Famously, we all watched Brian Cashman pass on a potential Hughes/Kennedy/Melky swap for Johan Santana because of the possibility of signing C.C. Sabathia the following year. They planned a strategy years in advance that included holding on to certain young players, but not all their young players. I think he’s up to something similar this year.
Cashman sent out the top 2 internal candidates for left field in Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson in trades this season. He has been involved in no hard rumors concerning Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, and seems to have spent little time trying to bargain Johnny Damon down to a pretty reasonable 2-year deal. In fact, besides Granderson’s team-friendly contract, Cashman has been completely unwilling to add long term payroll this year, and doesn’t seem to really care much about a long-term solution in left field. Matt Holliday doesn’t seem to be that expensive.
Part of this may be Hal Steinbrenner reigning in the team’s finances. When we heard about the Steinbrenner brothers taking over for their father, most of the rumblings revolved around them potentially selling the team. They weren’t really baseball fans at heart like their father, and were really interested in making money. I think they are prepared to cash in for some time. But I don’t think that is behind Cashman’s off season strategy.
I think that Cashman has a plan for left field. Its not coming from the farm, unless Jesus Montero all of the sudden starts to shag fly balls. In the next off season the enticing free agent is Carl Crawford, but I’m not sure that Crawford is really all that worthy of such attention. He’s definitely a good player, but I can’t see Cashman considering him a really long term option at the position, considering that most of his value comes from defense.
To quote Spock, “When you rule out the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the answer.” I think that the Yankees are holding the position for Derek Jeter. Jeter will be 37 years old when his contract is up after next season. While his shortstop defense by all accounts dramatically improved this year, he’s probably an odds-on favorite to regress to below average or worse in the next year or two. Assuming that Brian Cashman has a long term plan for the position, then Derek Jeter is probably it.
Now, there are a lot of questions to be answered here. Who plays shortstop? I have no idea. Reegie Corona? Who knows. Will Derek Jeter go along with it? Lots of star players switch positions as they age. Jeter may be the biggest celebrity in the majors, but I don’t think its so inconceivable that he’ll be subject to the same realities as other aging players. A new contract is the perfect time for such a switch. Of course, if he still plays average or better defense next season, this whole plan might not work.
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