The job as the Yankees GM is constantly evolving, always in flux. Although Cashman enjoys a nearly unlimited supply of financial capital at his disposal, money doesn’t win championships. Faced with the continuous pressure to put a winner on the field every season, he’s had to learn to balance the Steinbrenner’s “win now” mentality with his “build for the future” ethos. It’s not an easy task, but it’s one Cashman has shown he’s uniquely suited to handle. In this respect, he has plenty of reasons to remain both challenged and engaged in the position he’s encumbered for the past 14 years.
Even though Cashman said he’s “not looking to go anywhere,” we shouldn’t take that to mean he’s not willing to listen to competing offers. Clearly, the Yankees will offer him the best deal financially. That’s a given. Though he loves working for the Yankees and feels challenged in his current job, it is possible he might be looking for a new challenge. Working for the Cubs would certainly fill that need.
As we all know, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 102 seasons; and save for a miracle, won’t win one this year. After coming excruciatingly close to reaching the promised land in 2003, Cubs fans have grown restless. No longer are they willing to provide unconditional love and support to their loveable losers. Understandably, they feel they’ve done their time in baseball purgatory, and deserve to be rewarded with a championship. For the sake of comparison, the Cubs are positioned similarly to the Red Sox ten years ago when Dan Duquette was terminated. The next General Manager will be under considerable pressure to build a championship. If he delivers, he’ll be declared a hero. If he can’t, he’ll be just another goat that failed on his promise to make the team a winner…no pun intended.
Though the Cubs revenue stream is substantially smaller than the Yankees, it’s still pretty sizeable in comparison to the rest of the league. According to Forbes magazine’s most recent study, the Cubs were named the fourth most valuable franchise in baseball (behind only the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers), and were valued at $773M with $258M in revenue. Considering Chicago ’s market size, the popularity of the franchise, and the dire financial situations facing the Dodgers and Mets, the Cubs have tremendous capacity to flex their financial muscle.
Unfortunately, the Cubs have spent the last few years using that muscle to make ill-advised long-term investments on aging players like Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Kosuke Fukudome. While the financial obligations to FukudoM. Cease at the end of this season,* the same can not be said for the remaining three players. Going into the 2012 season, the Cubs have $68.6M committed to six players; $52M of which is earmarked Soriano, Dempster, and Zambrano. This number includes neither the matching $2M buy-out options on Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Silva, nor does it include the additional $10M in potential salary due to Ramirez should his mutual option get picked up. Furthermore, it doesn’t include the six players that are eligible for salary arbitration next season. With Matt Garza and Geovany Soto on that list, the payroll will likely reach the $90M with holes still to fill at 1B, 3B, RF, SP, and RP. Luckily, barring any major free agent signings, the payroll situation becomes significantly more flexible after the 2012 season when Zambrano and Dempster come off of their books. With the exception of making a serious run at stealing Albert Pujols from the rival Cardinals, the next GM would be wise to do what he can to maintain that flexibility.
* Some, but not all of the remaining salary has been picked up by the Cleveland Indians.
If Cashman came on board as the Cubs GM, he’d be thrust into a rebuilding mode. Given his long-standing status as GM of a “must win” franchise, this is role he might relish. It would certainly give him an opportunity to realize his dream of building a strong farm system that delivers young, cheap talent to supplement the club’s free agent signings. While this is something he still could do with the Yankees, external pressure often forces a change in course. This new opportunity would give him a chance to show the world what he’s capable of producing without the aid of a gargantuan payroll.
All of that said, at the end of the day, Cashman is a company man. Despite his differences with the Steinbrenners and Randy Levine, he’s found a way to forge a productive and mostly positive working relationship under frequently strained circumstances. For example, while some saw dissension on Cashman’s part during the Rafael Soriano debacle, I saw confidence. He was openly expressing a difference of opinion. It wasn’t a break in the ranks; so much as it was him showing the world he’s comfortable in expressing opposing positions without fear of retribution. While I expect Cashman to entertain a few competing offers this fall, I don’t see him going anywhere. After 14 years, he’s finally found his comfort zone. That’s a great thing. Few people are better equipped for dealing with the day-to-day rigors of running the New York Yankees.