Brian Cashman became Yankees G.M. on February 28, 1998. However, from 1998 through 2005, George Steinbrenner’s troops in his Tampa office (including but not limited to Bill Emslie, Billy Connors, Mark Newman and Damon Oppenheimer) had so much input on personnel moves that it was somewhat difficult to know what exactly what were Cashman’s decisions or not.
This all changed in October 2005 when Brian Cashman was given full autonomy on running the Yankees. As Cashman said at that time: “I’m the general manager, and everybody within the baseball operations department reports to me. That’s not how it has operated recently.” So, without question, we can look at the state of the New York Yankees over the last three seasons (2006, 2007 and 2008) as well as this off-season (of 2008-2009) and know that what you see is “All-Cashman.”
And, this includes the recent Yankees spending spree of $423.5 million over the last few weeks to acquire free agents Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
Why did New York go after these three high-priced talents? Well, it made sense. Coming off last season, the Yankees two biggest needs were starting pitching and a bat for the middle of their line-up.
With the contract expiration and subsequent retirement of Mike Mussina coupled with the 2008 failure of Cashman’s pitching phenoms Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes, it was clear that the Yankees 2009 projected starting rotation was full of holes and question marks. (You can add Andy Pettitte’s departure due to free agency to this root cause list if, indeed, he does not re-sign with the Yankees.)
Further, Cashman’s decision – which, by the way, I agree with 100% – not to bring back Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu for 2009 left the Yankees without some much needed fire-power in the middle of their line-up. Hence, the need for a replacement.
And, Brian Cashman’s solution to these problems was to give CC Sabathia $23 million a year, A.J. Burnett $16.5 million a year, and Mark Teixeira $22.5 million a year – thereabouts – all getting multi-year deals totaling $423.5 million (or “close to a half-billion dollars” for those who like to round and prefer not to use the number pad on their keyboard).
Now, if you choose to ignore the dollars, it’s hard to fault the acquistions of Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia – as they are two of the best at what they do (currently in the game). And, A.J. Burnett – while injury-prone in the past – gets high-marks from many for his tools and break-out potential. And, actually, as many are quick to point out, the money – for the Yankees – isn’t that much of a big deal. Annually, these three pick-ups cost the Yanks $62 million and the Yankees have cleared $59 million off their payroll by letting Carl Pavano go along with the aforementioned Mussina, Giambi and Abreu. So, in a sense, the dollars are a push.
But, the Yankees had a team payroll of $209 million last season. Should it really be the team’s goal to match that mark in 2009? It truly was a absurd level in 2008.
Don’t get wrong here. The Yankees should have the highest payroll in the game (as a result of their revenue stream) – that much seems right. And, as a Yankees fan, I love the Steinbrenner family for their willingness to put money into the team (rather than pocket it all for themselves). However, it seems more reasonable for the Yankees to have a team payroll in the range of $150 to $170 million as opposed to in excess of $200 million. Something along the lines of $160 million would still be the highest payroll in baseball – and more than enough cheddar to provide a line-up full of stars. And, then that left over $40 million or so could go towards other things…say…like preventing ticket prices for Yankees games going up as much as they have in the last nine years. By my rough count, a savings of forty-mill a year would allow the Yankees to shave off, on average, about nine bucks off each ticket sold for the season – assuming 81 sellouts, etc.
In any event, getting back to Brian Cashman, he’s been the HNIC (“Head Non-Steinbrenner In Charge”) in Yankeeland since October 2005. And, he’s known, since at least the end of 2006, that this day would come – where Mussina, Giambi and Abreu would be off the team after 2008. Cashman’s had two to three years time to install a plan to replace these parts once their time had come – and what was that plan?
In the end, Cashman’s plan to retool the Yankees for 2009 was to spend about a half-billion dollars on three free agent players. Well, he’s pretty lucky that he works for the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family – because that plan would not work with the 29 other big league teams.
So, since the Stein-dollars were there for the taking, Cashman ran with it. And, when we look back at Yankees history and Brian Cashman’s “autonomy-run” from 2006 through 2008, we should note that his “plan” (or perhaps lack of a “plan”) cost the Yankees about a half-billion dollars…actually, it’s very close to that if you take the $423.5 million (spent on Tex, CC and Burnett) and add the $86 million that Cashman wasted on Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa to it.
And, if anyone wants an illustration of Brian Cashman’s baseball acumen, send them a picture of the Steinbrenner family checkbook. For, when it comes to Cashman’s skill as a G.M., he should never leave home without it.