NEW YORK — With the New York Yankees locked into players at most positions, trades are a possibility.
"I think we're always trying to figure out ways to improve the club and sometimes it's not necessarily through the free-agent route," manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday. "It can be through trade routes, and we had some success in the trades that we made last year."
On a chilly, rainy morning, Girardi was thinking ahead to spring training and the pursuit of the team's first title since 2009.
"Obviously I like the guys on our club and I love how hard they played last year for us, but the goal is to win and to win a World Series," Girardi said. "I think when you talk about that, you've got to look at every avenue you can to improve your club."
Girardi was at Yankee Stadium to assist about 300 volunteers assembling United Service Organizations care packages for American servicemen and servicewomen. He echoed comments made by general manager Brian Cashman, who said he is willing to deal in order to improve a team that lost to Houston in the AL wild-card game.
"I don't have anybody who's untouchable. Some guys are more touchable than others, but I am legitimately really open to any idea," Cashman said at the general manager's meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.
Even closer Andrew Miller and the bullpen could be discussed in trade talk.
"Yes, that was the strength of our club," Girardi said. "Those guys pitched extremely well and were dominant, and if we had the lead after six innings we won ballgames, but if we feel that it will improve our club I'm sure we'll try to make a deal."
After wasting a seven-game AL East lead and faltering when first baseman Mark Teixeira broke a leg, New York finished six games behind Toronto — the largest blown lead in Yankees history. Girardi stressed the importance of an AL East title.
"I never said let's just get in," Girardi explained. "I really wanted to win our division because there's too many things that can go wrong in a one-game playoff. That's the problem."
Entering his ninth season as Yankees manager and the third season of $16 million, four-year contract, Girardi noted the importance of balancing his batting order.
"Obviously we had switch-hitters in the lineup," he said. "We lost a big one in Tex down the stretch and that was something that hurt us against left-handed pitching, but I think a right-handed bat can help."
New York's most obvious place to upgrade is second base, where switch-hitting Ben Zobrist and right-handed-hitting Howie Kendrick are available as free agents. Midsummer acquisition Dustin Ackley and rookies Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela are the top holdovers.
"We're just going to have to see how the roster shakes out," Girardi said. "I thought Ref did a pretty decent job at the end of the year for us, especially when he didn't play for 18 or 19 days which was really pretty amazing, so let's just see how the offseason goes and we'll go from there."
Girardi watched Alex Rodriguez's postseason performance as an analyst for Fox.
"I think he did a good job. It's not easy," he said. "The first time you do it is actually somewhat stressful. In an arena where he's usually comfortable, at a ballpark, it's a whole lot different when those lights go on and you're expected to say something that's insightful and not embarrass yourself."
Gary Sanchez, a 22-year-old top catching prospect for the Yankees, hit .304 with six homers and 17 RBIs through 16 games of the Arizona Fall League and was selected MVP of the league's annual Fall Stars Game. He went hitless in his first two major league at-bats during the final weekend of the regular season.
New York seems set at catcher with Brian McCann and backup John Ryan Murphy.
"The young man had a very good year," Girardi said. "He made a lot of improvements. He's played extremely well in the Fall League, off the charts, so it's something that we're going to look at."
Said Cashman: "There's no doubt that we're deep from the left-handed relief side. We're deep in the catching side," Cashman said. "The industry has recognized that."
Girardi said Masahiro Tanaka's arthroscopic surgery last month to remove a bone spur from his right elbow was a surprise.
"It really never came across my desk that he was having a lot of problems, so it wasn't what I expected at the end of the year," Girardi said. "I didn't go into the last week of the season saying I knew he needed surgery because I didn't."
Girardi spoke with CC, who left the team on the final day of the regular season and entered an alcohol rehabilitation center. After his discharge, Sabathia talked publicly last week about his experience.
"He sounds great. Obviously I'm proud of how he stepped up and went and got help," Girardi said. "He was pitching really well at the end of the season for us and, hopefully, this continues to help and he has a great season for us next year."