Brian Cashman on next Yankees captain: “Captaincy should be retired with No. 2″

(AP)
(AP)

With Derek Jeter now retired, the Yankees are without a captain for the first time since 2003. And since Robinson Cano bolted for the Mariners last year, there is no obvious captain candidate on the roster either. That’s alright. The Yankees have gone years between captains before and they’ll do it again.

If it was up to Brian Cashman though, there would be no next captain. During a radio interview on Thursday he said he believes the team’s captaincy should be retired alongside Jeter. From Bill Price:

“As far as I’m concerned, and I’m not to decision maker on this, that captaincy should be retired with No. 2,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.”

“Leadership comes in a lot of forms, it would be a hard one to anoint someone captain,” Cashman continued, “regardless of how great they might be.”

That … seems a little excessive. But, then again, the majority of the Jeter lovefest has been over the top, so this fits right in. Jeter was undeniably a tremendous player and leader, but at some point another tremendous player and leader will come along, and he will be deserving of the captaincy. I man, geez. Retire the concept of Yankees’ captaincy?

Anyway, captaincy isn’t up to Cashman, that’s an ownership call. The Yankees went seven and a half years without a captain between Don Mattingly and Jeter — not to mention 37 years between Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson — and it looks like it’ll be several years before another captain emerges. I’m cool with that. Captains should be all-time greats, like Jeter. The captaincy shouldn’t cease to exist because of him though. Sheesh.

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It’s official: Yankees sign Brian Cashman to new three-year contract

The Yankees have re-signed GM Brian Cashman to a new three-year contract, the team officially announced. The two sides had reportedly been talking about a new deal for a few weeks now. This is Cashman’s fifth straight three-year contract. No word on the value, but his last deal was worth $9M total and I’m sure he got some sort of raise.

Cashman, 47, has been the team’s GM since 1998 and the Yankees are literally the only employer he’s had in his adult life. He started with the team as an intern way back in the mid-1980s. I don’t really mind that Cashman is coming back, he seems to consistently come out ahead in trades, but the strategy of throwing money at free agents to plug every hole has to change. Free agency isn’t what it once was and that approach just isn’t as effective as it used to be.

Olney: Yankees working on new deal with Brian Cashman

Via Buster Olney: The Yankees have started the process of putting together a new contract for GM Brian Cashman. His current deal expires at the end of the October but this is something they have to take of sooner rather than later so they can begin mapping out the offseason. A few weeks ago we heard the Steinbrenners wanted to bring Cashman back despite their second straight postseason-less year.

“My stuff’s not really resolved, so there have been no discussions just yet,” said Cashman to Chad Jennings when asked about offseason plans over the weekend. “That will all wait for another day. I don’t want to talk about game-planning or focus, what should or shouldn’t be looked at. I’ll wait until we all sit down with ownership, they can map out their strategy and who’s going to be a part of that, and we can go from there.”

Cashman has been the GM since 1998 and that’s an eternity in GM years. There are plenty of strong arguments for both keeping him and finding a new GM, but, either way, the Yankees need to make some changes to their team-building approach because the whole “throw money at free agents” strategy doesn’t work like it once did. The game has changed and the Yankees have yet to keep pace.

Thoughts on Questions about bringing back Brian Cashman

A familiar sight for years to come (Credit:  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
A familiar sight for years to come. (Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Yes, I’m swiping Mike’s bit, kind of. He’s invited me to do so for years, and now seems like a good time to take him up on the offer.

Brian Cashman‘s contract expires after this season. With the possibility of his team missing the postseason for the second consecutive year, fans have speculated that Cashman’s 16-year tenure as GM could come to an end.

Plenty of fans, particularly the loudest ones, have hoped that is the case. But it appears that they will be disappointed.

Playoffs or no playoffs, the Yankees intend to offer Brian Cashman a new contract this winter, according to pretty cool guy Jon Heyman. His sources indicate that ownership doesn’t blame Cashman for the way the last two seasons have unfolded.

(Perhaps because their own meddling has played a role?)

Few fanbases stand 100% behind the general manager. There’s always a set of people who believe that they’re the smartest people in the room, and they’re vocal so they can prove it to everyone. Yet it seems that this group is larger than it was the last time Cashman’s contract expired.

At that point, after the 2011 season, I fully supported bringing back Cashman. Since the inception of RAB the three of us (now four with Jay) have felt that Cashman is the guy for the job.

Now? I’m not so sure. Hence, a “thoughts on” post.

1. Where is this team headed? The Yankees had some tough decision to make last off-season. Not only did they face a depleted roster, but their far-and-away most productive hitter hit the free agent market. The time seemed ripe for a rebuilding effort.

They could have acted far differently. They could have re-signed Robinson Cano and signed Masahiro Tanaka without sacrificing the 18th pick in the draft. Instead they went in a completely different direction, trying to patch multiple weaknesses with high-priced free agents.

As Mike wrote earlier this week, the Yankees face an even tougher set of decisions this winter. Do they double down on their spending strategy to bring in Jon Lester? Do they seek out an offensive upgrade — Nelson Cruz or Hanley Ramirez? They’ve already committed $168 million to the 2015 team, and that covers just 10 players.

It seems kind of silly to hold back this off-season after going big and seeing little results this past season. Yet, as Mike noted, they certainly need to rethink how they operate as the team around them modify their philosophies.

The point is, in the past we’ve had some idea of the direction the Yankees were taking. Right now? I have none, and I don’t think anyone else outside the organization does, either.

The further point is, I’m not totally sure Cashman is the guy to take the team in a different direction.

2. Is it a higher ups problem? There are plenty of young executives from other clubs the Yankees could poach for a potentially vacant GM spot. But if they’re not allowed to actually make decisions, will it even matter?

The larger question is of whether ownership is truly a problem here. Yes, the Steinbrenners have opened their wallets to help the team, but are they spending that money wisely? Are they meddling to too great a degree? These are questions we have difficulty answering from the outsider perspective.

We’ve seen certain instances where the higher ups step in to make decisions. Rafael Soriano remains the most prominent example. Ichiro Suzuki, too. So how many decisions is ownership forcing on the team? How independently can the GM act?

The Diamondbacks just fired their GM, Kevin Towers. They’ll find someone soon to fill that role. Will he have any success? It’s tough to say, because, as my dear friend Leo said, Ken Kendrick still owns them. It has become pretty apparent that ownership is part of the problem here. Knicks fans have known this for far more than a decade.

If the problem does lie with the higher ups, then does it even matter who holds the GM position? In that case, having Cashman, who has been around the Steinbrenner family his entire adult life, might be an advantage.

3. Would a good candidate even want the job? Many of us have dreamt of becoming the GM. (And a few among us have delusions that we’re qualified.) Who would turn down the opportunity if offered?

Plenty of people. Perhaps the most qualified candidates wouldn’t find the Yankees’ job attractive. Two highly regarded executives, Jason McLeod of the Cubs and David Forst of the A’s, declined to interview for the Padres GM job earlier this year. Would they interview for the Yankees’ gig, knowing that ownership gets involved in baseball decisions?

The absolute worst case scenario is to let Cashman walk only to hire some retread GM, because none of the elite candidates want the job. I like Kevin Towers well enough, but I don’t want to see him replace Cashman as GM of the Yankees.

There’s no point in letting Cashman go if they’re not going to replace him with an elite GM, or a young executive on his path to greatness. Firing Cashman and then hiring (shudders) Ed Wade or Jim Bowden or Jim Hendry seems like a sure step backward. What if they’re the only guys lining up to interview for the job?

4. A Theo/Hoyer situation? By most visible measures, Billy Eppler has done a fine job in the last few years, first as pro scouting director and now as assistant GM. The Padres courted him for their vacant GM position, and nearly hired him. The man is in demand. Might it be his time to shine?

The Yankees could choose to promote Cashman and move Eppler into the GM role, a situation similar to how Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein operate in Chicago. On a practical level that might not accomplish much. Epstein surely continues to call shots in Chicago, just as Ken Williams continues to call shots in Chicago even though Rick Hahn is the GM.

At the very least, this kind of nominal move could keep Eppler in New York. Given the work he’s done in the last few years and the reputation he’s established, that seems desirable. The Yankees have an obstacle, in that they already have a team president. While most of us have less than perfect impressions of Randy Levine, it’s not as though the Steinbrenners are just going to fire him because they want to move Cashman into that position.

Heyman: Yankees intend to offer Cashman a new contract after season

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees intend to offer Brian Cashman a new contract once his current deal expires after the season. Hal Steinbrenner was non-committal when asked about the future of his GM last month, but Heyman says ownership does not blame Cashman for what is likely to be back-to-back years without the postseason.

Now, just because ownership wants Cashman back doesn’t mean he will come back. He could always move on to another team if he wants a new challenge or something like that, or he could be burnt out after such a long tenure. Cashman has always been extremely loyal to the Yankees though — they are literally the only employer he’s had in his adult life — and I would be surprised if he left for another club. Either way, Cashman or no Cashman, the Yankees have a lot of work to do to get the team back to perennial contender status. I don’t think they’re one or two more free agents away at this point.

Hal on Cashman: “Let me get to October …. and we’ll go from there”

Via Ken Davidoff: Hal Steinbrenner was non-committal yesterday when asked about retaining Brian Cashman after the season. “We’re so busy right now, trying to figure out who’s going to be playing in any given game, much less that,” said Hal. “We’ll be talking about that soon enough. But you know me. We’ve got enough things to worry about during the season. That’s where our focus needs to be. Let me get to October — hopefully the end of October, beginning of November — and we’ll go from there.”

Cashman’s contract expires after the season and historically the Yankees have let his deals play all the way out before re-signing him. I agree with Davidoff that Hal’s comments were more about the owner having a lot on his plate at the moment — including picking a new commissioner — than a non-endorsement of Cashman. I do think the Yankees need to get serious about changing their team-building strategies because paying premium dollars for (the decline years of) free agents and having a top-heavy roster flat out doesn’t work anymore. They need more from the farm system and have to do a better job of avoiding bad players. No more Brian Robertses or Zelous Wheelers, guys like that. That has to start this offseason or else the franchise will make no progress towards returning to contention.

Mailbag: Cashman, Gardner, IFAs, Run Support

Only six questions this week, but some of the answers are kinda long. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything through the week.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Several people asked: What happens with Brian Cashman when his contract expires after the season?

A bunch of people sent in some variation of this question. Some nice (is it time for a change?), some not so nice (fire that idiot!). Needless to say, when you commit over $500M to free agents in an offseason only to get worse and potentially to miss the postseason for the second straight year, it’s only natural to wonder if a change in leadership is needed.

I’ve been a Cashman supporter over the years but I do think it’s time for the Yankees to make a change. He’s been the GM for 16 years now. That’s an eternity in GM years. The Yankees are still trying to win by almost exclusively signing free agents and that’s not just going to work in the game these days. The best players are not hitting the open market until their post-prime years. Baseball has changed but the Yankees have not. They’re still trying to build a team the same way they did 10-15 years ago and it’s not working.

I feel the Yankees have reached the point where bringing in a new GM with a different voice would really benefit the club. I think the same applies to managers and coaches too — eventually they get stale and it’s time for a new voice to shake things up. That’s human nature. It happens. The club’s way of doing business needs an overhaul, not one or two minor tweaks. I mean, given their payroll, other teams rely on the Yankees to make mistakes to contend, and there have been a lot of mistakes in recent years.

Who should replace Cashman? That’s a hard part. Assistant GM Billy Eppler is the obvious in-house candidate but he is being given serious consideration for the Padres GM job (he interviewed for the position yesterday, the team announced). He might not be a long-term option. Hiring someone from outside the organization is tricky because the New York market is so unique. Money doesn’t guarantee success and the expectations are through the roof. Experience in this kind of market is not required but it would preferred.

If Eppler gets the Padres job, I have no idea who the Yankees could replace Cashman with. Ex-Cubs GM Jim Hendry is in the front office as an advisor but no thanks. Advisor and ex-GM Gene Michael has made it pretty clear he’s out of the GM game at age 76. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer? Eh, maybe. Hiring Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman away from their teams is totally unrealistic. There figures to be a few GM openings this winter (Phillies? Diamondbacks?), so the Yankees would have competition for the top candidates.

I do think it’s time for the Yankees to bring in a new GM — I’ve been saying they could move Cashman to a high-level advisor role when the time comes for years now, similar to Kenny Williams and Mark Shapiro, and I still think that. He’s worth keeping around, especially if they bring in a GM from outside the organization — because there needs to be some change. The team-building strategies are too outdated to continue. Going from Point A (Cashman) to Point B (new GM) will be very difficult and my biggest fear is Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine hiring some figurehead GM they can walk all over.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Joe asks: Why don’t the Yankees switch Gardner and Ellsbury in the lineup? Why bat Ellsbury third when Gardner has shown more power this year?

I agree completely. (I said this earlier this week.) Jacoby Ellsbury‘s batting third because he’s the big name and he’s the guy with the huge contract, but he is totally miscast in that lineup spot in my opinion. Brett Gardner would be as well, don’t get me wrong, but when you look at their skills, I think Ellsbury makes more sense in the leadoff spot and Gardner third. To wit:

  • Their batting averages (.288 vs. .284) and on-base percentages (.358 vs. .352) are essentially identical. It’s not like one guy has a big 25 or 40-point advantage or something.
  • Ellsbury is quicker to steal than Gardner. I don’t have any stats to back that up (I don’t even know if that stuff is available) but I think we can all agree that’s the case.
  • Gardner has shown more usable power this year (.144 ISO vs .106 ISO, 8 HR vs. 4 HR) and does a better job of taking advantage of the short porch. Every Ellsbury hit looks exactly the same — line drive to center or left-center. Hard to hit for power and clear the bases like that.

Since they get on base at almost the exact same rate, the Yankees would be better off using Gardner’s slight edge in power — remember, he has more power than Ellsbury but is still no better than an average power hitter overall — a little lower in the lineup, with potentially more men on base. It wouldn’t make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re struggling to score runs like the Yankees have been, I see very little downside to making the swap.

Daniel asks: Why is it that when you’re showing the rankings of different international prospects and you give MLB.com and BA’s, the rankings are so vastly different? It doesn’t seem like it’s quite as stark a difference with US prospects. Why the big gaps, and who do you trust more anyway?

I listed each player’s ranking in our massive International Free Agency Open Thread the other day — the unofficial final tally was 22 players and $26.8M in bonuses plus penalties, by the way, and there are still some more signings to come — and in some cases the rankings are very different. Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray was ranked seventh by MLB.com and 22nd by Baseball America, for example. Dominican OF Antonio Arias was ninth by MLB.com and 28th by Baseball America. A two or three spot difference is nothing, but 15-20?

I think this stems from the general lack of reliable information about international prospects. MLB.com and Baseball America do a really awesome job of digging up info on these kids, but it’s still tough to find a consensus. Remember, these are 16-year-old kids who have a lot of development left. They are even more unpredictable than high schoolers, so the opinions very wildly. It comes down to the difference in sources, I guess. I trust Baseball America (Ben Balder) the most because he’s been on the international free agent beat for a while now and always seems to have the most information and the best projections (about who is signing where, etc.). I think it’s important to consider all possible sources through. The more info, the better.

Joe asks: Hiroki Kuroda gets terrible run support, it seems.  What Yankees starter has gotten the worst?

Kuroda has never gotten run support in the big leagues. The Dodgers never scored for him back in the day and even in 2012, when the Yankees had a good offense, they still never scored for him. Here is the where the team’s starters rank among the 157 starting pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings this season (only Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka have qualified for the batting title):

Juan Nicasio of the Rockies has received the most run support this year (6.79 runs per game) by almost a full run (Jesse Chavez and Matt Shoemaker are tied for second at 5.88). Andrew Cashner has received the least run support at 2.17 runs per game. Yikes. How in the world can someone pitch like that, knowing that if they give up two runs, they’ll probably lose? The Padres, man.

Maxwell. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Maxwell. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Dustin asks: Chris Capuano is now a free agent. Should the Yanks give him a minor league deal? Same for Jerome Williams and Justin Maxwell if they clear waivers. And would Nolan Reimold even be worth claiming on waivers and giving up something of minor value?

I’d take all four of those guys a minor league contract at this point, especially Maxwell, who might be a better option for the right-handed half of the right field platoon than Alfonso Soriano. He stunk this year (11 wRC+ in limited time), but Maxwell has hit .230/.344/.407 (105 wRC+) against lefties in his career. It’s not like the Triple-A Scranton outfield is full either. Reimold is hurt all the time (56 games from 2012-14) but has kinda shown he can hit southpaws (career 98 wRC+). Capuano has a knack for underperforming his peripherals and I consider both him and Williams as replacement level arms at this point of their careers. The Red Sox were nice enough to audition Capuano in the AL East for the Yankees. Of these four guys, Maxwell seems most likely to be useful.

TomH asks: RAB and others have recently noted a kind of creeping mediocrity among MLB teams, probably resulting from the Bud Selig era leveling moves. How do you think this pretty obvious general mediocrity will affect baseball’s popularity?

It’s probably a net win for the game. More teams are in the race and that means more fans are excited and paying attention (and going to games and buying merchandise). I joke all the time that the Yankees are unwatchable these days, but I watch a ton of non-Yankees baseball too, and I think the level of play around the league is very low right now. Most of MLB is Yankees-esque unwatchable. Is that because of Selig’s competitive balance? I’m sure that’s part of it. I think it’s good for the game overall to have more teams in the race and more fans interested, but I do think baseball is at its absolute best when there are two or three superpowers fans can hate. Maybe I’m just biased as a Yankees fan.