The Yankees need another starting pitcher, but there will be no reunion with Masahiro Tanaka, as the right-hander has decided to remain in Japan for another season with Rakuten.
But the team, according to sources, remains confident it will be able to make the necessary moves to create what general manager Brian Cashman said earlier this offseason would be a more “flexible” roster.
They are anticipating a flooded free-agent market once the MLB-imposed lockout is over, whenever that happens. In the meantime, they know they have holes in the rotation, as well as glaring needs at first base and shortstop, as well as, perhaps, center field.
But with the sport in a lockdown, Cashman faces serious limits on what he can do (and say) to improve the Yankees. There can be no communication of any kind regarding clubs’ 40-man rosters.
Cashman’s baseball operations group is working on the minor league phase of next week’s Rule 5 draft (the major league portion will occur after the players and owners sign off on a new collective bargaining agreement) as well as replacing some coaches on the minor league side.
Before rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford, Conn., as part of the city’s “Heights & Lights” festivities, Cashman pointedly — if politely — declined to engage on any questions regarding the team’s slow start to the offseason.
While many teams regarded the Dec. 1 expiration of the collective bargaining agreement as an impetus to sign free agents, with more than $1 billion spent in the week prior to the shutdown, the Yankees did little besides tender contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players, including polarizing catcher Gary Sanchez. They also re-signed reliever Joely Rodriguez in mid-November and did not much else.
“Because of the current circumstances, I can’t really comment on anything regarding the major league roster,” Cashman said, following the mandate established by commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB’s attorneys.
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