesday.

Now Gardner can be flipped for whatever Cashman can extract from opposing GMs. A second baseman? A starting pitcher? Maybe both, with some creativity on the Yankees' end. Dealing Pirela could mean that Cashman is either content going with Rob Refsnyder/Dustin Ackley at second -- or is in the process of upgrading the position.

At it stands now, Hicks steps in for free agent Chris Young as a weapon against lefthanded pitchers, along with outfield insurance at every spot. But Hicks, whom the Twins selected 14th overall in the 2008 draft, seems undervalued as a backup, especially if Murphy was as sought after as Cashman suggested.

Plus, Cashman targeted Hicks in early October, continuing dialogue with Twins GM Terry Ryan until the trade was agreed upon Tuesday night, with the medicals nailing it down the next afternoon. In announcing the trade, the revved-up Cashman seemed eager to do another, but he stuck to his original travel itinerary and flew out Wednesday night, a day earlier than many of the other GMs.

Not before Cashman got his message out, however. And calling it quits in Boca hardly meant he was finished.

"I'd let it be known, if I got the right circumstance, I'd move," Cashman said. "I'd be aggressive."

At 26, and still another year from arbitration, Hicks definitely fits Cashman's younger-and-cheaper mantra, with what the Yankees see as unrealized potential. It wasn't surprising to hear Cashman compare Hicks' profile to that of Didi Gregorius -- last winter's find -- as someone capable of busting out in the Yankees' environment, insulated by their clubhouse of high-profile veterans.

But where Gregorius had to follow Derek Jeter, Hicks won't have nearly the same pressure, even if he ends up stepping in for someone like Gardner, who is coming off his first All-Star season. Two years ago, Cashman was praised for locking up Gardner through 2018 with a $52-million contract, buying out his last arbitration year and the first three of free agency. Now, that pact is just reasonable enough to be shipped out, if Cashman can drum up something decent in return.

In getting Hicks for Murphy, Cashman felt it was too perfect to refuse. Especially with the team's decision-makers believing that Gary Sanchez is now capable of holding down the No. 2 catching job at the major-league level, if necessary. And with the Yankees' catching surplus now trimmed, Cashman will turn his attention elsewhere.

"There's a lot of things that could transpire," Cashman said. "I don't rule anything out, both on the trade and free-agent front."

After Wednesday's quick start, Cashman should be taken seriously.

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