The New Year is upon us! It is a time for reflection, a time for setting goals and maybe even hope for better days ahead. Most importantly, the opening of a new calendar brings a clean slate, ready for the writing of a new story using the lessons we learned from the year prior. Before we allow Brian Cashman’s slate to be wiped completely clean, however, it is time for one final look back on one of the most disappointing Yankees seasons in recent memory.
December was certainly a busy month for Cashman and the team that he helms. However, before we evaluate his most recent decisions, it might be instructive to look back at the previous two months leading from the end of the Yankees’ season to the month we just completed. New York was forced to watch the postseason from the stands for the first time in seven seasons, and understandably this was reflected in our readers’ five percent approval rating for the GM in October. This only slightly ticked up to nine percent in November, perhaps on account of rumors linking the team to Juan Soto or the one-off consultation meeting with Zelus Analytics and team officials to observe how the former company operates.
As for the final month of 2023, we got to witness both the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sides of Cashman’s personality as GM over the course of just a couple weeks. Starting with the good, Cashman pulled off the blockbuster trade of the winter so far, sending Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Kyle Higashioka, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vásquez to the Padres for transcendent superstar Juan Soto and outfield defensive wizard Trent Grisham.
In one fell swoop, the Yankees added a top-five hitter to an anemic offense that sat in the bottom-half league-wide in too many offensive categories while also shoring up their center field defensive depth. The trade was actually preceded by the team’s first business of the offseason, acquiring Alex Verdugo from the Red Sox for a trio of arms in Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts, and Nicholas Judice the day before the deal with San Diego, such that in a 24 hour window Cashman had remade his outfield.
Now for the bad. Cashman new the starting rotation needed a facelift, all starters not named Gerrit Cole combining to go 32-46 with a 5.06 ERA. The need for starters became all the more pressing when considering the pitchers who departed in free agency (Luis Severino, Frankie Montas, and Domingo Germán) and the uncertainty surrounding those remaining behind the team’s ace.
In the first season of the six-year, $162 million megadeal he signed last winter, Carlos Rodón ran an ugly 6.85 ERA in 14 starts after missing the first half with forearm and back injuries. Nestor Cortes pitched to a 4.97 ERA in 12 starts before being shut down with a shoulder injury following a season in which he blew past his previous high in innings by 65.1 IP. Clarke Schmidt was fine as fifth starter but may be facing the same worry as Cortes, he too exceeding his previous inning high water mark by over 100. Simply expecting that trio to pitch to their upper percentile projections would be foolhardy.
It is therefore no wonder that the team was a finalist for Japanese superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto. At just 25 years old, he could have formed part of the foundation of the team for years to come, but the Yankees saw their ten-year, $300 million offer beaten by the Dodgers, Yamamoto ultimately signing for 12 years and $325 million. It’s important to reiterate that he Yankees’ offer was nothing short of a good-faith effort — and perhaps the more financially beneficial one to Yamamoto with the earlier opt out and much less deferred money — but the point remains that the team failed to land their man.
In trading away King, Brito, and Vásquez, the Yankees lost perhaps their second starter and at the very least need to replace those 232.2 innings. Throw in the other pitchers dealt away or lost to the Rule 5 Draft and the team essentially emptied the cupboard of pitching depth, only to miss out on Yamamoto. Even if the Yankees prefer to avoid swimming in the most expensive free agent waters, they’ve spurned plenty of opportunity to bolster depth at the back end of the rotation, guys like Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, and Frankie Montas signing short-term, relatively team-friendly deals elsewhere. Thus they find themselves staring down the barrel of a starting rotation in trouble, with options to fill out its ranks growing more scarce with each passing day.
That brings us to today’s task. Do you approve of the job Brian Cashman has done through the end of December? 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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