Obviously the Cliff Lee trade didn’t work out for the Yankees, but the fact that they were in on him to begin with was particularly interesting since a few years ago – when Johan Santana was the ace on the market – the Yankees passed. Their reason? They didn’t want to pay twice – once with players, once with cash.
So what changed this time? Brian Cashman said the Yankees situation now, as opposed to then, was almost completely different. “I didn’t think we were one player away from winning it all with Santana,” Cashman told me today. “And I didn’t think our system was prepared for the deal. This team is a lot deeper and stronger, both on the 25 and the system below.”
That’s certainly true – Cashman pointed out that if they’d made the deal for Santana, the Yankees still would have had to get a center fielder (to replace Melky Cabrera) as well as another starting pitcher (to replace Phil Hughes). They also would have lost their top prospect without having significant depth below. This time, with Lee, they would have dealt a top prospect (in Jesus Montero) but done it a position where they had others (Austin Romine, et al) right behind him. Also, the 25-man roster wouldn’t have been affected.
“We were building towards something that ultimately culminated in a championship down the road at the time the Santana deal presented itself,” Cashman said, “and the truth was that we just were not in a position to do a four-for-one at that time.”
I know some (if not many) of you were glad to see the Lee deal fall through and would have been disappointed to see Montero shipped out. If you’re in that category, it sounds like you can rest easy – Cashman intimated that Lee was a special case and that he believes – understandably – that “starting pitching is our strength.”
As the trade deadline moves closer, it’s more likely the Yankees will focus on the bench and the bullpen.
“Those are obvious areas that we need to improve,” Cashman said, “whether it’s internal or external.”