The first full month of the offseason is under the Yankees’ belts with the team no closer to a return to contention than the final day of the just-completed season. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect teams to conduct their business in the opening weeks of baseball’s winter — signings and trades typically don’t pick up until after the Winter Meetings (set to get underway in two days). So far, the only marquee signings saw Aaron Nola re-up with the Phillies on a seven-year, $172 million pact, followed by Sonny Gray signing for the Cardinals for three years and $75 million. That leaves plenty of players on the free agent and trade markets who can impact the Yankees, but before we get to that we ought to evaluate the man tasked with bringing those players in: general manger Brian Cashman.
Cashman’s approval rating hit a high-water mark of 47 percent on Opening Day, with the team retaining Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, bringing in Carlos Rodón, and handing Anthony Volpe the starting shortstop job. It would never rise above 29 percent for the rest of the season, finishing at eight percent — and perhaps could have been lower if not for management’s decision to hand Jasson Domínguez, Austin Wells, and Everson Pereira their MLB debuts while also calling up Oswald Peraza and Estevan Florial to start, the youth movement resulting in a 16-10 September to avoid their first losing season and last-place finish in 30 years.
The weeks since the Yankees’ final game have seen ownership promise an external audit of the team, only to walk back those comments in exchange for a vague meeting with sports analytics firm Zelus Analytics to observe how the latter company operates. The rumors linking the Yankees to Juan Soto continue to pick up steam, with reports emerging that the two sides have exchanged names. It’s concerning, though not at all surprising, that the front office has so far balked at including their top assets in a deal. The likes of Volpe, Domínguez, Michael King and Drew Thorpe have been mentioned as untouchables, but that’s just how the opening phases of this sort of negotiation go — you don’t make your top offer at the outset. They’ve also been rumored to have interest in names at the top of the free agent market including Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Cody Bellinger, though principal owner Hal Steinbrenner continues to reiterate his distaste for running a payroll north of $300 million.
The biggest development of the last month, however, saw Cashman unleash an expletive-laden tirade in response to reporters’ questions at GM meetings in Arizona. There’s a lot to unpack from his comments, but there were three things he said that bear repeating and evaluation.
“I think we’re pretty f*ing good, personally.”
This, to me, is the central sticking point of Cashman’s continued employment as GM. He sincerely believes he built a team capable of a playoff run if not going all the way. His projections for the players he employed far overshot the results that ensued, and it is fair to question whether the methods he uses for player evaluation are capable of yielding a contender. It also conveys the arrogance of a man who does not appear to believe he is at fault for the fate that befell the team he built in 2023.
“We had the smallest analytics department in the American League East. We had the largest pro scouting department in all of baseball. No one is doing their deep dives, they’re just throwing bulls*t and accusing us of being run analytically. To be said we’re guided by analytics as a driver is a lie.”
It fascinates me how much the mention of analytics rankles Cashman. To me, this is in part a reflex born out of selfishness — it removes some of his agency as the ‘smartest man in the room.’ It comes on the heels of the Yankees partnering with Zelus Analytics, so clearly some in the organization think they should be improving the way the team interprets and disseminates data. It’s especially interesting when you remember that some of the most competitive teams of the last ten years are the most analytically-driven organizations in the sport.
“One of the things that we’re victimized [for] is that we’re trying to go for it.”
I haven’t heard a single voice criticize the Yankees for trying to win so I really don’t know where Cashman gets off on this one. That aside, I even think it’s fair to attack the fundamental assertion of the comment, that the Yankees go for it. Either the fans have unrealistically high expectations for the franchise at this point — expectations created and maintained by the mission statement sold to the public at the start of every season — or the front office and fanbase have wildly different definitions for “going for it.”
This winter should reveal a lot about the Yankees’ priorities. Does the high-brass believe the team as constructed is good enough to make the playoffs? If not, can the front office build a contender for less than $300 million? Is a return to the postseason or maintaining year-to-year flexibility to reset the tax rate a more pressing mandate for ownership?
That brings us to today’s task. Do you approve of the job Brian Cashman has done through the end of November? 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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