Riled up about Cash-bashing

Let’s take the central, specific, complaint that’s supposed to exist on the part of ownership, the 2009-10 offseason. Namely the acquisitions of Nick Johnson, Javier Vazquez, and Randy Winn (I could point out that ownership could he blocked any of those moves and didn’t, but we’ll presume for now that Cashman was literally allowed to do whatever he wanted last year). We’ve been over the Johnson and Vazquez acquisitions time and time again, and I’m not here to rehash a debate on those. But whatever you think of those moves (for memory’s sake, I liked the Vazquez deal, and was milquetoast at best on the Johnson signing), they were low cost, low risk, high upside moves that had a clear and understandable logic to them. Did they work out? No, but as Jason said, no GM bats 1.000, and in the scheme of mistakes, they were pretty small ones. Signing Johnson instead of Jim Thome may have been a mistake as a lateral move, but the Yankees still had the best offense in baseball. And believe it or not, the Yankees actually came out ahead in terms of WAR on the Vazquez deal, both because Boone Logan was a pretty decent lefty out of the pen and because Melky Cabrera was even worse than Vazquez in 2010.

But the thing that really gets me is the idea that, a year later, someone in the organization is actually complaining about signing Randy Winn. Did Winn flop completely? Sure he did. But he was signed to play a bench role, being a 4th/5th outfielder who could competently defend both corner outfield positions. It didn’t work out, but that happens all the time. Every team has bench or bullpen players who aren’t panning out a couple of months or so into the season who get DFA’d to make room for someone else. It’s basically a routine part of a baseball season. And even then, if you want to blame Cashman for signing Winn, it seems to me that you have to give him credit for signing Marcus Thames to a minor league contract, and Thames’ great season as a bench player far outweighs Winn’s poor play. In all seriousness, I can’t believe anyone in any sort of semi-important role within a Major League Baseball organization would actually be complaining about this.

Jason already noted the factual discrepancies in the piece with regards to Lee, and I’ll add that his “sources” understated the case quite a bit. Whatever his feelings about playing in New York specifically, at this point it’s obvious that Lee wanted to go back to the Phillies, and they were willing to sign him. Good night Irene. Short of offering Lee a blank check with Hal’s signature on it, I honestly don’t know what anyone thinks Cashman could have done to sign Lee above what he did.

But it’s the ending that really galls me about this piece:

Some people who know him believe it’s because Cashman wants people in the game to say he makes smart baseball moves, rather than just spend the most money. They point to his friendship with A’s general manager Billy Beane.

“He wants to be the guy the book is written about,” one baseball official who knows Cashman well said Wednesday.

He doesn’t want to simply be the “director of spending.”

This is pure horse-hockey.

For starters, so far as I know Brian Cashman is very respected around baseball for his abilities. Can he spend more money than anyone else? Absolutely. Does that give him an advantage? You betcha. Can Brian Cashman fleece you blind in a trade if you’re not on your toes? He absolutely can. Just ask the Phillies or White Sox if they’d like to have the Bobby Abreu/Nick Swisher trade back. And he’s done a heck of a job with the farm system too. Robinson Cano is an elite offensive player at the big league level. Brett Gardner is a more than adequate everyday player, at least on most teams. Phil Hughes, who Cashman refused to trade for Abreu or Johan Santana, was a key contributor to the 2009 world championship team and now has the look of an emerging front line starter. Jesus Montero is the top hitting prospect in all of baseball. And the Yankees system, even after trading Austin Jackson, is considered by most to be a top 6 group. The only people who don’t regard Brian Cashman as a quality baseball man are; a) Yankee fans who think the team should win a World Series literally every year, b) the kind of people who are always, always going to complain about how much money the Yankees have and how they sign all of the big free agents every year (even if they, you know, don’t), and c) mediots like Mike Lupica.

As for the notion that Cashman wants to run a team with a mid-market budget? Well he’s been the Yankees’ GM since 1998, and plenty of other jobs have opened since then. As of the 2004 season, the guy had five pennants and three world championships as a GM, so I’m pretty sure he probably could have gotten a chance with one of those teams if that’s what he wanted to do. And the notion that he doesn’t like to spend money and/or wants to hoard prospects isn’t exactly borne out by his recent decisions. This past season, he was willing to deal Montero for two and a half months worth of Cliff Lee‘s services. Last year he traded the team’s nearest big league ready prospect for Curtis Granderson. And the year before that, in addition to spending big money on C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, he went to ownership and asked them to approve an increase in his budget, so that he could sign Mark Teixeira out from under the Red Sox. This doesn’t strike me as a guy who’s just itching to have an oppressive budget imposed on him for the fun of it.

Now, does he want a book written about him? That I don’t know. If he does, I’d have to think it would have been written though. Maybe it’s just me, but someone following the Yankees’ general manager around for a season and then writing a book about what it’s like to do that job would be fascinating to me. I might even pay full price for it! But hey, maybe I’m alone in that , and no other writer wants to bother with it. Brian, if that’s the case, by all means have your people call my people (that would be Larry) and I’m sure we can work something out.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

15 thoughts on “Riled up about Cash-bashing

  1. Steve

    Great post. I would agree with everything you pointed out. It seems as if its just another example of media people trying to create a story where there isnt anything. Cashman has made some very solid moves during his tenure and the team has been very successful while he has been GM. I am a Yankee fan now living in Boston and you see alot of the same here in regards to the Red Sox. People were calling for Theo's head this past year and he makes his offseason moves and now he is a genius. The Yankees would be stupid not to extend his contract after he has taken a long-term approach that has still produced solid short-term results.

  2. LarryAtIIATMS

    Terrific post, Brien. Agree 100% (and when was the last time THAT happened?). Yeah, count me as one of your people.

    I DO think that Cash should just SHUT UP about when he'd give up first round draft picks and who is stuck in the bullpen for all eternity, as those kinds of statements have a way of blowing up in one's face. We wouldn't be talking now about "rifts" in Yankee management if not for the fact that the Soriano deal ran contrary to one of Cashman's public statements. As we learned in "The Godfather", you don't reveal family disagreements to non-family members. But overall, Cashman's performance as GM is solid. I think we're lucky to have him.

    • I was thinking that this morning when I was talking to HCM about it on Twitter. If there was disagreement internally about Soriano, it's really kind of on Cashman for making that statement publicly to begin with.

  3. Anthony

    Nothing to do with this, but I have been reading some articles lately and wanted to start a discussion–

    Obviously Pujols is a hot topic now, and it is assumed the Yankees and Red Sox are out of the bidding because of Teix and Gonzales. Makes sense to me from a FA standpoint.

    From the surface, the deal is St. Louis won't sign for more than seven years, and are balking at the price. Wouldn't a trade for Teixeria make the most sense? We all have to agree Pujols would be an improvement, and Teix has 6 years left I think at a lower average annual price.

    I don't know if he has a no trade, but if not then it may be better to trade him for a boatload of prospects and just sign Pujols, but I thought it was worth a conversation–

    • I will secretly covet this question. It's so huge, so glorious, so ballsy.

      Can you imagine, Teix for Pujols?

      • Anthony

        Yeah, isn't that crazy? I love Teix, but it's not like he is 'home grown' and would drive all those idiots nuts by trading him.

    • If we're going to go that route, I'd just as soon sign Pujols and have one of them DH. A Teix-for-Pujols swap doesn't really seem worth it to me, even stipulating that Pujols is better.

      • Anthony

        It's not a bad idea, assuming one of them could play RF or 1B. But it is probably not the best allocation of resources to have a phenomenal 1st baseman of 31 years old on a long contract to DH.

        I know the Yanks have 'limitless' resources, but signing Pujols on top of A-rod and Teix would preclude them from signing the next FA or traded SP.

        • Anthony

          I meant RF or 3B….

          • Anthony

            FULL no trade clause— never mind.

        • Well no, but taking on the additional cost of Pujols for the upgrade over Tex wouldn't be a good allocation of resources either. I'm just saying that, if you're going to go it that direction, just go for broke with it.

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      Gotta admit, this had me thinking too. I personally am a big fan of Teix, he is a great player. Pujols is a one in a generation kind of player.

      The Teix for Pujols deal is not going to happen, for a number of reasons. First, Teix has a full no-trade clause in his contract, according to Wikipedia at least. Second, Pujols reportedly ALSO has a no-trade contract. Teix and Pujols could agree to be traded, but these no-trade clauses complicate matters considerably. Third, the trade would cost the Yankees a boatload of money — they'd have to sign Pujols at probably $30 million + for 8 or more years, plus cover a portion of Teix's contract to boot. Fourth, if St. Louis is going to free up the payroll currently devoted to Pujols, they do not necessarily want to reinvest all that money into another first baseman (probably the easiest position to fill in free agency or elsewhere) — their needs lie elsewehere. Fifth, the Yankees' needs ALSO lie elsewhere — the money they might spend on Pujols may be needed later on to sign, say, a starting pitcher. Sixth, the Cards might prefer to deal Pujols to a team that can surrender a boatload of prospects instead of another high-priced first baseman — prospects are something that the Yankees would probably be reluctant to trade.

      And finally: Pujols is an icon in St. Louis. Prying Pujols away from St. Louis falls into the same category as trying to lure Joe Mauer away from the Twins. We all agreed here last year, Mauer belongs on the Twins. Pujols should be a Cardinal for life. If the Yanks signed Pujols, there would be a HUGE amount of resentment against the Yanks around the league … resentment that might lead to a nasty increase in the luxury tax or other anti-Yankee provisions incorporated into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

      To paraphrase Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon", none of these reasons might be any good, but there are so many of them!

      • Yeah, to be clear, there's no way St. Louis would ever trade Pujols. I think he was talking about trading Tex to make room to sign Pujols as a free agent.

        I'm 99% sure that Pujols will sign an extension with the Cardinals though.

  4. Anthony

    NONE of this is ever happening– Teix will not accept a trade, I can all but guarantee, nor is it feasible for many other reasons…..

    BUT I bet I can make a strong case for it– I just had a real long, thought out and well written rebuttal, but it got deleted. I have to leave in five, so I am going to wing this.

    Get past the no trade, because automatically the trade won't happen. But from a Cardinal perspective: They have a very competitive team, in an average to weak division. They are an above average payroll team (6th in NL at $93 Mil), and would chose to remain competitive rather than rebuild should Pujols leave. If reports are true, they are willing to go $28 mil per for up to seven– enter Teixeria.

    I grant that Teixeria cannot provide the value of Pujols financially– but he isn't Mauer. He did not grow up a legend in St. Louis, he does not capture the essence of St. Louis (probably based on ethnicity, but that is a different day). Teixeria can provide a comparable production on a per dollar basis (assuming pujols gets $30 mil), and is on a shorter contract than St. Louis is willing to go with Pujols. There would be no need to subsidize any of his salary from a Yankee standpoint.

    The additional cost to the Yankees is possibly $8 million per, plus luxury tax, for a superior player. Yes they do add another bunch of twilight years to their club, but this would not stop them from attaining an ace in the future, compared to signing the $30 million deal ON TOP of Teixeria.

    I know– its crazy and won't happen. But in a 2-D world, or if this was a simulation game, it seems to be a no brainer for both teams.

    Ahhhhh, the fun of the off season.

  5. Matty

    Brian Cashman has been with the Yankees since 1988. Unto itself that speaks volumes about his talent, intellect and thick skin. It's remarkable when you think about it and he is unquestionably the most successful and brightest GM in the game today. His best moves have been those which have quietly (under the radar) contributed to the Yankees extraordinary sustained success and which have had little or nothing to do with the almighty dollar. He does not get the credit he deserves for obvious reasons, but anyone who underestimates what he has done under the enormous pressure cooker in which he resides know little or nothing about the game.

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