2011 Season Preview: Brian Cashman’s expiring contract

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Do general managers react to contract years in the same way as players? While the effect doesn’t apply to every player — see Andruw Jones‘s contract year in 2007 — Dayn Perry, writing in Baseball Between the Numbers, found that there is a small, but statistically significant, uptick in player performance when a free agent contract is on the line. Maybe that’s why the Yankees have a policy of not negotiating new contracts until the old ones expires. That policy applies to players, coaches, and executives alike. As such, Brian Cashman is headed into a contract season.

If we’re to believe Cashman’s peers and bosses atop the Yankees organization, this will not be an issue. They love Cashman and want him back. Cashman, by most indications, enjoys his position. In that way, I’m not sure that his impending free agency means much. The Yankees have been down this road before, and despite a poor 2008 season the team eagerly re-upped with Cashman. Now, three years and a World Series title later, I expect much of the same. The situation might change if the Yankees miss the playoffs, but given recent history I’m not sure about that.

It is fitting, though, that Cashman’s toughest season will come in a contract year. The Yankees have made some depth moves to help shore up the rotation, but at some point they’re going to need someone better than Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon, or perhaps even Ivan Nova, pitching in the rotation. That’s how competitive the AL East has become. It’s not enough to have just a solid rotation. The Yankees need to go above and beyond. They tried this winter, but were snubbed despite having made the best offer. Now Cashman has to get creative in order to upgrade. Money alone won’t get it done this time.

Maybe the Yankees’ brass is just making overtures to feign a sense of stability. Maybe Cashman really does pine to run a franchise where his moves aren’t downplayed because of his deep pockets. If one is true, the Yankees will be searching for a new GM this fall. But given most indications, the Yankees like Cashman. They did, after all, re-sign him after the team failed to make the playoffs in 2008. From Cashman’s angle, he hasn’t worked for another company his entire adult life. His family is settled in the area, and he wields more power than other GMs. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s still a pretty good bet that Cashman’s back for 2012 and beyond.

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  • Tank the Frank

    I’m not as confident that he’ll be back. I seem to recall a feeling after 2008 that it wasn’t a given that he’d be back but decided to in order to “prove himself” and win a championship. He’s done that. It wouldn’t surprise me if he decided to try and prove himself again by winning a championship somewhere without an unlimited payroll and less ownership interference.

    I hope he stays though. I love Cash.

    • ADam

      I’m worried that Randy Levine’s inability to keep his hands out of Baseball operations will inevitably lead to Cash leaving for a Job as a president of Baseball Operations for a team that will give him free reign to Hire his people (Newman, Oppenhiemer as executives)and free reign to build the minor league system and build a winner

      IMO The Soriano Debacle was the last straw for Cashman IMHO. I love Cash too, I hope he loves NY enough to stay..

      • Ted Nelson

        “I’m worried that Randy Levine’s inability to keep his hands out of Baseball operations”

        Do you have any examples outside of Soriano? 1 example does not constitute an inability to do something. Especially when all he lost was a 1st round pick. Place a realistic value on that before flipping out, because I’m sure Cashman has. Cashman was willing to give up a prospect to compensate a team for signing-and-trading Balfour… it’s not like he was totally against getting a good reliever and giving up something to do so. At 2 years, $15 mill total Cashman *may have* been falling all over himself to sign Soriano, and it *might* have been the combo of the pick and huge $ for 3 years plus the opt outs. It might have even been a negotiating tactic with Boras, which might have even paid off already with Millwood… in that Boras knew Cashman wold hold his ground. There is more than one way to speculate about things we have no idea about except for a few press conferences.

        Did Cashman quit because George had a hand constantly in baseball operations? I don’t remember that happening.

        “give him free reign to Hire his people (Newman, Oppenhiemer as executives)”

        Newman and Oppenheimer would probably be candidates 1A and 1B to replace Cashman, depending on what high profile veteran execs were available. Hard for him to hire one of them if they took his job.

        “free reign to build the minor league system and build a winner”

        He’s built, or he and Oppenheimer and everyone else have built, the #5 system in MLB according to BA… The Yankees haven’t had a losing season since 1992.
        If he wants to leave, those are not the reasons why.

        “IMO The Soriano Debacle was the last straw for Cashman IMHO.”

        That’s total speculation. You are entitled to your opinion, but don’t frame it as if it’s fact or you know Cashman’s inner thoughts.

        • Ted Nelson

          “give him free reign to Hire his people (Newman, Oppenhiemer as executives)”

          And what sort of improvement is this anyway??? If those are “his people”… he’s already hired them. They already work for the Yankees. I don’t see any other team giving him much more responsibility or more money to work with. That’s just not a reasonable argument. I can see him leaving, and it might come down to A. not liking his bosses and/or B. looking for a new challenge and/or C. being canned… but other teams giving him more resources, more power, building a better farm, winning??? The Yankees do those things more so than any other team. Him leaving for those reasons is about as logical as Lee signing with the “young Phillies.” I consider Cashman to be a pretty logical guy.

  • Pasqua

    I’ver heard Cashman make overtures about the appeal of building a small-market team into a contender, but I can’t help but think that the security (read: the paycheck) will keep him in NY for as long as the organization will have him.

    Viva la Cash!

  • Ted Nelson

    Good analysis. Will be interesting to watch, and there’s certainly a lot of speculation involved in predicting Cashman’s inner-most desires/life goals as well as the Yankees’.

    However, I don’t totally agree with these points:

    “at some point they’re going to need someone better than Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon, or perhaps even Ivan Nova, pitching in the rotation. That’s how competitive the AL East has become.”

    First, I don’t think those guys are the problem so much as Burnett and Hughes. If Burnett and Hughes are on (and CC is healthy), you can have average 4th and 5th starters and win the East or the WC. If Burnett is his 2010 self, he’s an average 4th or 5th starter himself. Hughes is more of a #3 at 2010 level, and could easily regress.

    Second, it all depends on how those guys do. If they give a Garcia 2010 performance, it’s quite different from giving a Javy 2010 performance. And even with Javy the Yankees made the playoffs comfortably last season and won their ALDS series.

    Third, Boston should be better. They could have holes themselves, though, with Dice-K and Beckett, or Buchholtz’s ERA lining up with his FIP, or with one injury. Their offense also may not improve THAT much depending on what kind of seasons people have.
    Tampa, though, I think *should* be worse. Damon and Manny (and Jennings) are unlikely to replace Crawford combined, let alone from one spot. Hellickson may kill it as a rookie, but he may get killed a bit too. And their great rotation health may not last forever. They’ve done a great job in the pen, but still lost a whole lot (and had a whole lot of luck last season anyway). Things certainly could break their way, but I think chance are that they’ll be worse.
    Toronto I think should be worse too. Baltimore should be better, though not TOO much. They might improve enough to bring down the #2 AL East team below the #2 Central or West team maybe… I could see that.

    “Money alone won’t get it done this time.”

    I would never say that under MLB’s current rules. It certainly might not get it done, but Cashman also certainly could have a chance to use money at the deadline to acquire a starter (and/or another need that emerges) from a team looking to cut payroll.

  • OldYanksFan

    Cashman stays… and the Yankees certainly don’t want to have to see IF they can find someone that can handle NY and the Steinettes, no less actually do a better job than Cashman.

    “….but at some point they’re going to need someone better than Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon, or perhaps even Ivan Nova, pitching in the rotation”

    This is why God invented ‘July’, is it not?
    Of course the Yankees will get some better pitching for the last 2 or 3 months. The market this Winter, after Lee, just wasn’t that good.

    “The situation might change if the Yankees miss the playoffs, but given recent history I’m not sure about that.”

    So, this is the gauntlet? Cashman and the Yankees are simply expected to make the PS EVERY year? Forever more? Yeah… lot’s of other GMs will line up for this job.

    • Ted Nelson

      “Cashman and the Yankees are simply expected to make the PS EVERY year? Forever more?”

      Uhhh… yeah. These are the Yankees. George flipped a shit any season they didn’t win the WS. They’re absolutely expected to make the postseason every season, and even win the WS just about every season. They won about 1 in 4 years last century. I’m sure they expect about the same, since MLB still lets the strong feast.

      Sometimes I think Cashman is held to too high a standard, but with a $200 mill payroll and the ability to go even above that if you need, plus the ability to spend about as much as anyone on amateurs… You should be in the playoffs just about every season. Joe specifically says missing in 2011 may not mean Cash is fired, but he certainly shouldn’t be praised if they miss the playoffs.

  • Beamish

    Even if the Yankees were to miss the playoffs this year many of those scenarios (like the injury bug) are things the GM has no control over.

    If Cashman did not get bounced in 2008 for the previous Pavano and Wright signings then there is little he has done, or not done, in the last three years to make a playoff miss his fault. Cliff Lee is a far more complicated issue than “Cashman didn’t get his man” – and there was a great post by Stephen on Saturday examining the truth of the “options” to going all in on Lee.

    Cashman will have to drunkenly dress up the statue of The Boss in a Red Sox jersey to even have a risk of not being offered a contract.

    • ADam

      Its not about getting offered a contract, off course the Yanks will try to make him comeback, he just might not want to…

    • Ted Nelson

      I also think there’s a very strong chance they keep Cash, but the reason I would mostly see to can him is if they feel another option is better… Oppenheimer (before they lose him elsewhere), Newman, Billy Beane or someone… I also wouldn’t put it past upper management to be irrational.

      • ADam

        Randy Levine has seems to have a loyal following by the Steinbrenner Family… He’s not a smart enough baseball person to Hire someone like Oppenheimer, Newman, or Beane… He’d go and hire a name… not a forward thinking GM. I’m hoping cash stays, oh man if he leaves… the org is gonna be in trouble….

        • Ted Nelson

          A. What is your obsession with Randy Levine? Levine has been the President of the Yankees since 2000. Every single thing they’ve done for 11 years has been with Levine as President.

          B. Is there a bigger name among MLB GMs than Billy Beane???

          C. You’re speculating. Speculating that Levine would have the final say and not an actual owner. Speculating that Levine would not hire internal candidates. Speculating that an organization that was fine before Cashman took over will suddenly fall apart once he leaves. For some reason speculation that he’d hire a bigger name than Billy Beane, when that’s the biggest name in the biz and Epstein is the only guy not named Cashman whose name may be bigger.

          • ADam

            A: Since he has been the President he has been the point man at least reported as so for acquiring Raul Mondesi (remember that disaster) Kei Igawa, , Jared Wright, Wanted Cashman to Sign Oliver Perez and now Rafael Soriano.(Which if I had to put money on it he is going have numbers very similar to Kyle Farneworth)

            B: Billy Beane was a bad example.. my bad But Ownership will defer to Levine if Cash leaves (Which is Scaye

            C: My speculation is based on patterns, there has been a pattern of Levine stepping over Cashman when Cashman was told he was the final decision maker…None of my speculation is out of the realm of possibility

            • Ted Nelson

              A. You’re putting a lot of faith into rumors, and not even citing any.

              This is not a personnel issue anyway, it’s a management issue. That he can’t evaluate baseball players doesn’t mean Levine doesn’t realize Oppenheimer is a promising young candidate or someone like Andrew Freidman or Billy Beane who has had success elsewhere is a good candidate. I like Cashman a lot, but I don’t know why you act like he’s irreplaceable. Who are you so worried Levine is going to hire? Omar Minaya? What big name are you thinking of who is a crappy exec?

              The Yankees traded Scott Wiggins for Mondesi and he wasn’t that badly for them… This was more of a financial decision than a baseball one, so makes sense the business people would be involved.

              When I google Randy Levine and Jaret Wright together I get nothing. Levine being involved in negotiations with Pavano comes up… but that’s sort of his job. To be involved in negotiations. Kei Igawa had to be brought over from Japan, which I’m sure requires some people from the business side. I sort of doubt Randy Levine actively scouts the Japanese league.

              I have no opinion on Levine. I’m not trying to defend the guy. Most people outside the org seem to have a low opinion of him. I just don’t see why you are so insistent that he will single handedly ruin the organization.

              B. That’s total speculation. How do you know who ownership will listen to? There is no real precedent here. Cashman took over in 1998. He hasn’t been fired yet. He did consider quiting in 2005, but has since re-signed twice. You seem high on both Oppenheimer and Newman, and both of those guys have been hired by the Yankees.

              C. I never said it’s out of the realm of possibility. It’s just speculation, though, and the thing that bugs me is that you keep framing it like it’s fact.
              Again, I don’t see that pattern. Oliver Perez was never signed.

  • nsalem

    I agree with Ted’s statement that if the Yankee’s fail this year it will be due to Burnett and Hughes as opposed to the back end of the rotation. I think the Yankees have as good a chance as anyone to go all the way this year, but I also believe that Cashman won’t have the team he really wants until 2013. By then what he envisioned in 2008 will come to fruition. Hopefully we will be a homegrown based organization (especially our pitching staff) and not slaves to the free agent and trade markets. I hope Cashman is here to enjoy it.
    I hope the Yankees would not consider trading Chamberlain for Slowey. I don’t but the theory that the 6th inning (or any inning for that matter) is a low leverage inning especially on this staff when none of our starters is a sure thing to get thriough it on a consistent basis. Also check out Slowey’s numbers vs AL East teams. They are uniformly terrible especially the Rays and the Jays.

    • http://procrastinationperfected.tumblr.com/ BigDavey88

      “especially on this staff when none of our starters is a sure thing to get thriough it on a consistent basis.”

      CC got traded?

      • nsalem

        Yes he was traded to the Brewers with Mitre. Correct I should have written besides CC

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    Hmm…I’m kind of glad military members’ contracts don’t work that way.

    I don’t want to go on patrol with him–its his contract year!