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Hartnett: Why The Yankees’ Search For An Elite Starter Has Stalled

Cashman Happy To Play Waiting Game
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Brian Cashman (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Brian Cashman (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

There’s a reason why the Yankees’ search for a dominant starter has stalled.  Brian Cashman isn’t enamored with the free agent talent available and is unwilling to meet their unreasonable salary demands.

No doubt about it, this offseason is a pitcher’s market.  For every noteworthy starter available, there are about seven teams competing for his signature.  Retaining Freddy Garcia for another year at a fair value contract near $4 million appears to be a wise move.  Rather than being bullied into paying ‘over the odds’ salary for an overpriced free agent, Cashman has explored multiple trade options but has so far come up empty.

Depending on which sources and rumors you believe, the Yankees have discussed internally what kind of trade package it would take to bring a talent like Matt Cain, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren or Matt Garza to the Bronx.  The chances of the Yankees actually landing Cain this offseason would be somewhere between slim to none.

Cain is integral to the Giants’ chances of contending in 2012 and their general manager Brian Sabean will attempt to find offense through free agency to make San Francisco a less-pitching reliant ballclub.  I don’t see Haren as a realistic possibility either.  The Angels would prefer to add an arm to their rotation rather than dealing a very gifted starter away in Haren.

Garza and Gonzalez are more likely candidates for the Yankees as the Cubs and Athletics have sent out signals to clubs regarding their availability.  For Cashman, it’s just a matter of how steep the demands for Gonzalez and Garza actually are.

Cashman has no intention to trade away Eduardo Nunez or top organizational arms Manny Banuelos and Adam Warren for someone who isn’t a clear-cut superstar hurler.  Garza isn’t an elite starter but he’s still a durable arm.  Theo Epstein would desperately seek Nunez in return as he serves as an upgrade at third base or second base for the Cubs but that isn’t a deal Cashman is willing to make.

Ideally, Cashman would prefer to give up Jesus Montero and two or three B-level prospects to acquire Garza or Gonzalez and proceed with the plan to groom Nunez as Derek Jeter’s eventual replacement.

Jesus Montero would be of little interest to the Cubs as they have Geovany Soto penciled-in at catcher and it is unclear whether Montero has what it takes to be successfully converted to first base, a position Chicago seriously needs to upgrade.  While it is probable Albert Pujols will re-sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, Prince Fielder remains a possibility for the Cubs as long as the length of the contract doesn’t scare them off.

Meanwhile, Billy Beane and the Athletics have a desire to replenish their organization with both young arms and bats.  The Yankees can address each of Oakland’s needs and I still think Cashman’s most obvious course of action is completing a deal for Gonzalez.

Cashman will do whatever it takes to keep hold of Nunez and Banuelos but I’m confident he can drive the asking price down to a more comfortable level if talks between the Yankees and A’s indeed become serious.

It appears Cashman is prepared to wait it out for the right deal through trade or free agency.  While that may not be the juiciest hot stove news, it’s exactly what he should be doing to protect the Yankees’ farm system and long-term future.

Yankees fans – do you believe Cashman will find an arm for the rotation through free agency or via trade?  Share your thoughts and opinions below.  Sean Hartnett will be covering the Yankees’ Hot Stove all winter long.  Send him your tweets @HartyLFC.

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