There may be some controversial New York Yankee players, but general manager Brian Cashman doesn’t escape the discussion. Half of Yankee fans think he should be fired for being incompetent; the other half think he is brilliant. He is secretive and seldom does what fans expect. A good example is when fans sorely wanted either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper on the team. Both got huge record-breaking contracts with the Dodgers and the Phillies. But Cashman didn’t bite; instead, he picked up a little known DJ LeMahieu from Colorado for a fraction of the cost.
LeMahieu turned out to be one of the best players in all of baseball during his two-year contract. In his first year in the Bronx, he batted .327, was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and came in 4th in the MVP voting. The front office and fans alike thought he would have a hard time matching that in the final year of his contract, but he did, and in a big way, he batted .364, was again a Silver Slugger, and came in 3rd in the MVP voting, oh and he was the Major League batting champ.
Neither Machado nor Harper matched these stats, and LeMahieu did it at half the cost to the Yankees. He was so good that the Yankees put everything on hold waiting to resign him to a new contract, something they finally did, signing him to a six-year $90 million deal that satisfied both parties needs, LeMahieu got the security he sought. The Yankees got a low annual cost that allowed them to make other moves to improve the team.
Since then, the Yankees have seen free agents come and go, sign with other teams while the Yankees were on hold. Once the hold was turned off, Cashman immediately signed Corey Kluber to a one-year $11 million deal for a pitcher that hadn’t pitched in a year and a half. That hardly seemed like the thing to do when the Yankees already had two returning pitchers that didn’t pitch last year. But Cashman sees things that others don’t see. Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and won 18 games in 2016 and 2017, and 2018 20 games. Cashman bets on the deal’s high reward side that says he hopes he can return to the pitcher he was.
Doubling down on the strategy, he then signed another pitcher that didn’t pitch last year in another low-risk, high reward deal. He traded four low-level Yankee prospects to the Pittsburgh Pirates for starting pitcher Jameson Taillon who is coming off Tommy John surgery but will be ready to pitch on day one. It seems that Cashman never seems to do the obvious. When fans wanted reliever Brad Hand or Liam Hendriks, Cashman signed little known Brad O’Day. O’Day will give the Yankees a new look with his submarine style of pitching. This past season he pitched to a minuscule 1.10 ERA in 19 games.
Recently the Athletic’s Jim Bowden rated the top 15 best free agents remaining on the market and who would be the best fit. He claims that none of them is a good fit for the New York Yankees. Brian Cashman may be on to something with his out of the box acquisitions. He has taken some big risks, but there could be some high rewards; only time will tell what score to give Cashman.
The YES Network says: “Brian Cashman is the longest-tenured general manager in baseball, and rightfully so. He has been the mastermind behind the Yankees’ last four World Series titles and, more recently, helped spearhead the club’s influx of homegrown talent.”
In other brilliant moves, Cashman has brought Luis Severino, Mashiro Tanaka, Chad Green, Hideki Matsui, Andrew Miller, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Mike Mussina, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia, and the Yankee’s newest sensation Jasson Domingo, to name a few. Cashman has also made some amazing trades: He traded David Wells for Roger Clemens, he traded left fielder Ricky Ledee and some prospects for David Justice, he traded Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers, he also went under the radar to send Wilson Betemit and a pair of Minor League pitchers to Chicago for Nick Swisher. The list could go on and on, but no general manager in baseball has made more upside acquisitions or trades than Brian Cashman.
The Yankees may not have won a World Series since 2009, but in Cashman’s 23 years with the New York Yankees, he has taken them into the postseason in 19 of those years. No other GM in baseball can say that. In those 19 years, he has won 4 World Championships.