Is Cashman the problem or the solution?

For fear of becoming a homer (d'oh!)
Can the Yanks play .614 baseball?

In his most recent piece this afternoon, Peter Abraham dispelled what he feels are some myths about the Yankees’ current situation. Abraham feels like firing Cashman is a bad idea.

“The Yankees don’t have a lot of roster flexibility and Cashman has improved that to some degree. Firing him now could drop this team into a 10-year slump,” he wrote. Well, I disagree. In fact, I think many of the moves Cashman has made since supposedly taking full control of this team have led to this disastrous first two months.

Most notable from the last few months were the trades of Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson. The Yankees received few usable parts in return for these two players. Right now, Sheffield’s 10 home runs would put him second on the Yanks, and his .832 OPS is over .200 points higher than Abreu’s .613 OPS. The Yankees were a better team with Gary Sheffield and don’t have much to show for sending Detroit one of their missing pieces. I don’t miss Randy Johnson, but Luis Vizcaino, the only Major Leaguer in that deal, has been downright horrible.

Then, Cashman went out and threw $50 million at Kei Igawa when even his own scouts were telling him that Igawa would be, at best, a fifth starter in the Majors. Considering the Minor League pitchers in the Yankees’ system, this money could have been better spent just about anywhere else. The Yanks could have replaced Igawa with someone making just $380,000 this year. And that someone would probably have put up better numbers than Igawa.

He also re-upped with Mike Mussina for two years. The jury is out on that deal, but the early returns aren’t too promising.

Then, Cashman figured he could solve the first base hole by shoving Doug Mientkiewicz into it. Dougie’s .295 OBP is killing the team, and his defense just doesn’t make up for the number of outs – 98 in 133 plate appearances – he’s making at bat.

Finally, the Yankees’ bench is terribly weak. If Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez were to go down, Miguel Cairo would be the replacement. Wil Nieves, before this weekend, had been an unqualified disaster, and Melky Cabrera probably should have been traded last winter when his stock was at an all-time high. This is the weakest Yankee bench in years.

So I blame Cashman. While the team has been saddled with contracts that dole out millions of dollars to over-the-hill players (Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon), Cashman’s answer to this problem was to throw a pro-rated $28 million at Roger Clemens, an unnecessary piece considering the Yankees’ other problems right now.

I doubt the Yanks will fire Cashman. There are no real viable internal candidates right now, and the Yankee braintrust wouldn’t want to look outside for a mid-season replacement. So Cashman, the originator of this problem, will have to be the one to find a solution too. I can tell you this: Todd Helton ain’t the answer. Let’s see where he goes from there.

For fear of becoming a homer (d'oh!)
Can the Yanks play .614 baseball?
  • mg

    Cashman is definitely a major problem. He’s signed a number of deals that of their face seemed like a bad idea. The plan of stocking the minors with future stars is a sound one and the direction I’d like to see the team go in. I’m very sceptical about Cashman’s ability to lead that effort though. Trading quality veteran players for prospects who need TJ is not a good way to go about that.

    I’m not sure of specific names I’d like to see in his seat but I do know the mentality I’d like to see. I want a guy in the mold of Beane who is willing to recognize the value of not making outs. Stocking tons of good young arms is important but only if you’re also developing future star position players, which the team hasn’t been doing much of for years.

  • Ben

    This would never fly in New York but I do believe that De Podesta is still looking for a job. I think he’s working as a special assistant for the Pads.

  • Mike A.

    Cash isn’t part of the problem in my book, but too bad my opinion doesn’t matter. My biggest fear is that they can him, and bring in someone that does something like trade Hughes and Tabata for Dontrelle Willis. Oi, just the thought of that…

    DePo’s an idiot. I wouldn’t let him run my fantasy team, let alone my real team.

    Billy Beane’s strength is his ability to manipulate the current market and find value where no one else is looking. That’s what Moneyball was about, it wasn’t some preachy “OBP is the best” book.

  • Joseph P.

    We want Keith Law!

  • Jon

    Uh, I’m not so sure. I don’t know the exact details of the knowledge of Sanchez’s injury, but I’m assuming it was not known that he would need TJ surgery. Maybe Cashman didn’t do his due dilligence there – but either way this was not a horrible trade. Whelan and Clagget are doing pretty well and there’s a decent chance at least one of them will develop into a decent bullpen arm. Where was Sheffield going to play? If they traded Abreu instead, they’d get nothing in return.

    Anyway, when you’re evaluating GMs, I think you can look at it 2 ways: 1, based on results, and 2, based on what “should happen.” The Yankees have 4 hitters with OPSs .100 to .300 below their recent (past couple years) averages. That’s just absurd, and I don’t see how Cashman can be faulted.

    Let’s take an extreme example – say Cashman manages to trade Phelps for Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera comes over and hits .160 with 2 home runs. Is that a “bad trade”? Is Cashman at fault? The (relatively) poor performance of the offense is something that nobody could have predicted. You cannot fault Cashman for it, any more than you can give him credit for ARod’s April.

    Another example: Say I’m on 2nd with 2 outs. I steal third and am safe but replays show I’m out. Is that a good play because of the result? No, it’s an awful play, and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good (and in Cashman’s case, it’s worse to be unlucky than make stupid moves).

    The Yankees have just had the most miserable luck ever this season. With all the injuries to the rotation to the underperformance of the bullpen (no doubt affected by the replacement starters’ inability to get out of the 4th inning) and offense, it’s very little other than bad luck.

    The offense surely should be able to withstand a combined .700 OPS from 1B, especially given the improved defense (especially important with GB pitchers like Hughes and Wang). 1B is also a great position to have an offensive hole, as it’s a lot easier to upgrade there midseason. The pen looked to be the strongest its been in my memory. The rotation was weak at the bottom, but it was known that Hughes and possibly Clemens would be joining it.

    Ok, I’ll give you Igawa (but even that can be slightly justified when comparing his contract to that of other starters, when considering the “Japan effect” and the lack of luxury-tax payments on the posting fee).

    Anyway – bottom line – none of this could have been predicted. You can fault a GM for giving Juan Pierre $50 million, or trading Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez, but you can’t fault a guy for counting on hitters like Abreu, Cano, etc. that every single team in MLB would want starting for them.

  • Ben

    I’m not faulting Cashman for counting on guys like Abreu or Cano. All of his other moves are the ones with which I’m unhappy. Bad luck is bad luck. But counting on Miguel Cairo and Wil Nieves to provide viable options off the bench is foolish and failing to turn Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield into parts that could fill some Yankee holes isn’t a great reflection on his GM tenure either.

  • mg

    Cashman did know Sanchez needed TJ surgery, just to make that clear. He’s admitted as much.

  • mg

    Oh, and lets not forget depending on Pavano for this season. That alone is unforgivable.

  • Jon


    Right, but if Cano, Giambi, Abreu, and Damon were hitting even an aggregate 100 points below their expected OPS (still a huge difference) and only 1 starter instead of 6,000 went down with a hamstring tear, we’d be maybe 3 games out and wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    I agree that the bench is weak, but a backup IF isn’t the hardest thing to find. He knows that with their money, if Jeter goes down, he can acquire a hitter to replace him. Maybe that means getting a big-name 1B and letting Alberto Gonzalez (btw, a decent backup MI and useful piece from the Johnson trade) play SS – that’s what I meant by that it’s good to have a hole at 1st. Melky again – there you can fault the Yankees a little more because that level of play was not well-established. But still, especially considering his defense, I think every team in MLB would want him as a 4th OF.

    Pavano was NOT counted on. The Yankees expected to get a decent (read: 4.75 ERA) 4th and 5th starters between Pavano, Igawa, and Karstens, Rasner, Clippard, et al. They knew Hughes would be up at some point, and Clemens was a possibility. What could have been done with Pavano? Trade him and pay 90% of his remaning salary? They took a chance, and lost, but it was low risk. They’re paying him $20M for 2007-2008 with nothing to show for it instead of $17M for 2007-2008 with nothing to show for it. The upside was decent – a solid 4th starter at $1.5M a year? These are good risks to take.

    What could we reasonably have gotten in those trades? We got someone who should have been a quality bullpen arm in Vizcaino. We got good prospects. We really didn’t _need_ anything. We could have used a starter, but there’s no way you’re going to get a good one. Maybe we could have gotten a decent veteran backup middle infielder, but picking on Cashman for not doing that is kind of like saying Robert DeNiro is a bad actor because of Meet the Fockers, isn’t it?

    mg – not doubting you, but I don’t remember Cashman saying that (very possible that he did though) – do you have a source?

  • mg

    George King had a quote from Cash to that effect on April 20th in the following piece.

    I can’t find a free copy but here’s the relevant quote:

    “I knew there was a chance it needed to be fixed,” GM Brian Cashman said of Sanchez’s elbow at the time of the deal that also brought pitchers Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett. “But we looked at it long term and in 12 months we will have him back.”

  • Jon

    Cool, thanks. I agree that it should be looked at long-term. Also there’s a chance that Cashman is just covering for himself. And to be fair, wasn’t everyone super-excited that we were able to get a prospect the caliber of Sanchez? This just makes it more of a fair trade. Sheffield did not have any significant value at his salary.

    Also in defense of Cashman, how about the Jaret Wright deal?

  • Ben

    Also in defense of Cashman, how about the Jaret Wright deal?

    That depends upon who’s decided that Luis Vizcaino or Ron Villone are better options at the Major League level than Chris Britton.

  • Jeteupthemiddle

    Everyone was ecstatic about the haul that Cashman acquired for Sheffield because they were ecstatic about Abreu and knew that getting anything for Sheffield was great….to get highly ranked prospects was very, very good.

    Everyone was ecstatic when the Yankees traded Jaret Wright to the Orioles for Chris Britton (of course, everyone would prefer of Britton were on the team now as opposed to in Scranton).

    Most people were quite happy to get rid of Randy Johnson, his back, his knees, his age, his contract, his attitude, and his 5.00 ERA this offseason. Some thought the Yankees could get more, but in general, people were happy with Ohlendorf. (I also think it is unfair to judge trades about what they didn’t get. Maybe Montero wasn’t on the table. Maybe Jackson wasn’t on the table. We really have no idea, and we never will.).

    Everyone was very, very happy about Cashman’s major moves for the offseason (neglect of the bench duly noted), so it isn’t really fair to criticize Cashman for making the moves everyone was praising because the players aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing.

    No one could foresee the woes of so many players currently on the 25-man roster. It isn’t fair to expect Cashman to have been able to see them.

  • Jeteupthemiddle

    I also want to note, that I hate that Cashman’s job is being threatened. I am not sure if it is by the actual Yankees or simply media speculation, but it would be a sin to threaten the job of a man with a long term goal in mind.

    Cashman is clearly trying to sort out the roster for future seasons and has beyond 2007 in mind. If you start threatening him, then he may do something stupid to try and save his job (and the 2007 season) as opposed to keep his own goals in mind.

  • Jon

    Oh, Jackson was never ever on the table – I’m 99% certain of that. Personally I wasn’t that happy with the Johnson trade, but I was happy to get rid of him. I would have preferred Owings to Ohlendorf, but it’s really splitting hairs. Without including a ton of money, we were never going to get a top prospect for a Johnson who was already known to be missing the first month of the season.

    “Everyone was very, very happy about Cashman’s major moves for the offseason (neglect of the bench duly noted), so it isn’t really fair to criticize Cashman for making the moves everyone was praising because the players aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

    Thanks for saying in one simple paragraph what I’ve been blabbing on about for hours :)

  • Ben

    For the record, I was guardedly pessimistic about Cash’s trades over the off-season. I liked the Randy Johnson trade because we were able to get rid of the grumpy old man and gain some decent enough prospects. But I was worried about the Sheffield trade because it left a glaring offensive hole in our lineup. I’ve never been as high on Melky as others, and I thought that giving up Sheffield without getting something back at the Major League level was a risky gambit. So far, it hasn’t paid off.

  • Jon

    One other note – not sure if you guys are familiar with Baseball Prospectus’s weighted mean projections, but essentially they have percentile tiers of projections – for example, Jeter hitting .288/.351/.381 in 518 PA is the 10th percentile. Meaning roughly there’s a 10% chance he’ll perform worse than that, and 90% chance he’ll be better.

    Just quickly looking at Vizcaino, Abreu, and Cano, they are all performing significantly worse than their 10th percentile projections. The odds of those 3 doing that should be around .05 % – that is 1/20th of one percent. Now, of course, selectively picking those 3 players is extreme, and everyone must be considered (e.g., ARod is performing at about his 90th percentile rate, so in effect, unscientifically, his good play can “offset” Abreu’s poor play – not in its effect on the team, but in relation to what the player is “supposed” to be doing).

    The pitcher projections all take injuries into account too. My suspicion is if you look at all players (or maybe using the opening day 25 man roster would be more accurate), and multiply these percentiles together, you’d get an unfathomably low number – maybe something like a 1% chance of things being this bad.

  • Jon

    Ben – but where was Sheffield going to play? He wasn’t going to play 1B. Saying that you think he left a hole in the lineup implies that you thought either Giambi, Abreu, (or I guess Matsui) should be traded, or you thought that Giambi should be at first. I think only the latter is defensible (no put intended).

  • Ben

    I would have left Giambi at first. I know it wasn’t the popular decision, but that’s what I would have stuck with.

  • Jon

    I can’t really argue with that. I don’t know if I would have gone that way without the benefit of hindsight, but it’s certainly a reasonable option.

  • Jeteupthemiddle

    =====But I was worried about the Sheffield trade because it left a glaring offensive hole in our lineup.====

    That implies that Sheffield would have been on the team in 2007 if he wasn’t traded.

    If he wasn’t traded, he was going to be a free agent. The Abreu trade made that happen.

    As for keeping him on the team in 2008 to DH and keeping Giambi at first base, what is happening right now with Giambi is the reason that wasn’t plausible in the offseason.

    His defense wasn’t the only thing keeping Giambi out of the field. Giambi has a foot injury right now from simply DHing. Imagine if the Yankees had him pegged as a first baseman for 145 games this season?

    ====Thanks for saying in one simple paragraph what I’ve been blabbing on about for hours :)====

    Or in one run-on sentence. ;)

  • Ben

    That implies that Sheffield would have been on the team in 2007 if he wasn’t traded.

    If he wasn’t traded, he was going to be a free agent.

    Had Sheffield been a free agent, the Yanks wouldn’t have been able to trade him. They were concerned that he would become a free agent after 2007 and jump ship to Boston. Had the Yanks not traded Sheffield, he would have stayed in the Bronx in 2007.

  • Jeteupthemiddle

    No, the reason he wasn’t a free agent is because the Yankees picked up his option.

    The Yankees weren’t going to keep him on the team in 2007 (he had no where to play, and they weren’t going to listen to him bitch all season about his lack of contract as they certainly weren’t going to extend him).

    If they felt they couldn’t get anything in return for him, they were simply not going to exercise his option and he would be a free agent.

    They were concerned about him jumping ship to Boston [i]this[/i] season (this was the season the Sox had a hole in right field, not 2008) if he were a free agent.

    The choice for the Yankees were either Sanchez, Whalen, and Clagget, or nothing.

    Cashman certainly made the right decision. And considering the circumstances surrounding Sheffield, he definitely got the best available deal.

  • Ben

    Yeah. You’re right about the free agent thing. My bad.

    I’m still not convinced the Yanks did an adequate job filling the hole left by Gary Sheffield though. It’s a big drop from Sheffield to the disaster first base this year.

  • Rich

    Any fair evaluation of Cashman has to consider that he has only had true decision making power since Oct. 2005. He was against some of the stupid signings that the franchise has made over the years, but was overruled.

    He wanted to sign Vlad instead of Sheff, and Beltran instead of trading for RJ, but he was overruled. The roster would look a lot different if Cash had prevailed.

    Granted, the Igawa signing appears to have been a mistake, but it’s too early to fairly grade the Sheff and RJ trades, although he should have insisted on receiving more immediate help.

    He has only supervised one amateur draft during his tenure (last June’s), and the results were superb. He has done an amazing job of rebuilding the farm system, which is now one of the best in MLB.

    The problem is that if Cashman is fired, his successor is likely to be a sycophantic Steinbrenner crony. If, however, Stick, Beane, Ryan, or Schuerholz was hired as a fully empowered GM, fine, replace him.

    Cashman’s biggest failing is that he has been too supportive of Torre, who should have been fired at the end of last season, if not before.

    It’s time to fire Torre now.

  • Rich

    Jeteupthemiddle said:

    The choice for the Yankees were either Sanchez, Whalen, and Clagget, or nothing.

    Cash himself has said that he had five or six attractive offers for Sheff, but that he liked Detroit’s offer the best.

  • Travis G.

    I remember back when we signed Sheff instead of Vlad, I was royally pissed. a mid 30s malcontent vs. a late 20s strong, silent type.

    Rich, great post. i agree with everything you said. Cashman should NOT be fired. this poor season is due mostly to bad luck. even their pythagorean record is 26-23. NOBODY expected Cano, Abreu, Damon, Mo, ‘Caino and Moose to have SUCH poor years (and to have this many injuries). despite that, they’ve still scored 20 more runs than they’ve allowed.

    Cash Money has built the farm system into a powerhouse, and I only hope he doesn’t do something desperate to save his job like trade top prospects for Mark Teixeira or DTrain, especially when the team looks likely to miss the playoffs.

  • Trevor

    Firing Cashman would be a huge mistake. I envisioned this type a year right from spring training. The yankees need a year like this to get younger and build a future. Look at Boston, this exact thing happened to them last year. They got younger, and are flying high now. A down year is necessary to rebuilding. It is hard for yankee fans to except but in the long run this is how you build another dynasty. I am just worried that george could bring a new gm in and tell him to trade away the farm and the future. Cashman has done a hell of a job with restocking the farm.