Brian Cashman took a tremendous amount of criticism last winter. Cliff Lee said no the the most guaranteed money and Andy Pettitte retired, leaving the Yankees with gaping holes in the rotation.
The bullpen that Cashman had assembled was in shambles early, as Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, and Damaso Marte would miss all or most of 2011.
Cashman refused to deal his most coveted prospects for Zack Greinke, and instead, opted for minor league free agent signings such as Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
When the bullpen injuries came, he patched them up with unlikely minor league free agents such as Cory Wade and Luis Ayala.
Who could have known what Cashman had assembled?
Colon and Garcia have been outstanding, combining for 288 innings of 3.63 ERA ball. Colon has given the Yankees a 3.71 FIP, Garcia a 4.02.
In the bullpen, Cory Wade and Luis Ayala have performed admirably. Wade's pitching triple slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) is a very respectable 2.16/3.71/3.68, while Ayala's is 1.80/4.02/4.07. Despite that their ERA's do not match up well with their FIP's, each has been much better than anyone could have expected from a minor leage free agent.
Between these four minor league free agents, who have given the Yankees a combined 376 1/3 innings, they have accumulated 5.3 fWAR. Now, combine that with the signing of Andruw Jones and another minor leage free agent signing in Eric Chavez, and the Yankees receive another 1.7 fWAR.
If you're keeping track at home, that's 7 fWAR from under-the-radar signings, players who, in a perfect world, would just be depth.
These types of minor league signings are the ones that we generally assume are replacement level players, but in their own ways, they have provided much more than that. With just minor league free agent deals, Brian Cashman has helped piece together a roster that seemed incomplete.
While Cashman is under constant scrutiny for not making the big splashes, he has made smaller moves to complete a Yankees team that is just a few games away from clinching a postseason birth.
Statistics from Baseball-Reference and fangraphs.