Yankees GM: A-Rod not out of reach

NEW YORK -- New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called a trade of Alex Rodriguez "unrealistic," but said he would listen to offers for his third baseman -- a player he conceded is no longer a superstar -- if teams called to inquire about him.

Appearing on "Sunday Morning with Ian O'Connor" on ESPNNewYork 98.7 FM, Cashman said CC Sabathia's left elbow might require a surgical "cleanup" in the coming weeks, and he called hitting coach Kevin Long "safe" in wake of the lineup's collapse during Detroit's sweep of the American League Championship Series.

Cashman also ruled out the possibility of backup shortstop Eduardo Nunez being moved to another position, and he maintained that the team needs "to be very careful about what we do on multiyear deals as we approach 2014," which could be bad news for Robinson Cano and other Yankees looking to strike it rich despite Hal Steinbrenner's mandate to reduce payroll to $189 million in two years.

But the most pressing offseason issue revolves around Rodriguez, who was so dreadful against right-handers in the playoffs that manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit for him and benched him and inspired talk that A-Rod could be dealt this offseason.

"It's not like I'm going to hang phones up on anybody who wants to make any overtures about anything," Cashman told O'Connor. "You're talking about realistic stuff and unrealistic stuff. I don't think it's realistic at all for us to be moving forward with anything but Alex Rodriguez at third base.

"He's still an above-average third baseman. ... That means despite the contract that we had committed to him, that he's an asset at this stage still. I don't see us doing anything there. I don't anticipate it. If someone wants to make phone calls, we're more than willing to do all that stuff with any of our players, and that's fine. You can run into something that way.

"But listen, the sooner we put to bed any expectation or anticipation that the Yankees are going to be solely focused on trying to move Alex Rodriguez. ... I think that would be false. And it would be just a lot of wasted energy on anybody's part to be thinking."

While Cashman left open the possibility that something just as unexpected as his 2004 acquisition of A-Rod could unfold this offseason -- sending A-Rod to another team -- the GM said there is "no doubt" he expects the 37-year-old Rodriguez to be his starting third baseman in 2013.

But Cashman agreed A-Rod's days as a superstar are finished, something A-Rod himself has refused to concede.

"Do I expect him to return to the MVP-caliber type Alex Rodriguez? No," Cashman said. "Obviously you decline with age, and he's getting up there in his age. ... So no, that would be very unrealistic to think as well. But despite the age where he's at, he's still an above-average player at that position.

"Is he a superstar at that position? No. But I think when anybody signed that (10-year, $275 million) contract (in 2007), expecting him to be at that level at that age would be unrealistic also."

Cashman addressed several other Yankee concerns on the ESPNNewYork 98.7 FM show:

• On Sabathia's elbow discomfort and pending visit to Dr. James Andrews: "It's a follow-up from the summer. His elbow started barking, as we all know, in the summertime. ... You take a step back, and if that doesn't solve it fully and if the pain continues, which I believe it has based on his comments, then you have to look a little deeper. And if he needs a cleanup, we'll give him a cleanup. ... If he has anything, it's not considered major, but it's obviously the time of year to really focus on it."

• On a potential Andy Pettitte return: "It's hard to say. I don't want to speak for Andy, but I know Andy loves what he does and he's obviously great at what he does. He can keep doing it if he so chooses. I wouldn't be surprised if he wants to keep going, but I just don't know."

• On Michael Pineda's return from major shoulder surgery: "We have to keep him off our radar for now. ... We're talking June of next year ... the second half of next year."

• On Long: "He's safe. ... Kevin Long is without question one of the best hitting coaches in the game, and what took place here is a collective failure, not an individual one, and no one is going to be pointed at as a scapegoat."

• On finding a way to get Nunez in the everyday lineup: "I look at Nunez and his value as a shortstop. I don't look at Nunez being valuable in an everyday role other than shortstop, and we have a shortstop. In terms of everyday status for Nuney, I don't see one as long as Derek Jeter is sitting there. ... All the calls of putting him in left field, I don't understand."

• On the team's collapse against Detroit: "It was kind of like a Yankee flu went through five of our guys in the lineup. ... I do think there is a mental component that really crept in on us, and all of a sudden … you hear our players talking about passing the baton. Well, I wonder if the baton that was passed was one of pressure and tightness and it started going throughout our entire lineup, that, 'Oh jeez, he didn't get it done; I've got to get it done.' And they started getting us out of our game.

"I'm not sure if I can ever give you a tangible, realistic, honest, this-is-what-I-know from (what) CSI New York has provided. ... I just don't know."