NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In describing the Yankees’ offseason, Brian Cashman invoked the names of his hitting coach and his pitching coach.
“I think [hitting coach] Alan Cockrell is loving me and I think [pitching coach] Larry Rothschild’s not liking me,” the general manager said Thursday morning as the winter meetings wrapped up at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. “Alan’s got a nice Christmas card probably and I’m getting coal from Larry right now, so I’ve got some things to continue to work through . . . Pitching’s obviously an area of need.”
Cashman, who prioritized pitching when the offseason began, has executed three major moves. Two of the three resulted in the acquisition of position players and two of the three weakened the major league pitching staff, at least for now.
During last month’s GM meetings, Cashman brought aboard outfielder Aaron Hicks, a reserve at the moment but a player who could shift to leftfield if the Yankees deal Brett Gardner, in exchange for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. The Yankees got a needed upgrade at second base on Tuesday, acquiring Starlin Castro from the Cubs for valuable starter/reliever Adam Warren and utilityman Brendan Ryan. On Wednesday, Cashman bolstered his Triple-A rotation, sending solid lefthanded reliever Justin Wilson to the Tigers for hard-throwing righthanders Luis Cessa and Chad Green.
“Certainly important to be able to run those position players out there that can play the full nine innings and be in position to provide at least 130-plus games starting, as long as they all stay healthy,” Cashman said. “That’s vitally important. But you’ve got the offensive needs, the defensive needs, which is the pitching side of it, and so I’ve got to work to make my defensive coordinator [Rothschild] more comfortable.”
Cashman would like to address the rotation and bullpen. Although he did not rule out the free-agent market, he said the trade route is the more likely avenue he’ll travel.
“[Free agency is] a more difficult area for us to play in because of the money we have committed,” said Cashman, who continues to get plenty of calls about Gardner and closer Andrew Miller.
One intriguing rotation name thrown around throughout these meetings was Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez, 23, the sort of young, cost-controlled pitcher the Yankees are trying to stockpile. The Marlins are not shopping the former Rookie of the Year but are listening to offers and will continue to do so while demanding a huge haul in return.
One executive not a part of either team said the Marlins have been somewhat surprised that the Yankees haven’t shown significant interest. The Marlins desire a mix of big league-ready players and prospects. The executive said he thought the Yankees could get Fernandez for a three- or four-player combination of players from the pool of Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Jacob Lindgren and Bryan Mitchell. Severino likely would be the only one considered a “must” to be included.
Regardless of the combination, at the moment, a roster-gutting move of that kind doesn’t interest the Yankees.
“I’m intending to do more between now and [Opening Day], that’s my intention,” Cashman said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Rule V activity. As expected, the Yankees lost outfield prospect Jake Cave, taken by the Reds with the second overall pick of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. One insider said the Yankees were between protecting Cave, a sixth-round pick in 2011, or outfielder Ben Gamel, a 10th-round pick in 2010. They chose the lefthanded- hitting Gamel, who had a .300/.358/.472 slash line last season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The lefty-hitting Cave had a .278/.339/.359 slash line between Double-A Trenton and Scranton. In the Triple-A phase of the draft, the Yankees selected righthanders Yefrey Ramirez and Julian Aybar and catcher Santiago Nessy.