That question – Did Yanks GM Brian Cashman ax what would have been a done deal? – is what Bill Madden ponders in The Daily News today. The answer could come back to haunt the Yankees or it could open up the door to a new era of sense and sensibility in Yankeeland.
According to Madden, the Yanks walked away from a 4-for-1 deal that would have netted them Santana: Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, Jeff Marquez and Mitch Hilligoss to the Twins for the lefty. But it wasn’t the talent on which the Yanks were overly concerned. While Cashman was loathe to trade Hughes, the GM was more concerned with the money.
The Yankees concerned with money? What’s this world coming to? Well, here’s Madden’s take:
Once Andy Pettitte announced he was returning to the fold for $16 million, it meant the Yankees had committed $408.4 million this winter to retain six players. The acquisition of Santana would have meant tacking on another $125 million to that figure, and Cashman, who never wanted to do the Santana deal in the first place, blanched at the prospect of adding another $20 million to a payroll that was already on the cusp of $200 million, again. In this respect, the timing of Pettitte’s decision to return – while initially seen as giving the Yankees additional leverage in their dealings with the Twins on Santana – actually gave Cashman the “out” he needed…
Bad as it was to be sacrificing Hughes, Cashman told the Yankee high command, look at what the payroll was going to be now if they added $20 million-$21 million for Santana on top of the $16 million they just tacked on with Pettitte…In the end, Cashman prevailed, convincing Hank and Hal Steinbrenner of something he could never have done with their dad – that trading for Johan Santana was simply too expensive for the New York Yankees.
Madden notes that many of the Yanks’ bad contracts – Pavano, Giambi – are responsible for the currently inflated Yankee payroll. One season of an expensive Santana before those two albatrosses fly away wouldn’t have been the worst thing to happen to the Yanks.
But Brian Cashman has spent the last few years developing the Yankee farm system; he wasn’t quite yet ready to give it away. Cashman, whose contract expires this year, is clearly staking his future on this non-trade. If Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy develop, if Melky remains a viable option in center field, if the Yankees make the playoffs and win, he’ll look smart. Otherwise, he and all other Yankee fans will look back at this deal – a deal that the Yanks, as Tim Marchman so succinctly put it yesterday, probably should have made – and wonder what could have been.