Mo’s piece yesterday on Brian Cashman ties in nicely with some thoughts I’ve had on his moves over the course of the off season. So I wanted to do a follow-up piece to build on the points he’s raised.
The most common criticism of Brian is that any monkey can do his job, because he has so much money to work with. While no one can claim that he doesn’t have enormous resources to work with, it’s not fair to say that that he doesn’t add anything but his ability to write checks. We’ve all seen teams spend loads of money and perform badly (98 Orioles, 09 Mets) So while it’s a nice thing to have, it doesn’t guarantee you anything. Bad management can squander the advantages that money gives you. George Stienbrenner outspent every team in Baseball from 1982-1990 and didn’t have a single playoff berth to show for it.
Think about what Brian has managed to do so far this off season. He has reduced payroll AND got younger in key areas at the same time. The two players he traded for (Vasquez/Granderson) were players the other GM would have preferred to keep. A lesser GM (or George Steinbrenner in his heyday) might have taken the bait on one of the salary dumps, figuring the low cost in talent would make trading for a Magglio Ordonez or Derek Lowe worth the risk. But Brian used the disadvantaged position the other GM was in to pry away one of his core players, ones that could have helped that team win in 2010. Plus, thanks to Brian’s efforts in rebuilding the farm system, he had the prospects to make those deals. That wasn’t the case in previous years. Not only did we have the prospects, but none of the players who were traded created a significant hole on the 2010 Yanks. In each deal, he traded from a position of strength.
His ability to assess the ever-changing marketplace in a down economy has been outstanding. We all gasped when he didn’t offer salary arbitration to Bobby Abreu and Ivan Rodriguez last year, and squirmed a bit when he declined to offer again with Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon this year. Fans moaned about the loss of draft picks and wondered what on Earth he was thinking. Yet looking at what those players ultimately signed for and Johnny Damon’s dwindling list of suitors, he was right and we were wrong. Each of them would have done far better in salary arbitration, and Brian replaced all of them with cheaper and younger options.
He’s also been creative with his deals. In the Brian Bruney deal, he utilized a little-known loophole in the Rule 5 Draft and managed to secure a good fit for the 2010 team in Jaime Hoffman. By offering Bruney to the Nats who had the #1 overall pick, he had a large pool of players to choose from and most likely did better than he would have had he done a straight up trade for Bruney, whose value was fairly low.
I’ve always felt Brian is the ideal Yankee GM. He balances the new with the old in utilizing statistical analysis as well as scouts. He’s never secure in his job or his moves, and is therefore always looking to make the team better. He’s also a very honest, unassuming guy and is therefore very disarming. That’s key, because it changes the equation when dealing with the ‘big bad Yankees’. One of the most oft-repeated claims by Agents, Sportswriters and other GMs is that the Yankees can afford anything, and should therefore be expected to contribute more financially in making trades. Brian doesn’t do that. He insists on paying market value for Free agents and in trades. They rarely if ever set new highs in terms of annual average value (per year) for free agent signings. He even went so far to have the small market Pirates and Padres kick in money on trades in recent years. A Yankee GM with a more aggressive personality would never get away with that. Yet Brian does, to the benefit of the franchise. Brian is our Patrick Ewing, you can complain all you want about him, but you’ll miss him when he’s gone.