Cashman knew he could not get another player as good as Cano. However, he was confident he could deepen the lineup and put the Yankees in position to contend for the American League East.
In the span of a few days, he has re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and added Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and now Beltran. All in all, a nice week of work.
To stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, he may not be able to sign Omar Infante to play second base.
But he's definitely got the money to sign another starting pitcher. Ervin Santana? Yes, that would be a nice option. Matt Garza? Yep, him, too.
Are the Yankees again the American League East favorites? That's not a rhetorical question.
The Red Sox are going to be the consensus favorites again because their starting rotation is better and because they've re-signed Mike Napoli and added A.J. Pierzynski.
But there's not another AL East team better than the Yankees, and that's a remarkable thing to say after Cano's departure and the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.
On the other hand, they were going to be an unknown quantity with or without Cano. Until we know what CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are capable of, we're not going to know how good the Yankees are going to be.
There's also that whole third-base thing. If Alex Rodriguez is gone, who'll play there? On the other hand, if A-Rod is in the lineup on Opening Day, is he still capable of being a productive player?
None of this is meant to diminish Cano's departure. He's a terrific player, probably one of the five best in the American League. To lose him stings both the Yankee lineup and the Yankee ego.
Now, though, the lineup is decent, at least it'll be decent if Teixeira and Jeter are still productive.
Now it's all about the rotation. With Ivan Nova and Kuroda in the fold, with Sabathia trying to figure out how to get by with less velocity, Cashman needs at least one proven, productive starting pitcher.
Cashman might prefer Masahiro Tanaka, but might not be willing to wait on him as free agents fly off the board.
One thing we know about the Yankees -- expectations won't change. That's just the way it is.
Last spring when players were getting hurt almost by the hour, Cashman and manager Joe Girardi never wavered in the bottom line.
"I was raised by The Boss," Cashman said, meaning the late George Steinbrenner. "And there are no excuses."
The Yankees desperately need to get the player development pipeline flowing again because free agency is becoming a tough -- and costly -- way to do business. The Yankees are being forced back into free agency because they've had trouble developing their own.
But as Cashman said last spring, there are no excuses. Their commitment is to the bottom line. Even without Cano, they still might end up playing October baseball in 2014.