The Yankees’ 12-5 loss in the first game of their final series of 2023 was emblematic of large swaths of the season as a whole. Starting pitching (Carlos Rodón in this case) put the team in a hole early, and the bats never really materialized against a punchless opposing starting pitcher to overcome the early deficit. Far too often this campaign, the roster assembled by GM Brian Cashman has looked overmatched by their opponents, and only a September turnaround spared him from a complete unmitigated disaster of a season.
The team is 16-10 in September, ensuring that Cashman avoided a pair of ignominious distinctions not seen in the Bronx in over 30 years. The Yankees are guaranteed to finish in fourth place and at worst as a .500 team should they get swept by the Royals — the last time they finished with a losing record was in 1992 and they last finished at the bottom of the division in 1990 — though it must be said that their ceiling of 83 wins would be the lowest total since that ‘92 season.
Much of this improved play is down to the injection of excitement and energy that accompanied the mass call-up of top prospects on September 1st. Heading into Houston to face Justin Verlander in the series opener, the Yankees fielded a lineup that was majority rookies — Jasson Domínguez and Austin Wells making their MLB debuts, joining a starting nine that included Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza and Everson Pereira.
El Marciano homered on his first swing in the big leagues — and off the future first ballot Hall of Famer to boot — and wound up crushing four home runs in eight games with a 162 wRC+ before we sadly learned he would undergo Tommy John surgery, with an optimistic return date of late spring 2024. Wells has seen his bat heat up of late, with four home runs, nine RBI and a 195 wRC+ in his last seven while the likes of Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial have also been given opportunities to build some late-season momentum.
None of this is to excuse the absolute dumpster fire that Cashman constructed and oversaw. Despite initial optimism over an offseason that saw them retain Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, bring in Carlos Rodón, and hand Anthony Volpe the starting shortstop job — vaulting Cashman’s approval to 47 percent on Opening Day — stagnant play dropped the Yankees to last place and Cashman’s approval to 6 percent in April, 29 percent in May, 10 percent in June and just 3 percent in July.
Aaron Judge returned from his toe injury but it was not enough to prop up a failing roster nor indeed the season. The brain trust chose to do nothing at the trade deadline, and that combined with the continued bad play ensured Cashman’s approval remained in the single digits, checking in a 7 percent for August. The promotion of the rookies and the resulting upturn in play will likely allow his approval rating to recover a tad, but at this point there can be no arguing that the blame for this disappointing season falls squarely upon his shoulders.
He among others have predictably pointed to the injuries the team has endured. While they’ve certainly suffered their fair share of blows, the argument becomes watered down when you consider teams like the Dodgers, whose players have spent almost 300 more days on the IL collectively than the Yankees, and the Rays, who lost all but one of the members of their Opening Day starting rotation. That blaming injuries has become such a familiar excuse for the team’s failures over the last half-decade is no less than an indictment on Cashman and the players he brings in as well as the strength and conditioning department he staffs.
There’s no sugar-coating it — to miss the playoffs with the second-highest payroll in the game is an abject failure, especially when you consider Cashman’s comments about the team’s championship aspirations from spring all the way through into May. The team entered the season without a left fielder or third baseman and wouldn’t you know it, they finished with the sixth-worst offense in the AL. The Rodón deal is already causing headaches and the team’s handling of Anthony Rizzo’s concussion amounts to gross malpractice.
As we wrap up our final GM poll of the regular season, we must also look forward to next season. The outlook for 2024 may be even more grim than the season we just witnessed. The Yankees have prioritized resetting their luxury tax offender status every three years. 2024 is next up in the cycle, yet the team already has just shy of $200 million committed in guaranteed salaries. Add on the salaries for arbitration-eligible players and the Yankees will be bumping up against the first CBT threshold before adding a single player. Thus, this winter will tell us a lot about management’s priorities. Are they happy to waste another year of Judge and Gerrit Cole’s primes by kneeling at the altar of the luxury tax, or will they make good on their rhetoric of setting the bare minimum benchmark at making the playoffs?
So that brings us to today’s task. Do you approve of the job Brian Cashman has done through the end of September? Is a fourth place, postseason-less finish acceptable for the Yankees? The polarizing GM certainly elicits stronger feelings than can be captured in a one-word response — you may feel a question such as the one being posed requires more nuance, greater elaboration, or a wider selection of options than just a “yes” or a “no,” however for the sake of this exercise, a binary question works best.
Please vote in the poll below and let us know! We’ll revisit the results in a month.
Do you approve of Yankees GM Brian Cashman?
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