How Has Brian Cashman Done So Far This Offseason?
New York Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman has many supporters and more than a few detractors.
During the 2007 offseason, Cashman was roundly criticized when he refused to trade some of his young prospects to get Johan Santana from the Twins.
Santana is considered by most to be one of the top three pitchers in baseball and Cashman refused to let Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, Austin Jackson, etc., etc., etc. go in a trade for the left-handed stud.
New York started the 2008 season with a starting rotation that featured Hughes and Kennedy and they were an unmitigated disaster. Their complete ineffectiveness early in the season was a big part of the reason New York failed to make the postseason for the first time in fifteen years.
So in the 2008 offseason, Cashman was very active. He first traded for Nick Swisher who was originally brought in to cover first base with the departure of Jason Giambi in free agency.
But that was just the opening salvo. Soon Cashman made an offer for C.C. Sabathia that just blew everybody else out of the water and made Sabathia's signing a certainty.
Then he lavished a five-year, $82 million contract on A.J. Burnett to make the rotation even better.
But perhaps the biggest transaction in last year's offseason was Cashman's Christmas surprise. By coming in at the last minute to sign Mark Teixeira to a multi-year package, he secured the Yankee infield for many years to come.
Cashman's work in the 2008 offseason left nothing to criticize and was the primary reason the Yankees won their 27th title in November.
So how has Cash done this offseason? There is much debate on this site and others.
He started out by making no serious attempt to re-sign DH Hideki Matsui who signed with the Angels for much less money. Matsui was a major contributor despite two surgically-repaired knees and won the MVP in the World Series.
And so far, Cashman has shown no real interests in meeting Johnny Damon's demands to bring back last year's left fielder and key cog in the Yankee offense, hitting behind Derek Jeter in the two hole.
But he did re-sign starter, Andy Pettitte, to a one-year deal. Pettitte was key for the Yankees down the stretch and in the postseason.
And Cashman also signed free agent hitter, Nick Johnson. Johnson is a very good defensive first baseman when he is healthy. But the Yankees have no need for a first baseman with Mark Teixeira providing the best defense in either league and power from both sides of the plate.
Johnson was obviously brought in to be the designated hitter and to occasionally spell Tex at first. Johnson may inherit the second spot in the lineup vacated if Damon is not re-signed.
However, Cashman made a big splash when he negotiated a three-team deal that brought Tigers' center fielder Curtis Granderson to New York.
To do so, Cashman had to give away the same Ian Kennedy who had been untouchable two years ago along with highly touted young outfielder, Austin Jackson. Some other chips went in the deal too, but Kennedy and Jackson were the two highest profile Yankees in that deal.
In the second major trade this offseason, Cashman sent last year's primary center fielder, Melky Cabrera, and some prospects to Atlanta and got back Javier Vazquez in return.
Vazquez had an ERA under 3.00 and 15 wins for Atlanta last year. But he had to be given a lot of rest in the second half of the season and some of his wins came over also rans in the National League.
Vazquez's numbers in those years when he has pitched in the American League have never matched his NL years and he will now pitch in the toughest division in all of baseball. In the American League East he will be involved in 19 games against Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto.
Trading Melky Cabrera has also caused some outcry from those fans who supported "Leche" since he came to the Yankees as a regular in 2006. Cabrera had a bad year in 2008, but bounced back last year to earn back his starting job from Brett Gardner and was a key player in Yankee success in 2009.
Another move by Cashman was sending reliever Brian Bruney to the Nationals in return for Rule 5 draft rights to outfielder Jamie Hoffman. Hoffman is an unproven major leaguer who must stay with New York for the entire season or will end up back with the Dodgers.
With the acquisition of Vazquez, arguments can be made that the Yankees' pitching is stronger because either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain can now be used in the pen and the other in the rotation.
But others will contend that to do so the Yankees have weakened their outfield and that they will not be as strong offensively. Cabrera was a good defensive outfielder and was versatile enough that he played all three outfield positions last year.
Brett Gardner may become the full time center fielder as there are those who think Granderson is more suited to a corner outfield position.
But Gardner could not keep the starting job in 2009 because he could not prove that he could hit consistently.
And Granderson and Nick Swisher, who are slated right now to start in center and right field, strike out far too much. When Gardner is added, the Yankees could start an outfield that will generate more than 350 strikeouts in 2010 if they hold to their career averages.
Supporters of Granderson and Swisher argue that those two will provide 50 or more home runs and that Granderson and Gardner will add speed to a lineup that was overall sluggish last year.
But if Nick Johnson hits in the two hole behind Jeter, Granderson, Swisher, and Gardner figure to occupy the last three slots in the lineup. That does not promise to be a good bottom third.
So the starting staff has gotten older, with Pettitte and Vazquez returning.
The bullpen became a strength in 2009 but much of that was because of Hughes. If Hughes ends up in the starting rotation, there are question marks as to what the pen will be.
No true assessment of Cashman can be made until the 2010 season is over. But he remains with supporters and detractors after his moves this offseason.
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