Aaron Boone, Brian Cashman On Yankees’ Moves Ahead Of 2021 (www.mlb.com)

The Yankees’ roster represents an incomplete puzzle in Brian Cashman’s view, one that remains open to alterations and upgrades. Yet, in the collection of players set to report to Spring Training, the veteran general manager once again sees the makings of a championship-caliber club.
In the past two weeks, Cashman’s

The Yankees’ roster represents an incomplete puzzle in Brian Cashman’s view, one that remains open to alterations and upgrades. Yet, in the collection of players set to report to Spring Training, the veteran general manager once again sees the makings of a championship-caliber club.

In the past two weeks, Cashman’s front office has reshaped the roster, inking

while importing starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, then pulling off a rare trade with the Red Sox. An agreement with reliever Darren O’Day should be formally announced in the coming days.

“I’m not sure if the roster is ever complete,” Cashman said. “At the same time, we’re ready to go with what we have. I think we’ve got quality at all positions, and we’ve got depth in the starting rotation with additions like Taillon and Kluber. We certainly are excited by the current crew that we have.”

While there is logistical uncertainty about Spring Training due to the pandemic, Cashman and manager Aaron Boone said that they expect camp to begin on time, with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 16.

“We certainly feel like we’ve been one of the best teams and rightfully have championship expectations, which we will again have this year,” Boone said.

Cashman and Boone spoke with reporters via Zoom about various topics on Friday afternoon. Here are five takeaways:

1. Health plan
‘Next Man Up’ has been the Yanks’ rallying cry for more than two seasons, with injuries prompting the overhaul of the club’s strength and conditioning programs last winter. Cashman said that the team performed its due diligence on Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, relying heavily on the input of director of player health and performance Eric Cressey, who has worked extensively with Kluber for years.

“Hopeful is certainly an appropriate word,” Cashman said. “We made the commitment because we believe, despite the risk, it was a position worth taking. Now we’re going to test drive that, for better or for worse. By placing a bet, we’re going to count on the better than the worse, but I can’t dismiss there is risk. I believe and hope they’ll have a positive impact.”

2. Insufficient balance
With switch-hitter Aaron Hicks potentially the Yanks’ only starting player who can bat from the left side of the plate, Cashman said that the team remains interested in opportunities to remedy that situation, though he said they have not found anyone who would represent an upgrade over the current lineup. A reunion with Brett Gardner remains possible.

“Clearly, we have been a big fan of Brett for quite some time, and I think Brett has honored that assessment,” Cashman said. “He’s been a great Yankee. We’ll see how things transpire here over the coming weeks, but obviously he’s still on the board. I don’t really have more to add at this point.”

3. Farewell, Masa (for now?)
Cashman and Boone both tossed verbal bouquets to right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who returned to the Rakuten Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball league this week, concluding his seven-year run with the Yankees. Cashman said that the theory was “two for one,” in that Kluber and Taillon cost approximately what Tanaka would have earned. Cashman called Tanaka “a tremendous competitor with class and dignity,” and he did not rule out a potential Tanaka return in the future.

“We’re always open to evaluating opportunities that present themselves,” Cashman said. “There’s never any doors closed, let’s put it that way from my perspective. I wish him the best of luck and he will be missed. And it’ll be hard to replace him at the same time. Our players really did bond with him, and for good reason. He was top shelf.”

4. What’s Kraken?
Gary Sánchez recently told ESPN that he was confused by his lack of playing time during the 2020 postseason, when backup catcher Kyle Higashioka started five of the team’s seven games. Sánchez said that he sought an explanation from Boone after the season ended, and they cleared the air in a conversation. Boone said that Sánchez likely would have started Game 1 of the American League Championship Series if the Yanks advanced.

“The postseason was a completely fluid situation,” Boone said. “I made no decision to say, ‘Gary is benched.’ I was going home literally every night discussing it and sleeping on who I was going to start the next day. A big reason for that was how well Kyle Higashioka was playing. I think we all have seen what a great defender he is, but at that point in the year, he also was swinging the bat incredibly well and hitting for some power.”

5. Shipping up
Adam Ottavino was part of the Yankees’ first deal with the Red Sox since 2014, swapped to Boston with prospect Frank Germán in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations. Cashman said that his preference would have been to find another trade partner, but the Red Sox offered the most financial flexibility, assuming most of the $9 million Ottavino was due.

“[Ottavino] actually was at Yankee Stadium when Cash completed the deal, having a throwing session and working out,” Boone said. “He was there when Cash told him, and then he and I had a chance to talk. That was a little weird. He’s somebody that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and he’ll be missed. He’s going to be tough against us.”

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.



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