The general managers’ meetings have wrapped up and the Yankees are in the same spot they were in when the offseason began: They need a starting shortstop and are in the market for a center fielder, starting pitcher and — perhaps — a catcher.
What was learned about the Yankees during the meetings, which didn’t result in a lot of action, was that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has given GM Brian Cashman the OK to go above the luxury tax threshold, whatever it turns out to be after the owners and players negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, following what’s expected to be a lockout starting on Dec. 2.
Cashman noted the Yankees “don’t have a lot of stuff coming off [payroll], so obviously I’ll have some latitude.”
Just how much latitude remains to be seen, especially since it’s unknown what the new limit will be after the number for 2021 was set at $ 210 million — and the Yankees stayed under that ceiling.
But agents and opposing executives left the meetings confident the Yankees were prepared to make their presence felt after a sluggish offseason a year ago, during which they brought back DJ LeMahieu, signed Corey Kluber and didn’t do much else.
There’s clearly more urgency this time around, with work to be done even before the CBA is set to expire in less than three weeks.
By Wednesday, they’ll know if Justin Verlander will be a free agent or if he’ll remain with the Astros by taking their $ 18.4 million qualifying offer.
The fact Verlander threw well in a showcase at the facility of Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ director of player health and performance, last week has led many to believe the right-hander, 38, will reject the qualifying offer and hit the free-agent market for the first time.
If he goes that route, the Yankees are expected to be serious contenders for Verlander’s services, believing he is not nearly the risk after Tommy John surgery that Kluber was after shoulder surgery.
That’s despite the fact Verlander pitched just six innings in 2020 before being shut down with the elbow injury.
Should the Yankees choose to spend heavily, it will open the possibility of adding a starting pitcher such as Verlander, as well as the shortstop they crave. The market for the top two shortstops available, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, is still developing.
Cashman said center field was again an area of note — something he also threw in following the end of the season — so Starling Marte would figure to be a consideration.
“We’ll see what they do,’’ said one agent who doesn’t represent any of the aforementioned players. “But usually, when the Yankees seem poised to make some noise, that’s what they do.”
Before they get to that, though, they’ll have to protect at least a handful of prospects from the Rule 5 draft by November 19, a list that figures to include catcher Josh Breaux, infielder Oswaldo Cabrera, outfielder Everson Pereira and pitcher Randy Vasquez — and perhaps more.
And because their 40-man roster is full, they’ll have to make some moves before then.