Heyman ranks Cashman as game’s fifth best GM

Hank: NFL steroid problem worse
How many starts will they make?

In a fairly uncreative piece ranking the game’s General Managers, Jon Heyman at Sports Illustrated pegged Brian Cashman at baseball’s number five GM.

5. Brian Cashman, Yankees. Three rings in his first four years are something of a memory, though 10 straight postseason appearances and the ability to last in that pressure cooker aren’t bad accomplishments, either. The negative is one bad free-agent pitching pickup after another, leading to the new strategy to spend on youth and to go with youth. So far he’s spent on the right young guys, and that’s a big plus.

If Heyman’s talking about Carl Pavano as a bad free agent pick-up, let me again say hindsight is 20-20. Carl Pavano was a hotly-pursued pitcher, and no one knew he would make 19 starts over three seasons.

Meanwhile, for a number five ranked GM, Cashman doesn’t seem to garner much praise from Heyman. This guy’s put together a team that hasn’t missed the playoffs during his tenure. Despite some skeptical bloggers, Cashman is the guy who should be helming this team.

I’m not so keen on his choices as Theo Epstein and Billy Beane as numbers 1 and 2. Epstein can rest on the laurels of the Josh Beckett trade, a deal made when he wasn’t the General Manager, and the jury is still out on their $102-million import.

But with Epstein, it comes back to the same criticisms as Cashman should face. A lot of big-ticket free agent moves haven’t worked out. Anyone remember Edgar Renteria or Matt Clement? And had the Sox not gotten hot in October last year, Epstein wouldn’t be on the top of this list. Remember how the Sox had squandered a 14-game lead? That’s the team Epstein put together as well.

I’d rather see these lists headed up by guys who have put together winning teams with budgetary constraints. Again, with Cashman, Epstein can rest on his money. The Red Sox were, after all, the most expensive team to ever win a World Series (and, yes, Boston fans, the Yanks were the most expensive team to ever lose in the first round of the playoffs). But I’d have to go with the Indians’ Mark Shapiro as the game’s top GM.

As Heyman wrote, “He does more with less and should have made the playoffs two out of three years, despite decided dollar disadvantage in the increasingly tough AL Central.” Imagine what Shapiro could do with the payroll of the Red Sox, Yankees or Tigers. It’s not much of a competition.

Hank: NFL steroid problem worse
How many starts will they make?
  • Rich

    I agree with your point that any ranking system that doesn’t control for budgetary constraints is problematic. With that in mind, I think Terry Ryan did a very good job with the Twins, relying on a productive farm system, smart trades, and an important Rule 5 pick up.

    • Rich

      Edit: I forgot that Ryan traded for Santana after the Marlins got him through the Rule 5 draft.

      My bad.

      • Ed

        The Twins paid the Marlins to pick Santana for them and had the trade already worked out in advance. They knew the Marlins didn’t want him, but were afraid someone that picked in between them did.

        So technically the Twins didn’t pick him in the draft, but they essentially did.

  • Steve

    i dont know how you can say Epstein squandered a 14 game lead when they did win the division. and he shouldn’t be at the top of the list but right now he should be in the top three. the guy has put together two very distinct teams in four years that won the world series. And you cant say if he hadnt won the world series this year, thats not being fair.

    And I know we have had this argument before but Cash has to be evaluated based on how his moves worked out not the thought process at the time. Just because Pavano was a hot commodity at the time doesnt mean that Cashman gets a pass on the outcome. Same thing goes for Jaret Wright, for Kei Igawa, for Jeff Weaver, for Kevin Brown, for Steve Karsay, for Kyle Farnsworth, etc….

    And thats not to say Cash did a bad job. Of course Theo got lucky but when you win you get some credit for your luck. Cash has made some good moves in the last couple of years. Making the the Sheffield and Randy moves last year were very good. The Bobby Abreu deal has been very good.

    But bringing up the Clement/Renteria deals to knock Epstein down is hollow when the guy has a world series ring and a stellar rotation despite those moves. Not to mention neither of them are on the team and Renteria turned into Coco Crisp, who isnt spectacular but has been a good player for the Sox.

    • steve (different one)

      right, but you are ignoring Ben’s point that Theo did NOT make the Beckett trade. how are the 2007 Sox without Beckett?

      don’t get me wrong, i think Theo is a good GM. better than most.

      but if Cashman “quit” for a few weeks after last season and the interim GM traded for Santana before Cashman returned, you can bet every single article about Cashman would be sure to mention that fact.

      • Steve

        I think the consensus is that Theo was still running the show at the time the trade was made. But I really dont want to get into that debate. Its the same thing as the “Cashman was in control _______” debate. Right now we have to eat some humble pie when it comes to the Red Sox and their GM. The guy did just win his second world series as a GM.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          I’m perfectly willing to give Epstein credit for putting together a great team, but everyone who criticizes Cashman for winning because of the money should level the same charge at Epstein. He has room in his payroll to sign Matt Clement and Edgar Renteria and Joel Pineiro and trade for Eric Gagne just like Cash can afford the Pavano’s and Wright’s and Farnsworth’s of the world. The guys who really excel are the ones who do so with strict financial constraints.

        • Steve

          Agreed, the money argument for Mets and Red Sox fans have been out the window for a long time.

          All that being said, I am concerned that Cashman recently feels like he wears this payroll like a Scarlett Letter. I dont think he has anything to be embarrassed about. The Yankees are subsidizing half the league, they should continue to spend as much as they can. Its one thing when you say I dont think Phil Hughes and $150M for a 29 year old pitcher is a sound investment. Its a problem when you say flat out $150M is too much for a pitcher. Considering the amount of money you have doled out in the last three years. Part of Cashman’s job is to build a consistent winner, but he also has has the burden to win now. And in his defense he might not be here if he takes a third place finish like Theo did in 06. So I understand the difficult position he is in and he should be pretty high on that list, but it doesnt mean he is beyond reproach.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      “And I know we have had this argument before but Cash has to be evaluated based on how his moves worked out not the thought process at the time.”

      I’m sorry, that’s plain wrong. No one has a crystal ball. You have to make the moves that make sense at the time. If you want to bust him for his strategy at the time, go ahead. But he should not be judged by applying hindsight, especially in an unpredictable setting like baseball.

      • Steve

        I completely disagree. Nothing in life is guaranteed except for taxes and death and as much as this is fun for us, Brian Cashman gets paid. And once he gets paid then he becomes accountable for what moves work out and which ones do not work out. It may be unfair but thats life. Im sure every GM in baseball can give you a cogent argument for why he gave out a contract (except for the Juan Pierre deal) or made a trade (except for Duquette in the Scott Kazmir deal). If we evaluate based on the thought process before the move then no one would ever be accountable for mistakes. Just like this Johan debate, there is a completely valid argument to be made for either trading Phil Hughes and keeping Phil Hughes. If Phil Hughes bombs and Johan dominates for even the next four years, then Cashman inst off the hood because people on this website or Keith Law supported that decision. And you have to distinguish what Im saying, its okay for Cashman to be wrong every once and a while, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was wrong. And that means he leaves himself open to criticism.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          In my opinion, you’re comparing apples to oranges. We recognize that the Phil Hughes/Johan Santana move is a calculated gamble that could be come back to haunt the Yanks. But at the same time, it’s part of the strategy. Right now, the strategy says to avoid giving up young arms for older arms that require a very large investment. If it backfires, then it backfires, and you’re stuck criticizing the move the same way people now criticize Pavano. If you disagree with the Yanks’ strategy, that’s one thing, but evaluating moves in hindsight is a tricky business.

          But criticizing Cashman because Carl Pavano wimped out on his contract is a different set of complaints. It was a flawed signing at the time because Pavano didn’t really project to be worth $10 mil a year. Maybe he should have landed an $8-million-a-year deal. No one knew he would get this injured, and Brian Cashman isn’t responsible for that.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

          I don’t get the “it’s unfair, but that’s life” line. If it’s not fair, why do we do it?

          I frankly don’t care that some people want to judge everything on hindsight. That’s their deal. What we’re trying to do on RAB is to open up real discussion. And what I’m saying is that every GM in the game should be evaluated based on their strategy and how they executed said strategy.

          It’s easy to get caught up in the media hoopla of bashing a GM. Hell, people were ranking Dan O’Dowd as a bottom 5 GM before last season, me included. But he had a strategy, and it paid off huge. I was wrong in evaluating him based on what worked to that point and what didn’t. Thankfully, his plan did work out before someone fired him.

          Evaluating someone in hindsight is the easy way to do things, and oftentimes the wrong way. The essence of the issue is in the strategy. And I don’t care if that’s how other people evaluate GMs. I care that it’s how GMs should be evaluated, and thus how I will evaluate them.

          • Steve S

            I dont think Im out of line when I say that were a results oriented society. And thats not even taking into account the fact that this a NY team. Strategy is only as good as your results. Cashman has his legacy and job now because of the results he produced in the late 90’s. Its fine that he is implementing a strategy and I agree with his strategy, it doesnt mean that the results may bear out that Cashman was dead wrong and that he is responsible for that.

            And Im not judging things purely on hindsight. I understood the Pavano move at the time (and not the popular he was an ace). Im sure Brian knew that he wasnt an ace, that he was a pitch to contact guy who he thought could log a lot of innings, since he was entering his age 28 year and had a history of injuries but not as much mileage on his arm. And I understand the thought process that Pavano and Wright were younger and theoretically going to be remedy the biggest problem from 2004, the frailty of an aging rotation that broke down at the worst possible moment AND put an awful burden on the bullpen for its lack of innings. HOWEVER, even at the time everyone knew the risk inherent in Pavano. The only reason he got so much was because of the lack of quality starting pitching in the free agent market. And Pavano bore out that quality starting pitching in the free agent market is nothing but a term of art, without any objective meaning. However, trading for starting pitching can be fruitful, as Omar Minaya proved by Maine and Perez and Theo proved by Beckett. And it can also be dangerous as Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Javier Vazquez proved.

            Now Cashman has adopted a strategy. The strategy seems great but its only as good as how much success it produces.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

              It seems we’re closer in opinion than I originally thought. However, consider this:

              What would you say about this aborted Santana trade if Hughes gets injured in 2009? Would you blame Cash in that case? Or would you say “Damn, well, that coulda happened to Santana, too, so we’re not going to kill Cashman over this one.”?

              • Steve S

                I think we need to clarify something here. I dont feel as though Cashman should get fired for this Santana/Hughes proposition. But I do acknowledge that Cash should get heat if it doesn’t pan out and that means injuries too. I know injuries are unpredictable but as weird as it sounds, the unpredictability of injuries is predictable. And Cashman gets paid to make the right prediction, not to have the best thought process in making the prediction/gamble.

  • Tripp

    Steinbrenner brought in some guys without Cashman’s approval as well. There’s always a couple of GMs for the Yankees.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    This is a tough one. Shapiro’s done a very good job considering that the bulk of that team was acquired through trades (Sizemore, Hafner, Asdrubal, Betancourt, etc).

    Kevin Towers is perpetually under-rated. He’s the master of the bargain pickup, especially in the bullpen. Taking advantage of the team’s park isn’t a bad thing.

    • http://yanksfansoxfan.typepad.com/ysfs/ Nick-YF

      I’m also a big fan of Kevin Towers, who does an excellent job each year building a bullpen–one of the hardest things to do.

      My sense is that, as Yanks fans, we’ve been relatively lucky that Cashman is the general manager. Is he perfect? No. But he has been able to navigate within a very challenging management structure. And he’s managed to steer the team–run very much by owners who are tempted to go for short-term results–toward a long-term strategy. I’m not sure there are many general managers who could be as politically adept as he has been.

  • http://www.samiamsports.blogspot.com samiamsports

    First of all its not fair to rank gm’s. like previosly stated GMs with more money to spend have more margin for error and teams with lesser of a market its vice versa. So this whole ranking thing is just a bunch of B.S.

    Ben, the only bone I have to pick with you on this post is your comments about the pavano signing. Ive heard the whole hindsight is always 20 20 line way to many times in regard to this specefic signing, and to be honest with you im sick of it.
    Look at pavanos numbers when the signed him http://www.baseball-reference.com/p/pavanca01.shtml
    they are non too impressive. He always gave up more hits than innings pitched he was a career 500 pitcher his walk to stikeout ratio wasnt anything to write home about. I know many teams (red sox included) were hot in persuit after him. But at the time You dont have to beleive me if you dont want to but I was SCREAMING to “STAY AWAY FROM THIS GUY” To be honest with you I dont know what everybody saw in this guy. maybe it was his performance at the stadium in the 03 series that earned him his Contract but i was pissed the day they signed him and my stance has obviosly not changed. Oh btw that very same off season Your boy Cashman threw money at a career injured Jaret Wrong i meen wright. who came off his first consistent year since being a flamethrowing hot head with the tribe. I dont know why you guys love Cash so much . Although every now and then he doese do good things with the farm but to every good thing i can count 3 bad. You can tell me till you turn blue that allot of these moves that im refering to were orcastrated by george but there is know way to prove that. I guess we are going to have to disagree on the cashman is the man for the job issue. but otherwise i love your site and keep it up

  • daneptizl

    Question to all of those that don’t like the use of “it was a good idea at the time”: You would still call the GM a failure if he assembled a true all star team and they never won the WS right? If that’s a no, there’s no way you guys can make that statement. Just trying to clear something up for myself.

  • http://skyking162.com Sky

    I agree with the Mark Shapiro nod as best GM, although Dombrowski wouldn’t be bad, either. Towers, Beane, Ryan, Byrnes, and Friedman would come next. Definitely not Minaya or Gillick.

    Regarding, Theo/Cashman, Theo’s done a better job with money than Cashman has, but has yet to really impress me. Remember, the Yankees do spend way more than the Sox. In fact, if you assume that free agents currently cost about $4.5 million per win, Cashman has consistently underperformed expectations based on payroll. My guess is that both GMs will look better as their newly stocked farm systems start to make an impact. The other thing against Cashman is we don’t know how much of a puppet he’s been for Steinbrenner. That’s a battle in itself.

    Regarding the Beckett for Hanley trade, how is that not a win for the Marlins? Hanley’s been better over the past two seasons and makes way less money. The Sox with Hanley would have won more total games in 2006 and 2007. I know, World Series, but that’s not how the trade should be judged.

    • Bo

      Trades shouldnt be judged by Series titles? Are you mental? That’s why they play the game!

      The Beckett deal was one of the best of all time. Ramirez could make the Hall of Fame and it wouldnt matter. Anytime you get an ace, you win.

  • Bo

    Only one GM deserves praise. Thats Epstein because he won the Series last yr.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      That is such a short-sighted view of the game. And it’s basically wrong. You don’t judge a GM’s tenure based on what happens in 12 games in October. The real trick is getting there, and once a team is there, the GM doesn’t have much control over the outcome in a short series.

    • http://skyking162.com Sky

      Bo, what if the Sox had traded Hanley for my grandmother and proceeded to win the World Series. Is that a good deal? (Ignore the fact that Gran makes fantastic pies.)

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

        It really depends on what kind of pies we’re talking about here, Sky.

  • http://skyking162.com Sky

    Pavano was a bad signing. No, the two years lost to injury weren’t expected, but you just don’t give huge money to a pitcher based on one good season, even if other teams were hotly pursuing him. If healthy, he’s probably a 4.50 to 4.75 ERA guy. The Jaret Wright signing was a similar mistake based on one rebound season.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Right. I should qualify that: The Carl Pavano signing was bad at the time because of the duration and cost of signing a pitcher with a limited track record. It wasn’t a bad signing because he’s only made 19 starts. At the time, no one expected him to utterly break down; we simply expected him to be rather unimpressive as a 3 or 4 starter.

      So yes, bad signing but not for the reasons many Yankee fans and Cashman-haters say.

  • mustang

    I totally agree with “Steve” he broke down right. I’m actually surpise I was expecting RAB normal Brian ” Dollar Bill” Cashman (Mike A. did i spell it right) is the greatest GM to ever live posting. But what RAB missed ” Steve” corrected.

    • D

      Am I the only person who’s noticed that your average Cashman basher brings little evidence to the table outside of broad generalizations and shallow, hindsight-related complaints?

      • Steve S

        Im sorry what kind of depth do you want? Its not about Cashman bashing, its about providing an objective analysis of what he has done. We can qualify Carl Pavano all we want but in the end Brian Cashman has made some attempts to fix the pitching on this team but he has failed. Some of the moves were ill conceived and some of them were well thought out but in the end the majority of them failed. And in the end he is evaluated based on his results. His results are that he has maintained this team and kept them at 90 wins or more and in the playoffs. Which is fantastic, but with his resources he has made some significant mistakes.

        It goes back to Mike Mussina who you could argue was brought here to be an ace but never actually became that. He was a good pitcher for his original contract. But he was never even the best pitcher on this staff in any of the years he was here? I dont think so. Now would I evaluate that as a failure for Brian Cashman? NO. But at the time he offered the contract and the money his “strategy and thought process” was that he was getting an ace to lead the rotation over the next six years. Now of course Brian doesn’t get criticized for the move, but thats because the results were successful, but did not match up with what his strategy was when he signed Mussina.

        And this is the inherent problem with Brian Cashman, he has had in essence the pick of the litter for the last decade. The guy has had no limits in improving this team through free agency and some financially motivated trades. He has done a good job but he has failed when it comes to improving both the rotation and the bullpen. And the strategy is great but ultimately its the results that dictate how you are perceived. You can call it hindsight, or you can be honest and call it reality.

  • toby k.

    I definitely think that Brian Cashman is a Top 10 GM, but it seems difficult to rate him higher or lower than some others due to the severity of ownership in New York. Only they know which decisions were made by Cashman himself, and which were pressured by ownership. I’m sure that Cashman has made his fair share of mistakes, but does it not move him up on this list now that he has realized those mistakes and is attempting to build from within? The problem with smaller market teams comes when they can no longer afford their premiere players, leading those players to opt for free agency and greater riches, this is not a problem for the Yankees. The Yankees spent more than anyone on the draft and international signings/scouting. Everyone may regret a Santana trade, we will never know… until we know. Hopefully Cashman doesn’t get fired after this year, I say he deserves 3 more, and if that Santana trade bites after his contract is up tell Damon Oppenheimer he’s been promoted.

    Also… I still think we should have low balled the Twins and offered Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez and perhaps an additional lower prospect for Santana. Don’t you think this offer is still better than the Mets?

  • http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hsac/Blog/ Bobby S

    I think you’re overrating Shapiro. He has made some excellent signings and trades and his track record at the MLB level is very strong. But the Indians have not drafted well, and their farm system isn’t great, especially if Miller continues to have injury problems. The A’s under Beane have also not drafted well over the last 5 or 6 seasons.

    Yes, the success of Cashman and Epstein at the MLB level has to be taken with a grain of salt, because of their respective budgets, but they have both done phenomenal jobs with their farm systems. Again, they have the advantage here of being able to go overslot, but give them credit for 1) recognizing the importance of the draft and international signings 2) committing to improve in those areas and 3) drafting wisely. Both have built top 5 farm systems in only a few short seasons, which is just as impressive as Shapiro building the Indians into contenders, with budgetary constraints, in only a few seasons.

  • Trish

    Count me among those who don’t worship at the Altar of Beane. Yeah, he’s managed to get teams into the playoffs, but only once has he gotten them even to the ALCS. Out of the seven players drafted in the famous 2002 “Moneyball” draft only three players are still in the majors (Nick Swisher, Mark Teahen and Joe Blanton) and Blanton’s the only one still on the A’s. Like Ken Williams he fiddles too much and that’s going to come back to haunt him one day.

    As for Cashman, it’s about time he saw the light and got some good young pitching, which the Yankees seem to perennially lack, and rebuilt the farm system. The core of the team that got the late nineties championships are now in their mid-to-late thirties and the team needs to think about who they’re going to bring in to replace them–if done right it’s possible the Yankees can avoid the dreaded “rebuilding years.”