Tuesday was at least a mildly eventful day for the Yankees, as they announced the appointment of Brian Sabean as an executive advisor to vice president and general manager Brian Cashman. The former San Francisco Giants GM said he is “all in,” ready to do whatever it takes to help New York win its first World Series title since 2009.
The addition of Sabean to the front office represents excellent news for the Yankees as an organization. He may be considered “old school,” especially after being out of a front office leadership role since 2018 and starting his involvement with MLB teams in 1985, but remains a top-notch talent evaluator who brings in a lot of (winning) experience.
Sabean will join Cashman’s “inner circle,” a group that has assistant general managers Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman, vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring, and special assignment scout Jim Hendry.
Sabean needs no introduction. He is the architect of the Giants’ early-2010s dynasty that yielded three World Series championships in a span of five seasons between 2010 and 2014. His addition to the Yankees’ front office represents a nice move. He has loads of baseball knowledge and is more than prepared to advise Cashman from now on.
He represents a nice complement to the organization’s analytics-driven approach. He knows what it takes to build a championship-caliber team, and he understands what is needed to win in the postseason (something the Yanks have been lacking since 2009). There are, of course, other championship-winning employees in the organization, but the more, the merrier.
Sabean actually started his MLB career with the Yankees. Back in 1985, he was a scout, but a year later, he was promoted to Director of Scouting in 1986 and Vice President of Player Development/Scouting in 1990. He actually had an important role in the decisions to draft and sign players such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and many more pieces of the Yanks’ own dynasty in the late-90s.
Take it from Cashman himself, as quoted in Tyler Kepner’s 2022 book The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series:
“Sabean never got the credit he deserved,” Cashman says. “[The front office] was split back then, Tampa and New York, so [Gene Michael] had nothing to do with drafting and developing, nothing to do with Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, Rivera, Bernie Williams. Now, he didn’t trade them, but Sabean and Bill Livesey built the entire thing. He was the true architect of that Yankee team.”
Sabean left the Yankees for the Giants in 1993 to be an assistant to the general manager and vice president of scouting/player personnel. He was promoted to general manager in 1996 and quickly built a team around Barry Bonds, reaching the World Series in 2002 and capturing multiple division titles.
After a quiet period, Sabean then built the Giants’ championship teams by helping assemble a dominant pitching staff (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and more) plus some underrated secondary pieces like Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and others.
Of course, Sabean also drafted the man who would help change the fate of the franchise: catcher Buster Posey. Like every executive, he had his fair share of “misses,” too, but the “hits” were far more frequent. (Even contracts that by the books may have been flops featured pivotal playoff heroics; just ask Edgar Renteria and Barry Zito.)
One of the reasons why the Houston Astros, the Atlanta Braves, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have won the last three Fall Classics is because they excel at identifying talent. Not just in free agency: at all levels. All three franchises have put together a strong farm system that continually feeds the big league club with impact players.
This is not to say that the Yankees haven’t developed some contributors over recent years. They have. However, MLB requires contenders to have as many impact players as possible, at all levels, and identifying talent is high in the list of organizational priorities. That seems to be Sabean’s forte, and he has a lot to offer to New York. He is also very good at other aspects of being an executive: roster maneuvering, negotiating, contacts with other teams, and more. He can advise Cashman on those fronts if needed, too.
All things considered, Sabean has the potential to be a valuable voice in the Yankees’ front office, and has a lot to bring to the table.