The Yankees were never in play for Justin Verlander when the Tigers decided to make him available.
General manager Brian Cashman said Verlander’s contract made him a non-starter for the Yankees. But the righthander became a pivotal one for the Astros as he pitched a complete game with 13 strikeouts in beating the Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.
“The first half this year wasn’t vintage Verlander, and then obviously he started getting on track here towards the end of the [trade] deadline and Houston went all in on him,’’ Cashman said on Monday afternoon on WFAN.
Verlander, who was traded to the Astros just before the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility, has $78 million left on his deal after this season.
“That contract in our current circumstances, we couldn’t even play on, and so you’ve got to give [Astros owner] Jim Crane and that ownership group a lot of credit because they made a tough decision,” Cashman said. “It’s not easy to go all in on that type of financial commitment, and Verlander’s honoring every aspect of it because he has been brilliant since he got there.’’
Cashman said the Yankees might not have seen Indians starter and Cy Young Award favorite Corey Kluber at his best in the ALDS. “I think physically there’s something going on with him right now. His stuff was still really good, but we know he’s better than that,” Cashman said. “I think he was battling through back or elbow, something. They’re not going to say, because they’re too professional.’’
Cashman also told Mike Francesa during the radio interview that no decisions have been made on potential free agents such as CC Sabathia. Cashman said he, too, is a free agent but “I don’t want to be.’’
Decisions will be made by Hal Steinbrenner when the season ends, Cashman said. “This is the way Hal Steinbrenner goes about his business,” he said. “If whoever gets retained as we move forward, whether it’s a three-year deal, a two-year deal, a five-year deal at the end of the deal, that will be the same. It won’t be dealt with until the end of the season one way or the other.”
Cashman also said that despite criticism about his defense, Gary Sanchez will remain behind the plate.
“I heard the same stuff when we had Jorge Posada, who was an offensive catcher, who wasn’t someone pitchers loved throwing to all the time,” Cashman said. “He was one of the reasons why we became what we became. We are here because of a guy like Gary Sanchez. We’re going to have success moving forward because he’s such a difference-maker behind the plate.
“You can pick apart every now and then the passed ball and stuff like that, but he is a special one. He really is a special one. He’s going to get better. This is his first [full] big-league season. It’s hard to comprehend that. I know he’s struggling in the postseason currently, but he’s tough as nails. He’s smart, he speaks both languages, he’s physically gifted. A rifle arm that we haven’t seen since Pudge Rodriguez, in my opinion, and we’re lucky to have this guy. I know because of the position he plays, he’s going to get a lot of grief. I’m glad that he’s mentally tough enough to deal with it and take it because he’s gonna be part of our future in a big way.’’
Cashman also was asked about ALCS Game 4 starter Sonny Gray.
“I’m happy we have him. I think he’s going to be a big piece moving forward,” he said. “He hasn’t been commanding the zone as much. He’s got great stuff, but ultimately, this is October baseball, and just like we do in spring training when we were telling [Aaron] Judge and [Aaron] Hicks we’re going to take [the best one] and two years ago it was CC and [Ivan] Nova. Now it’s October baseball. We’re going to be giving the ball to the people that are doing the best, no matter who you are. You see [Jacoby] Ellsbury coming off the bench despite his contract. Why is that? Because we got other guys who are doing better than he is. If Gray’s going to take Game 4, it’s because the guys in front of him were pitching better. It’s as simple as that.’’
Cashman said top minor league infield prospect Gleyber Torres, who had Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, should be ready for the big leagues in 2018.
“I anticipate him, as long as he gets back on track, making his major league debut at some point when a need arises in ’18,’’ Cashman said. “I don’t see it happening out of the gate because he hasn’t had a full season at Triple-A.’’