MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Cashman searching for new path up mountain

Justice: Cashman searching for new path up hill

Cashman searching for new path up mountain
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- When we last saw the New York Yankees, they were being swept out of the American League Championship Series by the Detroit Tigers.

That was exactly three weeks ago, and since emotions have had time to cool and the planning for 2013 has begun, it seemed like a good time to check in with the general manager.

"Right now, we've got some gaping holes," Brian Cashman said Thursday during a break at the General Managers Meetings at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells.

Oh, you know how some of these guys exaggerate. Other than needing a corner outfielder, catcher, designated hitter and starting pitcher or two, Cashman can almost take the winter off.

Did we mention payroll?

With the Yanks committed to being under $189 million by Opening Day 2014, when baseball's new luxury-tax rules kick in, they're unlikely to make a run at Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn or any of the other big-ticket free agents.

So Cashman will again work around the edges of free agency, as he did last winter, with the January signing of Hiroki Kuroda.

In fact, Cashman has done a terrific job in recent years of bringing down his team's payroll while keeping the Yankees competitive.

He has done that with by getting lots of bang for his buck, with players like Raul Ibanez, Rafael Soriano, Eric Chavez, Russell Martin and others.

Despite the loss to the Tigers, the Yanks had the AL's best record during the regular season, and as Cashman said, "If we'd won the whole thing, people wouldn't have been surprised at all."

Payroll cuts?

"Just follow what we've been doing," Cashman said. "It's been well thought out and planned for a reason. We are reacting to a lot of different stimuli. I don't look at it as being limited at all. I just look at it as there's different ways to climb the mountain. I might look at a different side of the mountain to climb. I feel like I've been doing that."

Here's the plan for 2013:

• Re-sign Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. Re-signing Kuroda could be easier said than done since he hasn't yet accepted the Yankees' $13.3 million qualifying offer, Kuroda could test his value on the open market.

• Add a corner outfielder. Cashman was effusive in his praise of Nick Swisher and said he'd like to have the switch-hitter back. He's also realistic about Swisher finding a bidder willing to drive the price beyond what the Yanks are willing to go. If Swisher signs elsewhere, Cashman will shop for an outfielder, with another Yankees free agent, Ichiro Suzuki, a possibility.

• Find a catcher. Cashman has had discussions with Martin's agent and has in-house options in Austin Romine, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Eli Whiteside. They're all solid defensive catchers who may not provide much offensively.

• Hope that Alex Rodriguez can still be productive.

The Yankees scored just six runs in the four ALCS games against the Tigers, and manager Joe Girardi's search for answers led him to bench Rodriguez, Swisher and Curtis Granderson at various times.

"When we got knocked out," Cashman said, "it was, 'This team's old, they've got to get younger, what are they doing?' I'm used to it, because it hits us every year. I just think people don't like when you lose, and I understand that, because we don't either. It doesn't mean you lose objectivity."

When asked if he felt confident if he'd have the Yanks in position for another playoff appearance in 2013, Cashman grimaced.

"I've never felt good," he said. "I feel good about the process. I feel good about the people I rely on. I feel good about the ownership group and their commitment to winning. I'm confident that our track record continues. We'll solve this thing. We'll solve it fast, slow, whatever it takes. But we'll solve it, and we'll be a championship-caliber club."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.