Yankees, Cashman reportedly finalizing five-year contract

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Bob Nightengale, the Yankees and Brian Cashman and putting the finishing touches on a new five-year contract worth $25M. The team hasn’t confirmed anything, but that’ll happen soon enough. The contract puts Cashman’s salary at a notch below the Andrew Friedman ($7M annually) and Theo Epstein ($10M annually) pay grade, though he did get a five-year deal. Each of Cashman’s last four contracts were three-year pacts.

Cashman’s previous contract expired on October 31st, so he had been working without a contract for a while now. There were never any serious rumors or even much idle speculation Cashman and the Yankees would part ways. It was an open secret he would be coming back ever since ownership followed his recommendation to part ways with Joe Girardi, and that was only confirmed when he led the charge to hire Aaron Boone as the new skipper.

Cashman, now 50, has been with the Yankees basically his entire adult life. He started with the team as an intern in 1986 and gradually worked his way up through the player development and baseball operations departments. Cashman was an assistant general manager under Gene Michael and Bob Watson from 1992-98 before taking over as general manager when Watson resigned in February 1998.

Needless to say, sticking around as a general manager for two decades is quite an accomplishment, especially in New York. Cashman worked under George Steinbrenner for a long time before Hal took over. Only Brian Sabean (Giants) and Billy Beane (Athletics) have a longer active tenure running a baseball operations department. The Yankees haven’t yet jumped on board with the “president of baseball operations” trend, so Cashman remains general manager.

With Cashman re-signed, Boone taking over as manager, and Shohei Ohtani rejecting the Yankees, the next orders of business are finding another starting pitcher and building the coaching staff. The Yankees have an impressive young core at the big league level right now and more top prospects coming soon. Cashman’s goal now is to supplement that core.

On to the Next

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Yankees have made their choice, naming Aaron Boone their next manager. Mike offered his thoughts here, so take a look. My thoughts? Cool? I guess? I wanted Hensley Meulens for a variety of reasons, but I can’t really complain about the Boone hire–or any, really. Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office have bought themselves a lot of credit over the past two years of baseball and I trust their decision making. Would I have preferred a candidate with experience? Sure. But I wasn’t in that room conducting the interview.

For whatever reason, the Yankees think Boone is the best man for the job, and I’ve got no real choice but to trust in that. I understand some of the immediate concerns fans had on Friday when news came down that Boone got the job. Here’s how I allay those concerns, internally at least. While I don’t recall Boone ever being a proponent of advanced analytics and the like on his ESPN broadcasts, there’s no way the Yankees would have even interviewed–let alone hired–him if they weren’t confident in his ability to understand and explain those things. He’s completely new at this, for sure, but Boone will be backed up by a fully stocked and intelligent baseball operations department. And, this isn’t the 1950’s; Boone won’t be making decisions on his own. The baseball ops team will make sure he’s well-informed and well-ready to make the right call on the field.

As for the on the field things, again, it’s 2017; tactics in baseball are fairly uniform at this point. The overwhelming likelihood is that Boone’s tactics look very similar to Joe Girardi‘s. What matters is the stuff behind the scenes. Clearly, the Yankees feel that Boone can handle that stuff better than Girardi could have going forward after his long tenure. We talk mostly about the on-field stuff because it’s what we see. But the stuff we don’t see–communication, interaction, etc–is where the job is its hardest. Boone wouldn’t have gotten the nod if the organization weren’t confident he could handle that heavy lifting.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The secondary effect of the manager situation being wrapped up is that the Yankees can move on to other pressing business. First up, they’ve got to sew up Cashman’s contract. He’s been reportedly working on a handshake agreement, but it’d be nice to see the agreement made official. I wonder if this contract will come with a promotion to president of baseball ops with someone else moving into the GM role, but if that hasn’t happened for Cash yet, I don’t think it will this time.

Then there’s the roster, specifically the pitching rotation. And even more specifically, Shoehei Ohtani. While I’m sure the pitch would’ve been good either way, having a manager in place when presenting to Ohtani can’t hurt. It shows the ducks are in a row, at least for the next few years, and that the team has a clear direction in which it’s going. Despite its present success, this team is all about the future. Boone and Cashman are obviously a big part of that, and Ohtani can be, too. It’s impossible to know what he wants in a team until he signs and comes out and says it, but the Yankees seem like a great fit.

The offseason in general has been more of a cold stove than a hot one, mostly thanks to Ohtani and the Giancarlo Stanton trade discussions. For the Yankees, that’s been doubly so thanks to the relatively long search for a manager that’s now over. Now that that’s done, on to the next.

Saturday Links: Cashman, Gardner, 2018 Caps, Pitch Clock

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Shohei Ohtani’s shotgun free agency is now underway and it’s only a matter of time until we hear he’s started meeting with teams. Three weeks. Three weeks and this Ohtani stuff will all be over. Here are some random bits of news to check out in the meantime.

Cashman named Baseball America’s Executive of the Year

A few days ago Baseball America named Brian Cashman their 2017 Executive of the Year. That tends to happen when you nail your on-the-fly rebuild, and go from selling at the 2016 trade deadline to getting to within one win of the 2017 World Series thanks to your young players. From the write-up:

“For years the players worked in the minor leagues thinking, ‘If I play well I might get traded because I am blocked.’ Cash has changed that culture to the point now where young players not only develop as Yankees but have the goal of playing at Yankee Stadium and helping a championship club,” (vice president of baseball operations Tim) Naehring said.

That’s a pretty interesting quote. I always wondered what it was like to be a prospect in the farm system when the Yankees were doing nothing but signing free agents all those years. On one hand, do your job and someone will want you. On the other hand, it couldn’t have felt good knowing a trade was coming. Anyway, this is the first time Cashman has won Baseball America’s Executive of the Year award, which they’ve been giving out since 1998, his first season as GM.

Gardner wins Heart & Hustle Award

I missed this a few weeks ago, but Brett Gardner won the 2017 Heart & Hustle Award, the MLB Players Alumni Association announced. It is given annually to “an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.” One player from each team is nominated for the award, then the winner is selected through a player vote. Pretty cool.

Gardner, who is the longest tenured Yankee and unofficial team captain, has been New York’s nominee for the Heart & Hustle Award on five occasions now, though this was his first time winning the award. The MLBPAA has been giving out the award since 2005 and Gardner is the first Yankee to win it. (Todd Frazier won it last year.) I gotta say, Gardner winning something called the “Heart & Hustle Award” is pretty damn appropriate.

MLB unveils 2018 spring and batting practice caps

A week or two ago MLB unveiled their new 2018 Spring Training and batting practice caps. Considering some of the wacky designs we’ve seen the last few years (those pinstriped brims, man), these are pretty normal. Here are next year’s Spring Training and batting practice caps:

Home on the left, road on the right. (New Era)
Home on the left, road on the right. (New Era)

I hereby dub the new designs: fine. They’re fine. Also, the new caps are made with a lightweight polyester material, not the usual polyester material they’ve been using for years and years. The new caps are 26% lighter, so that’s cool. The new caps are already for sale at New Era and MLB.com.

MLB pushing for a pitch clock in 2018

According to Buster Olney, MLB is pushing for new pace-of-play measures in 2018, including the implementation of a pitch clock. The league has to power to implement rule changes unilaterally now, though they prefer to come to an agreement with the MLBPA. Labor peace is good. The pitch clock is seen as inevitable — the plan is a 20-second pitch clock like the one used in Double-A and Triple-A, though they may settle for 22-24 seconds — and there’s also talk of limiting mound visits.

I don’t think pace-of-play is as much of a problem as MLB seems to believe — I worry the league is blaming too many of their biggest problems (i.e. cultivating young fans) on pace-of-play — but I do think it is something that can improved. Give me a pitch clock and fewer mound visits. I’m all for it. I have no problem whatsoever with four hour games as long as they’re exciting. When it’s nonstop mound visits and pitchers staring in to get the sign, that’s when it gets dull. The less the players are standing around doing nothing, the better.

Cashman: Yankees parted ways with Girardi over concerns he didn’t “communicate and connect” with players

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today Brian Cashman spoke to reporters for the first time since the Yankees parted ways with manager Joe Girardi nearly two weeks ago. Cashman confirmed his own new contract is not done yet, though the fact he’s holding conference calls and discussing the search for a new manager pretty much confirms he’s sticking around.

Anyway, Cashman discussed both the decision to move on from Girardi — “We didn’t fire anybody, but we did choose not to re-hire,” is how Cashman described it — as well as the team’s ongoing search for a new skipper. Here are the conference call highlights, pieced together from all the wonderful beat writers on Twitter.

  • On decision to part ways with Girardi: “We do not make changes at that level lightly, so it was a very difficult and challenging decision … Easiest call would be plug and play and continue in safe harbor arena. I have never been safe harbor kind of person … Our issues and concerns were the ability to engage, fully communicate, and connect with the playing personnel.”
  • Would Girardi have stayed had the postseason gone differently? “It’s tough to put a hypothetical in there. We went where we went … The challenge issue (in Game Two of the ALDS) had nothing to do with the decision making here.”
  • On what he’s looking for in next manager: “There’s no perfect person that checks every box … (Communication is) one attribute of many. Some have more weight that others … (We want someone) who’s willing to push back and have open discourse … I’m looking for the right person regardless of age.”
  • On the managerial search: “We’d love to have a new manager ASAP, but we have a healthy process involved with every decision we make, and the most important aspect is steps we take rather than time frame … I think it helps if you have (a pre-existing relationship), but it’s not necessary … There will be a lot of input from a lot of personnel that will be exposed to the candidates.”

Cashman also discussed the offseason — “Is there a lot of heavy lifting necessary? No. But we’re always trying to be better,” he said — and said there are no surgeries coming up. That’s good. There always seem to be a few surprise injuries at the end of the season. The Girardi decision and managerial search dominated the conference call, so here are some thoughts on that.

1. “Communication” is the key word. In the two weeks since the Yankees parted ways with Girardi, several reports suggested the decision was the result of two things. One, the relationship between Cashman and Girardi had deteriorated. Cashman shot that down today. “It was extremely good,” was how he described their relationship.

The communication issue was, however, very real. Cashman referred to the “connectivity and communication level in clubhouse” several times today — “(I) pooled a lot of resources to get a healthy feel (of the clubhouse),” he added — and said he felt it was time for a “new voice and a fresh voice.” The Yankees have a very young and exciting team, and the last thing they want is those players to have a lousy relationship with the manager. If things weren’t great with Girardi now, chances are they’d only get worse.

2. No, this wasn’t a smear campaign. We’ve seen a lot of smear campaigns over the years. The Red Sox and Boston sports teams in general are the biggest offenders, but they happen in all sports and all around the league. Someone gets let go and suddenly stories are leaked about why the person was fired and things like that. It can be ugly. Remember when it was reported Terry Francona abused pain pills while with the Red Sox? Yeah, ugly.

Cashman’s conference call today was hardly a smear campaign. It was a standard chat after a manager gets let go. Every general manager is asked why the decision was made whenever a managerial change happens. That’s the way it is. Cashman answered truthfully and in a way that didn’t besmirch Girardi. The stuff about poor communication in the clubhouse is a pretty common post-managerial change talking point. I don’t think Cashman said anything inappropriate, and the same goes for Girardi. This has been a fairly painless parting of ways. There is no war of words in the media or anything like that.

3. The managerial search is wide open. When the Yankees moved on from Joe Torre a decade ago, it was an open secret they wanted Girardi to take over. The interviews with Don Mattingly and Tony Pena were held basically to satisfy MLB’s rules about managerial searches. This time around, things are very wide open. “I don’t have a list. I am open-minded to this candidate list,” said Cashman.

Three things stood out to me when Cashman discussed about the managerial search. One, he said he’s willing to hire someone with no experience. It’s good to have an open mind, though I suspect the Yankees would prefer someone with some level of experience. Two, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of urgency. Yes, the Yankees want to name a new manager as quickly as possible, but they’re going to be thorough.

And three, this won’t be a straight Cashman decision. Cashman said “a lot of personnel (will) be exposed to the candidates,” which I assume means front office and clubhouse personnel. Those folks will have input. Also, each managerial candidate will hold a conference call with reporters after their interviews so the Yankees can see how they handle the media, which is not at all uncommon during a manager search. Surely the PR staff will monitor the calls and have some input, because working the media is a big part of the job.

Cashman is the general manager. He manages lots of people, and lots of people will be involved in the managerial search in one way or another. Cashman then absorbs their input and all the information and makes the final decision. Well, no, ownership makes the decision. He makes the recommendation. Point in, the Yankees are going into the managerial search with an open mind and will prioritize thoroughness over time frame. (But the sooner they pick a new skipper, the better.)

Front Office & Coaching Staff News: Cashman, Hairston, Paul

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

It has now been four days since the Yankees parted ways with Joe Girardi, and we’re still waiting to hear who they’re considering for the job. I imagine we’ll hear something soon. It took the Red Sox eleven days to find a new manager. It took the Nationals nine days. It took the Yankees eleven days to replace Joe Torre with Girardi. The managerial search could be wrapped up by the end of next week. We’ll see. Here are some notes.

Cashman/Girardi friction started over the summer

According to Jack Curry and Joel Sherman, Brian Cashman‘s decision to recommend parting ways with Girardi has been brewing since the summer, when friction increased between the two. The decision was made after lots of smaller disagreements built up into one big problem. Cashman supposedly decided to recommend parting ways with Girardi even before the ALDS.

At some point after the World Series, Cashman figures to hold his annual end-of-season press conference, and I’m sure he’ll be asked about the friction with Girardi, and whether winning the ALCS or World Series would’ve saved his job. Either way, this was not a rash decision. It’s not because of the non-challenge in Game Two of the ALDS or anything like that. The relationship between the two had deteriorated over time, and when that happens, it’s time to make a change.

Hairston connected to managerial job

Jerry Hairston Jr., the former Yankee and big league utility man, is among those connected to the Yankees’ managerial opening, reports Ken Rosenthal. Hairston, now 41, played 45 games with the 2009 Yankees after coming over from the Reds at the trade deadline. He last played in 2013, and following that season, he joined the pregame and postgame crew on SportsNet LA, the Dodgers’ regional network.

Hairston comes from a baseball family — his father, grandfather, uncle, and brother all played in the big leagues — so I guess he has that going for him. Still though, Hairston has no coaching or managerial experience, so he’d be a rookie skipper in New York. I know nothing about his communication skills or interest in analytics, and according to Sherman, good communication and an understanding of analytics are two top requirements for the next skipper.

Paul not a managerial candidate

Catching coordinator Josh Paul, who apparently has a lot of fans within the organization, is not a candidate for the manager’s job, reports George King. He could be considered for a coaching position, however. Paul has been with the Yankees since his playing career ended in 2008, and over the years he’s coached and managed in the lower levels of the farm system. He’s spent the last three years working with catching prospects. To wit:

Going from coaching and managing in the low minors to doing so at the big league level is quite a jump, though it wouldn’t be unprecedented. These days teams are hiring managers with no experience at all. I’m not sure the Yankees want to go that route, but if they find someone they consider the right man for the job, I don’t think they’ll worry too much about his background.

Yankees want to replace Denbo before Girardi

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees want to name a replacement for departed farm system head Gary Denbo before naming a replacement for Girardi. They have already interviewed four candidates for Denbo’s job and are likely to promote someone from within. Meanwhile, both Heyman and Sherman say the Yankees are likely to look outside the organization for a few manager. Here’s the list of candidates I put together for CBS.

Yanks have yet to offer Cashman, Girardi, Denbo, or coaching staff contract extensions

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Not much of a surprise here, but according to George King, the Yankees have yet to make contract extension offers to their front office and coaching staffs. General manager Brian Cashman, vice president of player development Gary Denbo, vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring, manager Joe Girardi, and the entire coaching staff are unsigned beyond this season. I’m sure a bunch of others too.

The Yankees have, historically, waited until contracts expire before negotiating new deals. That used to apply to players as well, though the team came to their senses with that a few years ago and are now at least open to the idea of extending a player before free agency. The last few times Cashman and Girardi have been up for new deals, they became free agents and then worked out new contracts.

Denbo, who has helped turn the farm system into a player development machine, is reportedly under consideration for a position with the Marlins. He and Derek Jeter are very close — Denbo managed Jeter in the minors back in the day and was his big league hitting coach in 2001 — and it makes sense that Jeter would look to bring in someone he knows and trusts to run the team he’s about to purchase.

There were rumors circulating last month that the Yankees offered Denbo a big five-year contract extension — five-year contracts are pretty rare in the front office world, from what I understand — though King says that is not the case. The Yankees haven’t made him or anyone else an offer. Interestingly enough, Jeter’s purchase of the Marlins may take a while as the league reviews financial information. From Charlie Gasparino and Brian Schwartz:

“The owners told (Bruce) Sherman that the Jeter bid will get what amounts to a proctology exam,” said one baseball executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity and has direct knowledge of the owners meeting. “And they indicated that exam could take a long time.”

Front office and coaching staff contracts typically expire October 31st or at the end of the World Series. If the Marlins sale takes a while, it could give the Yankees a leg up on re-signing Denbo, who I can’t imagine will want to wait around for the Marlins sale to go final and leave his future uncertain. The Yankees could lock him up before Jeter fully controls the Marlins, which doesn’t sound imminent.

Of course, the Marlins could always approach the Yankees about Denbo after the sale goes final. Teams interview personnel under contract with other teams all the time. With permission, of course. The Yankees could deny that permission — they denied the Diamondbacks permission to interview scouting director Damon Oppenheimer back in 2010 — though most teams don’t when it involves a big upward promotion. Denbo could always push for having permission to interview elsewhere put into his contract. We’ll see.

For now, neither Denbo nor Cashman nor Girardi nor anyone on the coaching staff is under contract beyond this season. No one has a contract offer in hand either. I wonder if this will lead to some coaching staff changes? I guess it depends on Girardi. If he returns, which I think is likely, chances are his coaching staff will remain mostly intact. If Girardi leaves, all bets are off.

Contract talks between the Yankees and Joe Girardi could get pretty interesting this offseason

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Following this season the Yankees will shed a pair of massive contracts in Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. Those two are making a combined $46M this season — yes, the Yankees are still paying A-Rod — plus it’s possible Masahiro Tanaka will opt out of the three years and $67M left on his deal. That’ll all go a long way to helping the Yankees get under the $197M luxury tax threshold next season.

Two other key members of the organization will become free agents after the season: Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi. Cashman’s quick fix youth movement has been a smashing success so far (despite the last 31 games), so I can’t imagine the Yankees won’t bring him back. They might have to fend off some suitors — the Marlins under new ownership? — and give him a raise into the Andrew Friedman ($7M annually) and Theo Epstein ($10M annually) pay grade, but I think the chances of a Yankees-Cashman reunion are pretty high.

As for Girardi, he is a favorite of Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, and other are two pretty good people to have in your corner. Girardi is wrapping up a four-year contract worth $4M annually, which, at the time it was signed, made him the second highest paid manager behind Mike Scioscia. The Yankees and Girardi — and the Yankees and Cashman, for that matter — have not yet discussed a new contract, which isn’t unusual. They always wait until the offseason for this stuff.

“To be honest, I only worry about this year,” said Girardi to Dan Martin when asked about his contract last month. “I’m not really worried about seven years down the road, ten years down the road. There’s a lot of things that could happen in my life that could make me want to do it or make me not want to do it — or prevent me from doing it.”

This is, incredibly, Girardi’s tenth season with the Yankees. Only Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, and Joe Torre have had longer continuous managerial stints in franchise history. I don’t think Girardi has had a particularly good year strategically — a bad bullpen makes every manager look bad, though Girardi has had a few too many “this doesn’t give the Yankees the best chance to win” moments — and as far as I can tell, he’s great in the clubhouse. That to me is every bit as important than the X’s and O’s on the field.

And yet, I feel like the odds of an offseason divorce — they’re not firing him midseason no matter how bad things get, no way, no how — between the Yankees and Girardi are greater than they have been at any other point during his tenure. Two reasons for that:

1. The Yankees might miss the postseason again. There are still 70 games to play this season and the Yankees are right in the thick of the both the division and wildcard races, but missing the postseason again is a very real possibility. The Yankees are 10-21 in their last 31 games. That’s rough. If the freefall continues, it’ll be one postseason games in five years for the Yankees. How many managers survive that? Even with rebuilding teams?

2. Other teams could come after Girardi. If the Mets (finally) part ways with Terry Collins, I imagine Girardi would among their top choices at manager. The Marlins could come calling under new ownership. Dusty Baker’s contract with the Nationals will be up after the season. The Tigers and Pirates could both be in the market for a new skipper too. What happens if Bruce Bochy decides to retire because of his ongoing heart issues? Girardi figures to have some options this winter. It won’t be Yankees or bust.

My gut feeling is ownership is happy with their management team and the overall direction of the franchise, even after this rough month, and even if the Yankees miss the postseason again. There’s a ton of high-end young players in the organization and the payroll is starting to clear up. As frustrating as these last few weeks have been, the future is awfully exciting. The Yankees have an exciting young core and will soon have a lot of money to spend.

Because of that, I expect both Cashman and Girardi to be back next year. Both will probably leverage opportunities elsewhere into healthy raises because that’s what anyone in their shoes should do, but I think they’ll be back. Cashman is ultra-loyal to the Yankees and I don’t think he wants to leave. I don’t think Girardi wants to leave either, and it helps that those above him are on his side.