The Yankees future will be decided in the next couple of days, when Brian Cashman decides whether or not to return to the Yankees.
Make no mistake: Brian Cashman is absolutely irreplaceable, and it’s not because there aren’t other good baseball minds out there. If Cashman leaves, it will be because he feels his authority is being undermined by the Steinbrenner brothers. No new GM, no matter how skilled, will be able to coexist with the Steinbrenners the way Cashman can.
Cashman has fought to be able to develop his long term vision for the franchise and this vision needs time to come to fruition. Everyone knows the Yankees have a financial advantage over other teams and starting next year when the Yankees move into the cash cow that is the new Yankee stadium, this advantage will grow.
Cashman is smart enough to realize that the proper way to truly create a dominant team year in and year out is to use that financial advantage in scouting and the draft. Not only does that money not count toward the luxury tax like player’s salaries do, but it is a relative pittance compared to what it costs to sign a major free agent. Why sign a big name player who is already on the down side of his career, when that $20 million can net you a plethora of elite prospects who will be cost controlled for 6 seasons once they reach the majors?
Once the Yankees have established an effective pipeline of young talent, they can orchestrate trades to fill needs and, yes, sign the occasional free agent. But they will no longer be at the mercy of the free agent market, instead being able to pick their spots.
The general concensus is that the Yankees are now paying the price for years of neglect to their farm system and this is partially true. From 2000-2005, the Yankees paid no attention to the draft. However, in recent year, under Cashman, the Yankees farm system has made a truly remarkable recovery. Many media articles still refer to it as “barren” and one of the “worst,” but that is quite simply not the case; and if Cashman continues his vision, it will never be the case. The Yankees had a somewhat down draft in 2008, but they still continue to fill their system with high ceiling prospects.
I run into many people who blame Cashman anytime the Yankees fail and the first thing they always inevitably say is “I don’t know why he always signs all these big name hitters and doesn’t go after pitching.” To which I, of course, respond “Well name one pitcher whom he could have acquired that he didn’t.” And of course, there is no good answer. Cashman needs to accumulate assets so that he can acquire the type of players the Yankees need. He is in the process of doing that as we speak.
Maybe Cashman leaves, Hank gets more control, and the Yankees blow everyone away for Manny, Tex, and Sabathia with outrageous deals and the Yankees win in 2009. But the bill always comes due for reckless spending and it will be difficult for me to root for a team that has no plan. I’ve already had to do that for the past few seasons: that team is called the New York Knicks.
Every Yankee fan should be hoping right now that Cashman returns.