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January 06, 2007

Should The Buck Stop At Cash?

Phil Rogers on Brian Cashman -

Over the last four years, Cashman has signed off on deals that cost the Yankees $146.4 million for Jose Contreras, Esteban Loaiza, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Johnson. Those guys have given the Yankees 96 victories, 224 starts and a combined 4.94 earned-run average.

George Steinbrenner had to pay a part of departing players' future salaries to send Contreras to the White Sox in 2004, Vazquez to the Diamondbacks in '05 and Wright to the Orioles earlier this winter. The Yankees will be on the hook for $9 million in deferred payments and $2 million in salary when the pending Johnson deal is finalized. And none of this factors in luxury taxes.

What, no mention of Jeff Weaver?

Actually, Rogers' comments struck a nerve for me because this is something that I've been wondering about for the last few days, in private, since word first came out that Johnson was going to be traded.

Cashman became Yankees G.M. on February 28, 1998. The Yankees won the World Series in 1998, 1999, and 2000 - because of their pitching. The good pitchers on those 1998-2000 teams were Mariano Rivera, Orlando Hernandez, Roger Clemens, Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson, David Wells, Andy Pettitte, Graeme Lloyd and David Cone.

Of that strong pitching group, Cashman inherited most of them - I think his only moves were to pick up Clemens and El Duque.

What does this all say about Brian Cashman's track record in terms of being able to build a very good pitching staff?

I know that many will be quick to say things here like "It seemed like the right move, at the time, to get Vazquez" and "The whole world was chasing Pavano - and he took less money to come here" and "Who could have predicted that Johnson would get old so fast?" and "The Red Sox wanted Contreras just as bad," etc.

But, isn't it Brian Cashman's job to be smarter than the average bear when it comes to acquiring talent? Or, is it just O.K. for him to follow the path of conventional wisdom when it comes to acquiring pitching and then if it doesn't work out it's just a matter of shrugging your shoulders at the results and saying "It seemed like a good idea at the time"?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at January 6, 2007 10:55 PM

Comments

Ultimately, as GM Cashman has to take responsibility for the actions of the baseball team. We can debate whether the Johnson Trade or the signing of Pavano and Wright were moves forced by Steinbrenner and Tampa or whether they came from Cashman but in the end Cashman has to have agreed with those moves or he should have resigned from his office.\

That said however, building a pitching staff is probably the most difficult roster move in all of sports. You never know how they are going to turn out. I can't blame Cashman for the Johnson trade though. All the indicators were there that this trade would benefit the Yankees and thats the best you can do. Does anyone really think Vasquez, Halsey and Navarro would have been really worth keeping over the prospect of Johnson?

Yes our GM is supposed to be smarter and not make the foolish moves everyone else is making. Case in point Cashman not making any serious moves this off season when the talent was low and the prices were high. But that doesn't mean you can't make a move that makes great sense from every standpoint and have it blow up in your face.

Posted by: SeanJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 11:40 PM

I guess I'm the only one rotating through various Yankee sites this late on a Saturday night....

Anyway, my gut feeling is more along the lines of the also-predictable "Yeah, but how many of those were actually Tampa-ordered signings?" I know it's only been a short time (pre-season 2006) since Cashman really has been completely in charge, but I've liked most of his signings and trades... a stark contrast to the Weaver-Brown and Vazquez-Johnson debacles.

If, however, you just want to look at results to determine Cashman's skill in signing free agents and making trades in order to build pitching rotations, you have to take the following moves into account:

May 5, 2000... signed Chein-Ming Wang as an amateur free agent.
January 5, 2005... signed Aaron Small to a minor-league contract

I mean, those two worked out much much better than expected, so if you're going to knock Cash for signing Pavano and Contreras, credit should go there, too.

Posted by: mehmattski [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 11:45 PM

Don't forget the "lightning in a bottle" move for Chacon as well as bringing Mussina on board...

With the exception of Wright and Pavano, I'd do most of those those moves again. Maybe would've signed Pedro instead of Wright & Pavano

Vazquez was hurt for half a year, Johnson & Contreras had one good year and one bad year.

FWIW, ERA (ranking)

2000: 4.76 (6)
2001: 4.02 (3)
2002: 3.87 (4)
2003: 4.02 (3)
2004: 4.69 (6)
2005: 4.52 (9)
2006: 4.41 (T-6)

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 12:10 AM

Steve

have a new post over at BronxLiaison that i thought you might find interesting.. Mostly, i was leaving this comment to find out how i can get in touch with you via email.

thanks

Posted by: yankeesZrider [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 02:17 AM

Steve,

I know you have a bone to pick with the one-sided lavishing of praise that Cashman gets from many Yankee fans. I read a lot of pieces here that are critical of Cashman, and point out the other side. You should be applauded for bringing some balance to the man's reputation.

That said, I think it's very tough to fairly evaluate everything that's happened in Yankee world in recent years without paying heed to the notion that there were absolutely warring factions in the Yankees organization. There were legitimate struggles for power that resulted in Cashman finally getting the upper hand. It's not to write off the bad moves on other people, when clearly Cashman wore the GM badge for the Yankees.

It is fair to probably consider all that has happened since 1998 a wash, some good and some bad. I would look to 2006 forward as the most exemplary period of Cashman's work when all is said and done. If 2006 is the benchmark, we should pay most attention to what happens from here on out. If the next 5 years are brilliant, his legacy should be judged on that period. If things continue to be a roller coaster of good and awful moves, then his legacy should be muddled.

Posted by: Mike Plugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 07:18 AM

This misses the mark, I think. The problem isn't that the Yankees have acquired disappointing starters. The problem is that they have developed very few starters of their own.

Go over the pitching staffs of other teams and look at how many top starters have been effective after switching teams. There are very few since 2000 -- off the top of my head, only Schilling and Chris Carpenter (a special case whose success can be attributed to Duncan and the Cards' patience).

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 09:53 AM

yankeesZrider - see:

http://www.waswatching.com/archives/contact_me/index.html

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 09:56 AM

~~~If 2006 is the benchmark, we should pay most attention to what happens from here on out. If the next 5 years are brilliant, his legacy should be judged on that period. If things continue to be a roller coaster of good and awful moves, then his legacy should be muddled.~~~

I could concur with that.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 10:02 AM

Following up on my last comment, who should the Yankees have acquired?
Mike Hampton?
Bartolo Colon?
Chan Ho Park?
Tim Hudson?
Kevin Millwood?

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 10:04 AM

I would've taken Colon and Hudson from that list

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 10:14 AM

Maybe would've signed Pedro instead of Wright & Pavano
--------

This comment and that list just shows how hard it is to predict what pitchers will do.

Personally, I wouldn't have gone anywhere near Pedro because it was so obvious his body was breaking down -- and that's exactly what it did in '06 (if Pedro pitches again -- with this supposed "twenty pounds of new muscle" or not -- I'll be shocked).

I remember Joel Sherman once again upbraiding the Yankees for not signing Pedro, a "can't-miss" pitcher (who was coming off his worst year and had seen his velocity drop through the floor).

Since Pedro didn't get them into the playoffs in his first year and couldn't play in the post-season in his second, would the Mets do it all over again? He got butts into the seats, but you have to wonder about that.

Every guy on the above list has been hurt. Colon missed an entire year. Hudson is fried (he can't even pitch in the NL now). The one guy who was a steal was Kevin Millwood for the Indians.

They got him on an incentives contract and he had the lowest ERA in the AL.

He's the one guy you would NEVER think had two back-to-back healthy years in his arm, but he did. He's thrown 407 innings in the last two years. Which just goes to show that you can look at all the stats and X-rays that you want, but you can almost never accurately predict what a pitcher is going to do.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 12:01 PM

Very unfair. Trading is not a science but rather closer to poker. The skills involved are reading and playing the odds, and knowing when to bluff or call a bluff.

If the greatest of players makes an out 65% of the time, how many out does a great GM get?

Also, we know that Tampa and Big Stein had a grubby hand in the last 4 years of GM-ing. We really don't know who's earmark are on which trades.

The press and it's CW always has a load of opinions on major trades, especially done by the Yanks. How many pundits thought getting Vasquez was a bad move? Contraras? Wearver? Mostly, I seem to remember complaints on how unfair it was that the Yanks could 'corner the market' on the BEST players. Was the reaction to these deals the same as the Zito, Meche and Lily deals?

Your stats and opinions are usually excellent. But you are off base here.

The main GM failure has been getting WHO THEY WANT, BUT... at any cost, both in $$ and years. They didn't wait for sales, but bought brand names. But this was done in the name of winning, not cost effectiveness.

Posted by: singledd [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 02:02 PM

Pedro Martinez is the best pitcher of all time, based on Adjusted ERA+, and by a substantial margin. Even past his prime, he should have been the Yankees' primary free agent target IMHO.

Posted by: David [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2007 01:27 AM

But even if Pedro Martinez was signed for a 2 year contract (which wouldn't have happened) Steve would castigate Cashman for the signing after Petey went down in year 2.

We'll never know some of the many moves any GM DOESN'T make. Did George Weiss have the opportunity to swap Dimaggio for Williams? Did Arizona's GM have the chance to select Wang and Cano when they sent Johnson to the Yanks? Who knows? Maybe it's just myth.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2007 04:51 AM