On Wednesday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spoke with the media and proclaimed that the Yankees are a “championship-caliber operation”. It’s an interesting quote, one that would typically be reserved for organizations who win championships, something the Yankees have not done since 2009. The fallacy that the Yankees are anything near “championship-caliber” is the type of inflated self-absorption that has become normal within this organization. There is a disconnect between what the fans see, and what the Yankees organization tells them they are seeing. There is plenty of blame to go around, but baseball comes down to the players on the field, and recently the man choosing those players has not lived up to the standard that he so often preaches.
The Yankees have been searching for a left fielder for the past two seasons. It was a glaring need this offseason but was never properly addressed. Rumors of a Bryan Reynolds trade and the re-signing of Andrew Benintendi never materialized. It takes two to tango on deals (particularly with Reynolds ultimately extended) and there are fair critiques about Benintendi, but there’s no getting around the fact that New York stuck with internal options. Talking about the left field position this offseason, Cashman had this quote referring to Aaron Hicks: “I suspect he will be the guy that emerges, because he’s still really talented, and everything’s there.”
Statistically, Hicks has been one of the worst offensive producers in baseball this season. Oswaldo Cabrera has not been much better and would be better suited as a super utility player. It all came to a head Wednesday when Isiah Kiner-Falefa — third baseman turned shortstop turned outfielder — lost a ball in the lights, and subsequently collided with Harrison Bader on a fly ball in that same inning. It was as if the poor roster construction and lack of outfield depth all came to a head in one bad-news-bears style play. I fully believe that Cashman was attempting to upgrade this position this offseason, but a desire to address a position and actually addressing a need are two different things.
Injuries have played a massive role in the Yankees’ lackluster start. We have all heard the clichés of injuries being a part of sports-and yes that does hold true — but this roster was built with a heavy reliance on players with an injury history. Many people were in favor of the Carlos Rodón signing, including myself. However, three-fifths of this rotation had injury concerns coming into the season, and the combination of Rodón, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas has given the Yankees exactly zero innings on the mound. Bader and Giancarlo Stanton also have extensive injury concerns, making the lack of outfield depth even more damning from a general manager’s perspective.
Recent trades have also depleted depth within the Yankees’ minor league system, which has become more glaring as the injuries have continued to pile up this season. The transactions at last year’s deadline were supposed to be the missing pieces for a championship-level team. Missing may be the operative word, because while the Yankees certainly got pieces, the likes of Lou Trivino, Scott Effross, and the aforementioned Frankie Montas, with likely be out for all or most of the 2023 season.
A deeper frustration lies in the fact that Brian Cashman, in the eyes of the Steinbrenner family, is untouchable. It has become too common for the organization to hide behind the façade of regular season success when the organization has been to precisely one World Series in the time since Facebook was launched nearly two decades ago. How can there be accountability when there are limited repercussions in the front office for on-field woes? You cannot force a championship-level narrative on a fanbase, and then not expect them to want changes when the team doesn’t meet those expectations.
Brian Cashman’s ultimate job security only grew when he signed a four-year contract extension this offseason. Hal Steinbrenner is clearly satisfied with the GM, so he’s not going anywhere. These are just the facts.
Maybe the smokescreen of the Aaron Judge signing this offseason gave off the appearance that the right moves were being made and that this roster was built to win. But the flaws of last year’s team were never adequately addressed. Cashman can preach patience for this season—and this team will improve once at least some of those top players return from injury—but most of the current burden should fall on the man who produced this roster.