Brian Cashman’s offseason was widely viewed as disappointing by Yankees fans and baseball pundits alike. The club missed out on Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke was moved to Milwaukee, and Cashman was left to pick up scraps. Even among the leftovers, some expressed discontent with Cashman’s choices, preferring players such as Brandon Webb to the minor league contract crew of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Kevin Millwood. Cashman’s big move, the signing of catcher Russell Martin, came at a position of perceived strength and represented an addition of a player who had declined for 3 consecutive seasons. Taken together, these signings made for what appeared to be an underwhelming offseason.
However, 3 weeks into the 2011 season, all of Cashman’s bargain signings have performed well and contributed to a solid start for the team. Obviously, small sample size caveats apply, but thus far, there has been little to complain about when it comes to roster depth. Andruw Jones has shown enough pop to suggest that he can replace Marcus Thames at the plate, and he can actually play left field well enough to be put out there regularly. Russell Martin has been fantastic offensively, and is a clear improvement over the Posada-Cervelli tandem behind the plate. He’s done well enough to inspire musings about the possibility that he could be the Yankee catcher in the long term. Eric Chavez has also looked excellent on both sides of the ball, giving the Yankees a legitimate option to protect Alex Rodriguez‘ health by giving him frequent days off.
On the pitching side of things, Bartolo Colon has looked nothing short of fantastic out of the bullpen, and was strong in his first start for the Yankees. Freddy Garcia also looked good in his lone start, giving the Yankees at least a glimmer of hope that they could get adequate performance from the back of their rotation.
One thing to remember is that one reason these players became available at such a cheap price is that a number of them have injury histories that could rapidly come into play and put a damper on their hot start. Chavez and Colon in particular have not been healthy for years, and 2010 was Garcia’s first full season since 2006. Martin has also dealt with a number of nagging injuries that sapped him of effectiveness at the plate. While it is exciting to see all of these players playing well, it is important to remember that this level of success may not be sustainable. Until the other shoe drops, however, Brian Cashman’s offseason bargain purchases are looking quite worthwhile.
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