Yankees prep for busy Hot Stove season

Yankees prep for busy Hot Stove season

• Hot Stove Tracker

NEW YORK -- When the final out of the World Series nestled safely in Pablo Sandoval's glove, it officially kicked off the beginning of baseball's Hot Stove season. In the Bronx, the Yankees had been huddling for weeks, preparing for that green light.

As general manager Brian Cashman returns with a new three-year extension in hand, he is being challenged to restore the Yankees' roster to one that can truly be considered championship-caliber, coming off a second dark October in as many seasons.

Free agents/options
Closer David Robertson is a good bet to receive a qualifying offer, valued at $15.3 million for one season, though Robertson seems primed to test the open market. In the rotation, Brandon McCarthy pitched well in a half-season audition and expressed willingness to return, while Hiroki Kuroda is considering retirement.

Player Profile: David Robertson

Even with Alex Rodriguez reinstated from suspension, the Yanks could re-sign veteran Chase Headley for help at the infield corners. Stephen Drew was disappointing, but he is one year removed from being the starting shortstop on a World Series winner and represents one option to replace Derek Jeter.

Ichiro Suzuki has said that he intends to continue playing at age 41, but he is likely to seek more regular playing time in a different uniform. Other free agents include left-hander Chris Capuano, left-hander Rich Hill and outfielder Chris Young.

Needs
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said that the Yankees need to secure at least one starting pitcher this offseason, with Ivan Nova not expected to return from Tommy John surgery until at least May. The club also needs to obtain a shortstop who would represent an upgrade over Brendan Ryan.

The Yanks are veteran-heavy and counting on bounce-back campaigns from players like Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, but they have spoken about the need to get younger and more athletic. They could have an opening at second base, where prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela might get a good look in the spring.

Cashman will chase contingency options at third base in the event A-Rod isn't ready for everyday duty. Martin Prado, already on the roster, is one choice. Replacements for hitting coach Kevin Long and first-base coach Mick Kelleher, both dismissed in October, are also on the agenda.

Yankees dismiss Long, Kelleher

Potential targets
Pitching wasn't the Yankees' problem in 2014, but it would not be a surprise to see them pursue a big arm like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields to upgrade the rotation. They spent big on bats (and Masahiro Tanaka) last winter, but missing the playoffs could motivate them to open the checkbooks once more.

The crop of free-agent shortstops includes Clint Barmes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Drew, Jed Lowrie and Hanley Ramirez; Korean star Jung-Ho Kang is also expected to be posted. If the Yanks were to pursue a trade, they could check in on the D-backs' Didi Gregorius, the Tigers' Jose Iglesias or the White Sox's Alexei Ramirez.

If the Yankees crave a bigger name (and can stomach a contract to match), you could dream on dealing for the Blue Jays' Jose Reyes or the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki.

In the event that New York is convinced that Beltran will be healthy enough to play right field and A-Rod can handle third base, free agent Victor Martinez has appeal as a DH and a part-time first baseman.

Duquette on '14-15 free agents

Trade assets
The Yankees have a wealth of catching behind starter Brian McCann. Francisco Cervelli is arbitration-eligible and out of options. John Ryan Murphy has seen big league time already, and slugging prospect Gary Sanchez was mentioned in trade rumors this past summer.

Outfielder Aaron Judge and infielder Greg Bird were among the top talent representing the club in the Arizona Fall League. Young pitching like Dellin Betances, Ian Clarkin, Shane Greene, David Phelps, Luis Severino and Adam Warren may also draw interest.

Bottom line
The Yanks are banking that their 84-win showing was an aberration and that improved health will permit them to improve on their 633 runs scored. Expect them to stir excitement with a few big splashes -- and incremental upgrades when possible in other areas.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.