(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
Say what you will about how he handles his marital business, but there’s no denying that Brian Cashman has been on a real hot streak over the last couple years as GM. He has made moves that have made the Yankees better, younger, and deeper as a Major League team and an organization, and has kept them consistently balanced for the present and the future through a combination of aggressive big-dollar signings, smart low-dollar signings, and wise decision making in the trade market, for trades both made and not made. He’s continued that hot streak this offseason, pulling of a collection of smart moves that few saw coming, and doing it under the first semblance of a real payroll budget.
It seems like it was ages ago now, but Cash’s best move this offseason might very well have been the his first one, the re-upping of CC Sabathia before he opted out and became a free agent. It looked like a done deal that CC was heading for the opt out when the Yankees swooped in on Halloween night and swiftly announced the signing before he could officially hit the market. Cash was able to orchestrate a deal that was both fair and attractive to CC and in line with the team’s desire to not get locked into another super-long contract. Cash took the biggest free agent pitcher off the market before he could even reach it, forcing any teams that were focusing on offering CC a deal to rethink their strategy, guaranteeing that the Yankees would be winners in their search to upgrade their rotation, and starting the wheels turning on the rest of his plan to complete that upgrade.
The quick and painless process with which the Yankees and CC made their deal gave the impression to everybody out there that Cash was fully intending on being aggressively active at the Winter Meetings to try to lock up another big name to go with CC. Cash played to this expectation perfectly, meeting with enough agents and having enough involvement with all the big pitching targets that the teams who were really interested in them had to make serious offers, perhaps more serious than they were intending based on the Yankees’ perceived interest and big-money reputation. And while all the focus was on the free agents, Cash was busy laying the groundwork for his deal with the Mariners. He used the team’s perceived interest in guys like C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, and Yu Darvish as a smoke screen to throw everybody off the path he really wanted to take to improve the rotation.
When Cash finally revealed that path to the world, we got the Pineda-Montero trade. It was a move that nobody saw coming, and it was a move that was beneficial to the Yankees in many ways. It allowed them to address their biggest area of weakness both for the present and for the future, and while it cost them their top prospect, it allowed them to deal from their deepest deck of prospect cards and not sacrifice any of the young pitching depth they’ve built. It also allowed the Yankees to improve that area of weakness without taking on significant salary, thus fitting in with their potential long-term goal of cutting payroll. It’s that kind of forward thinking and big picture consideration that made this a no-doubt winning move, and it was all Cash. I mean, come on. You think Randy Levine could have pulled the Pineda trade off without giving up ManBan or Betances?
The way Cash has handled the follow-up to the big trade was brilliant as well, immediately announcing the Hiroki Kuroda signing. Kuroda was arguably the best free agent starter still available, and the Yankees got him for less than his asking price. He provides increased depth and stability to the rotation, should provide above-average production, and on a one-year deal, also fits right in with the long-term payroll flexibility plans. Cash could have gone after Kuroda aggressively during the Winter Meetings but was smart to not jump all over him then, instead choosing to give it some time until the FA pitching herd had thinned out and prices started to come down. This was a patient, calculated, well thought out plan to address the rotation and it was pulled off without anybody being tipped of to what the Yankees were doing. That’s Ninja Style 101.
Since the big rotation additions, Cash’s approach to the rest of the offseason has continued to be cautious and smart. Having seven men in the rotation could have been perfect justification for giving A.J. away for a plate of stadium nachos, but Cash has been patient in his efforts to move A.J. He’s not trying to make it look like a straight salary dump; he’s trying to see if something useful can be had back in the deal. And instead of rushing to sign a big bat to fill the Jesus-sized hole in the DH spot, Cash again patiently waited out the market to see if anything fit what the Yankees wanted to spend. And while we’ve all been sitting around debated the merits of the Matsuis and Damons of the world, Cash went out and signed a guy in Russell Branyan who could turn out to be a better lefty DH option than all of them. Sure he had a bad year last year, but he still owns a .242/.346/.500 slash against right-handed pitching, along with a .360 wOBA. And he’s on a non-guaranteed MiL deal. That’s a low-risk signing that could turn into not just a high reward, but highway robbery.
Yes, Cash operates with the biggest bankroll in baseball backing him, a luxury that no other GM has. That kind of money can certainly make life as a GM a little less stressful, so I’m not trying to make it seem like he’s been scraping two nickels together this offseason to build this team. But to deny that Cash has done an excellent job accomplishing what he set out to do this offseason would be foolish. He has made the team better, both in the present and for the short- and long-term future, and has done it operating under what seems to be the first real attempt by ownership to cap spending . He has surprised us with the moves he’s made this offseason, distracting us with rumors while moving in the shadows to complete his trades and signings. He has also seeked out potential value in the market where most others have not looked. These are the arts practiced by only the true Master Ninja GMs, and Cash has shown us this offseason why he’s worthy of that title and worthy of wearing the black belt that comes with it.
P.S.- Does that Photoshop look like Ninja Cash or Terrorist Cash? I’m having a hard time deciding.
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