Yankees GM Brian Cashman on payroll, needs for 2022

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NEW YORK -- The Yankees' payroll will increase in 2022, according to general manager Brian Cashman, who said that he senses "some latitude" from managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner to spend on an appealing free-agent crop. Now they must decide which big-ticket items to bring home.

Cashman spoke on various topics Tuesday at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., where decision-makers from all 30 Major League teams are huddling this week for the General Managers Meetings. The GM’s job description is to be "open-minded to anything and everything," he said, an axiom that holds true no matter where a team finished in last year's standings.

Untold amounts of words figure to be spilled upon Carlos Correa and Corey Seager as the top-notch shortstops embark upon the open market. Though Cashman did not specifically mention Correa or Seager by name, he reaffirmed that the Yankees are "obviously" looking at the shortstop market.

Cashman said that he has had two separate conversations with two representatives from the free-agent shortstop group, which also includes Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Javier Báez. A fallback option would be a one-year stopgap while the Yanks wait for top prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza to develop.

"That's what I'm going through, to see what's realistic and what's not realistic for the free agents -- what are their hopes and dreams, not just financial but in terms of landing spots and comfort zone for them and their families," Cashman said. "Price point clearly will come into play and then we'll deal with what's available on the trade front. We're just trying to get more information so we can try to strategize better over the coming weeks."

Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility before potentially becoming a free agent in 2023, Aaron Judge recently said that he hopes to continue wearing Yankees pinstripes for the rest of his career. Cashman acknowledged that the team plans to discuss dollars with Judge, who earned $10.175 million this past season.

"All in due time," Cashman said. "We'll clearly have to have a conversation with Aaron Judge and his agent, whether it's on a one-year arbitration or whether it's on a multiyear [extension]. Obviously we have other players in the arbitration arena, so we'll just have to work through it all."

Cashman said that he expects payroll will rise because the Yankees achieved their objective of resetting the Competitive Balance Tax this past season.

With Anthony Rizzo having reached free agency, the Yanks' internal candidate at first base is Luke Voit, whose injury issues prompted Rizzo's acquisition from the Cubs in late July. Cashman said that he had one conversation with Rizzo's agent, Marc Pollack, expressing the possibility of a Rizzo return.

"He obviously was really good for us on the offensive side, the defensive side and the leadership side," Cashman said. "He brings a lot of good things to the table. Now he's in the open market as a free agent, so I'm hearing a lot of people talking to them. And so I've had one conversation with the agent. I know he liked it here. I know we liked having him here, but nothing's gone past that."

MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported on Tuesday that the Yankees are among the clubs with interest in trading for Athletics first baseman Matt Olson. Cashman added that he would prefer not to utilize DJ LeMahieu as an everyday first baseman, even though he is capable of playing there.

Cashman indicated that he considers center field to be one of the Yankees' weaknesses entering the 2022 season, reflecting their uncertainty after injuries have limited Aaron Hicks to 145 games over the past three seasons. Hicks is said to be close to a full recovery from left wrist surgery and expressing a desire to play winter ball, but the Yanks' depth behind him is thin.

"He very well might be our starting center fielder, but I'm going to be open-minded and evaluate all opportunities," Cashman said. "We just want to make sure we put the best team out there, so no guarantees right now for anybody. … We just don't have a pure center fielder at this point with the unknown of Aaron Hicks not playing for a while."

The Yankees enter the offseason seeking upgrades over the current catching tandem of Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka. There once again figures to be an internal debate concerning the future of Sánchez, who is in line for a raise over his $6.35 million salary from this past season. A potential trade or non-tender decision is in play.

“I think we have catching, but if there's options and opportunities that make sense, we'll evaluate that marketplace," Cashman said. "We feel comfortable with the catching we have. I can't predict when we add somebody different in that spot. The answer to that could be yes in a lot of different positions, depending on how discussions go this winter."

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