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Yankees’ Cashman: ‘If He’s With Us,’ A.J. Burnett In Rotation

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Brian Cashman, A.J. Burnett (credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Brian Cashman, A.J. Burnett (credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – His major offseason goal already accomplished, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is still hunting for more starting pitching as he reshapes the team following its first-round elimination.

Cashman signed a three-year contract worth about $9 million Tuesday, a day after his previous deal expired. The announcement came less than 24 hours after CC Sabathia chose not to become a free agent and instead agreed to a contract that gave him an additional $30 million guaranteed for 2016.

“He’s certainly the most important piece as we entered this process,” Cashman said during a conference call. “CC provides us a lot of security, and that’s obviously why he makes what he makes.”

But most of the chatter came from a slip regarding embattled starter A.J. Burnett.

“If he’s with us,” said Cashman, “without a doubt he’s in the rotation.”

Listen: Cashman talks with WFAN’s Mike Francesa about CC Sabathia, Yankees’ offseason plans

Emphasis on “if he’s with” the Yankees. But then to flip the coin, the general manager went on to praise Burnett for his accountability and work ethic.

“He’s almost given us 200 innings the last two years. There’s value in that at the very least,” said Cashman. “He’s got a great deal of ability. He stays healthy. He’s accountable, he works his tail off. He’s obviously had to deal with adversity because of the inconsistent performance. But he hasn’t shied away from it, and he continues to take that ball every five days and does everything he can to continue to secure a win and be the best he can be.”

What it all comes down to? “Pitching, pitching, pitching.”

“That will be the main thrust,” Cashman said, a sign the Yankees could explore trades involving low-priced players such as Jesus Montero and Brett Gardner. “I don’t anticipate a bat being of need at all. I anticipate people knocking on our door about the current bats we have.”

On other topics, Cashman wouldn’t say whether the team intends to re-sign 40-year-old Jorge Posada; praised catcher Russell Martin but wouldn’t say whether he will offer a multiyear contract; said he’s open to re-signing pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, and third baseman Eric Chavez; and wouldn’t commit to whether the Yankees would have an interest in Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who may become available in the posting process from the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Cashman has been GM since February 1998, when he succeeded Bob Watson. The only general manager to serve longer with the Yankees is Ed Barrow from 1920-45.

Under Cashman, the team has won four World Series titles and six AL pennants, finishing first in the AL East 11 times and advancing to the playoffs in 13 of 14 seasons. He’s presided over baseball operations during the transition from George Steinbrenner to the more collegial environment establish by son Hal Steinbrenner.

“I have a big seat at the table, but I don’t sit at the head of the table,” Cashman said. “I know my place. I know my job description. I know my responsibilities. And I know my abilities to make recommendations. They carry a lot of weight. It doesn’t necessarily carry the day every day. I respect and understand that.”

Without giving any specifics, Cashman touched on several players:

-On Posada: “He’s been one of the best catchers in Yankee history and a borderline Hall of Famer and obviously is in the free-agent category currently. So I think that’s something that we’ll have to discuss here in the short term but it’s not something I’m prepared to talk to about today.”

-On Martin: “He came in here and we thought he was Thurman Munson-like. I wasn’t here in the ’70s, but you know what Thurman Munson stood for, represented, how he played the game and leadership that he provided in the clubhouse.”

-On right fielder Nick Swisher, whose option was exercised Saturday: “He has been one of the better offensive right fielders in the game ever since he’s been here. … We’re lucky to have him. It was any easy call.”

Do you think Cashman means to ship Burnett out of town? Sound off in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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