The Yankees believe Brian Cashman is not to blame for the team's underachieving ways this year, and he's expected to receive an offer for a contract extension, according to a source.
"There hasn't been any discussions yet,'' the source said before Thursday night's 5-4 win over the Red Sox. "But he's done a good job.''
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The Yankees customarily wait until after the season before opening contract talks, and they intend to take the same approach with Cashman, whose three-year, $9-million deal expires at the end of October. CBSSports.com was the first to report the likely extension.
Although the Yankees are in danger of missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-93, the prevailing thought within the organization is that Cashman remains part of the solution, not the problem. Hal Steinbrenner ultimately signed off on the nearly $500 million invested in the 2014 team, but the free agents the Yankees chose to target were more of a consensus among the front office than Cashman acting alone.
The team's decision-makers still think they picked good, productive players and might end up holding the field staff responsible -- particularly hitting coach Kevin Long -- for the drastic drop-off in performance.
After reaching the playoffs in 17 of the last 19 years, the Yankees still judge Cashman on his body of work since taking over in 1998 rather than the recent failures of the team, which has sustained an unusually high rate of injuries the past two years.
"It's a very hard thing to do,'' said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, describing the Yankees' unmatched run of success. "I don't care what the payroll is. They've done a really good job finding the right fits for their team. Even if some of them are well-paid, you've still got to find the guys to perform. And they've found good solutions at the lower end of the pay scale, too. I think they deserve a ton of credit.''
Still, there has been a price to pay for signing older players to long-term contracts, a formula Cashman has followed in trying to keep the Yankees in contention for as long as possible.
They've been burned lately by CC Sabathia -- lost this season to knee surgery -- and the diminished production of Mark Teixeira, who looks too fragile for 34. Carlos Beltran, who turned 37 in April, also had the potential to be a risky signing, but the Yankees figured his recent stretch of good health would get them through the first season or two of his three-year, $45-million deal. He has been affected by a bone spur in his right elbow and is having a subpar season.
As for paying $175 million for Masahiro Tanaka, teams lined up to bid for him last winter, and he looked like a dual threat for Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award before suffering a partially torn elbow ligament.
Losing four of the five members of the rotation makes for a convenient excuse, and Cashman deserves credit for acquiring decent replacements in Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano. He also traded for Chase Headley and Martin Prado, who have helped prop up an offense ranked next-to-last in the American League in runs.
"You're making decisions based on a bigger business model,'' said Cherington, who can identify with Cashman. "And that business model is affected by different things -- the expectations, the market. We've had some success in recent years, but we haven't had the kind of consistent playoff success that the Yankees have had in terms of every year. It's remarkable what they've done.''
In planning to keep Cashman, the Yankees evidently think they have better days ahead and that these two disappointing seasons are outliers rather than a continuing downward spiral. Time will tell. But the economics of the game have changed during Cashman's tenure.
"The talent throughout the league is more equally distributed now,'' Cherington said. "Of course, payroll is going to give you certain advantages. But it's harder to create those big talent gaps now than it used to be.''