Cashman: Yanks to be in mix for big FA bats

Cashman: Yanks to be in mix for big FA bats

NEW YORK -- The Yankees entered the offseason voicing a familiar refrain, stating that they were centering their focus upon adding pitching. They now are also officially in the market for a big bat.

Thursday's trade of Brian McCann to the Astros for two Minor League pitchers opens the door for the Yankees to spend big on an impact hitter, and there are multiple avenues to pursue, with Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, Yoenis Cespedes and Edwin Encarnacion highlighting the free-agent market.

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"I'm going to be open-minded to all of it," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I'm going to be open-minded to what's available. We now will pursue bats, but we'll see if it takes us anywhere. It could be a DH-only situation; obviously the preference always is going to be someone that can provide positional ability so you have more flexibility on your roster. We'll see where it takes us."

In particular, the Yankees could be enticed by a return engagement with Beltran, who was the club's best hitter before being traded to the Rangers on Aug. 1 for three players, including current No. 11 prospect, right-hander Dillon Tate. Cashman said that he would not rule out the idea, adding that he has already spoken to Beltran's representatives.

"Carlos did a great job for us," Cashman said. "He was a tremendous performer this year and a leader and, obviously, someone it seemed like every potential postseason team had an interest in trading for. That says a lot about the respect he has throughout the game, and despite his age [40 in April], he's still productive."

Cashman has also had contact with Cespedes' agent, and expects that those conversations will continue now that the Yankees have added financial flexibility.

The McCann trade effectively padded New York's budget with an additional $11.5 million in each of the next two seasons, in addition to funds freed by Mark Teixeira's retirement, as well as last summer's trades of Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.

"It gives us more choices," Cashman said. "Whether any of those current high-end free agents are legitimate choices or not remains to be seen. But 'tis the season to engage and find out."

Just months removed from speeding up their youth movement, the Yankees are counting on Gary Sanchez to be their starting catcher and a middle-of-the-lineup bat. They remain committed to giving Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks legitimate chances in right field, while doing the same with Greg Bird and Tyler Austin at first base.

However, the futures of left fielder Brett Gardner and third baseman Chase Headley appear less secure, with the Yankees willing to listen to offers on both veterans in the wake of Thursday's McCann trade.

"I've had my fair share of hits on [Gardner and Headley]," Cashman said. "They're still here and they're here for a reason, but we'll see. We have our interest in getting younger and stronger and more flexible, and improve our present and our future. If all that provides that opportunity, then I think I'll be talking to our owner and see if he'll consider it."

On the pitching front, the Yankees have started the information-gathering process on free-agent starters Rich Hill and Jason Hammel, and maintain serious interest in re-signing Chapman, speaking to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner's stated priority of bolstering the bullpen. Chapman's success during his abbreviated season in New York is viewed as a plus.

"Chapman did a terrific job in the short time he was here," Cashman said. "He did prove he can handle New York, and he's someone that we would be interested in bringing back. I think there's a lot of teams interested in doing that with him. That doesn't guarantee that he will be here, but he certainly has heard from us and knows we'd like to have him back."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.