The pinstriped buy-or-sell debate was very much in its infancy when general manager Brian Cashman offered an opinion that still resonates today.
“Who’s to say we can’t be buyers and sellers?” he asked.
As the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, Cashman’s words from a month ago present a road map that the Yankees are best suited for. Why shouldn’t they shuffle the deck without going full reboot, effectively thinking about today and tomorrow at the same time?
Say what you want about Cashman’s general manager chops. It seems every Yankees fan has an opinion regarding whether he’s a capable wheeler-and-dealer or just a beneficiary of the Yankees checkbook. There’s no consensus there, and probably never will be, no matter how long he’s here.
But no one can argue this: This guy knows how to work for the Steinbrenners. He speaks their language. They are the only bosses he knows.
And for all those Yankees fans who think the franchise’s best move is to kill this season to build for the future, Cashman’s long tenure here should give you comfort as you await the end of the buy-or-sell debate.
Maybe he can accomplish both.
Yes, of course, the Steinbrenners and Randy Levine are against selling. It’s common sense. Holding midseason fire sales is not the Yankee way. They’ve spent the past two decades building a brand defined by doing everything possible to win, including spending every last dollar.
They’re not going to turn around and hit the restart button.
Not when they have a team that’s a game above .500. Not when they play in a division without a dominant team and in a league with a playoff format specifically designed to keep teams in the hunt until the very end.
Never mind the fact that there’s also a significant financial incentive for the Yankees to stay in the hunt and play meaningful games in September, if not some home games in the postseason.
If you think the Steinbrenners and Levine are going to just throw that chance away, you haven’t been watching them.
But here’s the thing.
Trading away Aroldis Chapman and his 105-mph fastball to a team desperate for a closer in exchange for prospects doesn’t have to represent giving up on the season.
Not when you hold on to relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, which would still be as formidable a late-inning duo as there is in all of baseball. And not when you make other moves to improve the team, as well.
Cashman knows this.
There are times when he likes to speak in corporate talk instead of baseball-ese, and he’ll refer to players as assets and he’ll talk about the ebbs and flows of marketplace. There’s no doubt he knows how he bought Chapman low and would now be selling high, helping the future without hurting the present too much. That’s a front office victory.
And why not, at the same time, make some quick fixes on the major-league roster — even if only for the sake of change — in hopes of finding a new mix that works better than what we’ve been watching for months.
There’s few things that major-league organizations like more than hard-throwing pitchers, so maybe Nathan Eovaldi and his American League-leading 97.2-mph average fastball would find a taker (even if he somehow rarely misses bats). Maybe even flipping Brett Gardner for established major-leaguers would do the trick.
Bottom line, Cashman has an opportunity here, an opportunity to improve the team while working within the confines of the Steinbrenner mantra.
So much of the public discourse regarding the trade deadline has been all-in or all-out, but the reality is a lot cloudier than that. For a season and a franchise at a bit of a crossroads, change can be good, both for today and tomorrow.