If there’s one thing the Yankees love regarding expiring contracts or possible extensions, it’s corporate speak. When asked about his expiring contract at the end of the 2017 season, general manager Brian Cashman’s comment was exactly that, towing the company line:
“If (owner Hal Steinbrenner is) looking for recommendations from me, I'll provide them. If they're looking for recommendations from somebody else, they'll provide them. I guess it's premature to speak to that. We're going to focus on the present, which is the cast of characters we have currently and how we can maximize value out of all of us.”
This means nothing, of course. It gives no indication as to what ownership is thinking, and whether Cashman is primed for a return. Then again, it’s pretty easy to see through subtext.
Beginning around 2013, the shift in organizational philosophy was clear: a lower overall payroll, and a great emphasis on the farm system. In line with that, the Yankees gave Cashman a three-year contract extension after the 2014 season, to aid the team in what the New York Times called “another rebuilding effort.”
Cashman has been around longer than most major league executives, since 1998. The landscape has drastically changed in that time, so while his success from then until 2012 is noted, having an institutional advantage via payroll helped him a great deal. If his work from 2013 to the present has also shown us one thing, it’s that he can still keep the team afloat in times of rebuilding, and that because of that aforementioned advantage, it’s possible we underestimated his abilities.
The Yankees still have not finished below .500, even in their worst recent years, and their farm system is arguably one of the best in baseball. They replaced their legendary shortstop with Didi Gregorius, and there’s finally some stability at second base with Starlin Castro, as tenuous as that stability truly is.
And the prospects have been flowing in. Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian, Blake Rutherford, Gary Sanchez, and Justus Sheffield, just to name a few. These are the names Cashman has acquired in just the past few years of the rebuild, so one would imagine Hal Steinbrenner gives Cashman the courtesy of letting this era play itself out.
Then again, you never know. Maybe ownership feels Cashman did a great job putting this group together and they decide to go in a different direction, but not only do I think that doesn’t happen, I hope it doesn’t. No one has the same pull in the Bronx as Cashman does, and no one other than him would get the same benefit of the doubt. And considering how much the Steinbrenners love to make their own deals even without the approval of the front office, that could get amplified under a different regime. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
There is a lot of optimism in New York this spring. This is an average team, but there’s just so much young talent that you can’t help yourself from feeling that this is a team on the rise, a team ready to establish itself among the truly elite once again. For any general manager other than Cashman, he’d look like a lame duck. However, with the way he’s put talented pieces on the board, it would shock no one if he got an extension come next year, and the Steinbrenners let Cashman finish the job he started.