STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Brian Cashman feels so good about the Yankees’ offseason, he decided to rappel down a building.
After spending the previous few days retaining veteran starting pitchers Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda as well as closer Mariano Rivera, New York’s general manager made some practice jumps down the side of Stamford’s Landmark Building on Friday. The workout was in advance of a charity event on Sunday.
But the talk afterward about the Yankees keeping hold of their veterans, and Cashman is confident the Yankees are already offseason winners. Pettitte and Kuroda were given one-year deals that will cost the Yankees approximately $27 million. Rivera is expected to return on a one-year deal worth $10 million that could be announced next week.
“I think Pettitte is a big thing,” Cashman said. “Kuroda was a big thing. I think we’re having a successful early campaign to our winter because we’ve able to retain some high-end, high-caliber starting pitching and if you look at the marketplace, I’m not sure if anyone is doing better than us right now.”
The Yankees won the American League East last season — and defeated Baltimore in the ALDS — but were swept by Detroit in the ALCS.
“I think that we’re doing really well early in the process,” he said. “I’m real happy about how our winter program is currently going.”
Cashman is also formulating a plan for upcoming Winter Meetings in Nashville, and that trip will begin after he officially ropes down the 22-story building on Sunday night. This year, for the benefit, he will be joined by former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, a Stamford native.
Cashman will fly to Nashville on Monday. Among his priorities there will be testing the waters for a new catcher after Russell Martin signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, as well as filling an expected vacancy in right field as Nick Swisher is likely to head elsewhere.
Martin was offered a three-year, $20 million deal by Cashman in spring training and did not accept it. He received a $17 million contract from Pittsburgh after the Yankees did not make him an offseason offer.
“I like Russell Martin,” Cashman said. “I’m a big Russell Martin fan. But ultimately we have a lot of holes to fill and we have to be very careful how we spend our money. The market for Russell was aggressive as it should have been and again our focus has been our pitching.
“After that, I’ve got a lot of different holes to fill. We need to be careful how we allocate our remaining funds to make sure that we can fill all the holes.”
The moves may not be splashy — free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, for instance — but Cashman believes that doesn’t preclude the Yankees from making a significant move. Cashman could not name players due to the collective bargaining agreement but said that the catching vacancy could be filled internally, though he might seek an offensive upgrade. He also indicated that finding a right fielder is more of a priority than signing or acquiring a catcher.
“We’re capable of doing a lot of different things,” Cashman said. “We are not out of the multiyear market. We are not out of thinking big, looking at something big. But despite everything that we have, if you look at our numbers, we can still make certain things work.”
The Yankees haven’t been major players in free agency since 2008. They had the contracts of pitcher Mike Mussina, outfielder Bobby Abreu and first baseman Jason Giambi come off their payroll then, and that enabled them to use millions on starters CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira.
“That was perfect timing for us to be aggressive and we can make a lot of things fit,” Cashman said. “That scenario still exists despite the limitations, 189 if you want to call it limitations. Even if we did the $189 (million), we still have the highest payroll in baseball and so if you follow the math and look how things can unfold and come off the board and stuff like that, you can see how things can fit.
“We will be aggressive when we want to be, under the right circumstances. But it’s in our best interests to stay as flexible as possible given a lot of reasons and that’s obviously a big one.”
Shortstop Derek Jeter will enter the final year of a three-year contract that was finalized before Cashman’s first appearance at this event in December 2010. He is recovering from a broken left ankle suffered in Game 1 of the ALCS, and Cashman said the healing process is going well.
Even still, Jeter cannot work out until January.
“He had a checkup a few weeks ago in North Carolina and everything is going really well,” Cashman said. “He’s going to be ready for us by Opening Day. He’ll be a restricted player early in camp but all indications are very strong for a healthy recovery.”
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