Cashman said that he has been conducting conversations with clubs and agents that have not led to anything, including several this weekend, and he said that finding trade matches has proven "incredibly impossible."
An initial survey of the Winter Meetings landscape, complete with the hotel's towering holiday tree and its faux array of presents, wasn't doing much to raise Cashman's level of optimism.
"This isn't the old seat-of-the-pants, get drunk in the lobby and write names on the napkin," Cashman said. "People don't conduct business that way anymore. They just don't."
The Yankees' priorities haven't changed; they would still love to find a way to upgrade their pitching behind ace CC Sabathia, even though they've reached agreement with Freddy Garcia to rejoin a crop of starters that also includes Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Hector Noesi.
While the Yankees aren't expected to be in play for left-hander C.J. Wilson, believing his price to be prohibitive, rumors have swirled about the Yankees' interest in White Sox left-hander John Danks -- with little movement.
Their attachment to free-agents Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt has been cursory at best, and Cashman said that Japanese hurler Yu Darvish's situation has not impacted his winter in the least. Are there other options, or could prices come down? That's what Cashman hopes to investigate.
"I'm here to try to reinforce our starting pitching if we can," Cashman said. "But if we don't do anything, I'll feel good that we passed on making mistakes rather than we passed on making ourselves better."
Cashman has not balked as prospective trade partners have requested the club's top talents, with catcher/designated-hitter Jesus Montero, left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Dellin Betances among them. Teams have also asked about Nova, Brett Gardner, Hughes, Noesi, and David Robertson, according to the GM.
"The ones that people don't ask me about are [Robinson] Cano and [Curtis] Granderson," Cashman said. "Outside of that, I've had basically hits on everybody else. All those guys are either future high performers or currently high performers, they're under control and they're cheap. It's, 'Hey, take my older, expensive, over-the-hill guy for your young, better-performing guy.' I'm like, 'Let me think about that and get back to you.'"
There are familiar faces on the Yankees' radar, though they are taking a back seat to the starting pitching situation. New York has interest in retaining free-agent infielder Eric Chavez, outfielder Andruw Jones and right-hander Bartolo Colon, but very little has been accomplished there.
"Those players helped us and they would be in the category of, 'Yeah, we have interest in them,'" Cashman said. "But the focus on the front of the winter has mostly been on higher-end type things, so that we can reinforce our pitching."
They also have a left-handed reliever on their wish list, with the idea of complementing Boone Logan, but Cashman considers it a luxury and said that they are not currently in pursuit of anyone for that spot.
"If anybody tells you that we're focused on any left-handed reliever, they're lying," Cashman said.
It all played as a considerably low-key opening act, and somewhat of a departure from Cashman's last few Winter Meetings, which promised more action and headlines.
In '08, he ducked out of Las Vegas to clandestinely chase Sabathia, and in '09, the Yankees helped pull off a three-team trade with the D-backs and Tigers to import Granderson while also re-signing Andy Pettitte.
Last year, Cashman was kept plenty busy, signing Derek Jeter and pursuing Cliff Lee, and things could always change in a hurry. But as he headed for an elevator on Monday afternoon, Cashman planned to schedule his normal meetings but expressed no hope of making it to the press-conference podium before checkout time.
"Obviously, if we do something, I want it to be something we feel really good about," Cashman said. "I'm not going to do something just to do something because that's what you do at this time of year."