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Why Brian Cashman is the best GM in baseball

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Cashman was named the Yankees GM on this date in 1998. In the years since, he’s cemented his case as the best in the business.

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It has officially been 21 years since Brian Cashman was named general manager of the Yankees, and four World Series championships, 12 AL East titles and 17 postseason appearances have followed. Cashman, who began as an intern for the organization back in 1986, won the World Series with the help of the greatest team in baseball history in his first season as GM, and there’s been plenty of success stories ever since.

On the anniversary of Cashman’s introduction into his current position, we’re offered with another opportunity to appreciate Cashman for what he is: the best GM in MLB today.

While Yankees fans are still waiting for a big free-agent splash that doesn’t involve former Rockies infielders, Cashman has already shown his strength as GM by addressing the Yankees’ most glaring need almost immediately into the offseason. Looking for starting pitching help, Cashman acquired James Paxton for a package highlighted by Justus Sheffield, who many experts believe to be bullpen material if he’s unable to conquer his command problems. So, for one of the best starters in the game judging by FIP, Cashman let go a pitching prospect that is far from a sure-thing in the major leagues.

Just a year prior, Cashman swooped in and traded for the reigning NL MVP in Giancarlo Stanton, for lower-level prospects and Starlin Castro, who Gleyber Torres made obsolete anyway. Stanton helped the team set the major-league record for home runs in a single season, and with a full year in New York under his belt, could be even better in 2019.

Of course, Cashman’s greatness can’t be addressed without remembering the rapid reload he orchestrated in 2016, acquiring Torres for Aroldis Chapman, before bringing Chapman back just months later. Cashman managed to turn the Yankees’ farm system into one of the best in baseball in the blink of an eye, and using that farm system to produce the 2017 Rookie of the Year and the 2016 and 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-ups. That list doesn’t even include Torres. Thanks to Cashman and the young talent he helped acquire, the Yankees went from rebuilding in 2016 to the cusp of a World Series berth one year later.

While Cashman has been known to make a big splash, whether it be for Alex Rodriguez, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira or Hideki Matsui, his seemingly smaller deals have also shown off his incredible foresight. There’s been Shane Greene for Didi Gregorius, Luke Voit for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos, and the acquisition of Shawn Chacon in 2005. Sure, Cashman can pull off a big move to get a household name like Stanton, Rodriguez or Roger Clemens, but maybe more impressive is his ability to acquire seemingly minimal talent and watch it blossom into a potential star. Gregorius and even Aaron Hicks (does anyone miss John Ryan Murphy?) certainly fit into this category.

Like any GM, Cashman has his mistakes attached to his resume. Jacoby Ellsbury instead of Robinson Cano wasn’t the greatest look, and Carl Pavano sure didn’t work out, but the good far, far outweighs the bad. Even the Sonny Gray trade is hard to classify as a loss given the state of the prospects that went to Oakland in that deal. Big picture, most of Cashman’s deals have turned out for the better, like his famous deadline move for David Justice in 2000. There’s been plenty more, but we can’t go through all of them in one post; that might take all day. 21 years after being named one of the youngest GM’s in MLB history, Cashman has become one of the greatest in history, and should be appreciated as such.