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Cashman: “We’re still capable of a lot”

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It’s the first of December, and the Yankees have taken care of the basics. Which, honestly, weren’t all that basic.

Re-signing veterans doesn’t stir a ton of excitement, but given the Yankees needs — and given the current free agent market — there’s nothing insignificant about one-year deals with Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. The rotation isn’t remade, but it’s put back together. The bullpen isn’t restructured, but its anchor is back in place.

“I think that we’re doing really well early in the process,” Brian Cashman said. “We obviously have some pressure points that have been very public and made aware of, and I think despite that we’ve been able to secure some really high-end players. … If you look at the marketplace — and it’s not a great marketplace — I’m not sure if anybody is doing better than that right now in terms of addressing some obvious needs.”

Thing is, the story of this winter isn’t all about Yankees obvious needs. The story of this winter is largely about next winter. It’s about the $189-million limit and the Yankees desire to cut payroll. Even in moments when that singular financial goal hasn’t been necessarily a factor, it’s still entered into the public conversation.

That’s why the general manager of the Yankees actually felt the need to say these words yesterday: “We’re not out of the multi-year market,” Cashman said. “We’re not out of thinking big, looking at something big.”

Thinking big and looking big. Those words have been said, but they haven’t been shown. And that’s the problem with the Yankees early moves this winter. It’s a problem of perception, not necessarily execution. Kuroda, Pettitte and Rivera are good and positive signings for this team, but they’ve done nothing to ease the overwhelming concern that the Yankees aren’t committed to being the powerhouse that’s defined them as a franchise.

Yesterday, as Cashman was wrapping up on that rooftop in Stamford, he addressed that speculation and criticism.

What follows are Cashman’s words:

[3]“Even if we do the $189, it’s still the highest payroll in baseball, period.

“If you follow the math and look at how things can unfold and come off the board, you can see how things can fit, regardless of that. We’ll be aggressive when we want to be, on the right circumstances, but it’s in our interests to be as flexible as possible for a lot of reasons. And that’s obviously a big one.

“We’re still capable of a lot. People should still be leery of us and afraid of us, as if we’re the stalking horse. And that’s good. I want them to think that. And if we can strike and pounce on something that makes a lot of sense, works for us, and fits a lot of the criteria … I’d say, just stay tuned. But rest assured, we are going to put out a product that most cities would say, ‘Man, I wish we could do that. I wish I could run that type of team out there.’ I don’t care how old it is or what, they’re going to wish they could run a team out there like we do on a yearly basis, and we’re thankful that our owners allow us to do that.

“I think getting a Kuroda and a Pettitte back is huge. And then we’ll be in a position shortly to officially announce Mariano Rivera, and I think that’s huge, along with what we have.

“But we have to do more. We have to do more, and even after we do whatever we do, we’ll still have to do more, because that’s the nature of the beast, because whatever we do is never going to work well enough. Whenever your winter program is done, you have to zig and zag and be prepared for the injuries and lack of performance like every team does. And we intend to be prepared for the short term and the long term.

“You’ve got to be the tortoise and the hare.”

(That’s when Cashman noticed the bit of his costume that was dangling in his face and added this)

“And the Rastafarian Santa.”

Associated Press photos