Brian Cashman spent a long time talking with Red Sox counterpart Dave Dombrowski behind the batting cage before Friday’s series opener in the Bronx. And no, Cashman didn’t slap a “Kick Me” sign on Dombrowski’s back when he walked away. His Yankees took care of that later, whacking around the Sox, 8-1, with four homers.
In recent days, however, the Yankees’ general manager has been more focused on chatting up another rival — the one that resides over in Flushing, and specifically his good pal, Omar Minaya, who has the ear of Mets ownership. Cashman is committed to finding an upgrade for his rotation, and the Mets happen to have the two best available options in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Prying either one loose will be incredibly difficult for the Yankees. Cashman knows that. But it also didn’t stop him from freely mentioning that, yes, he’s already had numerous conversations with Minaya and intends to keep having them until the Mets decide what to do with the aces they’re holding.
It’s a smart play by Cashman to go public with the fact that he’s perfectly fine dealing with the Mets regardless of the wary dynamic that exists between them. That puts the proverbial ball in their court. The Yankees have a system brimming with prospects. The Mets are looking for the most efficient way to jump-start a rebuild.
Who says no? At the moment, not Cashman.
“I did three different deals with three different GMs over there over the course of time,” Cashman said. “As far as I’m concerned, if a match just makes sense, I don’t care who [it’s] with.”
Trading for Armando Benitez doesn’t carry quite the same gravitas as a swap for Cy Young-caliber arms such as deGrom or Syndergaard, but we get Cashman’s point. Still, the two clubs couldn’t agree on deals for Neil Walker, Jay Bruce or Lucas Duda as recently as a year ago — the Mets scuttled those talks because of financial hang-ups — so that would suggest that a trade of this magnitude remains highly unlikely.
The Mets do not intend to trade deGrom. They’ll listen to offers, of course. But with two more seasons of team control beyond this one, they view the elite deGrom as an integral part of their plans. Given the Mets’ dearth of organizational talent, we think that’s too small a window — unless they get serious about giving him an extension.
Syndergaard, however, appears to be very much on the block, along with the resurgent Zack Wheeler. The problem with Syndergaard is that he hasn’t made a start in more than a month, and any package for Wheeler isn’t going to be a franchise-changing haul. Maybe Cashman keeps pushing on deGrom and, in the process of getting rebuffed on him, ends up caving on a few prospects for another Mets pitcher.
But Minaya is only one voice in a three-headed front office, and Cashman’s chummy relationship with his longtime friend isn’t enough to get anything done on its own. It’s tough to picture a deGrom trade to the Yankees getting rubber-stamped by the Wilpons, who have more wide-ranging concerns, such as selling tickets to an outraged fan base teetering on a revolt.
Cashman is in a much different place. He can afford to sound magnanimous. He held his own fire sale two years ago, then finished the Bronx rebuild in roughly nine months, returning to the playoffs last season and pushing the Astros to Game 7 of the ALCS.
Despite all that, Cashman suggested he still is chasing the Mets in one aspect.
“They were in a World Series — what was it? 2015?” he said. “So our effort right now is to try to get back to a place they happened to be more recently than we were.”
The Yankees laid out the blueprint in 2016 by capitalizing on a closer-hungry market. Cashman had the two best available relief pitchers in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller and — after getting Hal Steinbrenner’s approval — turned them into a total of eight promising players, a group headlined by Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier.
Now Cashman is eager to do the reverse, to sacrifice his young talent in an effort to hurdle the formidable Red Sox. And this year, he’s not shy about asking for the Mets’ help to do it.