Brian Cashman's Best and Worst Trades

I browsed through all of Brian Cashman's trades and the clear winner and loser ended up being surprisingly easy to figure out.

The ground rules:

1) This will be as objective as possible.

I will try to keep this objective, but feelings can always get in the way. Cashman's primary job it to create a team that will win the most games. That being said, trading away a fan favorite will always be judged more harshly, and building a team that fans will want to go out and see matters as well.

For an objective measure, baseball reference WAR will be used as a comparison tool. WAR is not a perfect stat, but it's a good way to easily compare general value of players at different positions.

2) Results over process

In general, the smart way to grade decisions is based on the information that is known at the time. But here, we're using the benefit of hindsight. If someone got hurt or underperformed expectations, that counts against you.

3) Contracts matter... but this is the Yankees.

Trading for a players who are under team control for a longer time matters. It helps if it's at a reasonable price, but the Yankees are not the Tampa Bay Rays and MLB is not a salary cap sport like the NBA or NHL. Trades are won by getting the most valuable player(s) for the longest period, not by saving money. I will try to judge the value given to the team that traded for the player, particularly under the contract they were on at the time of the deal.

4) I don't care about PEDs.

That's just a personal thing. It doesn't really make a difference to me, unless the player was suspended.

The Winner:

Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez

Since Cashman became general manager there have been a lot of superstars on the Yankees. Guys like Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield were MVP candidates signed as free agents. The "Core Four," Bernie Williams, Robinson Cano, and Alfonso Soriano were homegrown players. None of those guys were acquired via trade. Cashman has made a lot of good trades in his tenure, but there were only two true superstars he acquired via trade (here I'm judging a superstar as having at least one top 10 MVP season with the Yankees). One was Roger Clemens, and the other was Alex Rodriguez.

First, let's evaluate the Clemens deal. The full deal was David Wells, Graeme Lloyd, and Homer Bush for Clemens. Clemens helped the Yankees win two straight World Series. During his first 4-year tenure with the team, he accumulated 15.7 WAR, just under 4 wins a year. In the same time span, David Wells was worth 12.9 WAR, or just over 3 wins a year. That's a difference of less than a win a year, and while Clemens was certainly the better pitcher, the difference between them during that part of their career was not huge. Given that Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush were also perfectly decent situational players, I would call this trade a modest, but not huge win, for Cashman.

That brings us to the A-Rod trade. At first glance, trading away a young All Star like Soriano doesn't seem like a great deal. And to be clear, I love Alfonso Soriano. He was my favorite player at the time of this trade. He was one of the most exciting to watch and really freaking good. But by any objective measure A-Rod was a much better player.

In the three years left on his contract at the time Soriano had a total of 9.7 WAR, or about 3.2 wins per year. Meanwhile, in the four years before he opted out of his contract, Rodriguez averaged 7.7 WAR, including an MVP award in 2007. A-Rod was the more expensive player, but the Rangers did take on $57 million of his contract. As stated earlier, saving the Steinbrenner's money is not a primary way I am judging success. While extension he signed did eventually become a burden to the team, that is not a direct reflection of this trade. He also went on to almost single-handedly lead the Yankees to the 2009 World Series, partially making up for his earlier playoff struggles

Two last tidbits on this trade: A-Rod appeared destined to be in a Red Sox uniform at the time, so his coming to the Yankees was extra sweet. Also, this trade could have ended up a lot different if the Rangers had chosen Robinson Cano as the player to be named later. Instead, the Yankees turned out to have an upgrade over Soriano waiting in the wings, cementing this trade as Cashman's best.

Honorable Mentions:

Shane Greene to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Didi Gregorius

Brendan Ryan and Adam Warren to the Chicago Cubs for Starlin Castro

Cashman didn't really give up much of value in either of these trades. Starlin has been good, especially this year, and Didi has improved as a hitter more than anyone could have expected.

In terms of WAR, Shane Greene has had negative value, while Didi has been worth about 3 wins a year since the deal. Castro had only 1.3 WAR last year, but has already surpassed that this year. Meanwhile, Warren was worth negative value for the Cubs, allowing him to be included as basically a throw-in in the Chapman deal. Acquiring good players like this for close to nothing is great, but neither approach the value of A-Rod

Matt Smith, C.J. Henry, Jesus Sanchez and Carlos Monasterios to the Philadelphia Phillies for Bobby Abreu

None of the minor leaguers traded ended up having more than a cameo for the Phillies. Abreu was solid for his two plus years with the Yankees. He was only worth about 2.5 WAR a year in his two full seasons, which is far from the value someone like A-Rod provided over a longer time period. Lidle's tragic death obviously prevented him from making more of a contribution to the Yankees.

Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez to the Chicago White Sox for Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira

Like the above deals, Cashman gave up essentially nothing. Swisher was a fan favorite, was worth just under 3 wins a year for his four years in the pinstripes, and helped the Bombers win the 2009 title in his first year. Definitely a win, but a 3-win right fielder who was worse than pre-09 A-Rod in the playoffs (.575 OPS in 185 PAs for his career...not a tiny sample size) was not nearly as valuable as A-Rod, even factoring in what was given up.

The Loser:

It was honestly shocking how hard it was to find trades that Cashman unequivocally lost, but one sticks out.

Mike Lowell to the Florida Marlins for Ed Yarnall, Todd Noel and Mark J. Johnson

As just his 2nd trade as GM (or at least the 2nd "significant" one listed by baseball reference) Cashman traded away third base prospect Mike Lowell for three other prospects. Lowell would go on to have a long career that included being a part of the Marlins team that defeated the Yankees in the 2003 World Series and later being traded to the arch-rival Red Sox. He then went on to be voted 5th in AL MVP voting in 2007 and MVP of the World Series that year. This one really came back to burn the Yankees, but luckily it's the only truly terrible trade that Cashman made.

Ed Yarnall pitched 20 innings for the Yankees from '99-'00 and neither of the other two players acquired played a Major League game for the Yankees. I'd have taken the 14 WAR and 3 All Star appearances Mike Lowell had with the Marlins, plus the ability to not trade him to the Red Sox.

Honorable Mentions:

Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban and Brandon Weeden to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kevin Brown

Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate to the Montreal Expos for Javier Vazquez

Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson

None of these pitchers ended up being nearly as good as hoped for the Yankees, but Cashman did not give up anything of real consequence in these deals.

Brown was terrible for the Yankees and always injured, but Jeff Weaver was not particularly good either, and the prospects did not pan out.

Nick Johnson had a couple good years for the Nationals (4.3 average WAR in 2005-2006), but he was hurt so much that those were the only two seasons he played more than 100 games. Juan Rivera was about a two-win player and Choate was basically a replacement player. Vasquez was worth 2.5 wins for the Yankees in 2004, well below expectations, but not worthless.

Vasquez had two excellent years dispersed amid mostly average years after being traded, but even his best years were only about as good as Randy Johnson (5.7 WAR) was in his first year with the Yankees. Dioner Navarro was a decent catcher, worth about 2 wins a year in his best years. However, his average year was less than 1 WAR.

These three trades were net losses, but certainly not terrible. Jeff Weaver, Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Dioner Navarro were OK players, but they did not have an upside of any of these three potential aces. Unfortunately, that upside did not play out for the Yankees, but they did not give up too much.

LaTroy Hawkins to the Houston Astros for Matt Cusick

This is the single deal that I could find since the Lowell trade where Cashman gave up a real major league talent for essentially nothing. However, Hawkins was terrible for the Yankees and was technically designated for assignment before the trade, so I'm not sure this even really counts. Additionally, he was midway through a one-year contract so it's unlikely he would have been back anyway.

Did I miss any good or bad trades? Let me know in the comments.

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