This season the New York Yankees have made it easy for many, including yours truly, to criticize General Manager Brian Cashman’s off-season moves. The horrendous performance of Freddy Garcia, the season-ending injury to Michael Pineda, and the last-day of spring training demotion of Francisco Cervelli in favor of light-hitting Chris Stewart (acquired in a trade), gave plenty of ammunition to those calling for an end to the Cashman era.
A look at two of the GM’s other moves reveals that he also gave the New York Yankees a couple of valuable “keepers”.
First, there’s Raul Ibanez. It was no secret that coming into the 2012 season the Yankees needed a designated hitter. Rumors had it that the candidates for the position included Ibanez, Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. Cashman signed Ibanez in February, and the New York Yankees had their left-handed compliment to Andruw Jones at the designated hitter spot.
After a rough start to the season in which the slugger’s batting average dipped to .158, fans began to wonder if this was yet another Brian Cashman failure. The month of May, however, has shown that the hard-working DH/LF is an integral part of the New York Yankees lineup.
This month Raul Ibanez has been perhaps the Yankees most productive hitter. His .292 batting average, and .688 slugging percentage in May rank him among the leaders on the team. In regards to hitting with runners in scoring position (a stat the New York Yankees are painfully aware that they are weak in) Ibanez is hitting .273, ranking him second on the club (behind captain Derek Jeter). Wisely, manager Joe Girardi has recognized the former Philadephia Phillies left fielder’s value in the order, and recently moved him from seventh to fifth in the order.
With that sluggish April behind him, Raul Ibanez should give valuable protection to the middle of the order and allow those hitters to finally produce some runs.
The second “keeper” move made by New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is Andy Pettitte.
The beloved Yankee southpaw, who was brought in during spring training as a coach, hinted to Cashman that he wanted to try his stuff on the mound again. On March 16th he was signed by the club and immediately began working on his comeback.
Pettitte would spend all of April building his stamina and fine-tuning his pitches in the minor leagues. On May 13th he made his first major league start since 2010 with mixed results. He lost that game to the Seattle Mariners, but gave the New York Yankees and their fans glimpses of the Andy Pettitte that they remembered from seasons past.
Five days later, Pettitte showed everyone why his return was so important as he threw eight brilliant innings of 4-hit baseball in a 4 – 0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. That game, in which he allowed only one walk and struck out nine, gave hope to a pitching corps that has been plagued with injury and inconsistency all year.
With Andy Pettitte among the starters, the New York Yankees suddenly become deeper in the rotation, and have a little more stability they so desperately needed.
Brian Cashman’s off-season moves appear to have been as irratic as the team’s start to this 2012 season. What New York Yankees fans cannot overlook is the fact that two of his better signings have given the team veteran leadership and depth. With Raul Ibanez and Andy Pettitte settling into their roles with the club, the Yankees season still has a chance to be a successful one. We have the general manager to thank for it.