On December 3rd of this year, Brian Cashman rappelled off of a 350 foot building in Stamford Connecticut. He did NOT fall to his death.
And that is probably the one positive thing that has happened to Cashman this off season.
As of this writing, Cashman’s improvements to the team have been NOT losing two Yankee legends, signing a non tendered catcher from the Dodgers, an adequate lefty reliever from the Mets and a former ace in Mark Prior who, since 2006, is tied with ME for innings pitched in the major leagues.
The Yankees, the big bad Yankees who go and fill every need every off season with their deep pockets and make everyone scream how unfair it is, went into this winter with an obvious glaring need:
And the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2008 and the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2009 have both switched teams… yet neither will end up in the Bronx.
As of this writing, Andy Pettite is still unsigned, Phil Hughes is still questionable after a rotten second half, A. J. Burnett still stinks and C. C. Sabathia is still recovering from knee surgery.
Yeah yeah yeah, it is a minor surgery for Sabathia. But anytime a 300+ pound 30 year old man starts to have knee problems, it’s hard to not at least be concerned.
Their bullpen depth is still questionable. And of course the stock of Joba Chamberlain has fallen to the point where he isn’t considered to be a plus for the bullpen nor the rotation.
The pickings are slim in the free agent market (hey, they brought back Javy Vazquez last year. Why NOT Pavano?) And if they had the young talent to trade for a quality arm, that young talent would already be on the team.
Which brings us back to Cashman.
A few years ago, I wondered if his critics were wrong.
It turns out that picking on him that year was kind of foolish as the Yankees won it all in 2009. But some of my criticisms still seem valid.
Since taking more control of the team after the 2005 season, the Yankees have had the 2006 Division Series debacle against the Tigers where their lack of pitching depth was exposed… the 2007 Division Series midge infested ousting by the Indians where they relied on Chein Ming Wang as a #1 starter… the 2008 season where they missed the playoffs… the 2009 World Series Champs… and the 2010 ALCS where their lack of pitching depth was exposed badly.
Now for most GMs, a World Series title in a 5 year run would be enough.
But Cashman isn’t in the situation that most GMs are in.
He never has to make a difficult rebuilding process decision.
He never has to consider moving a popular player because he is arbitration eligible.
He never has to ask “Which superstar can we afford to have?”
He can talk about setting a budget but then it will inevitably be blown up.
He can try to take a stance of not signing veterans to long term deals and going for youth, but then sign Derek Jeter to a 3 year deal when nobody else was offering 2.
So yeah, the standards are different.
And yes, I know that the Red Sox have a bottomless pit of money and since 2005, Theo has only bought one World Series himself.
But I don’t see the Yankees having two homegrown aces like Lester and Buchholz, nor having the trade chips to pull the trigger on a deal for Adrian Gonzalez nor actually get someone to accept their money like Carl Crawford.
The Yankees are still a quality team, but it says a lot that when Cliff Lee wanted to go to the place where he is most likely to win a title, he chose Philadelphia.
There aren’t any legit #1 or #2 starters left out on the market and Petitte might still decide to stay in Texas and count his millions and rings and play with his kids.
If this off season continues to go this badly for Cashman and it translates once again into a season where the lack of pitching bites the Yankees in the rear, he find himself hanging on by a much thinner rope than he was holding in Stamford.