Yankees seeking more pieces to fill in the blanks

Beyond club's pressing needs, Cashman to focus on retooling rather than overhauling

Yankees seeking more pieces to fill in the blanks

NEW YORK -- The Yankees were among the busiest clubs at this point last winter, having already inked Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to big contracts by the time the Winter Meetings rolled around. A January pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka proved to be their cherry on top.

One year later, the Yankees have initially shown more restraint, believing that those expenditures of nearly a half billion dollars will pay dividends for the 2015 club and beyond. But general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged that "I definitely have work to do" retooling a roster that was good for 84 wins and a second-place finish in the American League East this past season.

After Cashman takes care of one outstanding winter commitment late Sunday -- his annual holiday rappel down the side of a 22-story Stamford, Conn., building -- the GM and a contingent of Yanks executives are scheduled to touch down in San Diego around lunchtime on Monday as baseball's Winter Meetings begin.

Here is a quick glance at the Yanks' situation heading into the Winter Meetings, which will last through Thursday:

Club needs

Rotation: The Yankees are interested in signing at least one starting pitcher, and potentially two, to supplement a rotation that projects to be paced by Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia, each of whom comes with question marks. Bringing back Brandon McCarthy has been stated as one objective, and the Yanks might have interest in a one-year deal if Hiroki Kuroda decides to keep pitching. McCarthy has said that he would be interested in returning to the Yankees, but it is likely that he will wait until Jon Lester or Max Scherzer come off the board to set the market. Thus far, the Yanks have not been connected to bigger-ticket arms like Lester, Scherzer and James Shields, but it would be prudent not to rule out a late push if Hal Steinbrenner is persuaded to open the checkbook.

Bullpen: David Robertson is the top available closer on the free-agent market, and while the Yankees expressed interest in bringing him back, they have appeared unwilling to extend a four-year offer to the homegrown hurler. Instead, the Yanks signed left-hander Andrew Miller to a four-year deal. The 6-foot-7 Miller excelled last season with the Red Sox and Orioles and will slot with Dellin Betances to produce a dynamite left-right combination in the late innings.

Hoch on Yankees' bullpen moves

Third base: Unsure what they can expect from Alex Rodriguez coming off suspension and heading into his age-40 season, the Yankees must secure contingency options at the hot corner in case A-Rod is better suited for DH duty. At the moment, Martin Prado is likely their third baseman, leaving prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela to battle for second base. They've talked about re-signing Chase Headley, but Headley's market was boosted by Pablo Sandoval's big deal with the Red Sox, and so the Yanks' interest in Headley has reportedly cooled.

Shortstop: Before Monday's Winter Meetings, Cashman crossed off one item on his to-do list, acquiring shortstop Didi Gregorius from the D-backs in a three-way trade involving the Tigers. Yanks righty Shane Greene went to Detroit in the deal, with Tigers lefty reliever Robbie Ray heading to Arizona.

Who they can trade if necessary

Pitchers: There are some solid pitching pieces that the Yankees could consider moving, if so motivated, many of whom have already compiled some big league experience. Electric prospect Luis Severino is on the radar of other GMs. Worth mentioning: teams would certainly listen if Betances' name came up. The Yanks also could fill out a trade proposal by including the likes of David Phelps, Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley.

Catchers: Having already shed depth by dealing Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for left-hander Justin Wilson, the Yankees still have talent behind McCann. John Ryan Murphy is well-liked for his defensive abilities and is primed to take over the backup role, leaving Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings. Romine is out of Minor League options.

Outfielders: The Yanks' big league outfield is set, with Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, Beltran and Chris Young all under contract for 2015. They have Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Eury Perez and Mason Williams primed to begin the year at Triple-A, and any further additions to that crop would signal a trade in the works.

Top prospects

The Yankees' top 10 prospects, according to MLB.com, are right-hander Severino, catcher Sanchez, infielder Eric Jagielo, left-hander Ian Clarkin, outfielder Aaron Judge, infielder Rob Refsnyder, outfielder Jake Cave, left-hander Manny Banuelos, left-hander Jacob Lindgren and catcher Luis Torrens.

Rule 5 Draft

The Yankees' 40-man roster stands at 37 players after this week's non-tenders of David Huff, Jose Campos and Slade Heathcott, plus the signing of Miller. Thus, they will have the option of making selections in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Last year, the Yanks' 40-man roster was full and they lost five players. That included right-hander Tommy Kahnle, who posted a 4.19 ERA in 54 appearances for the Rockies.

Payroll summary

Unlike last year, there is no talk about the Yankees staying under the $189 million threshold -- restoring A-Rod's contract to the roster essentially ensured that they'll be in excess of that figure. Steinbrenner has not set a definitive payroll target, but the club already has more than $170 million committed before deals to be completed with arbitration-eligible players and the yearly pension and insurance costs. A final figure in the $220 million-$230 million range is realistic.

"Ownership has always stepped up for the fan base," Cashman said recently. "We're just trying to run into some good values; smart, efficient opportunities."

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.