Yankees fans who want the club to sign free agent Kyle Schwarber should know there’s no bigger admirer of the former Cubs slugger than Brian Cashman.
They should also know Cashman doesn’t see a way Schwarber ends up on the 2021 Yankees.
Speaking on WFAN’s "Carton & Roberts" show on Tuesday, Cashman said the presence of Giancarlo Stanton and the need to play him as the designated hitter means there’s no room for Schwarber, who Cashman once tried to get from the Cubs in the 2016 trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.
"Schwarber’s fantastic," Cashman said. "He’s a threat at the plate – plate discipline with power. Clearly, we would expect him to do damage at Yankee Stadium whether he’s in an opposing uniform or our uniform. But I’d say it’s a safer bet to play on Giancarlo Stanton remaining mostly in the DH role just because of the health history. We’ve had trouble keeping him on the field and we’ve seen, when he’s playing, he’s a massive threat and an impact player . . . I think limiting to a DH role, I think I’m becoming more resigned to that’s a better way for us to be served by making sure we have the impact on a consistent basis from him."
Schwarber, 27, has played the outfield and first base but is much more suited to the DH role. The lefthanded hitter was non-tendered by the Cubs earlier this month after hitting .188 with 11 home runs and a .701 OPS. In 2019, Schwarber hit .250 with 38 home runs and an .871 OPS.
Cashman said his thinking is "don’t look for DH because we have one."
Tanaka time over?
In talking up the young starting pitchers the Yankees have behind Gerrit Cole, Cashman made it sound as if the Masahiro Tanaka era could be coming to an end in the Bronx.
Asked about veteran free agents Tanaka and Brett Gardner on a virtual winter meetings Zoom news conference, Cashman offered very understandable platitudes. But any sense that Tanaka, in particular, is a Yankees priority right now did not come through.
"Time will tell, obviously, how things play out," Cashman said. "Clearly they’ve been impactful Yankees that have done an amazing job for us. I can tell you just generally we’d love to have them back. And then realistically, how it’s all going to come together, we’ll have to see how things play out."
Tanaka, 32, went 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA last season, his seventh in pinstripes, and was paid $23 million. With a dearth of reliable starting pitching in the majors, Tanaka could look very appealing to any contending club, including the Mets.
Gardner, 37, has played his entire 13-year career with the Yankees. The Yankees declined his $10-million option for 2021 on Oct. 30, making him a free agent.
Cashman said Gary Sanchez will go into spring training as the "heir apparent" for the No. 1 catcher’s job, but that Kyle Higashioka will have a chance to compete.
The Yankees decided to tender a contract to Sanchez even though he suffered through a miserable 2020 and was benched in the postseason.
"If that is the true version, I don’t think we clearly would have tendered him a contract," Cashman said. "We’re going to certainly bet on him returning to form (as) the All-Star caliber player he was prior to the 2020 season."
Cashman said he is getting calls from other clubs about Higashioka.
"My phone’s been ringing off the hook with people asking about him," he said. "Not that we’re moving him. I’m just sharing."
Manager Aaron Boone revealed on Monday that he and Cashman had a meeting with then-suspended pitcher Domingo German in mid-March. German, who was banned for the end of the 2019 season and all of 2020’s shortened season after violating MLB’s domestic abuse policy, is a rotation candidate for 2021. German was an 18-game winner in 2019.
"It was a very personal meeting," Cashman said. "Clearly a very difficult one to have. We had, obviously, very heart-to-heart conversations. I’ll leave it at that. But it was something that was important for us."
Cashman spoke glowingly about Stanton, who rebounded from an injury-plagued season to hit six home runs in seven postseason games.
"I thought Stanton, obviously, showing what he did in the postseason, I think should eliminate anybody’s questions about whether he can play in New York or not that do come up," Cashman said. "Bottom line is when he’s healthy, he’s a beast. Keeping him healthy is the key."
Cashman said he wasn’t criticizing Gleyber Torres when he said last week that the shortstop wasn’t in shape when he reported to summer camp last July.
"I know my comments on Gleyber Torres got viral," he said. "But I had already mentioned the Gleyber Torres stuff on a number of occasions when people asked me during the regular season what was wrong with Gleyber. It wasn’t a criticism as much as just a fact. He just did not come in (in) shape for Round 2."
Voit, Gio to get Munson awards
Yankees players Luke Voit and Gio Urshela and former Yankee Ivan Rodriguez will be among those honored on Feb. 2 at the 41st annual Thurman Munson awards ceremony, which will be going virtual.
Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, former Giants linebacker Harry Carson and Team USA soccer goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher will also be honored at the ceremony, which benefits the AHRC New York City Foundation.