With one exception, Brian Cashman and then he let him go has been unable to fill the all-important shortstop position. What’s the problem?
Brian Cashman will soon be the Yankee’s longest-tenured general manager in their history. In the beginning, he reaped the rewards from Gene Michael‘s work in assembling the Core Five of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada.
Yankees fans will remember those late 90s and early 2000 teams winning five World Championships, including the last and 28th Title in 2009 when George Steinbrenner opened the Yankee treasury for the last time before he died in 2010, bringing on Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia to solidify the team.
Twelve disappointing years later, Brian Cashman has three of the four important “up the middle” positions once held by Posada with Gary Sanchez at catcher, Aaron Hicks instead of the gazelle Williams in centerfield, and an out of position Gleyber Torres in place of Jeter at shortstop.
Brian Cashman’s Pro-Action Beginning
By far, though, Brian Cashman’s most glaring failure has either been his inability or lack of attention in filling the shortstop position.
Never yielding to the pressure of replacing a Yankee icon, Gregorius covered the shortstop position with always increasing numbers until a shoulder injury suffered during the World Baseball Classic cut him down, and he was forced to miss the beginning of the 2017 season.
During the offseason of 2016, Brian Cashman played ping-pong with Ronald Torreyes, trading for him, losing him on waivers, and then claiming him back on waivers when it struck him that Torreyes is the player who can be a fill-in for Gregorius.
Filling in seamlessly, Torreyes made all the plays at shortstop a major leaguer is supposed to make, and he developed a knack for coming up with a clutch hit when it was needed that continued through all of 2017 while playing 54 games at third base and 26 at second base, batting a robust .292 over 108 games.
Brian Cashman’s Eyes Begin To Close
Yankees fans know the history that followed both Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes at Brian Cashman’s hands. Neither is wearing a Yankee uniform today, having been discarded by Cashman for reasons he has never fully explained.
Of special interest is that both players began the 2021 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, who, not surprisingly, are managed by Joe Girardi, who himself managed both players before the Yankees discarded him in favor of Aaron Boone.
During the past offseason, it didn’t go unnoticed that Brian Cashman realized he had a problem at shortstop, even taking the unusual step of openly criticizing Gleyber Torres in December:
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, sayeth Brian Cashman.
Simultaneously, Brian Cashman had a second opportunity to sign either Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes (age 28), who were available as free agents. As we said, both were scooped up by the Phillies, leaving the Yankees with no alternative but to play Torres at shortstop following the signing of DJ LeMahieu as their second baseman.
Brian Cashman Asleep At The Wheel
Since then, the best Brian Cashman has done to bolster the Yankees infield is to trade for another second baseman Rougned Odor???
This leaves Aaron Boone, who lost his pet project Tyler Wade when Cashman sent him down to the Yankees Alternate Training Site, with only the option to ask Gio Urshela to fill in at shortstop as needed.
Earlier this Spring, Urshela told Sports Illustrated, “I can play shortstop. With shifting a lot, I feel comfortable there,” he said. “I can play there.” As if he would say, “Why are you doing this to me. I’m just coming back from an injury…”.
The relationship between Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone has never been complicated.
Boone does what he’s told, and based on everything we’ve seen, does not offer a voice of protest to Cashman. Boone is only one of many subordinates Cashman consults when making roster changes, and Cashman clearly sees himself as “The Decider.”
On the other hand, Brian Cashman has what is usually described as an amicable relationship with his boss, Hal Steinbrenner. The two get along well as long as Cashman adheres to a budget that Steinbrenner sets. Steinbrenner, who has no interest in the Yankees’ day-to-day operation, gives Cashman a freewheel on personnel decisions.
Fortunately for Cashman, the Yankees are a money-making machine, so rarely has his phone rang with a call from an unhappy Steinbrenner or a shareholder.
Regrettably though, of late, it’s fair to ask if Brian Cashman has lost his zeal for his job, and after all these years, most of which would be declared successful if judged solely by Yankee playoff appearances, he’s not as aggressive as he once was.
It’s too late now to find a quality shortstop from among the 2021 Class of Free Agents. Next year, of course, is different with an all-star class that includes Corey Seager (Dodgers), Carlos Correa (Astros), Trevor Story (Rockies), and Javier Baez (Cubs).
But with $100 million already committed to next year’s payroll, will Cashman be given free rein to sign one of these expensive players? Note: That amount does not include the dollars it will take to resign arbitration-eligible players like Aaron Judge, Chad Green, Gleyber Torres, Jordan Montgomery, and a host of others.
Yankees And Cashman At A Crossroad
In his heyday, Brian Cashman would be burning up the phone lines between here and Denver, badgering Rockies GM Jeff Bridich until a deal for Trevor Story was reached, but all we hearing are scattered reports with no meat in them that a deal is even being discussed.
While we’re on the subject of Brian Cashman’s propensity to take naps while others are acting on ways to improve their team, the Washington Nationals announced yesterday they are designating catcher Jonathan Lucroy for assignment.
Make no mistake, Lucroy, who’s almost 35, has seen his better days as a regular catcher – but the same can probably be said for Gary Sanchez.
Do whatever you (Cashman) have to do with Sanchez, but the tandem of Kyle Higashioka and Lucroy sounds pretty good right now for the Yankees, especially if we loop back to the trade for Trevor Story with Sanchez in it.
But all the armchair quarterbacking from here and elsewhere cannot replace the malaise set in on this Yankees organization, particularly Brian Cashman.
Yankees: No Help From The Top
Hal Steinbrenner is not one to rock a boat of any kind. He sees himself as the steward for the Steinbrenner family’s legacy as owners of baseball’s most prestigious franchise.
As such, he may or may not see a need to replace Brian Cashman with a nod to a glorified but powerless position upstairs where he can enjoy crepes and strawberries with Alex Rodriguez, talking about the glory days.
More likely, though, and just as with Aaron Boone, who will decide someday soon to return to the ESPN booth asking himself why do I need this, Cashman too will (hopefully) decide that repelling down walls and sleeping on the sidewalk of a New York street for a night to spotlight the homeless is what I need (now).
But until then, buckle up because this train is stuck in Grand Central Station with no apparent schedule for moving on to the next station.