NEW YORK -- Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted today that the acquisition of Chase Headley was the culmination of a two-year pursuit that began when Alex Rodriguez had his second hip surgery before the start of the 2012 season.
But by no means does he consider the 2014 Yankees a finished product.
"I have more work to do," he said. "I’m going to still continue to try to improve on what we have."
In the past couple of weeks, Cashman has added a starting pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, and Headley without giving up very much. McCarthy came for Vidal Nuno and Headley for Yangervis Solarte, the April sensation, and a low-level minor league pitching prospect named Rafael De Paula.
But he knows that will not be enough to get the Yankees to October, especially if Mark Teixeira's lat injury turns out to be a long-term problem -- Cashman doesn't think it will -- and if the non-surgical course of action chosen for Masahiro Tanaka's partially-torn UCL turns out not to work.
Asked if he thought the Yankees as currently constituted were good enough to make the postseason, Cashman said, "We'll see," which in our experience generally means "no."
“We’re competing for it," he said. "I think all of us individually have to focus on what we can do. The 25 guys that are in there have to focus on putting out the best performance they can and being in position to do so on a daily basis. That’s all they can do. All I can do is try to provide our manager and coaching staff the best 25 guys to go out there and compete every day. I’m going to focus on that aspect, let them focus on their aspect and hopefully all of it collectively becomes good enough in the last 2 1/2 months or wherever we’re at. That’s the focus for me.”
That sounds like a wordy way of saying he is still shopping, probably for another starting pitcher and perhaps a corner outfielder, since with Carlos Beltran's sore right elbow limiting him to DH duty, the Yankees really have just three outfielders on their roster. (Kelly Johnson, who started in right field Tuesday night, is an infielder by trade and had never played right at the major league level.)
Cashman tried to shoot down the widespread belief that the Yankees, with their aging, highly-paid roster and disappointing farm system, have few tradeable parts.
"We’ve got high-end stuff, without a doubt, players that other teams like," he said. "And those players would be available, or will be available, in the right circumstances."
That could mean the Yankees would entertain offers for Dellin Betances or Brett Gardner, who appear to be the two players on the big-league roster that have the most value. It could also mean that useful players like Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, Francisco Cervelli and David Phelps could be available.
"We’re open to anything," Cashman said. "We’re ready to rock and roll. We’re ready to try to do things. We’ve been trying to do a lot of things, but they’re just really hard to do. We’re going keep sifting through it and try to find ways to improve this club so we can get the team where it needs to be, which is qualifying for the playoffs. But I have more work to do.”
The GM was typically short on specifics -- CBA rules prohibit a GM from publicly discussing a player on another team -- but the names that have been linked with the Yankees include pitchers Cliff Lee and John Danks, although Lee's contract allows him to block a trade to the Yankees.
Cashman and manager Joe Girardi preferred to talk about Headley, who hit 31 home runs and led the NL with 115 RBIs in 2012 but has tailed off due to injuries since then. In fact, his slash line (.229/.296/.355 with seven home runs) for 2014 is roughly comparable to that of Solarte (.254/.337/.381, with six HRs) who had spent eight seasons in the minor leagues with two other organizations before making the Yankees' roster in spring training.
Cashman said a recent epidural injection in Headley's back had alleviated pain from a herniated disk, and that Headley had swung the bat much better in the month since. He praised Headley's increased "hit V-lo," which means how fast the ball is coming off his bat, and Girardi referred to his "production in the past," as if the last two seasons had not actually happened.
But the GM was candid on Headley's defense -- "Our scouts have him as an average third baseman" -- and didn't even try to propose that Headley's bat would add a much-needed jolt of power to the anemic Yankees lineup.
"I don’t think we’re getting a big thumper," Cashman said. "I think he’s a professional hitter and a switch-hitter that can spray it all over the place. I do think we’re getting an upgrade and a professional at-bat. He’s going to give you a good at-bat."
That's nice, but hardly enough to turn these Yankees from mediocrities into contenders.
"We just keep trying to find different ways to upgrade," Cashman said. "We’re hoping that we can get a jolt from every single addition that we bring in here."
QUESTION: Do you think Cashman is doing enough to improve the Yankees?