COMMENTARY | By every account, including his own, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is supplied with all the resources anyone would need to field a championship baseball team.
Unfortunately, some decisions he (and ownership) has made over the last several seasons have hamstrung the organization. Going into just their second offseason without reaching the playoffs since 1995, Cashman has his work cut out for him as he enters the final year of his contract.
Cashman sat in front of the media on Oct. 1 giving a "State of the Yankees" report, which did not provide definitive answers but rather plenty of questions. To his credit, Cashman twice said the Yankees' failure to reach the playoffs in 2013 was on him. He mentioned the multitude of injuries and under-performance of some players, but when asked directly he rightfully laid the blame on himself.
Cashman has had a large part in building this franchise. Yes, the owners step in and make some unilateral decisions, but for the most part Cashman is running this front office. If he did not feel he had autonomy he would leave.
Some of the decisions he made over the winter preceding the 2013 season were questionable to say the least. For example, Cashman allowed catcher Russell Martin to depart via free agency. Martin helped lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The Yankees suffered behind the plate with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine obviously not fit or ready to be full-time starters.
Forget about the offensive differences between Martin and Stewart, who received a bulk of the time at the dish, the latter's defense was not exactly what was expected. Further, the Yankees failed to give Romine a shot when they should have. Beyond that, the Yankees do not have anyone else truly ready to take over the position. This could prove to be an issue in 2014 as well.
Cashman has one large cloud over his head and that is ownership's desire to decrease payroll spending in an effort to get below the competitive balance tax threshold of $189 million next season. When the payroll reduction was initially presented to the public in 2012, this seemed like more of a directive than a wish. That stance seems to have lessened as Cashman stated that this was more a target than an order, according to MLB.com.
"It's a goal that we have and if it's possible, there's a lot of benefits to staying under that," Cashman said. "But it's not a mandate if it's at the expense of a championship."
If it was presented as such prior to the 2013 season, getting rid of Martin without a quality plan was a mistake that could have been avoided.
The balance of the team payroll will be a major issue for Cashman as he prepares to try and keep All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano a Yankee. Cano is reportedly seeking a 10-year contract worth more than $300 million. No one is going to pay Cano this, but the Yankees will need to make a significant offer to retain him.
Cashman will likely have the benefit of Alex Rodriguez's salary off the books for at least one season, assuming his suspension is not overturned or reduced to fewer than 162 games. Expect the arbitrator's decision regarding Rodriguez's performance-enhancing drug suspension to directly impact Cashman's final offer to Cano.
Any potential savings due to Rodriguez's suspension being upheld is a plus, but the real concern here is that the Yankees re-signed the third baseman (10-years/$275 million) after he opted out in the first place. That combined with the massive deals to CC Sabathia (5/$122 million) and Mark Teixeira (8-years/$180 million) has put a damper on the types of players the Yankees can go after in the free agent market or via trade. This is especially concerning because the Yanks do not have a farm system with anyone ready to make a significant impact on offense or on the mound in 2014.
Granted, the Yankees do not generally receive high draft picks, but they've also failed to unearth hidden talent over the last several seasons. This is on Cashman and his scouting department. It was painfully obvious in 2013 that the team had no one waiting in the wings to fill in as they became decimated with injuries on offense and dealt with poor production from Phil Hughes in the rotation. There are only so many waiver wire moves a team can expect to pan out.
Looking toward 2014, Cashman has holes all over his roster. There are aging veterans, such as Derek Jeter and Teixeira, who will try to come back from season-long injuries. Cano could go elsewhere, as could free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson. Rodriguez may miss the entire season. The rotation is down potentially two spots (Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent, and Hughes is likely a goner) and the bench is suspect.
Brian Cashman's moves from this point through the end of 2014 will likely dictate whether he gets another contract with the Yankees. Does Cashman have enough time to navigate around his past decisions? One thing is for certain, if the blame falls on him again, he'll be shown the door.
Salary figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.Chris Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor. He is a New York Yankees contributor published on Yahoo Sports and has previously written and edited content for several online sports publications. Chris is also the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. For more baseball and sports commentary you can follow Chris on Twitter.
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