New York Yankees: 7 Ways Brian Cashman Botched the Current Roster
It is easy to forget that the New York Yankees won 95 games, had the second best run differential in the majors and the top-seed heading into the AL playoffs.
That's because their season came to a crashing halt in the ALCS after the Detroit Tigers embarrassingly swept them out of the playoffs. The Yankees have not been swept out of a seven-game series since the 1976 World Series.
The players on the field are rightfully getting the brunt of the verbal abuse in the media for their disappearing act. However, GM Brian Cashman is the man who put this collective unit together and has to take part of the blame for the postseason collapse. With the payroll the Yankees maintain, winning the division isn't something to pat your back on.
The Yankees need to be set up to win in October and there has been several decisions made by Cashman over his tenure that culminated in their worst postseason performance in nearly four decades.
The Yankees have never been known for their base stealing capabilities, but they did finish 2011 fourth in total stolen bases.
It was a refreshing change of pace for the Yankees, and it was in large part due to the effectiveness of Brett Gardner. When he went down to an injury early in the season, Cashman did very little to replace that missing speed.
It wasn't until the Yankees picked up Ichiro Suzuki before the deadline did they actually have someone that could put pressure on a pitcher once reaching first base.
In fact, Ichiro led the Yankees in stolen bases despite playing in only 67 games with them.
Cashman has to find a way to inject more speed into the lineup, and he can't be so reliant on Gardner who has proven to be injury plagued.
It is an oversight Cashman can correct this winter by signing a corner outfielder to pair with Gardner; may I suggest free agent Michael Bourne?
Got Old Fast
The Yankees have the oldest roster in MLB. Having veteran leadership and experience is typically a good thing in baseball, but when the majority of your key players are over the age of 30 and reaching 40 quickly, bad things can happen.
It is natural for bodies to break down over the course of a season, but when you reach a certain age, doing routine tasks can lead to tragic injuries.
Mariano Rivera tore up his knee shagging fly balls in center field, something he has done before every game in his career.
Derek Jeter was simply fielding a routine ground ball and fractured his ankle, putting the final nail in the Yankees coffin.
There is nothing Cashman can do about freak injuries, but these injuries will only continue as this aging roster gets older and weaker. Cashman needs to seriously start looking towards the future fast before every game the Yankees play is Old Timer's Day.
All or Nothing
The Bronx Bombers lived and died this season on the long ball. They easily led all of baseball in home runs with 245, the next closest team were the Baltimore Orioles with 214.
Unfortunately, like in postseason pasts, when facing the elite pitching staffs, those home runs turned to strikeouts and those strikeouts led to plenty of men left on base.
The Yankees had six hitters with over 90 strikeouts on the season, and that number would have been seven if Mark Teixeira didn't spend so much time on the disabled list.
The biggest victim of the boom or bust at-bats was center fielder Curtis Granderson. In just a year, Granderson went from a Silver Slugger to a rusty fan with all the swing and misses he collected.
He finished with 195 strikeouts, nearly 60 more than total hits he had all season.
Cashman loves finding hitters who can take shots to that short right-field porch, but if the Yankees are to have any future success, they can't have another season where only two every-day hitters finished with a batting average over .275.
Hip Hip No Jorge
Often overlooked because of all the other heavy hitters in the lineup, but the production Jorge Posada provided out of the catcher position is something Cashman has not been able to replace.
Posada only had three seasons in his career in which he batted under .250. Two of those three were his last two seasons in pinstripes when his career was winding down, and it was clear he needed to retire.
Cashman brought in Russell Martin as a free agent in 2011 from the L.A. Dodgers. Martin couldn't even pick up where Posada left off.
His first year with the Yankees, Martin batted .237. If that wasn't bad enough, Martin's encore performance this season provided the Yankees with a .211 batting average.
Martin is one of many free agents for the Yankees this winter, and apparently is a hot commodity, which may prevent them from bringing him back. If Cashman decides to do just that, then clearly he would not be learning from his past mistakes.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Part of this is Cashman's problem and part of it is just a market problem within MLB, but contract lengths are getting too long.
Cashman competed against himself when he signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year $275 million contract. Cashman also had no problem giving both CC Sabathia and Teixeira eight-year and over $180 million contracts each.
I understand the need to reward players for their efforts and to give them the best offer to make sure they sign with your team, but there is just too much risk with signing players to such long-term deals. If even just one of those monster contracts turns south, it could sink a team.
There is not much Cashman can do now with the contracts he has already given out, but he can begin the process of making a change.
Cashman will have two major decisions coming up next winter. The Yanks have locked in Robinson Cano and Granderson in for one more season, but after that, Cashman will need to decide how much to give his young stars and for how long.
If he has learned anything, he won't offer either of them anything more than a five-year deal.
When Cashman signed Teixeira to an eight-year deal back in 2009, he thought he was getting a switch-hitting slugger who could hit for average and power.
In his first season with the Yankees, that is exactly what he provided as he hit .292 and smacked 39 home runs. Unfortunately, it has been all downhill since then.
Except for this past season, the power production has maintained for Teixeira, but teams have begun using a shift defensively against him, which has seen his batting average plummet.
Teixeira hasn't reached .260 in any of the past three seasons and has seen his on-base percentage drop beneath .360.
Health was a problem for Teixeira this season, which played a role in his decreased production, but that is to be expected with aging stars.
The Yanks are going to need improved results from Teixeira because he still has four seasons left on his deal, and with his salary, he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
No one blamed Cashman for resigning Rodriguez. He was coming off an MVP season in which he hit 54 home runs and drove in 156 runners.
It was the fact that in a bidding war with no one, he gave a 32-year-old slugger the largest contract in baseball history.
Long gone are the .300 batting averages.
Long gone are the 30 home run seasons, let alone the days he once hit 40-plus.
Rodriguez is simply an average player in major league baseball terms and looked beyond mediocre in the 2012 postseason in which he was the poster boy for the Yankees demise.
The problem is that he isn't paid to be average. The Yankees still owe Rodriguez over $100 million spread out over five seasons. It is an albatross of a contract that the Yankees are absolutely stuck with.
This is Cashman's biggest mistake as it has locked an average aging player in a key position on the field with no real end in sight.
The only way out of this is to hope there is an organization out there that finds value in the drama Rodriguez could provide a ballpark and ship him there with minimal return.