The Yankees know what they want, and they’re set on waiting for it to come to them. The gamble shows full faith in Cashman to make it work.
The Yankees’ offseason strategy to strengthen the team boils down to a lone item on their to-do list – sign DJ LeMahieu. All else is on hold until that matter is settled, leaving other needs unattended for now, including a gaping hole in their starting rotation.
Typically, the Yankees play freely in the free-agent market, with General Manager Brian Cashman regularly fielding calls from player agents, and even on occasion from the player himself wanting to join the Yankees family.
Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner has put the breaks on payroll spending for the 2021 season in the wake of franchise losses in revenue of $347 million according to MLB, a direct result of playing games last year through a pandemic.
Yankees: Making Due With Constraints
Specifically, Steinbrenner’s marching orders to keep player payroll beneath the $210 million thresholds mark MLB’s mark before the luxury tax kicks. Already, according to Spotrac, the Yankees are dangerously close to that salary cap.
What this newfound Yankees strategy does, however, is to transfer an enormous burden to the shoulders of Brian Cashman, who will be on the clock to complete the team’s roster once LeMahieu reaches a decision.
With LeMahieu and his versatility on board, Cashman is free to offer Luke Voit and Miguel Andujar as trade pieces for a mid-range but reliable starting pitcher. If LeMahieu goes elsewhere, options decrease accordingly.
Yankees Dynamic Duo Of Steinbrenner And Cashman
Brian Cashman’s career as the longest-tenured GM in Yankees history can be divided into two phases.
In the beginning (1998), Cashman was the heir to the work of Gene Michael, who put together the now-infamous Core Five of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte, and the team that dominated the late 1990s.
Cashman added the smaller pieces, but the heavy lifting had previously been done.
Then, as George Steinbrenner’s health began to decline, his son Hal eased himself into his father’s role, and Cashman’s onus increased exponentially.
The Hal and Brian team has long been looked to as a model of how the Owner/GM team should work – hand in hand – but always with a clear distinction between boss and employee.
However, as the Yankee’s drought of World Titles now stretches across two decades, pressure from fans, but never from stockholders whose dividend checks arrive faithfully in the mail every year, has increased.
In sum, the Yankees always win, but they win nothing. They put back-to-back 100+ wins seasons together, but they have nothing to show for it, not even an appearance in the World Series.
Brian Cashman: Walking The Tightrope
This is the tightrope Brian Cashman is walking on now, and the two elephants in the room (Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton) belong on Cashman’s watch. Cole gets a pass as he enters only his second season as a Yankee, but Stanton’s contract, and his inability to stay on the playing field, will haunt the Yankees for the rest of this decade.
With last year’s AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays doing a u-turn made of financial necessity and apparently ready to trade off Blake Snell and Kevin Kiermaier, the Yankees look only to the suddenly antsy Toronto Blue Jays as competition in the AL East.
But coasting as the Yankees did pretty much all last year while the Rays turned on the jet burners is not likely to accomplish anything more than it has for the last decade – a cameo appearance in the playoffs.
Back full circle now, Brian Cashman is being thrust on the hot seat by Hal Steinbrenner to work some of his previously sprinkled magic dust on the league by acquiring inexpensive (a relative word, of course) talent that will push the Yankees over the top in 2021.
Cashman will never be unceremoniously dumped by Steinbrenner as the Mets recently did with Brodie Van Wagenen. Instead, he’ll be uplifted to a higher rank in the Yankees front office, with a new GM (likely of Cashman’s picking) assuming the post.
Of immediate interest, though, is how Brian Cashman maneuvers his way through the quicksand this year.
And who’s to say the Cleveland Indians won’t consider adding Carlos Carasco to their house-cleaning salary purge in a trade, or the Cincinnati Reds and their willingness to part with Sonny Gray Rev 2 (don’t laugh)?
The status quo might also be a strategy. Forget the signings and the trades and instead devote the 2021 season to the core of young studs the Yankees have assembled in their farm system.
Albert Abreu, lighting it up in the Dominican Professional League, Deivi Garcia, and Clarke Schmidt all got their feet wet last year. Each shows promise, especially the need to face major league competition every five days. Why not turn ’em loose?
Yankees And DJ – They Have To Know Something We Don’t
There’s no way the Yankees can be so cool about letting, as Brian Cashman has said, letting the DJ LeMahieu thing “play itself out” – if they didn’t know something.
Reports about the two sides being $25 million apart stress believability as it relates to the Yankees and their $10 billion evaluation as the richest team in baseball can easily fall on deaf ears.
Likewise, though, Brian Cashman may be a lot of things, but he is not stupid.
If the Yankees are willing to wait – even as The Boss barks about his pussy-footing’ son from his grave – then there has to be something we don’t know behind it.
Historically, the Yankees do not equate with losing – anything!
But in the same way, the New York Jets managed to win a game that prevents a winless season yesterday; they still lose in the overall scheme of things as they’ll probably lose drafting rights to a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, only because the Jacksonville Jaguars figure to “out-lose” the Jets.
If this happens with the Yankees, with trade opportunities lost while they wait out DJ LeMahieu, fans and media will scream for the head of Brian Cashman as the scapegoat for Hal Steinbrenner’s edict to hold the line on spending.
Oh, you can be sure there will be a dedicated push from Cashman to make the best of a poor situation, but will it be enough for a Yankees team and franchise “playing the game” outside its element.
A Yankees Partnership Reaching The End
In the end, this may prove to be a bit too much for Brian Cashman, charged with burning the match on both ends of the stick, but with no real chance of success.
For now, though, all we can do is hang onto the rope precariously dangled before us – and on the other end is DJ LeMahieu and Brian Cashman, both grasping for a thread of relief and sanity in a baseball world turned upside down.
They have a plan, albeit one that precariously hangs on the whim of DJ LeMahieu.
LeMahieu signed or not signed, though, the ultimate task befalls on Brian Cashman to overcome the financial restrictions thrust on him and to deliver that elusive but long overdue 28th World Championship Title.
Unfamiliar territory for Cashman and the Yankees?
Of course, and maybe that’s why Hall of Fame-bound Theo Epstein decided to hang-’em up, walking away from a lucrative job with the Chicago Cubs.
Once and for all, though, we’ll learn whether or not Brian Cashman has something left in the tank this year…Cashman’s still here, so as he says, let’s “see how this plays out”.