Yesterday afternoon, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman stepped onto the field to watch a little bit of batting practice. While he was there, he talked to the media for a while. Nothing particularly new came out of it, but the GM did hit on a number of topics that really matter to this team right now, so here are a few highlights:
On the recovery of Jacoby Ellsbury
“We had a timetable. I don’t think we talked about it too much publicly. He was going to be in one of those lineman-looking braces for three weeks. He’s been doing running and stuff in the brace, I think, with some low-level resistance. Obviously doing a lot of strength work. He’s been working his tail off to make sure his quads and his hammys and everything else are not falling behind. … My update through yesterday is he’s busting his tail and doing a lot of functional stuff, but he’s got to have that brace on for three weeks total and he’s just past week two.”
On the decision to have Michael Pineda skip a start
“We’ve just been talking through it. Tanaka obviously got a time out because of the injury he had, so with the off days that we’ve had, it was: all right, let’s try to make a decision here at least on this front end. There’s other avenues to do it if you got a full complement (and) everybody’s healthy. You can always play with a six-man rotation if Nova’s back and everybody’s in line. We’re just trying to find ways to manage it properly so everybody keeps that full tank of gas and doesn’t have fatigue set in too easily, because once fatigue sets in, injuries can happen.”
On the idea of six starter when Ivan Nova is healthy
“It just depends on time of year, how things are functioning, who’s experiencing what. There’s no strict plan as much as (trying to) find ways at times to give people blows is basically what we’re going to try to do. But how we’re going to do it, we’re not sure just yet. … (Nova)’s going to have one (rehab start) in the Florida State League. If that goes fine, he’ll go to Scranton, weather permitting, and at that point we’ll evaluate. I guess it’s possible (he could be back this month). We did build him up to 75 pitches in extended spring so we can keep him on the clock if we feel it’s necessary, or we can pull him if we need him.”
On the dependability of Alex Rodriguez as an everyday player
“It was unpredictable what we were going to get. I could throw out there about the DH spot, it’s not as demanding and we all know that, but I didn’t have any expectations, let alone playing every day as a DH or being productive. He’s been very, very impressive and obviously helpful.”
On lingering foot concerns with Brian McCann
“I’m just thankful every test was negative. (The wrong orthotic) is more likely than not what was causing the issues. We’ll just swap it out and we’ll be able to go on from there and forget that it happened.”
On lingering elbow concerns with Masahiro Tanaka
“I can only speak for myself; I don’t think about it any more. I just think about if he is going to perform. In his last start, given how it was in his two rehab starts, I just wanted him to be productive. I knew he was around an 85-pitch count, so I didn’t know if we were going to be deep in the pen or not. My God, he was tremendous. I wasn’t worried about health. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen.”
Associated Press photos
This morning I wrote about some of my thoughts and impressions heading into this final week of Yankees camp, but my opinions carry no weight around here. Brian Cashman’s opinions do, though. Here are some of the general manager’s thoughts with Opening Day coming up quickly.
On Dellin Betances having a rough spring
By letting Dave Robertson go to Chicago, the Yankees sent a clear message that they believe Betances can repeat last year’s success. Maybe not to that level — he could have a fine career and still have last season standout as his high point — but certainly the Yankees are banking on Betances being able to play a key role and get big outs. Problem is, he’s really struggled this spring with bad results and an underwhelming fastball.
“The Betances ‘Where has his velocity gone?’ story is not accurate,” Cashman said. “He’s actually averaging a mile (per hour) higher at this time this spring than last spring. If it’s apples to apples, then he’s right where he was last year. Obviously his performance in the spring is different than the arm strength, but the arm strength is not the issue. Just want to make sure everybody knows that.”
So what does the performance mean? Maybe nothing. Certainly it doesn’t mean enough that the Yankees are going to take Betances out of the mix in the late innings.
“You just want to make sure it doesn’t affect the confidence,” Cashman said. “I’ve been able to at least confirm for myself that he’s very confident, which is good. Spring Training is Spring Training and sample sizes are small. I thought he was much better (in a minor league game on Saturday).”
On whether Didi Gregorius needs a platoon partner
When the Yankees went shopping for a new shortstop, they found a marketplace that offered no perfect solutions. There were flawed free agents and expensive trade targets, and the most viable in-house option was all-glove, no-bat Brendan Ryan. Eventually, the Yankees settled on Gregorius, another glove-first shortstop, but one with both youth and offensive upside.
With Ryan still in the picture as a right-handed alternative, Gregorius has thrived this spring. He’s been outstanding in the field, and he’s been plenty productive at the plate. He’s even hit lefties in the past couple of weeks, adding some confidence that the Yankees might not have to use Ryan as a platoon partner.
“It’ll be more of a Joe decision right now,” Cashman said. “I’d just (say), it’s something we could consider, but Ryan’s also here for a reason. We have two left-handers in the middle infield in Drew and Didi, and we have Ryan as an alternative, so I trust that Joe — like he does all the time — he’ll dissect the matchups and try to put the best team on the field to win. If that means Ryan’s in there ahead of Didi on any given day, so be it. (Gregorius) has shown me a lot this spring, which I’m happy with. He’s an exciting personality, and really, clearly, we hope that it plays well for us.”
On the bounce-back potential of Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Stephen Drew
I suppose you could lump Brian McCann into this group, but at least McCann hit for decent power and had an impact behind the plate last season. The Yankees seem to have more offensive uncertainty from this trio of Teixeira, Beltran and Drew, all of whom dangerously underperformed last season. Teixeira fell apart in the second half, Beltran wasn’t the same after an elbow injury, and Drew had an unthinkably bad year at the plate.
Even so, the Yankees are clearly planning to use each one of them as a lineup regular this season.
“There’s no reason to believe, for instance, Carlos Beltran’s not going to hit all of a sudden,” Cashman said. “And I have seen a lot of Stephen Drew in the last week to 10 days, and it’s encouraging. And then Tex, I haven’t had any worries about Tex coming back, or even Beltran. It’s more like, just stay healthy and we’ll be fine. Drew’s really, out of those three, the only question mark, what is he going to be? Those questions are fair to ask, and it doesn’t matter what gets said, only he‘ll answer them over time. But he’s looked really good at the plate.”
On Alex Rodriguez’s return to the team
A wild card in every way, Rodriguez has returned from a year-long suspension and actually done a good job of settling into the clubhouse while also performing well on the field.
“He’s handled himself both on the field and in the clubhouse and in his interviews with you guys, extremely well,” Cashman said. “It’s been about baseball, and he’s done really well on that level too.”
Rodriguez has been one of the Yankees very best hitters this spring. Not sure anyone would have predicted that a month ago.
“I think I consistently told you guys, I don’t know what to expect,” Cashman said. “so in fairness, I can’t even say it surprises me because I didn’t know what to expect. It was like, let’s just let whatever’s going to be, be. Then we can talk about what’s happening rather than waste your time wrapping your mind around what it is or what it’s going to be or how it’s going to look when you have no idea, it’s just a guessing game. Camp’s gone really well for him.”
On choosing a backup catcher and final bullpen jobs
Assuming minor injuries to Gregorius, Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury don’t cause problems on Opening Day, the Yankees seem to have very few roster decisions to make between now and the end of camp. The most wide-open spots seem to be at backup catcher and for the final two spots in the bullpen.
“Well, we’re a week away from making (those decisions),” Cashman said. “So, if you define close as, a week, then I would say yeah, I think we’re close (to making a decision).”
It’s worth noting that yesterday the Yankees made one of their most significant cuts in sending Jacob Lindgren to minor league camp. As recently as Sunday morning Cashman talked about Lindgren as if he had a real shot of breaking camp on the roster. Now he’s clearly being looked at as a mid-season call-up at best.
“We’ve kept him this long for a reason because he’s continued to open people’s eyes,” Cashman said. “I’m not going to tell you what’s going to happen yet, but there’s a reason he was pitching in a game (Saturday) this late and hadn’t been assigned out yet. Some other guys I can’t say that about, but in his case, I can.”
Associated Press photos
Right before today’s game, general manager Brian Cashman discussed some of the decisions the Yankees have to make in the next week and a half:
Choosing a fifth starter
The Yankees came into camp with Chris Capuano as a rotation favorite, but his injury has opened the door to a true competition. While Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell and Scott Baker are a part of that conversation, the decision really seems to have come down to Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren. And right now, Warren is the front runner.
“I think there’s a predictable favorite,” Cashman said. “I guess that’s as far as I can go on that one. Right now, if we had to make a decision today, I think we all know what that decision would be. There’s a Secretariat right now in this race for me that’s got a number of lengths ahead of the field.”
Although he initially seemed hesitant to name a name, Cashman later acknowledged “it would obviously have to be Warren” who’s leading the race. That can change quickly, Cashman said, but it certainly seems that a solid start tomorrow would lock Warren into a rotation job.
Picking a backup catcher
John Ryan Murphy was behind the plate today. Austin Romine will be behind the plate tomorrow. Neither is having a particularly good spring, and the Yankees seem to be giving each one an equal opportunity.
“Don’t have a read yet,” Cashman said. “It’ll take more time.”
For now, the Yankees have sent Gary Sanchez to Double-A. If it stays that way, the Yankees will have a Triple-A spot open just in case. Murphy still has an option remaining. Romine does not.
“It’ll factor in,” Cashman said.
Rounding out the bullpen
The Yankees seem to have 10 pitchers set. They know their top four starters, they know four relievers, and they have two guys — Warren and Rogers — who will almost certainly have jobs in one role or another. That leaves two openings in the bullpen, and there are still plenty of options in camp: there are still 23 pitchers on the spring training roster.
Cashman made clear that this isn’t necessary a permanent decision. The Yankees are quite deep with hard-throwing right-handers, multiple lefties, and a handful of long-relief options.
“The clock is ticking,” Cashman said. “I don’t think it’s a lot of work, (but) I think we have to pick people, and whoever we pick at the end of this, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be guys throughout the process. We’ve had a number of guys that I think are quality and I think are Major League caliber, some of which have gone down with injuries. We’ll obviously finalize it here at some point, but that doesn’t mean we’re married to anybody as we move it through April, May and June.”
Naming a closer
With both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller appearing to be obvious candidates for the job, Joe Girardi has said he might not name a full-time closer this spring. The managers seems to believe he has more than one guy who can handle the ninth inning, and he’s willing to use them as the situation dictates.
Cashman seems fine with that approach. Basically, it doesn’t seem to be a problem, so there doesn’t seem to be a rush to solve it.
“I haven’t focused on it,” Cashman said. “I just want as many quality arms and choices for our manager as we can possibly have, and go from there. Again, we don’t have to name anything right now, or today, so I’ve got other issues I’m thinking about. It’s not one I’m thinking about right now or my manager’s thinking about right now. Backup catcher and the remaining spots in the pen.”
How to use Alex Rodriguez
Cashman said time and time again — from the early offseason to the start of spring training — that he had no idea what to expect from a 39-year-old coming back from a year-long suspension. Cashman expected A-Rod to be on the team, just didn’t know what exactly he’d be able to do.
Now the Yankees have actually seen Rodriguez perform, and while the results might not have been overwhelming, they’ve been encouraging. They’ve been enough for the Yankees to imagine having Rodriguez in their everyday lineup.
“I think he’s certainly taken a run at the full-time DH situation, for me,” Cashman said. “We’ll talk about all these things, but the way he’s looked so far down here, I would say he’s definitely pushing himself in the mix for full-time DH consideration. … I’m not looking at performance and statistics as much as just how he’s been swinging the bat. He’s got a lot of life in his body. If he continues to show athleticism, that means he’s going to impact the baseball. That will be good for us.”
Associated Press photo
Predictably, unavoidably, today’s first full-squad workout in Yankees camp was dominated by Alex Rodriguez. He was the center of attention, the one player who drew the most cameras and eyes from the media, and the one who drew the most reaction from the crowd. That reaction, by the way, was all positive as far as I could tell. A lot of cheering when he had a good round of batting practice. I honestly didn’t hear a single boo.
The topic of Rodriguez will fade a little bit over time, but he’s a fascinating figure in this camp, and one of the teammates who knows him best is Mark Teixeira. After today’s workout, I actually thought Teixeira did a great job talking about the A-Rod situation. He talked about some tough issues, and managed to walk the line between supporting his teammate and condemning steroid use. He also provided some insight into Rodriguez’s challenges going forward.
Asked whether Rodriguez has changed, Teixeira offered a reminder that we’ve been here before
“That is a tough question to answer. I don’t know. He’s the same guy that I’ve known a long time. We came here in ’09 under very similar circumstances, if you guys remember, and we had a great year. He did a great job of putting it behind him and playing baseball. The entire team did a great job of putting it behind us, so that’s what I’m expecting this year.”
Missing a lot of time and trying to be a great hitter again; Teixeira went through it last year
“I think the difference is he’s well past his surgery, so I think that’s great for Alex that he’s well past his surgery. He’s not in a rehab mode that I know of. I think he feels pretty good, and that’s the difference probably.”
What’s the last thing to come as a power hitter?
“The carry is the last thing that comes back; the ball carrying. There’s a lot of cage work in the offseason. You want to hit line drives and you want to hear the ball off the bat, but you really don’t know how it’s carrying. At least for me, I’m working on my hands more in the offseason, and then slowly in spring training – I won’t hit many home runs early in spring training in batting practice –as we get closer to the season, I want to see that ball backspinning, carrying out of the ballpark because that’s what I need to do at the plate.”
What’s the state of the game with performance enhancing drugs?
“I think it’s better than it’s ever been. I came up in ’03 when we had some weird testing where there was testing but you could still do it and there were no penalties or whatever. And there were still a lot of guys doing it. There were. I think the middle 2000s, late 2000s, baseball did a great job of putting things in place. You’re always going to have cheaters. You’re always going to have guys who are trying to beat the system no matter what it is – taxes, breaking the speed limit, whatever. So for us to think no one is going to try to bend the rules is a little naïve, but I give the commissioner’s office a lot of credit (and) I give the players association a lot of credit for working together to try the best we can.”
How does Teixeira view PED users?
“I’ve been outspoken. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all, but if you’re willing to take that chance, then that’s something you have to look in the mirror. I’m not going to stay anything that’s going to change anyone’s mind. It’s one of those situaitons. It is what it is. We all had kids in school who cheated on their tests, and we all worked hard and maybe got a B and they got an A. That’s life.”
So how does he reconcile that opinion with his friendship with A-Rod?
“There’s a lot of people that make bad decisions. Alex is not a bad person. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. I’ve known Alex for a long time, but Alex has made bad decisions, and he’s owned up to them. Hopefully now we can kind of get past it. That’s something that, if he was still denying it and still coming in here and put on a different face (it might be a different story). He told everyone he was sorry for what he did.”
• It was quickly overshadowed by A-Rod, but today really started with Larry Rothschild once again bringing up the idea of a sixth starter. How realistic is that? “We’ll see,” Brian Cashman said. “In a perfect world, it’s something that’s a great concept. I think more realistic, what we’ll see, is someone taking a sixth spot and pushing guys back (for one start) or skipping a starter a turn in the rotation. I think that’s probably more realistic than finding six quality arms to run through out there every six days on a consistent basis. But you hear many a times, the interest level in having a six-man rotation, and there’s a lot of positives from that. But it’s hard to pull off.”
• Cashman made it clear that the Yankees have to find five starters before they start to figure out a sixth starter. “If we’re ever in a position to be fortunate enough to have six quality arms that can compete for a win on a daily basis in the rotation, then I think we’ll be in a position to implement that,” Cashman said. “But first things first.”
• Speaking of which, here’s Joe Girardi on Tanaka’s morning bullpen: “Very good. Forty pitches, threw all his pitches, arm strength looked really good. We’ll continue to move him along, we’ll get him ready for a game, I don’t know when we’ll get him in a game, but that was good.”
• As the Yankees started taking ground balls, the first thing I noticed was Girardi standing directly behind Rob Refsnyder at second base. Girardi, though, said not to read into his positioning. “I was next to the first baseman, then I was next to the second baseman, then I stood next to the shortstop, and then I proceeded to third base,” Girardi said. “So I stood next to everybody today. … For me, it’s conversation; talking to some of the players I didn’t know. I have not had a chance to be around Galvez, Noonan, Refsnyder. I thought it was important. Cole Figueroa. I thought it was important I talk with everyone today.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury said he’s willing to hit anywhere in the order — he had to hit third last year — but Girardi wouldn’t give us any real indication about his plans for the lineup. “I think you have to see the makeup of our lineup, and who we decide is going to be in the lineup on a fairly regular, everyday basis,” Girardi said. “We’ve thrown around some ideas, but I think it’s too early to put an order together. The good thing is I’ve got 39 more days or something like that.”
• The Yankees had a lengthy team meeting before today’s workout. Teixeira said Rodriguez did not speak during the meeting. As far as I could tell, all interaction with Rodriguez was positive today. He stretched with Carlos Beltran, and took batting practice with Teixeira, Greg Bird and Jose Pirela. “Obviously, if he does well, it only helps the team,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “From that standpoint, I think we all hope he has a good season.”
• Rodriguez got his first-baseman’s glove today, but he hasn’t started breaking it in. He did all of today’s defensive drills on the left side of the infield. “We’ll have him do early work (at first base),” Girardi said. “When we do some of the team defenses, (he will be) running through it in both places so you have some idea. As far as (having him play first in) a game, I don’t know yet, but you do want to get him comfortable before you send him out there.”
• First full-squad workout, and no Derek Jeter. First time that’s happened in two decades. “It was a little strange not seeing Derek out there today,” Girardi said. “We were doing the mass infield (drills), and he wasn’t there. It was kind of strange to me.”
• Or maybe, it wasn’t strange at all. “He retired,” Cashman said. “It never crossed my mind.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “When I look at things today, I think the pitchers are a lot further along. I was very pleased with what I saw from Tanaka. I’ve been very pleased as far as what I’ve seen from our pitchers as a whole. One thing that sometimes stands out but you don’t always realize is how big these guys are. I know I’m shrinking at a slow rate, but God, they seem to be getting bigger.”
Associated Press photos
When I put out the call for Pinch Hitters, I honestly didn’t expect to get one in defense of Brian Cashman. That said, I kind of like when these posts go against the typical public opinion, and this winter, a pro-Cashman blog post certainly qualifies.
Now that James Shields has landed in San Diego, we know the Yankees are not going to make a free agent signing any bigger than Chase Headley. They’re going to roll the dice in the rotation, lean heavily on the bullpen, and hope for bounce-back seasons from several veteran hitters.
As a general rule, I’m of the opinion that the Yankees needed to restrict spending this offseason to avoid some familiar pitfalls, so I mostly agree with Daniel’s morning post: I basically think Cashman did a fine job under the circumstances. There are plenty of questions in the rotation and the lineup, and the farm system seems a year away from making a major contribution, but the Yankees did manage to get younger without adding any huge-risk contracts.
I think it was a reasonable approach to the offseason, but it clearly comes with considerable risk. Whether it works in the short-term will depend on several touch-to-predict factors.
Here are 10 issues that may determine whether we look back at Cashman’s offseason as a real success or a total failure.
1. Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow
Of all the health questions in the Yankees’ rotation, none is as significant as Tanaka’s torn elbow ligament. When the injury came to light last season, some of the top medical experts in the world recommended the Yankees postpone surgery and try to rehab the injury. The Yankees listened, followed that advice, and Tanaka returned to make a couple of late-season starts. The elbow, though, still looms as a ticking time bomb. Whether it was his decision or not — his evaluation or not — Cashman will most certainly take the heat if Tanaka’s elbow blows out between now and the postseason. If it holds up, the Yankees have their ace. If it doesn’t, Cashman will have missed out on the opportunity to acquire a ready replacement in Max Scherzer or Jon Lester.
2. Brian McCann’s bat
Last winter, there seemed to be near universal agreement that McCann was a natural fit for the Yankees. There were certainly those who wanted the team to stay away, but the Yankees have a long tradition of impact catchers, and McCann’s left-handed power and pitch-framing reputation made him an obvious target. Cashman gave him a five-year deal, despite the presence of John Ryan Murphy and Gary Sanchez. Now the Yankees are committed, and McCann stands out as the one middle-of-the-order slugger who can’t blame injuries of last year’s diminished production. His bat remains a key piece of this lineup, both in the short term and the long term. If he doesn’t produce for a second straight season, McCann’s contract is going to look like an overwhelming problem going forward.
3. Stephen Drew’s return
A one-year, $5-million deal isn’t a make-or-break contract for the Yankees. In this case, though, it seems like an all-or-nothing decision for Cashman. If Drew struggles to another sub-.200 batting average, Cashman is going to look foolish for giving a second opportunity to a player who performed so poorly a year ago (especially when there were younger second basemen in place). If Drew bounces back to his 2013 level of production — providing a great glove and decent power for a middle infielder — Cashman will appear savvy, taking advantage of a buy-low opportunity (especially for a player who provides insurance at not only second base but also at shortstop).
4. The ninth inning
Whoever takes the job, the Yankees need someone to effectively close the door in the ninth inning. It stands out as an especially sensitive issue because of the decision to let Dave Robertson sign with the White Sox for marginally more money than the Yankees gave Andrew Miller. Cashman has said the decision was based, at least partially, on the draft pick compensation tied to Robertson. A draft pick, though, is no sure thing, and right now the Yankees don’t have a single reliever with significant ninth-inning experience. Robertson was a known quantity. If Miller or Dellin Betances or whoever else can’t handle the closer role, Cashman will have neglected a job that the Yankees — after two decades of Mariano Rivera — should appreciate as much as anyone.
5. The fifth starter
Top-of-the-rotation concerns aside, one of the Yankees most pressing rotation issues is the apparent lack of depth. If healthy, the Yankees seem to have a perfectly good top four, but right now their fifth starter is Chris Capuano, with relievers Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers looking like the most immediate sixth starter candidates. Pitching prices got out of control this winter — four years for Brandon McCarthy, eight figures for Brett Anderson — but the Yankees certainly went into the offseason recognizing their need for rotation help. They acquired Nathan Eovaldi, but also gave up Shane Greene. Essentially, Cashman chose to roll the dice on the health of his in-place starters, the return of Ivan Nova, and the short-term ability of Capuano. A big contract would have been a big risk, but the alternative isn’t exactly risk-free.
6. Everything about Didi Gregorius
This was the choice at shortstop. With Derek Jeter retired, the Yankees were left with a glaring hole at a position once claimed by an icon. Cashman chose to make a trade for a 24-year-old kid who’s never proven he can be an everyday player in the big leagues. If Gregorius is a great defensive player (and others are able to provide some offense), the decision might look like a solid one. If Gregorius can actually hit beyond his Arizona numbers, the decision could look like a great one. But if Gregorius falls flat, the Yankees will have given up a young starting pitcher — one who might have solved some of those familiar rotation issues — for a guy who does nothing to solve an issue the Yankees had to see coming for several years.
7. Everything about third base
There was little Cashman could do this offseason about Alex Rodriguez. Unless ownership decided to simply cut ties, Cashman was stuck with a roster that included a 39-year-old coming off a year-long suspension after a series of injuries and several seasons of declining numbers. All Cashman could do was try to work around the Rodriguez issue. He did so by making his most expensive commitment of the winter: a four-year, $52-million deal with Chase Headley, a player with a history of back problems and only one season with more than 13 home runs. It was a fairly risky deal, but if Headley plays well — and doesn’t cause a stir with A-Rod — it will look like a reasonable reaction to a difficult situation. If Headley gets hurt or doesn’t produce, it will stir questions about the decision to give such a contract while trading away a guy like Martin Prado.
8. Three names: Judge, Bird, Severino
Rob Refsnyder and Jacob Lindgren might be the first chance to make the big league roster, but the perceived value of the Yankees farm system could hinge heavily on the continued development of Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Luis Severino. Those are the high-end, upper-level talents — or at least, those are the perceived high-end, upper-level talents — and those three are natural in-house solutions for the bad contracts that currently belong to Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. Younger guys like Jorge Mateo and Luis Torrens might help eventually, but Cashman needs a minor league victory sooner than that. Get Judge, Bird and Severino to Triple-A this year — perhaps even to New York before the end of the year — and the Yankees will at least have a farm system that seems ready to provide immediate impact.
9. One other name: Manny Banuelos
Prospect success goes both ways for Cashman. If he’s going to get credit for the success of those he’s kept, he has to take the blame for those he’s traded away. Even without a single inning in the big leagues, Banuelos was pretty close to a household name as far as prospects go (at least among Yankees fans). He was kind of like Jesus Montero in that way. Fans were waiting for him and expecting big things, and Cashman traded him away. If Banuelos gets back on track with Atlanta and lives up to his potential, Cashman will have given up a young, much-anticipated young starter for a couple of relief pitchers. Even if David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve are great, that trade will look ugly if Banuelos is racking up wins in Atlanta.
10. Yoan Moncada’s free agency
This is a strange fit on this list for two reasons: 1. it will have absolutely no impact on the 2015 Yankees, and 2. it will probably have very little to do with Cashman himself. That said, if ownership is willing to pay a massive price to sign the market’s most coveted international free agent, Moncada could very well stand out as the Yankees most impressive signing of the offseason. It will show a willingness to spend big bucks, it will give the farm system a huge talent — and a big name — and every evaluation of the Yankees’ winter will have to include the fact that, while they passed on a guy like Scherzer, they went all in for Moncada. It will make very clear that Cashman came into this offseason with a plan to get younger and build for something long-term.
Associated Press photos
Pinch hitting: Daniel Burch • 02.09.15
Our Pinch Hitter this morning is Daniel Burch, who’s here for the third year in a row. A transplanted Yankees fan who runs TheGreedyPinstripes.com, Daniel is a father to two “future Yankees All-Stars.” He’s also a husband to “the most patient and understanding woman alive.” These are, of course, his evaluations. But I’m sure he’s correct. “I’m truly blessed for everything in my life,” he wrote, “and everything that is to come.”
For his post, Daniel is taking that same positive attitude while assessing the work of the Yankees’ general manager.
Ever since Brian Cashman took over as the general manager of the Yankees in 1998, he has enjoyed success. While much of that success came early on in his tenure and was, in large part, due to the late George Steinbrenner’s checkbook, the Yankees GM has reinvented himself in recent years with his new found power and control over the personnel decisions for the team.
Every once in a while we see shades of The Boss in owner Hal Steinbrenner, whether it’s when he’s signing Rafael Soriano or contributing to a second Alex Rodriguez contract, and honestly we probably always will see those types of moves from the higher ups, but we can now say with confidence that, overall, this is Cashman’s team. For better or worse.
Yankees fans are some of the most passionate and subsequently some of the most emotional fans in all the world, and they come with some of the harshest and toughest criticisms you will ever hear. Any fan can go on Twitter, Facebook, Lohud, or any other social media site or blog to make a comment or ask a question about a trade or signing involving the Yankees, and that fan is bound to get a flurry of responses. Some of those responses will be positive, but for the most part it seems those opinions have turned negative regarding Cashman and his decision making.
Truth be told, I’m not sure why.
On a long enough timeline — and Cashman has had one of the longest general manager tenures I have seen in my lifetime — every GM acquires Javier Vazquez twice and signs Carl Pavano for nine wins at four years and $40 million… right?
Cashman has not made those same mistakes this offseason. He has instead continued to stockpile young talent, hard throwing pitchers, and additional depth at almost every position. Many fans expected Cashman to fold under the pressure and give ludicrous contracts to Brandon McCarthy or give in to insane trade requests for broken Troy Tulowitzki, but instead he got creative and made some smaller moves.
Instead of yet another question mark and a ton of salary in Tulo, the Yankees acquired a young and promising shortstop in Didi Gregorius and a perfectly capable stopgap in the fifth starter slot in Chris Capuano.
Instead of setting the team back even further with another asinine contract for Max Scherzer, the Yankees instead stayed the course, stuck to the plan and showed a willingness to rebuild on the fly.
There is a finish line. It conveniently comes when Cashman’s current contract ends after the 2017 season, and for the first time in over 20 seasons, the Yankees can see it. The team cannot see that because Randy Levine jumped in and demanded a $12 million AAV for a seventh-inning pitcher; the team can see it because of the work Cashman has done since he was given full control over player decisions and personnel.
Another common complaint against the Yankees GM is the lack of player development and the faults of the farm system. While for a long time that was an absolutely legitimate concern and gripe, the tides are turning down on the farm, and we may now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
MLB Pipeline is releasing its Top 10 lists per position right before Spring Training, and the Yankees have a Top 10 right-handed pitching prospect in Luis Severino, a Top 10 second base prospects in Robert Refsnyder, a Top 10 first baseman in Greg Bird and surely just missed having a Top 10 outfielder in Aaron Judge. Also Kylie McDaniel, a former Yankees scout and current writer for Fangraphs, even went as far as to name the Yankees the 10th-best farm in all of baseball and possibly the “deepest in the game.” The rankings and the write ups from McDaniels and others suggest a pretty good farm system without even mentioning the likes of Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin and the slew of international free agent signings the team has made in the past few months.
For better or worse, this is finally Cashman’s team, and in a couple seasons, when the plan is complete and has come to fruition, I may no longer be the last standing apologist for the Yankees’ GM.
Associated Press photos
This was a pretty intense week in baseball, and that’s because the Winter Meetings did not disappoint this year. At least not in the bigger picture. This was a week full of player movement. There were blockbuster trades and massive free agent signings, and each night in San Diego seemed to include some sort of plot twist.
The Yankees, though, stayed quiet throughout.
“I honestly can tell you that we’re patient,” Brian Cashman said. “We’re not going to do something that we don’t feel comfortable with. … We got the Cervelli thing done with Justin Wilson, and there was a long period of quiet. We got Chris Young a month after we put an offer out on him, and eventually he came back after he went through the circuit and felt comfortable with where we were at. We made a little adjustment to get it done. And then the Didi thing took a while. Some things may take longer than others in terms of solving every need that we desire, but we’ll see.”
Clearly there’s still work to be done. The Yankees have only three starting pitchers in place (plus a handful of back-end rotation possibilities). The don’t have a clear closer (though they have a few options they could choose from). Their infield is still uncertain with second base and third base possibilities still on the market (while Rob Refsnyder remains in place as an internal option).
The Yankees took some small steps forward early this offseason. They added a left-handed reliever and a right-handed fourth outfielder. They added a little bit of pitching depth with one free agent signing and a few players added to the 40-man roster. They made their first major additions by finding replacements for Derek Jeter and Dave Robertson.
This hasn’t been a silent winter for the Yankees, but this past week was full of noise, and the Yankees didn’t make any of it.
“We’ve got meetings with a lot of people,” Cashman said. “We’re still obviously trying to affect some trades or potential free agent signings. We’ll just stay at it.”
• The Winter Meetings move that most directly impacted the Yankees was the White Sox four-year deal with Dave Robertson. Cashman had created the impression that the Yankees might sign Robertson to former a super-bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, but that was all about creating a false impression. The Yankees never made an offer, and Robertson’s fate was sealed as soon as Miller was signed.
• Speaking of Miller, he made it clear during a conference call that he doesn’t care about his role in the Yankees bullpen. He didn’t ask the Yankees to name him closer, and he’ll be happy if the Yankees sign a closer this offseason. Last season, Miller and Betances proved the value of a dominant multi-inning middle reliever, and there’s a chance those two will be used the same way next season if the Yankees sign another reliever to handle the ninth. Cashman has said that’s still a possibility.
• Another former Yankees pitcher who landed elsewhere: Brandon McCarthy agreed to a four-year deal with the Dodgers. The Yankees left no doubt that they wanted to bring McCarthy back to add some rotation depth, but four years is a massive and risky investment for a guy who’s had such trouble staying healthy (this season was the first time McCarthy ever reached 200 innings, or even got particularly close). The Yankees weren’t willing to go four years, and so McCarthy landed in Los Angeles during a flood of rotation signings.
• Cashman said the Yankees have put their coaching staff openings on the back burner while focusing on player movement. Still no new hitting coach, and no new first-base coach, and Cashman shot down a report that Marcus Thames had been hired as an assistant hitting coach. Cashman said he hasn’t interviewed Thames and hasn’t decided whether the Yankees will have an assistant hitting coach next season.
• Also still unknown: the status of Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have not been told whether he wants to pitch next season.
• Strength coach Matt Krause went to Miami to check on Alex Rodriguez. Cashman said Rodriguez is making progress this winter — he’s moving closer to the weight he’s expected to reach before spring training — but it’s still far to early to have any idea how well Rodriguez will handle full baseball drills.
• The build up to the Rule 5 draft always seems more significant than the draft itself, and that was certainly the case this year. The Yankees picked four eligible players to protect, and that seems to have done the trick. The Yankees didn’t lose anyone in the Rule 5 draft — in either the major league or the minor league portion — and they didn’t add anyone either. Cashman said he preferred keeping the three open roster spots open.
Associated Press photos
Yankees strength coach Matt Krause was in Miami today to get an updated evaluation of Alex Rodriguez.
“He talked to (Rodriguez) maybe a month ago, maybe longer,” Cashman said. “And then he assessed him now. He’s working hard. Obviously he’s continuing to get ready for spring training, and he’s moving in the right direction.”
This was strictly a physical fitness evaluation, not an evaluation of baseball skills or performance.
“I know he’s weighing him in and stuff like that,” Cashman said. “Like all our players, he’s got a report weight that we’re hopeful they hit. He’s approaching that. He’s not at the spring training weight that we desire just yet, but there is progress, and he continues to tweak. Matt continues to tweak his conditioning program. They’re building a relationship. They don’t know each other, so that’s good (that they’re spending time together). This is not just Matt checking on Alex. He’s seeing McCann, Gardner, Ellsbury, all our guys. He’s going across meeting up with everybody.”
Winter Meeting progress
Without getting into specifics, Cashman said he remains engaged with a bunch of trade and free agent possibilities. He’s been talking to Chase Headley, but wouldn’t say whether there’s been progress between the two sides. Cashman did say the pitching market is “going to go fast,” and the Yankees are obviously engaged with various starters and relievers.
“I honestly can tell you that we’re patient,” Cashman said. “We’re not going to do something that we don’t feel comfortable with.”
For whatever it’s worth, Cashman said he’s not planning to meet with the media before he flies back to New York tomorrow, and he said that’s because he’s not expecting the Yankees situation to change between now and then. But you really never know. The Yankees are clearly in serious talks with a wide range of possibilities, it’s just unclear whether any of those talks are going to lead to something in the next 18 hours or so.
Potential bullpen additions
Cashman wouldn’t comment on a report that he’s shown interest in former Giants closer Sergio Romo, but he made it clear that he’s still open to adding another piece to the bullpen.
“If it’s the right guy, I have no problem signing a (reliever) to a major league deal,” Cashman said. “If it’s the right guy; if it fits with everything else we’re also trying to accomplish. We also have a lot of good young arms. It’s just, we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. We have trade opportunities, so it can come in a lot of different ways whether it’s from within, whether it’s non-roster invite, major league signing from the free agent market, or trade. It’s tough to say right now.”
Today’s infielder trades
The Dodgers traded second baseman Dee Gordon earlier today, and the Phillies are said to be finalizing a Jimmy Rollins trade. Cashman acknowledged that he checked on the availability of both players. He asked about Rollins early in the offseason and was told only that the asking price would be higher than the Yankees would be willing to pay. No names were discussed, the Phillies just made it clear they would need a ton in return (might have been a kind way of telling the Yankees that Rollins wouldn’t waive his no-trade to play in New York).
As for Gordon, that conversation happened this week. “I just said, ‘If you see any fits, let me know,’” Cashman said. “They were down the tracks with (the actual trade to Miami). This was yesterday or two days ago when his name surfaced as a potential move.”
Tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft
Sounds like the Yankees won’t take anyone in tomorrow’s draft. They have three spots open on the 40-man, but Cashman clearly plans to add at least three more players this offseason.
“As of right now, I don’t think I’ll be active in the Rule 5 draft,” Cashman said. “But I know our guys want to talk to me about some things. The certain amount of roster spots that we have, and we have a certain amount of needs still to fill, so I think those roster spots can go quickly because of our needs. I’m not sure that Rule 5 is going to make sense for us this year because of that.”
Reaction to Boras
Earlier today, Scott Boras said that Max Scherzer would give the Yankees a World Series caliber rotation. Cashman laughed when he heard the quote.
“Good,” he said. “That means he likes the four we’ve got.”
Associated Press photos
Brian Cashman just slept on the streets of New York City (again), and in a few weeks he’s going to climb down the face of a building (again). Cashman is once again participating in the Heights & Lights event in Stamford, CT. It’s happening the weekend before the Winter Meetings, which means an early morning on a cold rooftop asking Cashman about free agents and trades. Here are the details from a press release distributed by the the city of Stamford:
On Friday morning, December 5 from 6:00 to 9:00 am (ET), Rick Reichmuth, FOX News Channel’s Meteorologist, Brian Cashman, General Manager of the New York Yankees and Bobby Valentine, Athletic Director at Sacred Heart University will rappel from the one of Stamford, CT’s tallest buildings, the Landmark Building. Santa’s Elf, Brian VanOrsdel will be on hand, strapping Brian and Bobby in and guiding them down the 22 stories of the building, all the while broadcasting live on the FOX News Channel, “FOX & Friends” morning newscast.
The event marks the start of Rappelling Santa’s arrival in Stamford and is a good practice run for the rappelling crew for Sunday’s Heights & Lights program.
On Sunday, December 7 at 5:00 pm, Brian Cashman, Bobby Valentine, Santa and friends are scheduled once again to make their daredevil descent down the 22 stories of the Landmark Building, for Reckson, A Division of SL Green Realty Corp’s Rappelling Santa. After the rappel, Santa’s busy holiday schedule will take him straight up Bedford Street to Latham Park where he will join the Stamford Community for music with The Cast of Peter Pan Jr. from Saxe Middle School and the lighting of the Holiday Tree, donated by Bartlett Tree Company.
Practice Rappel: Friday Morning, December 5, 2014 from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM
Heights & Lights Rappel: Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 5:00 PM
Rappel at Landmark Square, Broad Street;
Tree Lighting at Latham Park, Bedford Street, Stamford Downtown
Heights & Lights is presented by Reckson, A Division of SL Green Realty Corp. and sponsored by The Advocate, 95.9 The Fox, Star 99.9, WEBE 108, Bartlett Tree Company, Happyhaha.com and The First Congregational Church of Stamford and brought to you by Stamford Downtown and The City of Stamford. Free Cocoa at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. THIS EVENT IS FREE!
Associated Press photo
Brian Cashman slept on the street last night. He’s done it once a year for a few years now, all to raise money and awareness for Covenant House, an organization that works to help homeless youth.
“You’ve got to see the great work these people are doing for people who just need a fighting chance,” Cashman said.
Talking to the media last night, Cashman said a lot of the stuff we’ve come to expect this time of year. Which is to say, he didn’t say much. No real revelations here, but here’s a little bit of what he had to say.
On Hiroki Kuroda’s plans for next season
“I haven’t heard anything officially. Do I think he will play and put himself back in play for the major leagues as well as the NPB in Japan? I would think, yes. The guy is way too talented. I know he’s 38 or 39, but he’s way too talented to give it up and retire. If he wants to keep playing, he’ll have a market. That’s not an issue. But I have not officially heard that he wants to do anything. … I wouldn’t say (whether the Yankees want Kuroda back). Every dollar counts to something. Everything we do has to be accounted for, so it will have an impact on something else. It depends on the entire context of the roster. But I do need starting pitching, so he’s clearly an area that would solve some issues. We’ll see.”
Surprised by Russell Martin’s contract?
“No. He’s been great. I’m not surprised. The catching market is thin; that’s why Pittsburgh proactively went after Cervelli the way they did, in anticipation of losing (Martin). I was surprised he wound up in Toronto because I think everybody expected a different location for him. I thought two other places, if I had to predict before the winter where he might wind up. Toronto got themselves a hell of a player. I’d rather it not be them because they’re in our division. But I’m not surprised by his contract.”
On Brandon McCarthy and the possibility of adding two starters
“Obviously (McCarthy) did a tremendous job for us. He put himself in a hell of a position to command respect in the free agent market. Clearly we have interest but that’s about as far as I can really say at this point. … No (signing McCarthy wouldn’t keep the Yankees from signing another pitcher). I mean, bottom line is, I think you’re asking if I’m open to adding more than one starter. Yeah, I’d be open to that.”
Any 40-man additions difficult decisions?
“No. I think they were all layups for various reasons. So, no. We added who we felt we had to add. You’d prefer that you didn’t have to add anybody and guarantee that you’d get them back. But that wasn’t the case with any one of these guys. So, hence their additions.”
On the Yankees priorities this offseason
“I can restate clearly shortstop, maybe third base; the left side of the infield is definitely a priority. Kind of reinforce our pitching (as well). I think we have good pitching, but there’s obviously some volatility in it because of the health status and health histories of some of them. Those are two areas I would like to focus on. Bullpen, clearly with the Robertson circumstance, is an issue. That’s a handful right off the bat. I can’t really say if any of the big-ticket items are in play or not in play. I’m just going to say we’re doing everything in our power to improve the club. Ownership has always been very beneficial with the resources to put the team on the field.”
Associated Press photo