Archive for Brian Cashman

Brian Cashman sat down for a chat with Buster Olney for ESPN’s Sunday Conversation recently, and the two discussed a number of topics including the idea of buying World Series titles, Alex Rodriguez‘s contract, and Robinson Cano‘s inevitable contract. Part of the interview can be seen above, but the entire thing will air later tonight, so check it out.

Categories : Front Office
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Yankees GM Brian Cashman will be a featured speaker at a finance conference next month, and in advance of the conference he conducted an interview with Index Universe. There are a lot of analogies made between baseball and investing and other finance topics, but Cashman does talk about the team’s statistical analysis department, why they are conservative when it comes to Japanese pitchers, undervalued assets, his worst mistakes, all sorts of stuff. The interview gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so make sure you check it out. (h/t SG)

Categories : Asides
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Nov
29

Season Review: The Front Office

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(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Just as with the manager and coaching staff, it’s difficult to evaluate a front office from the outside. Yes we can see the moves they make and speculate on moves they didn’t make, but we’ll never know the inner workings and all of the factors involved. Things like opportunity cost and the club’s internal evaluation of players are beyond our scope. Remember, a move can both make perfect sense at the time and be laughably bad in hindsight.

The Yankees started the year by making a series of front office changes in January, most notably hiring former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout and promoting pro scouting director Billy Eppler to assistant GM. I’m a fan of having multiple voices in the front office and Hendry is well-regarded within the game, so I liked his hiring just as I liked the Kevin Towers hiring back in 2010. The Eppler promotion was significant because for the first time since Brian Cashman took over as GM, an obvious line of succession had been established. Eppler was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM job last winter and now appears to be in line to replace Cashman down the road.

On the field, the Yankees made a number of great, good, okay, poor, and disastrous moves like every other team. Signing Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract was a masterstroke while the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade went sour in less than three months. Low-cost, one-year stopgap solutions like Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, and Clay Rapada worked out well while others like Chris Stewart and Andruw Jones did not. Minor league free agent signings like Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise contributed while midseason pickups like Chad Qualls, Casey McGehee, and Steve Pearce were non-factors. Derek Lowe worked out fine after being plucked off the scrap heap in August.

The Yankees made one significant midseason move, acquiring Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners for two young arms. The 39-year-old agreed to a set of conditions prior to joining the team, specifically that he would move over to left field, bat towards the bottom of the order, and sit against tough lefties. Ichiro performed so well (.322/.340/.454, 114 wRC+) that he forced his way into regular playing time and a higher spot in the lineup by the end of the season. Even Ichiro’s biggest detractors (i.e. me) have to admit he gave the team a big shot in the arm down the stretch.

At the same time, I do feel the Yankees dragged their fit a bit making in-season upgrades. Obviously Brett Gardner‘s three setbacks contributed to that, but the team also didn’t act swiftly when it was obvious bullpen help was needed. Both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson went down with injuries in May, then a few weeks later Cory Wade completely imploded. The only help they brought in before the deadline was Qualls, who predictably stunk. It appeared as though the Yankees were counting on Joba Chamberlain‘s return from elbow and ankle surgery to shore up the bullpen, whether that was actually the case or not.

The Yankees intend to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014, and the front office has major work to do these next 15 months or so to make that happen. The Pineda trade was, by far, the team’s most long-term move this year and so far the worst case scenario has played out. The right-hander’s ability to rebound following shoulder surgery may be the biggest factor in getting under the luxury tax threshold. The Kuroda signing and Ichiro trade worked out marvelously this year, but fair or not, the performance of the front office going forward will be heavily influenced by the results of that swap with the Mariners.

Categories : Front Office
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(AP Photo/John Marshall Mantel)

The Yankees have won six of their last ten games, but that is barely a footnote in the second half slide that has brought they back to the pack in the AL East. Their ten-game lead has vanished, and when leads that size are blown around here, people tend to lose their jobs. Yesterday we examined Joe Girardi‘s job security, so it’s only natural that today we look at his boss, Brian Cashman.

It hasn’t been a good year for Cashman in terms of his roster moves and decisions, not at all. Last season he hit on nearly everyone, but his only significant success story this year is Hiroki Kuroda, who has been better than anyone could have reasonably expected. The Michael Pineda trade is already looking like a disaster, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez have cratered in the second half, Jose Quintana is thriving for the White Sox, Justin Maxwell and George Kontos are performing well for the Astros and Giants, and there were no significant moves made at the deadline to shore things up. Here is a recap of the team’s moves over the last twelve months for reference.

Cashman’s off-the-field issues are worth mentioning, as his very public divorce and stalker trial haven’t exactly brought positive attention to him and the Yankees. That said, Cashman is the third longest-tenured GM in baseball and it wasn’t until this past offseason that something resembling a line of succession was established in the front office. He is under contract through 2014 and reportedly is very tight with Hal Steinbrenner, which could save his job if the Yankees wind up missing the postseason. Whether it should is another matter entirely.

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Steve Serby’s Q&As are a weekend staple of the NY Post, but today he published an exclusive — and longer than usual — midweek chat with GM Brian Cashman. The two spoke spoke about a number of topics, including the current Yankees team, the Michael Pineda trade, the declining Alex Rodriguez, George Steinbrenner, his relationship with Joe Girardi, and lots more. Make sure you check it out, it’s a quality read.

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Jun
06

Yankees Trimester Grades Are In

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Greetings! When last we met, I was whining about the opulence and inaccessibility of [new] Yankee Stadium, and though it has pained me to be missing-in-action since January, I have been a bit busy with this and that. But enough about me! Let’s get right down to it, shall we?

Amazingly, we have already reached the one-third mark of the 2012 season – it seems like just yesterday that Michael Pineda was being touted as an ace-in-waiting – and your New York Yankees (30-24) are just 1/2 game back of the AL East Division leading Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. Wait a second, it is June and the O’s are in first place? Yup, that Showalter-remakes-franchise-gets-fired-and-team-wins-World-Series-in-subsequent-season plan is right on track!

Despite an uneven start to the ’12 campaign, at best, things are certainly looking up of late for the Bombers, who are 7-3 over their last ten games. The Yankees are also an encouraging (and division-leading) +30 in run differential and their offense, though clearly not yet firing on all cylinders, has improved to 8th in Major League Baseball in runs scored (256), 4th in OBP (.338) and 3rd in SLG (.456). The Yankee pitching staff has also failed to meet expectations, but the degree of disappointment is markedly greater. New York pitching ranks 25th of 30 in batting average allowed and quality starts, 28th in home runs and total bases allowed and their team ERA (3.99) is good for just 16th in all of baseball.

All in all, things could be a lot worse for New York given the club’s proclivity for ineptitude when hitting with runners in scoring position (.220, 27th-worst in the Majors). They have also sustained numerous injuries to key personnel, but simply put, when a franchise has as much depth and as many resources as do the Yankees, they need their best players – their most well-compensated, too – to produce with greater consistency.

And now, the grades:

THE BATS

MARK TEIXEIRA:

(.247 AVG | 9 HR | 32 RBI | .313 OBP | 25 SO | 1.000 FPCT)

When it comes to the 32-year-old Teixeira, the legacy of his Yankee tenure will always be colored by the 2009 World Championship. He remains a premier defender, a tireless worker and a clubhouse leader, but there is no denying that the progression, or lack thereof, of his offense is alarming, to say the least. Mark’s OBP has declined steady since his 2009 Bronx-arrival, and this season he’s getting on base almost 18% less often than he has during his career. Sure, he’s striking out less (he’s on pace for just 78 whiffs, which would be his lowest full season total ever), but he simply just doesn’t take walks anymore. His .762 OPS is anemic. And when it comes to hitting away from the defensive shift deployed by every opposing manager, Teixeira is positively maddening in his approach. Yes, the Yankees can live with a 1B giving them league-average offensive production – and stellar glove-work; he hasn’t made an error this season – but that is not what Teix was brought here for. He was brought here to be a run-producer and middle-of-the-order cog.

ROBINSON CANO:

(.290 AVG | 60 H | 8 HR | 24 RBI | 19 2B | .840 OPS )

Apparently Cano really likes him some month of May. The Yankee second baseman certainly flowered (.312, 7HR, 19 RBI, .970 OPS) after a lackluster April that had some wondering if he’d found a replacement for Melky Cabrera to join him in da club. Look, what can you really say about Robbie that isn’t obvious to anyone who watches him with regularity? The man is a singular talent, capable of greatness in every fielding opportunity and during every at-bat. What remains lacking in his game, however, is that degree of absolute care and focus throughout all 9 innings. There are ABs that make you scratch your head – especially the situational ones, or ones where he bails a pitcher out – and call into question whether Cano’s ceiling will ultimately be limited by what resides between his ears. Still, if you’re biggest problem is being better than 99% of your contemporaries while seemingly exerting just 75% of your effort, I guess you’re doing okay in life.

DEREK JETER:

(52 GS | .336 AVG | 75 H | 6 HR | 5 SB | 19 2B | .846 OPS)

“I’ll have what he’s having!” Admittedly, during the first half of last season, I thought Derek Jeter was done. I thought that the Yankees had foolishly negotiated against themselves during that acrimonious contract squabble and that both sides would regret the deal. I thought that to give a 96-year-old shortstop with diminishing skills a three year contract (with a player option for a fourth) was borderline insane and mostly unjustifiable from a baseball standpoint. Well, I guess I was wrong. Quite simply, the man is cyborg, living tissue over metal endoskeleton. He is on pace for 225 hits this season, which would set a new career-high, and though he doesn’t get to as many balls at SS as he used to, you just feel secure knowing he’s out there. Sure, there may still be some that are opposed to men wearing a Jeter jersey on account of all that matinee idol business, but whatever, I just ordered mine. In pink.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ:

(.279 AVG | 9 HR | 22 RBI | 6 SB, 0 CS | 46 SO | .806 OPS)

If I would have told you that ARod would hit .314 for a month and only tally 8 RBI over the same stretch, you would have told me that I was crazy, right? Well, that was the new Mr. May’s recent production, and as we watch this once epic talent slide further and further into an abyss of mediocrity, I can’t help but wonder if he might retire (2015?) before his ridiculous contract ends in order to save himself the embarrassment of lacing ‘em up for a fan base that won’t hesitate to let him know how overpaid he is. His OPS has been falling steadily for years, but nowadays there is but an occasional display of the ability that propelled him to GOAT-debate-status. And yes, I get that he’s an above average defender and a student of the game who virtually always makes the right decisions on the field, but he’s on pace for a career-high 144 SOs, and it won’t be long before the “he has to cheat now to make up for lost bat speed” talks becomes pervasive. The Yankees don’t need Alex to be what he was – lord knows they can absorb his meager salary-to-production ratio – but they do need him to be more than marginally better than average.

NICK SWISHER:

(.249 AVG | 8 HR | 34 RBI | .310 OBP | 16 BB | 42 SO)

Swisher has been close to a true-three-outcome player (HR, BB or SO) for most of his career, but this season has been an extremely odd one for the Yankee right fielder in that his ability or willingness to take a walk has seemingly evaporated overnight. On pace for just 48 bases-on-balls, Swish’s OPS is suffering mightily as a result (.759 in 2012 versus .824 for his career). As a right-handed hitter, Nick has been positively dreadful, hitting just .191 over 47 ABs, which is surprising when you consider that he had produced a .288/.417/.888 triple slash rate from the right side from 2099-2011. This is the final year of Swisher’s contract – the Yankees exercised their club option for $10.25M for 2012 – and it is anyone’s guess whether he will be back next season, but he will be 32-years-old this November and surely will seek that last big money contract. The stats tell me that Swisher is not a top-50 Major League outfielder (at least thus far this season), but perhaps brighter days lie ahead.

CURTIS GRANDERSON:

(.259 AVG | 17 HR | 39 R | 33 RBI | .542 SLG | 62 SO)

There was a once a time when a great many baseball writers – some of whom are my colleagues here at RAB – said that the Yankees erred by acquiring Granderson. They said he couldn’t hit lefty-pitching (he can, he’s actually been better against lefties this year), they said he struck out too much (he does, but his power makes up for it) and they said he wasn’t patient enough (he is, he’s on pace for a career-best 90 walks). Seriously, has Yankee GM Brian Cashman made a better trade during his Bronx-tenure than the one he made for Granderson? In fact, where would the Yankees be without their reliable center fielder? They’d be trailing the Red Sox in the AL East cellar, that’s where.

BRETT GARDNER:

(28 AB)

That damned Gardner! If only he would have taken better care of his elbow. (In fairness, I am unable to chose INC as part of this ultra-sophisticated grading system.) Okay, okay, so Brett has been injured all season, having played in just nine games and amassing just 28 at-bats. Word on the street is that he is close to returning to the club – he went 0-for-5 in an extended spring training game yesterday. The Yankee left fielder’s return will be a welcome one for the Bombers, who never expected to have to rely so heavily on on their bench players to fill the void. One can only assume that Gardner’s presence, particularly his disruptive presence on the base paths, will be beneficial to the lineup’s ability to produce with RISP.

RAÚL IBAÑEZ:

(43 GP | .252 AVG | 9 HR | 33 RBI | .510 SLG | 1.000 FPCT)

Much like Jerry Seinfield once posited on salsa, I think people just like to say Ibañez. In fact, The Most Interesting Man in the World’s first word was Ibañez (he was 4-minutes-old, true story). When the Yankees signed Ibañez, I really wondered what they were thinking given that the journeyman outfielder/DH would not be allowed to sport his trademark soul patch, which everyone knew had been the source of his power. Facial hair aside, he has been a revelation for New York, especially in light of Gardner’s injury and the need for him to play virtually everyday. Originally brought in to platoon with Andruw Jones at the DH-slot, Ibañez has been one of the rare bright spots on a roster mostly devoid of big hits thus far this season, as evidenced by those 9 HR in 149 ABs.

RUSSELL MARTIN:

(.211 AVG | 5 HR | 16 RBI | 28:25 K:H | 22 SBA, 7 CS | 4 PB)

Meh.

THE STARTERS

C.C. SABATHIA:

(7-2 | 78.1 IP | 3.68 ERA | 1.24 WHIP | 74 K | .246 BAA)

Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I am wanting more from Sabathia. Even when he’s winning 20 games a season, you rarely get the sense that he is dominating out there. Yes, he’s undoubtedly a top-20 starter in terms of production, and he always keeps the Yankees in games, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, but Sabathia largely mirrors the Yankees as a whole in that he dominates the teams he is supposed to, but is fairly inconsistent against top-notch opposition. From 2009 to 2011, Sabathia’s ERA versus Boston (4.27), Texas (4.26) and DET (3.95) contrast unfavorably with his work against BAL (2.99), KC (2.38) and SEA (1.75). Look, no one wouldn’t be happy to have the Big Fella leading their staff, but for what New York is paying him – and what he pulled with the opt-out – more is expected.

HIROKI KURODA:

(4-6 | 68.1 IP | 3.82 ERA | 1.35 WHIP | 41 K | 22 BB | .269 BAA)

Hiroki Kuroda can be a really good pitcher sometimes. Hiroki Kuroda can also be a really bad pitcher sometimes, too. And therein lies the problem. Over his last ten starts, he has held the opposition to 3 runs or less eight times, which is pretty remarkable for a guy who is pitching in the American League for the first time in his career. Then again, in those other two starts, he gave up 13 runs and looked fairly over-matched in the process. Kuroda can definitely win 15 games for the Yankees, and it is obvious watching him that he has a mastery over a veritable arsenal of weapons at his disposal. What we don’t know is how a guy like Kuroda will fare during the playoffs – should the Yankees qualify for the postseason – since he has only three career postseason starts.

ANDY PETTITTE:

(3-2 | 2.78 ERA | 1.01 WHIP | .225 BAA | 7:32 BB:K)

I don’t know if Pettitte “misremembered” how old he is, but oh, my! Not only is Andy pitching like he never took a year off, somehow, inexplicably, he is pitching better than he has at any point since his 2005 campaign in Houston when he put up a 2.39 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Sure, he was snorting human growth hormone off Roger Clemens’ butt cheeks back then, but still, this is unprecedented stuff from #46 right now. It is highly unlikely that Pettitte can maintain this degree of excellence all season, but even with a regression, his steady presence and veteran leadership cannot be diminished. It would be wise for Girardi to monitor Pettitte’s innings so that the lefty remains healthy, but if Andy can keep mixing up his pitches as effectively as he has thus far, there is no reason why he cannot win more often that he loses as well as maintain solid peripherals along the way.

PHIL HUGHES:

(5-5 | 61.2 IP | 4.96 ERA | 1.35 WHIP | 57 K | .268 BAA)

Back when Hughes was rumored to be the centerpiece of a proposed deal with Twins in exchange for Johan Santana, I swore to anyone who would listen that I was prepared to renounce my loyalty to the franchise if the deal was consummated. Never in my lifetime had a [potential] homegrown-ace actually been on the cusp of promotion to the Majors – O Brien Taylor, Where Art Thou – and I was steadfast, having seen Hughes pitch in the minors, that he must be deemed untouchable. And when his 2007 no-hit bid against the Rangers at Arlington was broken up by a pulled hamstring, I felt vindicated by my feelings about the then can’t miss prospect. But oh, how times have changed. While Phil has been better of late, he has given up 13 HRs already this season and he doesn’t miss many bats when he has two strikes on hitters. Hughes will never be the guy I thought he was, but if he can keep the ball in the park, he has a decent chance to help fulfill to the Yankees’ playoff aspirations.

IVAN NOVA:

(6-2 | 62.2 IP | 5.60 ERA | 1.58 WHIP | 79 H | 13 HR | .313 BAA)

What a weird season “Supernova” is having. On one hand, he’s striking guys out with greater frequency than he did during his rookie season, but he also allowing an inordinate number of hits (many of them of the long-ball-variety), especially in crucial game situations. Sophomore slumps are one thing, and it certainly doesn’t appear to be the stuff, but perhaps this is a case of early career success breeding complacency and a lack of focus. The Yankees rarely suffer fools for any length of time, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nova sent down to AAA if he doesn’t quickly show signs of improvement. The tools are there, the moxie is there, but unless something is going on off the field that we don’t know about, there is simply no justification for his performance other than growing pains.

THE PEN

RAFAEL SORIANO:

(7 S | 1.89 ERA |1.89 WHIP)

When the Yankees Randy Levine signed Soriano to that outrageous contract to be a setup man, who woulda thunk we would later see the great Mariano Rivera sidelined by a wrecked knee and his protege, David Robertson, disabled by a sore ribcage? So now Soriano, previously a very accomplished closer in his own right, has been thrust back into the stopper role, and despite far too many walks per inning pitched, and he’s done a fine job for the Bombers. It is fair to wonder why Soriano couldn’t be this effective as a setup man, but in fairness to him, he did say all along that he was much more comfortable closing. Don’t be surprised if Soriano parlays a solid 2012 closing gig into a new contract, too; hopefully with another club as D-Rob is Mo’s organizational heir-apparent, anyway.

DAVID ROBERTSON:

(14.1 IP |2.51 ERA | 1.19 ERA| 24 K)

Anointed by Joe Girardi as Mariano’s successor following the latter’s season-ending injury, Robertson was enjoying a fine start to the 2012 season before being sidelined by a nagging injury of his own. There is no doubt that he can handle the closing role, but I would have preferred to see Soriano get first crack at the job, mostly because following in Rivera’s footsteps is something of a can’t-win proposition. D-Rob is expected back from the disabled list in just over a week, and the formidable Yankee bullpen will become that much more difficult for the opposition to contend with. One thing to keep an eye on: Robertson (sample size notwithstanding) had seemed to improve on keeping men from reaching base against him in the early going, which was really his only bugaboo in 2011.

THE REST:

The Yankees’ bullpen-ERA is 2.78, 5th-best in the Majors. Sweet! Also, the law firm Logan, Wade, Phelps and Rapada, LLC has hired Moshe Mandel as a litigation associate, so there’s that.

THE BENCH

ANDRUW JONES:

(.230 AVG | 5 HR in 73 ABs | 11 RBI)

Remember those California Raisin claymation commercials back in the eighties? Yeah, that’s what I think of every time I see Andruw’s permi-smile saunter to the plate, too.

THE REST:

Is it wrong of me to hope that ARod decides to go backpacking in Europe for a month or two so that Eric Chavez can play everyday? Yeah, his body probably wouldn’t hold up, but whatever, man-crush or not, I just like watching him hit.

MANAGEMENT

JOE GIRARDI:

If we are to judge Joltin’ Joe Girardio solely on the team’s record, he’d probably be in danger of flunking given the team’s payroll. But the standings don’t tell the whole story, as Girardi has steered the ship through injury-plagued waters in spite of a lineup that has largely failed to play to the back of its collective baseball cards. With Joe, what you see is what you get: a mind-numbing reliance on the numbers and an uncanny feel for how to manage a bullpen. That Girardi seems to have taken a page out of Tom Coughlin’s chill-the-f*ck-out book in recent years speaks volumes about his adaptability and his understanding of what a manager in this town must do to avoid being caught in the media’s or the fans’ cross-hairs. It’s all about the pitching, stupid; we know this, but if the lineup does it part – and recent signs suggest they will – Girardi will once again lead the Pinstripes to the postseason, and his job will remain secure.

BRIAN CASHMAN:

In truth, C.R.E.A.M.’s off-season blueprint didn’t go exactly according to plan, now did it? What with the loss of Mariano to KC’s warning track lip, the loss of Joba Chamberlain to Tampa’s finest tramps (the jumping kind, not the Daryl Strawberry late-night kind) and the aforementioned Pineda’s wrecked pitching shoulder, most other GMs would have closed up shop already. Obviously Ibañez has been a coup, but the jury is still out on Kuroda and it is fair to question why Cashman did not pursue Carlos Beltran, who (again) wanted to be a Yankee in the off-season. Many have also lamented the incredible success of Melky Cabrera for the San Francisco Giants, but the Yankees had determined that they were committed to Gardner well before Melky was traded to Atlanta for Javier Vazquez 2.0.

This Yankee team has some legitimate questions – namely the depth of its starting pitching and outfield – so it will be interesting to see what Mr. Stealthmode himself pursues on the trade market as July rapidly approaches. One thing is for certain: never assume anything with Cashman. He has proven time and time again that he will not hesitate to make the moves that no one saw coming, and generally, he has hit more than he has missed.

Agree? Disagree? That’s what the comments section is for. Have at it, Hosses and Hossettes!

***

Follow me, @BronXoo on Twitter, or else!

Categories : Musings, Whimsy
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Duke Castiglione cares not about your personal bubble.

Happy pitchers and catchers day. Joe Girardi was/is late for a scheduled meeting with the media because of a lengthy flight delay, but Brian Cashman did hold court with reports. Here’s the round up of the news and notes…

  • “It’s not going to affect my job,” said Cashman when asked about his divorce and stalker, calling the situation “very difficult.” He doesn’t believe his job is in jeopardy. (Dan Barbarisi)
  • Cashman confirmed that Mariano Rivera will be late to camp. “What am I going to do? He’s Mariano Rivera,” said the GM. “He’ll get his eight innings in … He knows what he needs to do.” (Bryan Hoch, Pete Caldera & Erik Boland)
  • CC Sabathia and Cashman had a conversation about the left-hander’s weight soon after he signed his new contract extension. Cashman called it a “healthy dialogue,” and the conversation included Girardi and head trainer Steve Donohue. Sabathia lost 10-15 lbs. this winter (though David Waldstein says it looks like more) and will focus on maintaining it throughout the season. (Marc Carig & Boland)
  • Michael Pineda will not start the season as the number two starter, with Cashman citing his need to improve his changeup as a reason why. My prediction? He’ll be the four on Opening Day, which is completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. (Boland)
  • Andruw Jones will report to camp before the rest of the position players because he’s working his way back from offseason knee surgery. He had a small tear repaired and played through the injury last season. (Carig)
  • Brad Meyers, one of the team’s two Rule 5 Draft picks, hurt his shoulder lifting weights over the winter and will be behind the other pitchers in camp. He was a long shot to make the roster already, and this certainly didn’t improve his chances any. (Carig)
  • Not surprising, but Cashman said they want a left-handed hitting DH that can play some outfield. Raul Ibanez is reportedly the top target, though Cashman didn’t mention him by name. The GM also said Eric Chavez‘s return is not a sure thing. (Hoch)
  • Last but not least, Cashman admitted that the Yankees weren’t trying to win the division in 2010. They decided they were better off winning the Wild Card and focusing on getting healthy in September. (Hoch)

(Photo via Mark Feinsand)

Categories : News, Spring Training
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Feb
01

The Future of the Front Office

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Billy Eppler shuns your camera lens. (Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

It barely registered as more than a blip on the radar, but the Yankees made a rather significant move yesterday. The club added former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Pro scouting director Billy Eppler was promoted to assistant GM, a move with some pretty significant long-term implications. Rather than explain why all over again, I’ll point you to what I wrote last June

When I look at the Yankees front office, one thing really stands out to me: there’s no obvious, in-house candidate to replace [GM Brian Cashman]. I’m guessing that’s by design, because why would Cashman want competition from the inside? He’s made himself that much more valuable to the franchise by making sure no one emerges as a potential replacement. From a business perspective, it’s brilliant. Assistant GM Jean Afterman reportedly specializes in contracts and negotiations, not necessarily baseball operations. Scouting directors Billy Eppler (pro) and Damon Oppenheimer (amateur) don’t have any kind of GM’ing experience, even at the assistant level. The closest thing the Yankees have had to a potential in-house GM alternative during Cashman’s tenure (at least recently) was Kevin Towers, who served as a special advisor in 2010 before taking the Diamondbacks GM job over the winter.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because when you look around the league, this is something pretty unique to the Yankees. Just to use the Red Sox as an example (since apparently they’re the measuring stick for everything the Yankees do), their official site lists something like eight assistants (with various titles) to GM Theo Epstein, including one former GM in Allard Baird (Royals). If Epstein leaves for whatever reason, AGM Ben Cherington could step in and the team wouldn’t miss a beat. In fact, he and current Padres GM Jed Hoyer served as co-GMs when Epstein briefly left the club in December of 2005, and the duo actually brokered the Hanley Ramirez-Josh Beckett trade in Epstein’s short absence. I just don’t see how that kind of seamless transition would occur with the Yankees.

Eppler has run the pro scouting department since Cashman created it in 2005, and prior to that he worked as a scout for the Yankees, Padres, and Rockies. He pitched at UConn once upon a time, but a shoulder injury ended his playing career before he had a chance to go pro. Joe Torre (and Tom Verducci) referred to him as a “stats guru” in The Yankee Years, but Eppler says that’s not the case.

“Is Billy a stats guy? No, and I joke with him about it,” said Bill Schmidt — the Rockies’ VP of Scouting — to Tyler Kepner in 2009. “But does he use it as a tool? We all do. Billy is a well-rounded scout, and any well-rounded scout is going to look at stats.”

Eppler’s promotion to assistant GM appears to be step one of creating the seamless transition that I talked about in June. He’s been in the mix for both the Padres’ and Angels’ GM positions in recent years, and reportedly was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the job in Anaheim earlier this offseason. I’m sure other clubs have expressed interest in him in other capacities as well, we just don’t know about it. Cashman and former Yankees GM Gene Michael (currently an advisor to Cashman) have touted Eppler as a future GM in the past, and right now it’s clear that it’s only a matter of time before some team hires him for that role. Yesterday’s promotion is an indication that that team may end up being the Yankees.

Cashman is about to enter his 14th year as GM of the Yankees, and tenures of that length are pretty unheard of when it comes to baseball executives. He signed his fourth straight three-year contract back in November, so he’ll be around for a 15th and 16th season as well. What happens after that? We really don’t know. Cashman is still relatively young (45 in July), so he has plenty of GM years left ahead of him, at least in theory. The Steinbrenners love him and the team continues to win, so that side of it doesn’t figure to be an issue. Maybe another three-year contract is in the cards, but I get the sense that the next three years will be spent grooming Eppler to take over following the 2014 season.

Now, I don’t think Cashman will be fired or shown the door at that time, though it’s certainly possible, of course. It does come with the territory. I think it’s more likely that he’ll be promoted, however, perhaps to some kind of chairperson/team president capacity with Eppler stepping in as GM. It’s pretty much the same thing the Indians did a year or two ago, when long-time GM Mark Shapiro became team president and long-time assistant GM Chris Antonetti replaced him. That was the plan for years, and the Yankees could be setting themselves up for a similar kind of transition. Nice and easy, we’ll barely even notice.

I don’t have any kind of hard evidence to back this up obviously, it’s just a thought more than anything. Cashman’s been doing this GM thing for a long time now, and a promotion to a higher position is the natural order of things. Eppler is a valuable asset that other teams clearly have interest in, and that interest only figures to increase over the next few years. Rather than lose him to another club (which could still happen), they Yankees have put him in a position to potentially succeed Cashman and become the next GM. For the first time in Cashman’s tenure, there’s something resembling a line of succession in place.

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In recent days, while teams like the Marlins and Angels snapped up every big name free agent on the market, Brian Cashman preached patience and fiscal responsibility. When Yu Darvish was posted at the end of last week, Cashman said the following (courtesy of Chad Jennings):

“Sometimes, if you like somebody a great deal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be in a position to participate,” Cashman said. “I think, obviously he’s extremely talented. If he’s going to get posted, it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out and how everybody on this side of the fence – meaning all Major League clubs – how they decide to or not to participate, and at what level. But that’s all for another day.”

“We’ve got a lot of depth (in the rotation),” Cashman said. “Can we add to it? We’d like to. But is it realistic? It’s not necessarily that realistic because for me to be able to push through something, I’m probably going to have to overpay to do that. And that’s a tough thing to do, especially when you’re sitting with a lot of talent, a lot of people you could slot in and (have them) do this job. It’s just, do you want to bet on somebody doing it significantly better at the expense of payroll flexibility going forward or (the loss of a prospect in a trade)? I’m OK with the balancing act. I’m OK with the decision making. I didn’t expect much, and it’s hard to improve on what we already have.”

Couple these quotes with the recent reports that the Yankees are trying to cut their payroll in anticipation of being below the luxury tax threshold in 2014, and you have the makings of another quiet offseason for a team that seems to need some established starting pitching. However, despite the fairly pervasive reports that the Yankees are unlikely to bid on Darvish, sign a free agent to a large deal, or give up major prospects to acquire a top starter, there is precedent to suggest that Cashman is simply working to muddy the informational waters.

The most famous example comes from late-2005, when Brian claimed that the Yankees were going to enter the 2006 season with Bubba Crosby as the center fielder. No one quite believed it at the time, but most fans were still stunned when Cashman stole Johnny Damon from the Red Sox a few weeks later. Prior to the 2009 season, the Yankees’ GM suggested that the rumors of the Yankees adding Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and either Derek Lowe or A.J. Burnett were “crazy talk” from a “fantasy land.” He suggested that even acquiring just Sabathia and Teixeira was a ridiculous idea that had no merit. A scant few weeks later, Sabathia, Teixeira, and Burnett were all in pinstripes.

On two other occasions, Cashman made forceful public statements only to later be overruled by management. He stated quite clearly that if A-Rod used the opt-out in his contract following the 2007 season, the Yankees would not participate in his free agency. And just last offseason, he declared that he would not surrender his first round pick, only to be effectively overruled by management a few days later when they signed Rafael Soriano.

The fact of the matter is that it is usually in Cashman’s best interests to be less than forthcoming with the entire and absolute truth. It does him nothing but harm to effusively express interest in a free agent or to suggest that the club has major holes that desperately need to be remedied. Furthermore, when it comes to this particular offseason, with Darvish finally on the market, it actually behooves him to actively spread misinformation:

The process of acquiring players from Japanese baseball includes a blind posting system. Interested teams get to make a single bid for the exclusive rights to negotiate with the player, without knowledge of the bids being made by other clubs. Essentially, clubs need to guess at the market and then make their bid accordingly. This can prove to be extremely difficult, as evidenced by the Red Sox’s $51 million bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka, which reportedly exceeded the next highest bid by at least $15 million.

The guesswork nature of this process lends itself towards misinformation. Teams that are interested in Darvish have an incentive to downplay their level of involvement, which could help suppress the market and lower the range of bids. Conversely, teams that have little interest might feign heavy internal consideration of a large bid, so as to drive up the price for rivals and generally push the market upwards. Taken together, this means that almost all of the information you might hear on Darvish, regarding any team, is likely to be filtered through the lens of self-interest and may be being released to influence the bidding environment. As we saw with the Daisuke situation, until the Nippon Ham Fighters announce the winner, everyone will be in the dark on the posting process.

I entered this offseason expecting the Yankees to add some pitching, and I still believe that all the talk of an austerity budget is a ruse designed to keep the bidding on Darvish reasonably low. That said, the events of last offseason, in which Cashman claimed not to feel a desperate need for pitching and then followed through by not adding a major starter all year, give me pause. The Yankees and Brian Cashman may actually feel that Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, and Hector Noesi provide them with enough options to construct a quality rotation behind CC Sabathia. It’s also possible that they are running a misinformation campaign, but one targeted at next offseason and players like Cole Hamels. Whatever the truth is, Brian Cashman’s history suggests that we should not be too quick to believe what we read.

Categories : Musings
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Nov
03

Our Man in Chicago

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It’s been a tough couple of months in Boston. The Red Sox went from a virtual playoff lock and World Series contender to missing the playoffs, firing their manager and seeing their long-tenured and well-respected general manager depart for a new challenge with the Chicago Cubs. Change has come to the AL East, change that seemed hard to imagine a year ago. Now that Theo has moved on and no longer runs the Yankees’ biggest and baddest rival, he’s more free than ever to explore a more functional working relationship with long-time nemesis, Brian Cashman. Indeed, one of the more interesting things to watch about the new leadership on the North Side of Chicago will be the extent to which Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer find Brian Cashman to be a go-to trading partner.

Photo credit: Aaron Houston for the New York Times

While there certainly isn’t any type of formal prohibition on trading between fierce rivals, Epstein and Cashman weren’t ever really free to pursue a trading relationship during their tenures atop their respective organizations. Despite the fact that a mutually-beneficial deal could have existed at least in theory, the constraints of the rivalry, pressure from ownership, and glare of the media made it extremely unlikely. Intra-division trades aren’t too frequent. Trades between the biggest rivals in baseball almost never happen. The last time the Sox and the Yankees matched up on a deal was back in 1997 when they swapped Tony Armas and Jim Mecir for Randy Brown and Mike Stanley. Neither Cashman nor Epstein were General Managers yet, and Epstein was just 24 years old.

Despite the fact that they worked for rival organizations, Epstein and Cashman have always seemed to get along. This makes sense, as they share a lot in common. As general managers, they were both in big markets with a lot of money to spend. They had high-profile owners and sometimes messy decision-making apparatuses. They were under harsher media scrutiny than anywhere else, and they operated with the pressure to win every year. Setting aside their professional competitiveness, one has to imagine Epstein could empathize with Cashman when he got overruled on Rafael Soriano, and that Cashman felt similarly towards Epstein as the Sox season spiraled out of control and ownership pushed Terry Francona out the door. They’re not so different, Epstein and Cashman.

They could be eager now to explore a working relationship. One has to imagine they’re at least curious to match wits in a trade negotiation, to experience up close what they’ve observed from afar over the past decade. For now there doesn’t seem to be an obvious fit between the Cubs and the Yankees, unless the Cubs were willing to trade one of their starters now. If the Cubs fall out of contention this summer and look to shed payroll and get prospects in return, could they make Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza available? And would Cashman be ready to deal? It’s an interesting question, and the burgeoning dynamic between the once-forbidden partners will be something to watch over the next few years.

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