Brian Cashman addresses Yankees’ skid, trade deadline plans: ‘We definitely have areas to improve upon’

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With the MLB draft starting on Sunday, Brian Cashman already had plans to be at the Yankees’ player development complex in Tampa this week. But with the team flailing for the third straight summer, Cashman chose to make his presence known at Tropicana Field before the Yankees’ series opener against the Rays on Tuesday.

“It’s been a struggle obviously,” Cashman said with the Yankees on a 6-16 skid. “Thankfully, we got out of the gates really strong, so hopefully that cushion will allow us to work through this, hopefully sooner than later because it’s gone on long enough.”

As Cashman alluded to, the Yankees started the year with a 49-21 record. As bad as they’ve been lately, they still had a 55-37, second-place record prior to Tuesday’s game.

Asked if he was worried about the Yankees’ prolonged poor performance — which has been plagued by putrid pitching, offensive droughts and careless play — the executive said, “I’m always concerned. It’s my job to be in a position to never assume anything.”

Cashman also expressed faith in manager Aaron Boone, who has started to come under fire from the public.

“Obviously, he works extremely hard,” Cashman said. “He’s very well connected with these guys. And he’s charged every day with pushing the right buttons the best he can with what he’s got. I think he’s navigating that as well as he possibly can.”

Cashman added he doesn’t feel a need to address the team. While he’s done it on “rare occasions” in the past, he’ll leave that to Boone, coaches and players.

The GM also discussed the Yankees’ plans with the trade deadline coming up. In unsurprising fashion, he did so with little detail.

“We’re gonna be open-minded to a lot of different things,” Cashman said. “I’m not going to point out anything specific, but we definitely have areas to improve upon, and we’ll do our best to do so.

“My deadline plan is to see if we can run into as much that can improve our team as possible.”

While Cashman wouldn’t say so, the bullpen is an obvious need, as the group has lacked power arms and strikeout stuff all season.

Third base should also be a priority with DJ LeMahieu looking like a shell of his former self, but Cashman said “we’re trying to get him going.” He spoke of second baseman Gleyber Torres, another scuffling infielder, in a similar way.

Asked about first base, Cashman said he’s been impressed with Ben Rice, echoing sentiments throughout the organization. However, Cashman stopped short of committing to the rookie for the rest of the season.

“In terms of the future and how things all play out as the season turns, it’s all to be determined,” Cashman said. “But he’s doing a great job for us right now.”

The Yankees have a few players who are relatively close to returning from injuries, including Giancarlo Stanton, Jon Berti and Scott Effross. However, Cashman said that such players will not impact the team’s deadline plans.

A limited market could, though.

While there are a few obvious sellers like the Marlins and White Sox, most teams are still considered in the playoff chase. That means the pickings could be slim for a large group of suitors before the July 30 deadline.

“There’s a lot of teams that are in contention,” Cashman said. “That can stagnate conversations. It makes it a little more difficult. If there’s a lot more pure sellers, there’d be a lot more inventory to be buying.

“But that’s gonna be the same for everybody.”

Whether the Yankees are able to make significant upgrades or not over the next few weeks, the team has to start improving on the field.

Their strong start to the season has softened the recent blows, but Cashman knows that doesn’t excuse the way things have gone lately.

“It was a tidal wave of success here for the first two months,” he said. “We’ve hit a really rough patch for an extended period of time. Ultimately, it all comes together with what our current record is, but we gotta be playing better than we currently are right now as an entire unit. Hopefully, you don’t have to ask as many questions as we move forward because we’ve solved that winning category. But right now, we haven’t.”