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Steve S.

Part three of our series takes us back to 2008, which was memorable for being the first season with Joe Girardi as manager and the final year in the old Yankee Stadium, but little else. It was something of a transition year, or at least as close as the Yankees will ever get to having one. The sheer volume of moves is indicative of how many problems there were with the team that broke camp, and the Yankee GM spent much of the season trying (mostly in vain) to plug holes. Not a banner year for Brian, so if you’re a Cashman basher, this one’s for you.

Alex Rodriguez granted Free Agency.

I’m going to break my rule on not covering Yankee players who were retained as FAs for this doozy of a contract, but will refrain from giving it a grade since I didn’t grade the other Yanks who were retained after hitting free agency. Many of us a gasped the day the contract was signed, and that was before the steroid allegations were brought to light the following year, or the hip injury that has nagged Alex the past two seasons. As he did this year with the Soriano contract, Brian made it known at the A-Rod press conference that it wasn’t a contract he would have signed. He was right, Alex had thus far been paid 91 mil through the first three years of the contract and produced 14.4 WAR, or about 63 mil worth of production. Further, Alex is guaranteed 113 mil over the next 4 seasons (his ages 35-38 seasons) and has another 61 mil guaranteed for the next 3 years after that (ages 39-41). Its widely regarded as one of the worst contracts in Baseball, and while Alex is still a very good, very productive player it’s the type of deal you’re better off not signing.

No grade

November 24, 2007

Signed Dan Giese as a free agent.

Brian takes flyers on no-name pitchers all the time, but this one actually paid off. Called up on June 3rd to be a long man/spot starter, the 31 year old Giese exceeded all expectations. He pitched to a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP appearing in 20 games and starting 3 of them. Maybe it was just a first time through the league effect, but it counts.

Grade-Net plus

November 27, 2007

Signed Cody Ransom as a free agent.

Yankee fans may forget, but 2008 was actually a productive year for Cody Ransom. He produced 0.4 WAR (1.8 mil) playing for MLB minimum and won a few games with his bat late in the year. It was the first 5 weeks of 2009 when he filled in at 3B for the injured Alex Rodriguez that he was overexposed. In 2009, he produced a -0.7 WAR, wiping out the positive production from 2008 and then some.

Grade-Net minus

December 3, 2007

Signed Jose Molina as a free agent.

‘Panda’ was a fave with the pitchers and in the clubhouse, but was another backup who got overexposed when the starter, in this case Jorge Posada, went down with an injury. He produced 0.6 WAR in his 2 seasons with the Yanks (2.4 mil) and was paid about 4 mil. He would have been fine as a backup Catcher, but the bottom line is he didn’t earn his salary.

Grade-Net minus

December 4, 2007

Traded Tyler Clippard to the Washington Nationals. Received Jonathan Albaladejo.

Albaladejo produced a grand total of -0.2 WAR over three seasons with the Yanks, while Tyler Clippard blossomed into a valuable reliever for the Nats in 2010, producing 1.4 WAR. Alby was recently released by the Yanks, so this deal’s a clear win for the Nats.

Grade-Net minus

December 21, 2007

Signed LaTroy Hawkins as a free agent.

Latroy was awful for the Yanks, and Brian should have known better. He had a nice 2007 season pitching in the NL West, but the last time he pitched in the AL East was 2006 in BAL and he got hammered. He was the best pitcher available on a 1 year deal, and Brian wanted to avoid long term commitments so he could work in his up and coming prospects, but Hawkins just didn’t get the job done.

Grade-Net minus

January 4, 2008

Signed Billy Traber as a free agent.

The former 1st round draft pick (#16 overall NY Mets 2000) did little to solve the Yanks need for a Lefty specialist, pitching to a 7.02 ERA after breaking camp with the club out of spring training. Low risk move that provided zero reward.

Grade-Net minus

January 31, 2008

Signed Morgan Ensberg as a free agent.

On paper, looked like a good move. First Base caddy for the aging, addled Jason Giambi who just three years earlier was garnering MVP votes with the Houston Astros. Batted just .203/.263/.243 (.506  OPS) from a corner infield spot. Was released on June 10th by the Yanks and despite catching on with the Indians and Rays, never played in the majors again.

Grade-Net minus

February 1, 2008

Signed Alfredo Aceves as a free agent.

The ‘Mexican Gangster’ was a godsend to the Yanks in 08/09 producing 1.5 WAR (6.7 mil) while making MLB minimum. Big part of their championship teams bullpen in 2009, and whoever scouted him out of Mexico deserves a raise.

Grade-Net plus

March 12, 2008

Signed Chad Moeller as a free agent.

As with Molina, a backup catcher who was forced into more playing time  than he should see due to the injury of Jorge Posada. But injuries are why you have backups around to begin with. Produced 0.1 WAR (300K) while earning around 700K for the season. Small potatoes, but didn’t work out.

Grade-Net minus

June 19, 2008 (Standings)

Signed Sidney Ponson as a free agent.

Ahhh Sir Sidney. Admit it, you miss the chubby lil guy, don’t ya? A mid season desperation move for a starter who bestowed a 5.85 ERA and 1.638 WHIP upon Yankee fans in 15 torturous starts.

Grade-Net minus

July 17, 2008 (Standings)

Signed Richie Sexson as a free agent.

A glittering example of statistical noise. The Yanks were getting killed by Lefties in 2008. Sexson was a horrendously undisciplined hitter who just happened to have good numbers facing Lefties that particular season. His Career platoon splits, however, were much more ambiguous. Brian was desperate, so he tried to see if he could ride the wave a bit longer, and would up wiping out on a jetty. Sexson was painful to watch, struck out in about 1/3 of his PAs with the Yanks and was released in under a month.

Grade-Net minus

July 26, 2008 (Standings)

Traded Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady.

Complex deal, so I’ll just use WAR. Pitchers in this deal provided modest returns for the Pirates. Karstens has produced a total of 0.8 WAR in his 3 years with the Pirates, McCutchen was given a shot last year and pretty much flopped, producing a -0.6 WAR over 2009/10. Ohlendorf has been a nice addition to the Pirates, producing 1.9 total WAR over the past two seasons. But the centerpiece of the deal was Jose Tabata, and he provided the Buccos with a tidy 2.0 WAR in his rookie season last year.

From the Yankee side, they didn’t even get back modest returns for their investments. Marte has barely pitched, logging just 49.1 IP over three seasons with the team. He produced a grand total of -0.2 WAR, and is expected to miss all of 2011 as well. Nady produced a meager -0.1 WAR in 2008, then quickly hurt his elbow in April of 2009 which required the 2nd TJ surgery of his career. From the Yanks perspective, this was a trade you were much better off not making.

Grade-Net minus

Totals:Net Plus-2/Net Minus-10

For part 2, I’ll look at 2009. The Yanks obviously went on to win the World Series that year, but as with any other season the GM had his share of good and bad moves. Again, I’m only going to look at major moves, ones involving a player that spent time on the 25 man roster. I won’t look at retaining their existing players as free agents since I want to see if the changes he made worked out or not, but I will look at free agents they let walk, such as Bobby Abreu from this year. I’ll do a quick analysis of each move, and assess a grade of net plus or net minus for the franchise which will largely be based on WAR. I’ll total up each at the end of the post, and give a final total at the end of part 5.

2009 New York Yankees Trades and Transactions

October 30, 2008

Bobby Abreu granted Free Agency.

Controversial move at the time for the popular Abreu, but Cashman wanted to get younger and more athletic after 2008. Was replaced with Nick Swisher, who at the time was coming off a horrible year (1.2 WAR) in CHI. After coming off a down year (1.7 WAR) in 2008 for the Yanks, Abreu had a bounce back season in 2009 for the Angels (2.9 WAR) but Yankee fans barely noticed. Swisher posted a 3.3 WAR in 2009, and an even better 4.1 WAR in 2010. All totaled, Abreu has been worth 5.1 wins since leaving while Swisher has been worth 7.4, and Nick appears to be entering his prime years.

Grade-Net Plus

November 13, 2008

Traded Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez to the Chicago White Sox. Received Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira.

One of Brian’s all time best deals, buying low on a good player coming off a bad year in a bad situation with the White Sox and their manager. We just went over how good Swisher has been, so lets look at it from the White Sox perspective. They got one year of  Wilson Betemit at -0.6 WAR. Nunez got a look with the Sox in 2009 and pitched to a 9.53 ERA in 7 games, and followed that up pitching to a 5.48 ERA last year pitching for their Charlotte AAA affiliate. Marquez has posted ERAs of 9.85 (11 games) in 2009 and 4.48 ERA in 2010 in AAA. Kenny Williams pretty much got nothing, except maybe to get his manager to stop complaining about a good player.

Grade-Net Plus

December 12, 2008

Signed A.J. Burnett as a free agent.

The ever-enigmatic AJ had a solid season for the Yanks in 2009, posting a 3.4 WAR and pretty much earning his 16.5 mil salary, give or take a mil. But he was awful in 2010, worth just 1.3 WAR and on the days he was off, he didn’t give his team much of a chance to win. The Yanks didn’t feel they had an in house replacement ready to take his place after the Hughes-IPK experience in April and May of 2008. The main FA alternative was Derek Lowe, and given the age on the Yanks left side of the infield and the fact Lowe doesn’t miss many bats, I would have made the same move. But AJ barely earned 1/3 of his 16.5 mil salary last year, and his fastball velocity has been dropping steadily for the past 3 seasons. When you win a WS and go deep into the playoffs the following year, its hard to argue the move was a total negative, but AJ’s contributions didn’t help last year. Net minus, mostly on the fact he hasn’t earned his salary.

Grade-Net Minus

December 20, 2008

Signed CC Sabathia as a free agent.

This one’s a no-brainer. Can you imagine the Yanks without CC? Worth 11.4 WAR and has even outproduced his hefty salary.

Grade-Net Plus

January 6, 2009

Signed Angel Berroa as a free agent.

Depth move with the 2003 Rookie of the Year that didn’t work out. Moves like this are why Brian prefers in house options like Ramiro Pena, who at least won’t complain about playing time.

Grade-Net Minus

January 6, 2009

Signed Mark Teixeira as a free agent.

Replaced the aging, addled Jason Giambi and more than doubled Jason’s 2.5 WAR with a 5.4 WAR in 2009. Had a down year in 2010, but is another no-brainer. Has roughly earned his high salary, give or take a mil.

Grade-Net Plus

February 13, 2009

Signed Brett Tomko as a free agent.

Low risk, back of the bullpen depth option that paid off nicely for the Yanks, pitching to a 0.64 ERA in 10 games. Wanted to be released to get more playing time, the Yanks obliged and was awful for the A’s. Brian just got lucky on the sample size here, but hey, it counts.

Grade-Net Plus

August 7, 2009 (Standings)

Purchased Chad Gaudin from the San Diego Padres.

Pitched nicely for the Yanks, even if his peripherals didn’t look great. Pitching Coach Dave Eiland was said to have tweaked his slider, maybe it was that or just another case of Brian getting lucky on the statistical noise chart. But again, it counts.

Grade-Net Plus

Totals-Net Plus-6

Net Minus-2


Brian Cashman has become something of a lightning rod this off season, drawing criticism from fans and media types for both his lack of activity and distancing himself from the Soriano deal. But he also has his defenders, and while appearing on Mike Silva’s radio show last night Mike cited a poll he ran where the voting came in 2/3 positive on Cashman. We all know GMs will have their share of good and bad moves, but who’s more right here? On balance, is he a good or bad GM?

I wanted to take a look at what his track record has been since taking over full control of Baseball Ops in 2005. That’s an important milestone for Brian, taking full control (and responsibility) for baseball decisions. In the previous period, some moves were made by George, others by ‘The Crack Committee’ so the waters are too muddied to know whether or not Brian was 100% behind those moves. I’m going to look at each year the way BR does it, beginning in November (when the off season begins) and ending in October of the following year. This way I capture the off season and mid season moves on the same list. I won’t look at any of this year’s off season moves, since its obviously too soon to know whether they’ve worked out or not. I’m only going to look at major moves, ones involving at least one MLB player that spent time on the 25 man roster. I won’t look at retaining their existing players as free agents (such as A-Rod, Mo, Pettitte or Jeter) since its simply maintaining the status quo. But I will look at free agents they let walk, such as Johnny Damon from last year. I’ll do a quick analysis of each move, and assess a grade of net plus or net minus for the franchise. I’ll total up each at the end of the post, and give a final total at the end of part 5.

2010 New York Yankees Trades and Transactions

December 8, 2009

As part of a 3-team trade, traded Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers and Ian Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers.

Very complex deal, so I’m just using WAR here. Phil Coke (1.1), Austin Jackson (3.8) and Ian Kennedy (2.4) combined for 7.3 WAR last year, while Curtis posted 3.6 WAR. I think Curtis has more upside in him, and we all know A-Jax’s BABIP was sky high last year and unlikely to repeat. But Austin Jackson alone outproduced Granderson last year, so there’s no positive way to spin this. You can’t make a final determination for a few more years, but as things stand now the team would have been better off standing pat.

Grade-Net minus

November 9, 2009

Johnny Damon granted Free Agency.

Fans were sorry to see the popular Damon go, but the Yanks didn’t miss him much. Brett Gardner put up a surprising 5.4 WAR playing LF while Johnny posted a 1.9 WAR with the Tigers. Defense counts, folks.

Grade-Net plus

Hideki Matsui granted Free Agency.

Another popular Yankee fans were sorry to see go. Had a solid season for the Angels, posting an .820 OPS and 1.9 WAR despite the big positional adjustment for DH. Yanks wound up getting 3.1 wins out of their DH spot between Posada, Thames and Johnson.

Grade-Net plus

December 22, 2009

Traded Arodys Vizcaino (minors), Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn and cash to the Atlanta Braves. Received Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez.

Melky was awful for the Braves, posting a -1.2 WAR. Dunn spent some time with the Braves, posting a 0.1 WAR but was quickly traded. Arodys Vizcaino hurt his elbow and had TJ surgery. From the Yankee side, Vazquez was very bad at the beginning and end of the season, but managed a good mid-season stretch  that kept his WAR (-0.2) from getting too ugly. Boone Logan was the best part of this trade for either team, giving the Yanks a much-needed LOOGY and posting a positive 0.4 WAR.

Grade-Net plus (for Logan)

February 8, 2010

Signed Randy Winn as a free agent.

Low risk/low reward move for bench help, which didn’t work out. Not significant, but not positive since Winn did nothing as a Yank and was quickly released by the team.

Grade-Net minus

February 10, 2010

Signed Marcus Thames as a free agent.

Low risk, medium reward move which paid off nicely. Thames added a potent lefty bat as DH and off the bench, and was worth about double in production what the Yanks paid him.

Grade-Net plus

February 28, 2010

Signed Chan Ho Park as a free agent.

Low risk move in terms of dollars, but Park was unusable except in low leverage situations. Signed to add veteran stability to bullpen, didn’t deliver.

Grade-Net minus

July 30, 2010 (Standings)

Traded a player to be named later to the Cleveland Indians. Received Austin Kearns. The New York Yankees sent Zach McAllister (minors) (August 20, 2010) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.

Kearns did little as a Yank, but Zach McAllister was exposed at AAA and in all likelihood won’t be missed. Brian deserves credit for getting something out of Z-Mac while he still had some value, but the player he landed didn’t pay off. I’ll give Brian a generous net plus, only on getting some actual MLB production in exchange for someone like McAllister.

Grade-Net plus

July 31, 2010

Traded Jimmy Paredes (minors) and Mark Melancon to the Houston Astros. Received Lance Berkman.

Berkman did little for the Yanks, but Melancon also did nothing for the Astros. Melancon excelled at AAA but lost his control in the majors, and then made matters worse by complaining about New York fans, which he made known after he was sent to Texas. Melancon wasn’t cut out for New York, but Brian would have been better off hanging onto him for another deal.

Grade-Net Minus

Traded players to be named later to the Cleveland Indians. Received Kerry Wood and cash. The New York Yankees sent Matt Cusick (minors) (October 21, 2010) and Andrew Shive (minors) (October 21, 2010) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.

Best move Cashman made all year, and it came at little cost. Wood was terrific down the stretch as a Yank, stabilizing the bullpen and setting them up for a deep playoff run. Cusick is a career minor leaguer and Shive is a reliever with control problems.

Grade-Net plus

Total Net plus transactions-6

Total Net minus transactions-3

Tomorrow I’ll look at Brian Cashman’s 2009 transactions.

TYU on NYBD

Posted by Steve S. at 8:28 pm 1 Response »
Jan 302011

I’ll be appearing on Mike Silva’s New York Baseball Digest show tonight @ 8:30 PM. Topics will include Brian Cashman, and some of the recent goings on here at TYU. There may also be a conference call between me and Frank Russo, and while we’re both die-hard Yankee fans he comes at it from a very different perspective than I do, which could get ugly interesting. Give it a listen, Mike does a fun show really knows his NY Baseball. Click Here to listen live.

Sunday Links

Posted by Steve S. at 9:00 am No Responses »
Jan 302011

-Terrific interview of Brian Cashman by Josh Norris of the Trentonian. The Montero quote is getting all the attention, but there’s some real good stuff in there on how the Yanks draft, valuing relievers, and how they handle their top prospects. If you’re someone who likes to follow the prospects, I’d bookmark that link for the upcoming season.

-Ex-Yankee Russ Springer retires. It’s amazing how long this guy played. He was drafted by the Yanks in 7th round of the 1989 draft out of LSU, had a cup of coffee with the team in 1992 and was traded (with Jerry Nielsen and J.T. Snow) to the California Angels for Jim Abbott the following year.

-What part of these two quotes doesn’t match?

Brian Cashman from last week’s WFAN breakfast:

“He’s our DH, period.”

Jorge Posada interview yesterday on MLB.com:

“I’ll catch. I’ll catch this year,” Posada said. “You know, I’ll DH and then they’re going to want me to catch one of those days, stuff like that.

Oh boy. This is not going to be fun. Jorge also apparently thinks he’s the GM.

-Nice to see Joel Sherman back in business after a long winter break. He ranks the off seasons of all 30 MLB teams, and unsurprisingly the Yanks wind up in the bottom third. Not sure what else Cashman could have done, but a low ranking is fair and appropriate.

-If you haven’t done so already, make sure you check out the three new weekend writers over at RAB. TYU readers will already be familiar with Stephen R. (Rhoads) with Brock Cohen and Hannah Erlich excellent additions as well. Three very distinct writings styles, all good reads in their own way.

TYU hits the MSM

Posted by Steve S. at 9:00 am 1 Response »
Jan 292011

Allow me to toot our collective horn here at TYU for a moment. Every so often a mainstream media outlet will pick up on something that’s said here and link to it, as Rob Neyer did earlier this month. But three in one day is pretty exceptional and worth noting. Yesterday Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News and Joe DeLessio of New York Magazine both looked at Mo’s piece alleging  censorship on the part of YES, and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports took a quote from my Cashman breakfast recap on Tuesday. Here they are, in order:

Bob Raissman of the NY Daily News

It appears Yankees suits did not want Cashman’s answers – void of company spin – to air on YES, even though they would be spread widely across various media platforms.

Further highlighting management sensitivity to “in-house” critiques of the Soriano deal was a report in TYU, a Yankee-centric blog, claiming that critical columns in two YES-affilated blogs (Pinstriped Bible and River Avenue Blues) were censored by YES operatives, perhaps under orders from a voice on high.

Joe Delessio of NY Magazine

Did the YES Network Censor Affiliated Blogs Because of Rafael Soriano Criticism?

The Yankee U makes a pretty compelling case that they did, at least to some degree. In one case, the Yankee U says the YES Network toolbar that appears above the River Avenue Blues website disappeared for a period of time after two of the site’s writers expressed displeasure with the Soriano signing. In another case, the response may have been a bit more extreme.

Via the Yankee U, regarding a post titled “What the Heck Are the Yankees Doing?” on the Pinstriped Bible blog:

Pinstriped Bible is directly affiliated with the YES Network, as the site is designed to look like the YES homepage and is frequently featured on the YES front page. A few hours after being posted, Steve Goldman’s post was suddenly pulled, only to reappear a number of hours later with a new title (Soriano Strengthens the Pen, But Do Dominoes Fall?) and a softened stance. A visit to the page shows the altered title and article, but the URL still contains the original title. I have the original article saved (available upon request), and the primary differences are a few sentences added in support of the deal, as well as the moving of a positive paragraph to the beginning of the article. When asked about the incident, Goldman declined to comment.

None of the bloggers involved offered a comment to the Yankee U, actually, and the site points out that, to the best of their knowledge, the network has not previously censored any of its affiliated blogs. Still, if it is indeed some form of censorship on the part of the Yankees or the YES Network, it revisits a discussion that’s been going for years about what happens when a sports team is affiliated in some way with a reporter, broadcaster, or even an outlet that covers it. (Remember Marv Albert’s departure from MSG in 2004, after a season in which he’d reportedly been told to be less critical of the Lenny Wilkens–era Knicks? This is not an entirely different discussion.)

In the meantime, if the Yankees really want to silence any criticism of the Soriano signing, they’ll have to censor their own general manager.

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports:

Context often is lost in the age of Twitter, and when a fan in attendance, Amanda Rykoff, tweeted Cashman’s remarks, the outcry was predictable. Cashman did not say the team planned to move Jeter or was even considering it. But the damage was done.

When Cashman reconstructed the conversation again Thursday, he said, “That was not controversial. It was not Cashman saying, ‘Jeter won’t finish the contract at short. He has to move to center field.’ None of that.”

Those in the audience seemed to understand.

A blogger at theyankeeu.com who attended the breakfast took exception to the “utter garbage being spread around the MSM (mainstream media) about what (Cashman) did say and didn’t say.”

And Cashman said Rykoff, the original tweeter, approached him Wednesday night while he tended bar at Foley’s New York to help raise money for prostate cancer research.

“She couldn’t believe how they took what I said. She apologized to me,” Cashman said.

Once upon a time bloggers were dismissed as lonely voices shouting into the ether, but it’s nice to see that more and more we’re becoming part of the larger conversation. Our readers know we consistently deliver content they can’t find in mainstream outlets and local newspapers, dealing with advanced stats and a fan to fan perspective on the team which MSM outlets tend to shy away from. We occupy our niche and the MSM occupies theirs, but in both cases were just  trying to deliver content our readers want. It’s nice to see the two sides peacefully coexisting. Kumbaya, my Lord. Kumbaya.

We are family, I got all my sistas and me. We are family, get up everybody, sing!

In recent days, fans and columnists have been speculating about Brian Cashman’s future with the organization because of some of the comments he’s recently made and the way he’s very publicly distanced himself from the Soriano signing. Some see this as a form of disloyalty, this sentiment is especially common among those who supported the Soriano deal. Some of these folks conveniently forget the comments he made just a week prior to the signing, which had to be addressed. Further, Brian aired his dissent publicly at the Soriano press conference, right in front of his bosses. Despite this, Hal Steinbrenner was interviewed by Joel Sherman and quoted saying he has no problem with Brian whatsoever:

“[Cashman] and I have a great working relationship.  There is no problem, right now. I think we have had a bunch of drummed-up drama.”

(snip)

“I keep reading about dissension and discord. We are a well-functioning company. The bosses have a decision to make. Sometimes people don’t agree with those decisions. So I told him, ‘You are always honest with the media, be honest now. Tell them what you have to tell them.’ I was already onto the next decision. I told him, ‘You and I are fine. Answer in any way you want.’”

Those aren’t the comments of someone who was just sandbagged at a major press conference. Brian made it known to his bosses he was going to go public with his position on Soriano, and they had no problem with it. But it seems pretty clear there are dissenting views in the Yankee hierarchy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless too many chefs are cooking the roster. One move doesn’t mean Brian has been neutered. Looking at it long term, I think recent events will bolster his authority to make baseball decisions. Personally, I think Brian’s setting himself up to consolidate his power with the Yanks for the next few years and/or when he re-ups with the team on his next contract.

Think about it. We all know multi-year deals are a risky business when it comes to relievers. Brian has had much experience himself in this department, most of it (Karsay/Farnsworth/Quantrill/Marte) bad. By all accounts, Randy Levine is the one who pushed for the Yanks to sign Soriano all winter. Randy Levine is the one who’s sticking his neck out here, and his justification for signing Soriano was the Yanks had to ‘do something’. Which is what most people say before they do something really stupid. I think that’s why YES/Levine has been sensitive about criticism on the deal, because he knows he’s taking a risk here that could blow up in his face.

I think Brian is smart enough and experienced enough in this town to know if you get the Baseball right, everything else takes care of itself. Most of George Steinbrenner’s bad moves were ones made for business reasons, adding star power to sell tickets. That’s what led to some middling teams and very bad trades in the 80s, and the old, overpaid, under performing teams of the mid-2000s with zero roster flexibility or prospects to bring up/make trades with. I think Brian is making a calculated bet here, and odds are he’s going to be the one who the Steinbrenner brothers will be listening to if the Soriano deal doesn’t work out. I’m sure his stock was down after missing out on Lee and doing little else this off season, but if Cashman and Levine were both traded on the NYSE, I’d be buying Brian and selling Randy right now.

DJ-"I got it" BG-"No! I got it" DJ-"NO! I GOT IT!"

For the past few days, the MSM and interwebs have been abuzz by a comment that Yankee GM Brian Cashman made at the WFAN breakfast on Tuesday. You would think that Brian said something really interesting, really decisive. Something that Yankee fans and baseball fans have been holding their collective breath about some big star player, and Brian finally cleared things up with a declarative statement. But he didn’t. In reality, he did nothing of the sort.

First, the context. The question was asked by an audience member if Derek will remain at shortstop for the entire 4 years of his newly minted contract. Mike Francesa immediately followed up with “what about moving Derek to third?” which is something he’s often discussed on his radio show. Brian said that he’s heard Mike discuss that on his show (long time listener, first time caller) but doesn’t like the idea of Derek on third. He recounted how in the late Don Mattingly years, the Yanks had Mattingly at first base and Wade Boggs at third. Those who remember his career will recall that a 1990 back injury had sapped Donnie of much of his power in his later years. Boggs of course, was the quintessential ‘slap hitter’ of the late 80s and early 90s who averaged 5-8 HRs most of his career (1987 notwithstanding). So from 1993-95 there were two key positions (1B/3B) where most teams expect to get some power where the Yanks were getting little. Brian said “That killed us, then we went and got Tino and (won in 1996)” Mike interjected “So where do you see Derek going? ” Brian took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling and said “. . . more likely the outfield. ” Mike asked “Left?” Brian said “Well, we have Brett Gardner there”. Both Brian and Mike went on for a minute or so kicking around the idea after that, but Brian said nothing definitive. Brian was clearly thinking on his feet and answering a hypothetical question. One that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time to me, and there was no audible reaction from the audience, either. If anything surprised me, it was how little thought Brian appeared to have given to the subject.

Next, Brian said earlier at that same event that Derek is their SS next year, and for the foreseeable future. He doesn’t view Eduardo Nunez as a replacement, so its not as if they have his successor in house. So the really interesting question for me is what do they do with Derek when they find a replacement? He doesn’t profile as a DH, or as a corner outfielder. He’s under contract for 4 more years. Nobody envisions him remaining at SS for the whole 4 years, yet nobody knows what to do with him once he’s moved off the position. That’s where I think this gets really interesting, especially since Derek has long been a player who loathes spending any time whatsoever on the bench. He hates taking days off when he’s hurt, how’s he going to react when he’s healthy? But the MSM all too often steers clear of things that are thought provoking or interesting, opting instead for non-stop sensationalism.

Tyler Kepner caught up with Brian last night at a charity event, and Brian had this to say about his comments:

At the breakfast yesterday I didn’t think I was saying anything that was newsworthy.

“All I can do is explain myself as well as I can and, hey, this is what I was talking about, this is what I meant. I didn’t think it was a big issue. I’ve been in that position before. Who’s going to replace Mariano Rivera as the closer? Is it Joba, it is Hughes? When Randy Johnson was here, can Randy Johnson be a closer? You know, all those different questions but for some reason when that comes around with the shortstop it becomes a really crazy loud story.

“I did talk to Casey Close. He asked, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ because they were receiving a lot of calls. I haven’t talked to Derek and I explained everything to him (Close). Hopefully I sufficed. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing to explain.

As someone who was there, I agree completely. It was an off the cuff remark that has generated 2 straight days media coverage. Why? Because it involves a big star in Derek Jeter, which attracts attention for media outlets whether or not the story deserves it. In context, it was really no big deal.

"Soriano? If he stinks or gets hurt, he’ll be a Yankee for 3 years"

I attended the WFAN ‘Breakfast with a Champion’ with Brian Cashman on Tuesday morning, and as always, Brian didn’t disappoint one bit. I’ve attended these functions for 3 years running, and if anything Brian only seems to get more open, more verbose, and more honest with each event. You may have read some recaps on some other blogs, but I took extensive notes and can provide some context to some of the utter garbage that’s being spread around the MSM about what he did and didn’t say. I’ll use this post to fully recap his comments and I will have a follow up post tomorrow clarifying the Jeter/CF nonsense you’ve probably been reading elsewhere. There are no plans to move him now or in the future. If you’ve read some other Yankee blogs some of this stuff will be familiar, but there are other parts that I haven’t seen elsewhere that I found very interesting. The Soriano comments were especially blunt and entertaining.

On Jeter-He was asked by Francesa if there are any lingering bad feelings after the very public falling out they had during Derek’s contract negotiations. He said their relationship is “good” then amended it immediately “well.. alright”. But that doesn’t bother him at all, its not his job to be friends with the players but to do what’s best for the organization. He further went on to say “I don’t care” if players like him,  his focus has to be on winning and anyone who stands between him and that goal will have a problem with him.

On Posada moving to DH-He said there was no debate whatsoever when he discussed the move with Jorge. He directly told Jorge in no uncertain terms where they planned on playing him next year, and he has the entire off season to prepare as a DH. He wanted to do it himself, rather than have his manager tell him and possibly upset their clubhouse relationship. He went on to say if it doesn’t work out with Jorge as a DH, then he would have to explore other options mid season. But his days as an everyday catcher, or even a part time Catcher, are over. He’s their DH, period. He will only catch in case of an emergency.

On his media comments-“Everything I say (publicly) has meaning. They’re like bread crumbs leading you in the direction of where I stand on a player.” This is so true. You often have to read Brian’s comments carefully to glean where he stands on a subject, but he doesn’t lie to the media. Sometimes he’s not allowed to comment on a player who’s under contract with another team, sometimes he doesn’t want to show his cards knowing agents and the Red Sox are listening. But if you follow his comments and what happens, they generally match up.

On his contract expiring-The organizational rule where they don’t negotiate a deal before it expires is his baby. He created it, so he said he would be “a hypocrite” if he waived the rule for himself. Don’t read anything into him being on the last year of his deal, it tells us nothing about whether he will or won’t return. It was noteworthy that later on he was discussing small market teams, and said those jobs were akin to “retirement”.

On his bad contracts and the high profile nature of his job-(referring to himself) “The higher up a tree a monkey climbs, the more you see of his ass”.

On his Brett Favre/Pettitte comment-He said it might have been a poor choice of words, but the comment was completely misunderstood publicly. What he meant was that in his opinion, Brett Favre wasn’t fully committed to play in 2010 and was wooed back by the Vikings with helicopter visits, millions of cash, etc. He wants Andy to be fully committed, not give a half hearted effort out of obligation to his team or teammates. His comment had nothing to do with Andy jerking the team around.

On Andy Pettitte playing in 2010-He said he’s working out, that his wife and kids are on board with him playing this year, and said “I believe he’s going to play”. But he added the caveat Andy pulled him aside in Texas and told him “Don’t wait on me” if he was considering making moves, which was something that hadn’t happened in previous years. Andy was more banged up last year than the Yanks let on, dealing with a bad groin, bad back, among other ailments.

On Andy coming back mid season-“I don’t think Andy is open to that.”

On Joba-When asked about Joba returning to the rotation, he made it very clear that will not happen and the organization thinks his stuff has never been the same since the shoulder injury in 2008. He mentioned the injury 3 times in responding to his role, and said “his stuff has been watered down since then. Even his breaking pitches aren’t as sharp.”

On his #4 and #5 starters-He said he would like to have Andy come back and have Ivan Nova be his 5th starter. But once you get past that he went on extensively about his top pitching prospects, mentioning Dellin Betances and Manny Baneulos in that order. He said Dellin has a “Felix Hernandez type curveball” and that both pitchers are top of the rotation prospects, both with “Phil Hughes or better ceilings”. But he cautioned that he expects both pitchers to stay in the minors for the 2011 season.

On his farm system-He said the Yanks have a top 5 farm system “for the first time since I’ve been here” and that every rotation spot in AA and AAA next year will be filled with a legitimate pitching prospect. No veteran retreads, and mentioned David Phelps and Adam Warren as guys who could be with the MLB club this year, quoting Gene Michael as saying both “could be better than Ivan Nova”.

On Jesus Montero-He said Jesus has a “Manny Ramirez-type bat” and a better arm than people realize. He has “a cannon” but needs to work on making his release quicker and his overall catching skills. He left open the possibility that Jesus could work his way onto the MLB squad this year. If he succeeds right away, the club would look to deal Russell Martin.

On Eduardo Nunez-“A trade bait candidate” though he went on to describe him as one of the top 5 in the minors at his position. That being said, he doesn’t view him as an eventual successor to Jeter.

Asked who’s the best team in the AL right now-“The Red Sox” though the Yanks “are a starter away from contending for the World Series”

On Soriano’s contract-An audience member asked him to explain how the opt out clauses in Soriano’s deal works. Brian said “If he stinks or gets hurt, he’ll be a Yankee for 3 years”. The questioner followed up asking what happens if Soriano has a good season, Brian said “he’ll opt out” explaining there will be more money out there if he has a big year. Brian went on to say there is no lingering resentment, that there are different areas of the Yankee business and he doesn’t expect to always get his way, even on Baseball issues. These disagreements are always done in a very candid and professional manner. But he called the Soriano deal “a reactionary move” that was done more for business reasons (selling tickets) than baseball reasons. Francesa then asked the audience if anyone was excited to have Soriano on board, and there were few (if any) positive responses.

On losing the draft pick-An audience member asked him if they will get the draft pick back if Soriano opts out next year. He said yes, but with an important caveat. The collective bargaining agreement is due to expire next year, and one of the issues that the union wants changed is draft pick compensation, especially relating to relievers. He cited Grant Balfour as a recent example of the problems involved. It’s possible, even likely that the next deal will have different rules for Type A relievers, so until the new CBA gets hammered out we really don’t know if they’ll get a 1st round pick as compensation to replace the one they lost.

On Sabermetrics-“I believe heavily in that stuff, along with scouting” adding that anything that can be quantified helps him do his job better.

On Carlos Zambrano-“No” saying he believes it’s important with the intense scrutiny in New York to have “high character guys” so your manager and team doesn’t spend all day dealing with distractions caused by a player.

On Felix Hernandez-“You’d be shocked how hard I went after him”. He just shook his head, indicating he wasn’t available.

Jan 242011

With the baseball off season slowly winding to a close, a theme has begun to emerge for me. It’s that all of us who follow these things closely, from the beat writers to the TV pundits to those of us in the blogosphere, we all have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s akin to predicting who’s going to win the World Series. We all have our consensus favorites, and were right about 25% of the time, if that. With that on the table, here’s the 3 main conclusions I’ve drawn from observing the 2010-11 off season:

-Yankee money guarantees nothing

Some of us always knew this. If you’ve ever listened to someone like Marvin Miller explain the rationale behind the establishment of free agent rights with the 1970 Curt Flood Supreme Court case and Andy Messersmith being the first to declare back in 1975, it was to give players the right to play wherever they want at a certain point of their career.  Money’s certainly a factor, but the reality is that even players at the highest end of the market often choose between many teams. It’s about supply and demand, and there just aren’t many aces in the game to begin with, so finding a premium talent via free agency is even more difficult. When one as good as Cliff Lee becomes available, he will still have multiple suitors even after the point when his price tag gets absurd.  The Yanks offered the most guaranteed dollars, went to a 7th year and still (by all accounts) came in 3rd place in the bidding. They did pretty much all they can do, and still fell short.

-There’s no such thing as an unmovable contract

Just as there is always a greater fool who will outbid all the rational bids for a player’s services in free agency, there is always a deal out there to be made regarding a player who is still reasonably productive. Vernon Wells proves this beyond any doubt. In most cases, the team has to eat much of the bad money in order to move the player, but sometimes that rule doesn’t even apply. Angels GM Tony Reagins actually took the entire deal AND gave significant value back in return. Not only that, he created a hole for himself at Catcher. The next time you’re arguing with a buddy over getting some awful deal off your team’s books and he says to you it’s impossible, just reply ‘Vernon Wells’. End of debate. We all try to assume that GMs will behave rationally, but there’s just too much evidence to the contrary.
-You can’t predict where free agents will land

Did anyone think Jayson Werth would land in Washington? What’s the point of Carl Crawford’s speed with the Green Monster in Fenway Park?  The Rangers have a Third Baseman, they don’t need Adrian Beltre. Brian Cashman stated unequivocally he’s not giving up a 1st round draft pick for a reliever. And nobody believes Jon Heyman with all this “mystery team” nonsense on Cliff Lee. Everyone knows he’s going to be a Yankee, right? Again, there’s a very limited supply of top talent at any given position, so strange things happen. And this off season has been one of the strangest I can recall.

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