Brian Cashman has been at the helm of the New York Yankees since 1998 and has made a lot of astute trades and signed several key players that helped the Yankees win four World Series championships. However, right now, with the $189 million, self-imposed cap the Yankees have placed on themselves for the 2014 season Cashman’s moves have actually cost the Yankees more than they have helped.
It is easy to look back in hindsight and say that the Yankees made poor moves considering the expectations placed on the Yankees to win every year. That has led to trades like acquiring Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 in exchange for Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen, and Jeff Karstens. While none of those three are superstars they are all useful players who could easily contribute at the Major League level.
There have also been some sideways deals that were real head scratchers like acquiring Jonathan Alabadejo from the Washington Nationals in 2007 for Tyler Clippard who made the All-Star team last year as a set-up man. Then, another head scratcher last year as the Yankees traded a young reliever in George Kontos who helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series for Chris Stewart, a backup catcher whom had been in the Yankees system a couple of years ago.
We also can’t forget the trade of Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy in three-team deal that netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson. It is hard to knock adding Granderson who has developed into a fine power hitter but often struggles to make contact. Meanwhile Kennedy has gone on to win 20 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and Coke has become a viable left-handed option for the Detroit Tigers while Jackson has ably replaced Granderson in center.
We also can’t forget about the Javier Vazquez reunion tour that Cashman thought would be a good idea. That cost the Yankees Mike Dunn and Melky Cabrera. Cabrera, a switch-hitter, would be a nice option at this point as the Yankees struggle to find a right-handed hitting outfielder even with all of the performance enhancing drug nonsense surrounding him. Dunn has become a fairly good left-hander out of the bullpen holding left-handed hitters to a .234/.331/.345 line.
The Yankees did receive Boone Logan in return for Cabrera and Dunn, off-setting the pain of losing Dunn. However, the Yankees also went out and signed Pedro Feliciano two years ago to a two-year $4 million contract and never saw Feliciano throw a pitch. That led the Yankees to bring in Clay Rapada last season to supplement Logan.
To compound matters, the Yankees have also forfeited their early round picks in the pursuit of free agents. In 2009, the Yankees gave up their first three picks when they signed Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. It is hard to argue with the 2009 World Series win that those three contributed to but it severely hampered the Yankees development of their farm system. The Yankees also forfeited their first round pick in 2011 when they signed Rafael Soriano although they will get one back this year with Soriano signing with Washington.
The Yankees have sacrificed a lot in the pursuit of winning now. That is finally going to catch up with them and could cost the Yankees Robinson Cano after this season as the Yankees will have about $50 million to spend on three starting pitchers, three relief pitchers, a left fielder, catcher, and a bench.
There are some in-house candidates like Austin Romine at catcher and possibly an outfielder from the group of Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott among others. Though, Williams, Austin and Heathcott might not be ready until 2015 at the earliest and Mesa and Almonte both have warts as prospects, specifically an ability to make consistent contact.
The Yankees, at the time, had no idea there would be a self-imposed cap in 2014, no reason to alter their habits before Hal Steinbrenner and company implemented the luxury tax threshold. Since the $189 million limit has been known Cashman has done everything within his power to keep the Yankees competitive while freeing up as much money as possible. Still, he has handicapped himself and made his job more difficult. It will be up to him to fix the mess that has been created. It will start this June as the Yankees have three picks in the first 32 selections. It is imperative that the Yankees make the most of those selections and revamp a farm system that will need it soon.
The Yankees will also have to get used to the changing landscape of baseball where teams are signing their own players, often giving them contract extensions and buying up their first few years of free agency. It will be up to the Yankees to adapt or suffer through another late-1960s meltdown where the Yankees had no young players coming through the pipeline to replace the retiring Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. Like evolution, the Yankees must adapt or die.