Archive for Brian Cashman
Via Buster Olney, talks between the Yankees and Brian Cashman about a new contract are going smoothly, and the two sides could have a deal done as soon as next week. Both sides have expressed interest in a reunion in recent weeks, so news that talks are going well isn’t all that surprising. I wonder if Cashman will push for a little more control given how bad the ownership-driven Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano contracts look, but I suspect we’ll never know.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman has never shied away from assessing his own performance. When he produces a failure, he admits it. We saw him do just that during the off-season, when he said that he wasn’t able to answer the team’s needs as well as Boston did. Instead of landing the one sure thing he pieced together a high-risk group of pitchers who weren’t even guaranteed Opening Day roster spots. As it turns out, luck made all the difference.
The old cliche goes, it’s better to be lucky than good. But luck runs out for everyone, and only those who are good have something to fall back on. Fortunately for the Yankees franchise, Brian Cashman is good. That makes his lucky breaks that much better. The 2011 Yankees — AL East Champions and holders of the best record in the American League — benefitted from the good that built the core of the team, and the luck that held it together.
The evidences of Cashman’s luck surround the team. They start with the pitching staff, which got 311 innings and a 3.82 ERA out of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. When they signed minor league deals last off-season they felt like stopgaps. Surely the Yankees would pull off a trade and bring in top-flight reinforcements. Such a trade never materialized, but it didn’t exactly hurt the Yankees’ standing. Even as Garcia and Colon faded a bit down the stretch, the Yankees still persisted.
While Garcia and Colon stand out, other minor Cashman moves paid off enormously. Luis Ayala also signed a minor league deal in the off-season. If it weren’t for Pedro Feliciano‘s injury, he might not have even made the Opening Day roster. By season’s end he threw 56 innings to a 2.09 ERA, soaking up innings when Girardi didn’t want to, or couldn’t, go to his top guys. His 20 games finished was second most on the team.
Cory Wade turned into a brilliant signing, not only because of his performance but because of what might have been. The Yankees snapped him up in mid-June, when he opted out of his minor league deal with the Rays. Had the Rays promoted him, the Yankees would never have realized his 2.04 ERA. Wade got them out of numerous jams this season, and made Rafael Soriano‘s absence a little easier to bear. Most importantly, he added a third reliable setup man to the bullpen, which allowed Girardi to better spread the workload.
On the other side of the ball, Cashman was more good than lucky. The first indicator of that: signing Russell Martin. After April he rarely impressed with the bat, but it didn’t take long to realize that Cashman signed him for other reasons. As Baseball Prospectus’s Mike Fast showed, Martin saves plenty of runs with his glovework behind the plate. Cashman also brought in Andruw Jones to fill the fourth outfielder role, after Jones showed signs of life, especially against lefties, in 2010. He even got a little lucky in that department: who thought Eric Chavez would have even 175 PA this year?
Those moves aren’t the only way Cashman is good, of course. It might seem, at times, that he succeeds because of others. There’s the core he inherited from Gene Michael. There’s the enormous Steinbrenner wallet that allowed him to sign CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira in a single off-season. He acquired A-Rod because he had the money to do so, and then re-signed him for the same reason. While those might seem like moves that anyone with a pocket book could have made, it conveniently ignores one point. Not everyone has that pocket book.
That pocket book is not a perpetual blessing. It comes with certain strings attached, the foremost being the mandate to win every year. That mandate requires a balancing act. Sign too many free agents and you have no first round picks to rebuild the farm. Even with the first round picks, you’re on the board after all the blue chippers are long gone. Since taking the reins in 2006, Cashman has walked that line with precision. He’s made mistakes here and there, as any human being would. But for the most part he’s balanced the need for high-priced free agents with the need to bring in young talent.
Then we get to trades, where Cashman has fared very well. Two key players on the 2011 team, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, came over in recent trades. Swisher was a complete heist, wherein Cashman took advantage of his opponents’ weakness. The Granderson acquisition was no man’s definition of a heist, but it was still a useful trade. They had to give up plenty — a top prospect in Austin Jackson and a useful pitcher in Ian Kennedy — to get him. But an outfielder was on the priority list for the 2010 off-season, and Granderson fit the bill.
At the same time, trading isn’t only about the transactions made. It’s also about the ones avoided. A recent report circulated that the Yankees and Twins had worked out a deal for Francisco Liriano this season. The Yankees ended up nixing it, which worked out pretty well for them. That’s just one known example. While every GM will lose on some trades, Cashman has, for the most part, managed to stay away from the big losses that can cripple teams — even teams with $200 million payrolls.
No GM is perfect. Brian Cashman has made his share of blunders. But on the whole he’s done a good job of balancing the Yankees’ need to win now with their need to win in the future. He’s made shrewd trades and acquisitions to build up the core of his team, and has gotten lucky on a few gambles. This is usually the part where the author compares him to his peers, but that doesn’t quite work with Cashman. He plays a different game than other GMs. He can afford to make certain mistakes that others can’t, but he still has to deliver a winner year in and year out. It’s easy to get lost in that jungle. But Cashman delivers. It will be reassuring, when the season ends, to hear that he’ll be back for three more years.
It might not come as much of a surprise, but the Yankees want to bring back their general manager. Throughout the 2011 season Brian Cashman has fielded questions about his job status, because his contract expires after this season. He has expressed an interest in staying, though some in the media have interpreted his increasing candor as a sign that he’ll leave. But both Cashman and team president Randy Levine have expressed interest in a reunion.
“Clearly, we want him back,” said Levine.
“They know that I would like to come back,” said Cashman.
Previously this season, Hal Steinbrenner has been mum about Cashman’s future with the club, opting to deal with the issue when the season ends. Whether he shares the views of his team president remains unseen.
The Cubs fired long-time GM Jim Hendry over the weekend, another fresh start in a century of futility filled with them. Owner Tom Ricketts has already announced that he will go outside the organization for his next GM and wants someone that will emphasize player development. Naturally, the situation has already spread to New York, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman was asked about joining the lovable losers when his contract expires after the season.
“I have a job I’m doing,” said Cash to Jack Curry. “Hal will evaluate that at the end of the year. My interest is to stay here. [New York] has been home for quite some time.” Some have speculated (myself included) that Cashman’s recent trend of brutal honesty indicates a readiness to leave the only job he’s known in his adult life, but we have no way of knowing his true intentions. He’s been close to leaving before, but always wound up back on a three-year deal. Cashman’s already the highest paid GM in the game, but if nothing else, this Cubs opening will give him some leverage as he negotiates a new deal with the Steinbrenners after the season.
Mike Ashmore ran into Brian Cashman at Waterfront Park in Trenton last night while he watched Dellin Betances‘ start, and the GM was kind enough to answer a few questions. They spoke mostly about the farm system, specifically the value in seeing what other teams are asking for in trades, surprise players (hint: it’s an Almonte), Jesus Montero‘s season, Manny Banuelos‘ season, and plenty more. When asked if any players were untouchable, Cash responded: “Realistically, there are guys that are untouchable for me. But I’ve got bosses, so.” That’s a little twist of the knife right there. Anyway, make sure you give it a read.
Buster Olney spoke to executives from around the league recently (Insider req’d), and the feeling is that this season will be Brian Cashman‘s last as Yankees GM. “I think maybe he’s finally had it,” said one GM. “That’s a job that will take a lot out of you.” “I don’t think he has any idea how different his life would be if he wasn’t general manager of the Yankees,” said said another exec.
Cashman said yesterday that’s he’s not worried about his future, only that he doesn’t intend to talk about a new deal until after the season, per team mandate. Olney says it’s the uncharacteristic honesty that has him thinking Cashman’s ready to leave, echoing what I said last week. He also reminds us that it appeared as if Cashman was going to leave on three other occasions, only to return at the behest of the Steinbrenners. I think it’s 50-50 that he stays, the lowest odds I’ve ever given these situations.
As the 2011 season marches along, there’s one gigantic elephant in the room that everyone’s trying to forget about for the time being: CC Sabathia‘s opt-out clause. The Yankees’ ace can skip out on the final four years and $90-something million dollars left on his contract after the season and hit the free agent market in search of greener pastures. Sabathia will be the best freely available pitcher by a mile, and the Yankees desperately need him to stick around.
Brian Cashman said yesterday that the team will not discuss a new contract with Sabathia during the season despite some obvious reasons why they probably should. This is not news though. The Yankees have a long-standing policy of not talking contracts until the current one expires, regardless of the player’s status or importance to the team. In fairness, Cashman also stuck to the rule three years ago, when his contract expired and he didn’t pursue some kind of extension beforehand. Barring a complete catastrophe, Sabathia will opt out because it’s the smartest move he could possible make.
On the open market, CC is going to have a lot of leverage against the Yankees, and I mean a lot. An unprecedented amount, even. But the Bombers won’t be completely handcuffed because only a limited number of teams can afford to give Sabathia the monster contract he’ll be seeking, and at the end of the day absolutely no one can offer him more than New York. Sabathia has also said “I’m not going anywhere” while noting that he lives in the area year-round and that his kids go to school here. That’s just a clever way of not saying he won’t use the opt out though. So if/when he does bail on the rest of his contract, CC’s choices will be a) come back to the Yankees on a new deal that will pay him handsomely, or b) take less money elsewhere and uproot his family for the second time in three or so years. And be hated by Yankees fans for basically the rest of eternity.
In other contract non-news, Hal Steinbrenner refused to commit to Cashman beyond this season, simply saying that the higher-ups will base the decision on more than just the team’s performance this year. Cashman responded by saying nothing, almost literally: “Nothing to respond to.” His latest three-year contract is up, and although he was more candid than expected this past winter, he and the Steinbrenners still have a strong working relationship.
The Sabathia opt out situation is sure to be messy, but I think Cashman’s will be messier. I figure CC will return after using Cliff Lee’s contract with Philadelphia (six years, $150M) as a starting point in negotiations (he’s got a much longer track record and will still be younger this winter than Lee was this past offseason). Maybe he’ll make all our hopes and dreams come true and decide not to use the opt out, but I would be stunned if that happened. Cashman has some leverage over ownership given the way they went over his head for Rafael Soriano and with Derek Jeter‘s contract, plus the fact that there’s no ready-made, in-house replacement available. These decisions won’t have to made for a few months, but ever so often reminders like this will pop up.
You might not recognize the man pictured to the right. Two and a half decades after this snapshot, he hardly looks like the same person. Were he to wear a baseball cap, there wouldn’t be any hair protruding. He also wouldn’t be wearing a uniform, since his current job is more administrative. The only familiar aspect, really, is the same haven’t-slept-in-weeks look. Yes, the man to the right is Brian Cashman, from his ball playing days at Catholic University of America.
At CUA’s campus newspaper, The Tower, Douglas K. Barclay reminisces on Cashman’s time at the university. While he is often chided for not being a baseball guy — he never played professionally at any level — Cashman’s decision to attend Catholic was centered solely on baseball. “The Catholic decision…was pure baseball,” he said.
Really, this post is just an excuse to display an image of Cashman that might catch people off-guard. It’s certainly not how we’re used to seeing him. But make sure you read the entire article. It’s a quick one, and it provides us with a little more insight about the man making the decisions for the Yankees.
Do general managers react to contract years in the same way as players? While the effect doesn’t apply to every player — see Andruw Jones‘s contract year in 2007 — Dayn Perry, writing in Baseball Between the Numbers, found that there is a small, but statistically significant, uptick in player performance when a free agent contract is on the line. Maybe that’s why the Yankees have a policy of not negotiating new contracts until the old ones expires. That policy applies to players, coaches, and executives alike. As such, Brian Cashman is headed into a contract season.
If we’re to believe Cashman’s peers and bosses atop the Yankees organization, this will not be an issue. They love Cashman and want him back. Cashman, by most indications, enjoys his position. In that way, I’m not sure that his impending free agency means much. The Yankees have been down this road before, and despite a poor 2008 season the team eagerly re-upped with Cashman. Now, three years and a World Series title later, I expect much of the same. The situation might change if the Yankees miss the playoffs, but given recent history I’m not sure about that.
It is fitting, though, that Cashman’s toughest season will come in a contract year. The Yankees have made some depth moves to help shore up the rotation, but at some point they’re going to need someone better than Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon, or perhaps even Ivan Nova, pitching in the rotation. That’s how competitive the AL East has become. It’s not enough to have just a solid rotation. The Yankees need to go above and beyond. They tried this winter, but were snubbed despite having made the best offer. Now Cashman has to get creative in order to upgrade. Money alone won’t get it done this time.
Maybe the Yankees’ brass is just making overtures to feign a sense of stability. Maybe Cashman really does pine to run a franchise where his moves aren’t downplayed because of his deep pockets. If one is true, the Yankees will be searching for a new GM this fall. But given most indications, the Yankees like Cashman. They did, after all, re-sign him after the team failed to make the playoffs in 2008. From Cashman’s angle, he hasn’t worked for another company his entire adult life. His family is settled in the area, and he wields more power than other GMs. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s still a pretty good bet that Cashman’s back for 2012 and beyond.
One of the more exciting aspects to the offseason has been the emergence of Manny Banuelos as one of the game’s premier pitching prospects. Last week he debuted nationally, giving everyone but fans in the tri-state area the opportunity to get a good look at him. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein put together a significant writeup of Banuelos. Ultimately he concluded that Banuelos’ stuff was MLB-ready, but that Banuelos wasn’t ready from an innings and durability standpoint to handle the major leagues. He then concluded his article with a rather odd dig at the approach of Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ front office to the offseason:
In the end, the question of Banuelos’ readiness is less about the prospect and more about the failures of the Yankees to shore up their rotation in the offseason by putting all their eggs in the baskets of Cliff Lee and the anticipated return of Andy Pettitte. “If A.J. Burnett is their number five starter, everyone is happy in Yankees land,” said the National League executive. “If they signed Lee; if Pettitte came back, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Just because the Yankees [screwed] up this off-season doesn’t mean they should sacrifice this kid in the process.”
This is a criticism of Cashman has been bandied about frequently since Pettitte retired. Yet the question remains: what exactly would these critics have liked Cashman to do differently? Did the Yankees really screw up this off-season? It’s true that there were plenty of pitchers available in the free agent and trade markets this winter. So did Cashman err by not landing them? Let’s review, keeping in mind that Lee signed with the Phillies on December 15, 2010.
Ted Lilly: A perpetually underrated fly-ball lefty, Lilly signed a big extension with the Dodgers on 10/16/10. The Yankees never had a chance.
Hiroki Kuroda: Another personal favorite, Kuroda never actually hit the free agent market either. He resigned with the Dodgers on 11/15/10 during the Dodgers’ exclusive negotiating window prior to free agency. When he signed, he said he didn’t need to listen to any other offers once the Dodgers told him they wanted him back.
Jorge De La Rosa: Signed with the Rockies for 2 years and $21.5M with a player option for $11M on 12/3/10. His strikeout rates have always been intriguing, but one could justifiably be concerned about how his career 4.5 BB/9 would play in the AL East. Like Lilly and Kuroda, De La Rosa signed before Lee chose the Phillies.
Shaun Marcum: The Blue Jays traded Marcum to the Brewers on 12/5/10 in exchange for infielder Brett Lawrie. Marcum is currently shut down with shoulder tightness and has never thrown more than 159 innings in a single year.
Aaron Harang: Coming off several poor years, Harang signed a low-money contract with the Padres on 12/6/10.
These are the pitchers whom the Yankees missed out on by waiting on Cliff Lee. Of these, only Marcum could have possibly been a decent upgrade for the Yankee rotation (since Lilly and Kuroda never actually hit the free agent market). However, there are justifiable concerns about his injury history and durability, not to mention the fact that it hardly made sense for Cashman to acquire a starter by trade while he was waiting on Lee and Pettitte to decide.
After Lee signed with Philadelphia, spurning New York for a younger team (ahem), there were really only two pitchers Cashman could have acquired: Zack Greinke and Carl Pavano. Cashman pursued Pavano, going as far as to make him a significant offer for one year. Pavano rejected it. As for Greinke, Cashman met with him and even listened to Greinke make an appeal for Cashman to acquire him, but he ultimately decided against it. Of all the options, is really the only decision with which one could quarrel. Yet this is why you pay your GM the big bucks. He’s responsible for weighing the performance risk of the potential target (which he judged to be high) against the cost of acquiring the target (which we know to be high).
Ultimately it made sense for Cashman to wait on Lee and Pettitte despite the risk that neither of them would be donning the Yankee pinstripes this season. He really had no other choice to go all-in on these two pitchers. Was he supposed to fill his starting pitcher slot with the Kevin Correias and Jorge De La Rosas of the league while Lee and Pettitte were still out there? What happens if Lee and Pettitte both want to join the club? The risk of wasting a roster slot with a subpar pitcher was not worth forgoing the potential payoff of a rotation of Sabathia, Lee, Hughes, Pettitte and Burnett.
The alleged “screw-up” of the Yankee front office this season is more a function of things out of Cashman’s control: the timing of the trades, the timing of Lee and Pettitte’s decisions, and the relatively bare starting pitching market. One is certainly entitled to second-guess the front office, but aside from disagreeing with Cashman on whether Greinke would be a good fit in New York the criticism seems unfounded. As unenthusiastic as fans are about the prospect of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the Yankees rotation to start the year, there wasn’t a whole lot Cashman could do otherwise to prevent it. Sometimes things just don’t go your way.