TIME TO CASH OUT
By Ty Thompson
Brian McGuire Cashman has been the general manager of the New York Yankees since the organization’s mythical season of 1998, when they went 114-48 and cruised to a World Series title. ’98 would be the first of three consecutive world championships, giving the team the distinction of being the last to three-peat in Major League Baseball. Going three for three to begin one’s career as a GM is more than noteworthy. It’s historic. It immediately made Cashman the premier GM in all of sports. Oh yeah. There’s just one caveat: it’s imperative to mention that that team was built by the great Gene “Stick” Michael and Bob Watson. Michael, during the time in the early ‘90s when former owner George Steinbrenner was exiled from the team and MLB for unscrupulous actions, built the Core Four of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.
Cashman has one World Series all to himself, winning the Fall Classic in 2009. Even then, the Core Four were still vital parts of the well-oiled engine. Pettitte returned for a second run after spending time in Houston while The Captain, “Jorgie” and “Sandman” remained stalwarts for the club. Cashman’s footprint was certainly evident, as key players Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Hideki Matsui (World Series MVP), Mark Teixeira and fan favorite Johnny Damon became Yankees during Cashman’s tenure. The team’s starting second baseman Robinson Cano, before his performance-enhancing fall from grace, was poised to eventually join his namesake in Cooperstown. Cano was perhaps Cashman’s greatest prospect before Aaron Judge, signing with the organization as an amateur free agent in 2001.
2009 is far in the rearview of Yankees lore. The Yankees failed to win a World Series in the 2010s, marking the first decade in a century that the Yankees didn’t hoist the trophy at least once. The 2020s haven’t exactly been a beacon of hope thus far. Large payrolls and lofty expectations have not equaled ultimate success. The New York Yankees, the most valuable franchise in baseball according to Forbes at $7.1B, struggled to escape the cellar of the AL East of 2023. They finished 19 games behind division winner Baltimore, and it took a 17-10 September to (barely) finish above .500 at 82-80. The organization ended up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016, posting its worst record since the nascent days of the Michael rebuild in 1992. Just a year prior, Judge and his record-breaking MVP effort led the team to a division title before eventually being swept by the World Series champion (and hated) Astros in the ALCS. Even the most positive of Yankees fans (if you can find one) have struggled with morale the past decade or so. The glory days of ’09 might as well be centuries ago in the Bronx. Sure, this was only the first time since ’16 that the Yankees missed the playoffs. That’s not bad at all for about 29 clubs. But not at 161st St and River Avenue, #BXNYC, in the house that The Boss built. In there, it’s all about #28.
In the land of the YES Network, it’s easy to place blame at the foot of Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees owner and son of George. “The Boss is rolling over in his grave!” some say. True Yankees fans long in the tooth are quick to remind the forgetful that The Boss would have made any and every move possible to return the World Series trophy to its most acquainted home. That perhaps was the greatest aspect of Steinbrenner’s allure to the fans. He may have been (and certainly was) overzealous at times, but every fan knew the best interest of the team was always his only objective. There was no price too heavy to prevent The Boss from pulling his checkbook out. Fans just don’t see the same thing these days. Many are quick to point out that megastars like Justin Verlander, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and currently Juan Soto have been available to be fitted for pinstripes over the past few seasons, but “budgetary strategy” has prevented such measures. Almost all that resentment is aimed at Hal. But further analysis may serve as defense for Hal and increased scrutiny for Cash.
The 2023 Yankees were $55M over the luxury tax threshold, second in MLB to their interborough rival Mets, whose season didn’t quite go as intended either. The Dodgers and Red Sox, two franchises with hefty purses and world championships in the past calendar decade, spent less on team payroll than the Yankees. Their number two ranking obviously means that they outspent both 2023 World Series participants (and everyone else in the 2023 Postseason). So, if Hal isn’t quite the pinchpenny Yankees fans paint him out to be, then what is the problem? Better, who is the problem?
It's Cashman, and it’s time for Cash to go. It’s time for the Yankees to cash out.
The simple reality that the Yankees organization faces is that Cash has had far too many misses and not enough hits the past decade. Bringing Gerrit Cole into the fold and re-signing him long term (9 years/$324M) was a hit. Cole has been a steady #1 since he joined the staff rotation and may walk away with some hardware this season. Despite pushback from a few social media general managers across Yankees Nation, Cash did what had to be done in giving Judge a huge (9 years/$360M) re-up. Cool. The problem lies within the misses. There have been quite a few over the years. Let’s tailor the focus to the past year or so.
The first miss came on August 1, 2022, when Cash made a trade with Oakland that brought RHP Frankie Montas to the X. The move looked to be more reactionary than strategic, as Bleacher Creatures were seething over Cash’s inability to land elite and available RHP Luis Castillo. The Reds were looking to move him, and everyone in the sport knew it. He and Cole could have possibly been the best 1,2 punch in the game. Cashman passed and Seattle pounced on the opportunity. Official hindsight from the Monday Morning Quarterbacks Club shows that Castillo was an all-star for the second consecutive season. Montas missed most of 2023 with injuries after an underwhelming performance with the Yanks in ’22. Bummer. After a solid whiff on the first swing, there’s only one thing to do as a perfect follow-up: whiff again.
A day after the Montas deal, Cashman, apparently disenchanted with the idea of having two quality lefties pitch in front of the short porch in right field, made the decision to trade Jeff Montgomery to the Cardinals for Harrison Bader. Cash was eager to bring a solid CF to the team after finally atoning for the reality that the Aaron Hicks signing was yet another disastrous acquisition. Apparently, the potential of the young CF was more than enough to trade a solid southpaw amidst his prime. The Yankees CF of the future lasted exactly one year before being waived on August 29. Yes, waived. And as for Monty? How did things work out for him? Well, after a cup of tea with the Cardinals, he was traded to the Rangers. He started Game 2 of the 2023 World Series. He won a ring. Cashman essentially gave him away for nothing. Good morning, good afternoon...
The Yankees entered the 2022 Winter Meetings determined to reel in a big-time arm to bolster the rotation. Cole was Cole. Nester Cortes was the toast of the town, going 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA and earning an all-star selection. Things got a bit muddy from there, as the injury bug had bitten Luis Severino once again and Domingo Germán struggled as a starter. With that in mind, Cashman cast his line into the free agency pool and reeled in LHP Carlos Rodón for 6 years/$162M. Rodón was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle. He was tough as nails against the Astros lineup, holding them to 2 or less runs every start of his career before becoming a Yankee. Unfortunately, injuries (a motif in Rodón’s career) limited him to just 14 games started. He went 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA in 54.1 IP. But hey, at least he did eke out a 5 inning win versus the Astros in early September when the Yankees were a light year out of first and battling with Boston to see who’d inhabit the basement of the AL East.
Goodnight. That’s a whiff and a punchout.
Brian Cashman has rested on the glories of days past for far too long now. The abject debacle of 2023 only exacerbated things. Children born the last couple months of 2009 will enter high school next fall without the Yankees having won a World Series in their lifetimes. Perhaps this kind of mediocrity would fly in a mid-market city with a championship or two to its credit, but not in New York. It doesn’t matter how defiant Cashman sounds in expletive-laced tirades at MLB GM Meetings. The proof is in the Yankees’ lack of success the past decade-and-a-half. The Yankees need new direction in the front office.
It's time for the Yankees to Cash out.
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