Is there something else we can get Brian Cashman to do? Maybe smooth things over with North Korea or try his hand at tax reform?
Because the Yankees’ general manager is rolling right now, and with Saturday’s agreement to bring back CC Sabathia on a one-year, $10-million deal, Cashman’s mission to improve on last season’s remarkable run — while getting under the $197-million luxury-tax threshold — could not be going any better.
At this point, we’ll just assume a trade for Gerrit Cole is next. And would it surprise anyone if Cashman somehow navigated around the Orioles’ blockade to get another team to flip him Manny Machado, defying the anti-Bronx designs of owner Peter Angelos?
The Yankees again are reminding us that anything is possible when you’re singularly consumed with putting the best team possible on the field.
After falling one victory short of the World Series last October, Hal Steinbrenner could have taken a more conservative approach this offseason while pruning his payroll for 2018, a stated goal for years. With Aaron Judge becoming the biggest draw in the sport and the fan base smitten by the Baby Bombers, the Yankees really didn’t have to do much to capitalize on that momentum.
But Cashman, perhaps emboldened by a looming five-year, $25-million extension from Steinbrenner, took the opposite approach. He dismissed Joe Girardi after 10 years at the helm and reached into the ESPN booth for his replacement, Aaron Boone, as inexperienced a hire as there’s ever been in baseball.
With Cashman’s job security, he can afford a few dice rolls, and after losing out on Shohei Ohtani to the Angels — without even getting the chance for an interview — his old pal Derek Jeter came calling with the perfect pick-me-up in Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees were stunned by Ohtani’s snub after spending years scouting him, but Stanton’s decision to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Bronx presented an opportunity Cashman was not going to let slip by.
The Yankees agreed to take on $265 million of the $295 million that Stanton has coming to him over 10 years, but they didn’t have to part with any of their top-tier prospects and still got to deduct Starlin Castro’s remaining $36 million. The crazy part is that Cashman really didn’t need Stanton. He just realized it would be bad business to not put him in pinstripes, so he did, swatting the dormant hive of Yankees-haters as an added bonus.
“My main goal is to field a championship-caliber team, which I do believe we have,” Steinbrenner said at Stanton’s introduction last week in Orlando. “I’m going to put every dollar I possibly can into making this club as good as it could be.”
And here’s the kicker: As much as Cashman is improving the Yankees, he’s also giving Steinbrenner what he wants on the back end — trimming enough payroll so his boss won’t have to pay the luxury tax for the first time in 15 years, as well as resetting the rate to allow him to spend big again for the free-agent apocalypse next offseason.
How is Cashman doing that? In addition to dumping Castro, he traded Chase Headley during the winter meetings for a savings of $13 million this season.
Cashman has confidently jabbed and weaved through this offseason, and that Headley space was quickly utilized to fit Sabathia, who probably could have commanded a more lucrative deal elsewhere after reviving his career at age 37. Like the Stanton situation, Cashman did have some leverage on his side. Sabathia’s family has been comfortably set up in the Jersey suburbs for the past decade and he has created a happy home for himself in the Bronx, where his accountability and clubhouse presence are nearly as appreciated as his pitching prowess.
That’s the hidden asset here. Sure, Sabathia went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA during the regular season, then had a 2.37 ERA in four playoff starts. But with a rookie manager in Boone and the arrival of an imposing figure like Stanton — someone who’s new to the New York cauldron — Sabathia’s leadership will be more crucial than ever. Cashman certainly recognized that, and that has to be a relief to Boone.
“He’s somebody that I have so much respect for,” Boone said of Sabathia last week, “and is obviously so important to the Yankees’ franchise.”
Consider CC another box checked for the Yankees’ relentlessly efficient offseason, and Cashman likely isn’t done. Not with a stacked farm system and a prospect in Clint Frazier who is the perfect bait to obtain a young, controllable starting pitcher.
In what’s shaping up to be an impressive Yankees winter, it’s all coming up Cashman.