Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Turbulent Waters for Brian Cashman...


Brian Cashman (Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Long-serving GM has passed his expiration date…

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has had a nice run. He has been senior vice president and general manager of the greatest team in Major League Baseball since February 1998. Although he was not the architect of Dynasty Championship Teams of the late 1990s, he was seated in the General Manager’s seat when the Yankees won 114 games (125 games if you count the playoffs) to win the 1998 World Series against the San Diego Padres in a convincing four-game sweep. Given his long tenure with the Yankees and four World Series championships under his belt (even if he was the beneficiary of Gene Michael’s work for the first three and Hal Steinbrenner’s money for the fourth), Brian Cashman will one day find his way to Cooperstown. 

It is time for Cashman to find a new job. 

Of course, the truth is he will be secure for the next four years after signing an extension in December. It seems improbable that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner would sever ties with his father’s pick for the general manager’s chair. Hal cannot even bring himself to alter his father’s outdated facial hair policy. I am sure ‘daddy issues’ run strongly in the Steinbrenner family.

Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters)

The game of Baseball has changed significantly since Cashman ascended to the GM’s throne. I do not dispute Cashman’s ability to work internally and externally with people to create trust and rapport. It is always a joke among the fanbase that Cashman wants to prove himself to be the smartest guy in the room. The only problem is, he is not. Younger, smarter general managers are starting to run circles around Cashman. You wonder what an elite front office like the Tampa Bay Rays have, could do if they had the financial resources of the New York Yankees. It has taken some time, but Ben Cherington is winning in Pittsburgh because of smart decisions. Not sustainable but that is not the point. 

Looking back over the Yankees’ significant trades since the infamous Sanchez/Urshela for Donaldson/IKF/Rortvedt deal in March 2022 is discouraging. They say that sometimes the best deals are the deals never made. In Cashman’s case, he went ahead and made those deals anyway.

March 13, 2022

In a surprising move, particularly after the Yankees had tendered Gary Sanchez a 2022 contract before the December 2021 lockout, the Yankees sent Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela to the Minnesota Twins for aging third baseman Josh Donaldson (and his fat contract), infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa (I refuse to say shortstop because he is not one), and the invisible catcher Ben Rortvedt. 

Sure, Sanchez was an addition by subtraction, but the Yankees would have been better off simply non-tendering Sanchez the previous December and retaining Urshela. There were better options for shortstop than IKF, like actual shortstops which included a few elite ones. Rortvedt’s injuries led to one of the few good trades Cashman has completed in the last year. 

March 18, 2022

Bumped from first base by Anthony Rizzo, Luke Voit was a man without a position. I cannot fault Cashman for moving Voit to San Diego for a lower-level prospect, Justin Lange.  I always liked Voit’s football mentality playing baseball, and his home runs in 2020 were nice. But man, Voit with a glove was a precarious situation. There was simply no room on the roster for a DH-only type of player.

Lange, 21, a right-handed pitcher, is currently assigned to the Tampa Tarpons (Single-A).

Voit is with his third organization since leaving the Yankees. He signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in February, and he is currently on their Major League roster although his production has been underwhelming. Voit had to go so it does not really matter if the Yankees ever get any results from Lange.

Hard to fault Cashman for this one. 

April 2, 2022

Cashman scored a win when he sent RHP Albert Abreu and LHP Robert Ahlstrom to the Texas Rangers for their backup catcher, Jose Trevino. Trevi has become the primary starter in a platoon with Kyle Higashioka, vastly upgrading the defense behind the plate, and while not known for his bat, he has knocked in a few game-winning hits. 

Jose Trevino (Photo Credit: AP)

We know the story with Abreu. The Rangers designated him for assignment and traded him to the Kansas City Royals. The Royals DFA’d him, and he found his way back to the Bronx via waivers before the end of last season.  Robby Ahlstrom is in the High-A minors for the Rangers organization, representing the only loss to get Trevi. 

The lone trade win for Cashman during the past year.

July 27, 2022

The Yankees finally made an upgrade in left field when they acquired Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals for RHP Chandler Champlain, LHP T.J. Sikkema, and RHP Beck Way. Unfortunately, just as Benny was getting comfortable in Pinstripes, he broke his hamate bone and never played for the Yankees again. He signed a free-agent contract with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. 

Sikkema and Way are currently playing for the Royals’ Double-A affiliate, while Champlain is in High-A. 

I liked Benintendi and I wanted the Yankees to re-sign him, but this trade failed. 

August 1, 2022

Right-handed reliever Scott Effross was somewhat of a surprise when he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs for RHP Hayden Wesneski. Wesneski, along with former Yankees prospect Ken Waldichuk, was viewed by most to be the best two starting pitchers in the Yankees’ farm system. If Wesneski was moved, I always thought it would be part of a package for a proven Major League starter. So, for a reliever was a bit of a letdown, at least for me.

Effross proved to be a better reliever than expected and if he had stayed healthy, this trade might be viewed as a win. But alas, Effross required offseason Tommy John Surgery and will not resume his Yankees career until sometime next year.  Wesneski is currently in the Cubs’ starting rotation.  Given the dearth of starting pitching for the Yankees, Wesneski might have helped.

Cashman loses this trade.

August 1, 2022

Luis Castillo was the number one starting pitching target for most Yankees fans, but he proved to be cost-prohibitive. We will never know what the Yankees offered or were asked for, but it is assumed it was too much. In retrospect, was it? The Yankees paid heavily to acquire the second-best option in RHP Frankie Montas, along with left-handed reliever Lou Trivino, from the Oakland Athletics for LHP Ken Waldichuk, LHP J.P. Sears, RHP Luis Medina (probably the guy I was most sorry to see go), and 2B Cooper Bowman.

We know the story with Montas. He arrived hurt and was a shell of the player he had been earlier in the season for the A’s. Following offseason surgery, he is out for most if not all of the current season. Same with Trivino, who underwent Tommy John surgery this week.

Regardless of what happens with the quartet of prospects sent to the A’s, this trade is a colossal failure for Cashman. He gave up reasonable prospects for what has proven to be nothing. A little more creativity and he might have been able to secure a better, more reliable option for the starting rotation.

August 2, 2022

Sending Joey Gallo to the Los Angeles Dodgers was a needed trade. Clearly, Gallo had worn out his welcome in New York among the fanbase. A great guy…I will always be convinced he was a strong influence in the clubhouse with his personality and wit, but unfortunately, the on-the-field performance led to his unrecoverable downfall. 

The biggest surprise is that Cashman received a quality prospect for Gallo. I have heard that RHP Clayton Beeter, a starter in the minor leagues, is destined for the bullpen when/if he reaches the Majors. However, regardless of what his future holds, he is legitimately better than I expected. Beeter is currently pitching for the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate and has an outside shot to reach the Majors by the end of the season. If not this season, then next year.   

The Yankees could have received a lesser prospect for Gallo, and the trade would still be called a win for Cashman. Gallo simply had to go.

August 2, 2022

Trading LHP Jordan Montgomery to the St Louis Cardinals will always be a head-scratcher. Centerfielder Harrison Bader, when healthy, is a great player. I like having him on the Yankees, and I am hopeful his stay extends beyond the length of his current contract. But in trading Montgomery, the Yankees were not exactly dealing from a position of strength. They needed another starter when they made the trade and have subsequently needed more quality starters.

I will give this trade a ‘no-decision’ which could tilt in the Yankees’ favor if Bader helps the team win the World Series. Yet, it seems like the Yankees could have figured out a way to get Bader without giving up Montgomery. For as good as Bader played in the playoffs, I thought Montgomery’s loss from the clubhouse harmed the team for weeks after the trade (the psyche of the team was adversely impacted) and it may have contributed to their struggles late in the year and early exit from the playoffs. 

December 28, 2022

LHP Lucas Luetge was shipped to the Atlanta Braves for prospects SS Caleb Durbin and RHP Indigo Diaz. Durbin is currently in High-A and Diaz is in Double-A. 

Luetge served a decent role for the Yankees, but the trade was indifferent for me so I will have to give Cashman credit for picking up a couple of lottery picks for a journeyman pitcher. Many teams are routinely successful at reassembling their bullpens every year, and the Yankees are better than most. The performance of a reliever seems to be the most like a roller coaster ride to any position I have seen in my years of watching baseball. 

None of the trades above, except the acquisition of Jose Trevino, can be viewed as an outstanding trade. Gallo and Voit were throwaways and the players received for them were less than the prospects the Yankees gave up acquiring them.

The Yankees ignored the elite free agent shortstops the past several years, and they passed on generational talents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. If they had a better track record with trades or a stronger record for producing homegrown Major League talent, it would be understandable to forego the multi-millions it would have taken to bring additional superstar talent to New York. Sadly, it seems we are caught in a loop that will continue to produce flawed regular seasons and disappointing October results. I know the season is young, but the Yankees are currently ten games behind the attendance-challenged Tampa Bay Rays.

Sometimes a team needs a new voice. The Yankees brought in high-powered executives to help Cashman when they hired former Giants GM Brian Sabean and former Mets GM Omar Minaya this past offseason, yet their presences have yet to materialize (at least from the outside looking in). It just seems like the same old stagnant Yankees Front Office.

Brian Cashman

I have long been a proponent for moving Cashman to President of Baseball Operations and hiring a new General Manager. Whether Cashman stays or goes, the Yankees need a new voice in the room. A voice that can make the best decisions for today’s New York Yankees and the teams for the coming years. We are the New York Yankees so we should have the best that money can buy. 

I like Brian Cashman. He was the right man at the right time when he was hired. Times change. It is not a personal attack on Cashman when I say the Yankees need a new general manager. Sports management in all sports…generally speaking…tends to have a short shelf life. Longevity stifles creativity.

If the Yankees fail this season, Hal Steinbrenner needs to carefully reevaluate both his manager and general manager, recognize their shortcomings, and cut his losses. There have been many similar quotes, but I will use one by Tony Robbins. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

I am ready for another New York Yankees World Series Championship. 2009 is a distant memory. The Yankees need to refresh our memories for what it feels like to see, hear, and taste Pinstriped success in the season’s last and grandest series of all.  Hal Steinbrenner needs to make the decisions that help propel the Yankees forward. It is what Daddy would have wanted, after all. 

As always, Go Yankees!

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