The GM's Office: Brian Cashman

GM awards for best trades, signings 

February, 7, 2014
Billy Beane and Brian CashmanGetty Images, AP PhotoBilly Beane and Brian Cashman enjoyed very fruitful offseasons.
I'm all packed with spring training just days away. So before I depart I thought it was time to give my offseason awards and hand out some hardware to the general managers for their offseason work.

BEST OFFSEASON -- BIG-MARKET GM: Brian Cashman | New York Yankees

It was the most expensive free-agent spending spree in baseball history when the Yankees committed a combined $438 million for 22 years of contracts to Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. The Yankees quickly rebuilt their outfield, catching and starting pitching with All-Star caliber players and imported the best overall talent of any team in baseball this offseason. They also get credit for walking away from Robinson Cano by refusing to acquiesce to 10 years and approximately $240 million for a player in his 30s.

Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers:

The GM stars of winter 

January, 30, 2014
General Manager Billy Beane of the Oakland AthleticsMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesOakland GM Billy Beane worked some serious magic this offseason.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman certainly made the biggest splash this offseason, spending more than $440 million on free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka. After trading for Prince Fielder and signing Shin-Shoo Choo, Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels probably made the second loudest noise.

However, if history has taught baseball GMs anything, teams that make the biggest moves rarely end up winning the World Series. Just ask Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, whose 2011 and 2012 teams disappointed greatly after the organization signed big-name free agents Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton in successive years.

So while Cashman and Daniels made big splashes, they weren’t the general manager stars of the offseason. That title belongs to a pair of small-market geniuses: the Oakland Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Andrew Friedman.

Indeed, much of baseball has grown accustomed to Beane and Friedman dominating the sport with limited resources and always finding ways to contend with the big-market teams who spend two and three times what they spend, and this offseason was no different.

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GMs who will make a splash in Orlando 

December, 4, 2013
Brian CashmanAP Photo/Mark HumphreyExpect Brian Cashman at the podium sometime during the Winter Meetings.
Baseball’s annual winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., don’t commence until Sunday, Dec. 8, but several general managers already have made waves this offseason.

Tigers president/GM Dave Dombrowski has made the biggest splash of the offseason so far after dealing first baseman Prince Fielder and right-hander Doug Fister, and signing free-agent closer Joe Nathan.

But St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isn’t far behind after trading for center fielder Peter Bourjos and signing free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Likewise, Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan has been active, bolstering his starting rotation by signing free-agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to long-term deals.

However, 12 out of the top 15 free agents this offseason are still without homes, and there are several prominent players being mentioned in trade rumors, including David Price and Jeff Samardzija.

So let’s take a look at some of the GMs who could join Dombrowski, Mozeliak and Ryan in making a huge splash of their own at the winter meetings.

Brian Cashman | Needs: starting pitching, second base, closer

I know what you are thinking: Cashman already made a splash by signing Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract and Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year pact. But as I see it, that was just the appetizer.

Cashman remains focused on second baseman Robinson Cano, and once CAA and RocNation move a little closer to Cashman’s numbers, an eight-year, $200 million deal could get done before Cashman leaves the winter meetings.

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GMs with the toughest offseason jobs 

November, 1, 2013
Brian CashmanJohn Munson/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireBrian Cashman has a laundry list of issues to address in what looks like a long offseason.
Most assume the general managers of baseball’s small-market teams have the toughest jobs in baseball. After all, when you’re hamstrung by limited finances, it can be tough to win.

However, it’s the general managers of teams in baseball’s biggest markets who have the toughest jobs this offseason. They are the ones who are hamstrung, not by limited finances, but by their fan bases or an impatient ownership group that refuses to wait five years. Rather than rebuild, they continually retool.

After years of following this model, four large-market teams find themselves saddled with large, overpriced rosters filled with declining players and few tradable assets, as well as weak farm systems. They are heavily compromised going into free agency, so instead of enjoying huge financial advantages, they will have to compete with teams that have more free-agent appeal because their chances to win over the next few years are much better.

Here is a look at four of the toughest GM jobs in baseball this offseason:

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Yankees still the best fit for Girardi 

October, 8, 2013

With his contract with the New York Yankees due to expire Oct. 31, Joe Girardi sits in the catbird seat, as the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners are all posting “help wanted” signs.

Girardi fits well with several clubs for various reasons, but the overarching and most important reason he chooses a team will be his family. Girardi has said continuously that his family will be the deciding factor, and it’s believed that his wife, Kim, and three children are happy living in the New York suburbs.

Let’s examine all the potential landing spots for Girardi to see which one is the best fit.

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Yanks' third-base options after A-Rod 

August, 30, 2013
Alex RodriguezGetty ImagesCould Chase Headley be a long-term solution to replace Alex Rodriguez at third base?

The New York Yankees should be pleased with how Alex Rodriguez has played since his return from hip surgery and the disabled list. His bat speed and ability to hit a good fastball have improved considerably compared to where he was at the end of the 2012 season.

However, the team also realizes that Rodriguez possibly will start the 2014 season on the suspended list for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, pending his appeal. If the appeal doesn't succeed, how long will the suspension be -- 50, 100, or the full 211 games originally handed down?

Therefore, general manager Brian Cashman must make preparations to start the 2014 season without Rodriguez -- either with a stopgap measure or long-term solution at third base. Cashman clearly knows the answer for either time frame is not in the Yankees’ farm system. Though Kevin Youkilis (on the DL after back surgery) and Mark Reynolds might still be options, Cashman has to wonder if Youkilis will ever perform at a high level again, and is likely concerned about Reynolds’ below-average defense at third and his strikeout ratio.

That means there are just two viable avenues Cashman can take -- trade or free agency. Cashman’s scouts should be out in force during September, bearing down on their evaluations of Rodriguez’s possible replacements.

In the following list, I grouped players by trade or free-agency targets and categorized them as long-, medium- or short-term solutions, depending on how long I think each player might fit with the Yankees. Long-term players would completely replace Rodriguez beyond his return from even a 211-game suspension. Medium-term solutions would replace Rodriguez from anything beyond 100 games and below 211. Short-term players fill the gap until Rodriguez returns from a 50- or 100-game suspension.

Here is a quick look at how the third-base market currently stands for the Yankees this offseason.

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Yanks eye potential monster 2014 FA class 

January, 30, 2013
Brian CashmanJohn Munson/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireBrian Cashman is trying to clear payroll in preparation for potential monster 2014 free agent class.
The New York Yankees have been relatively inactive this offseason, but that doesn’t mean general manager Brian Cashman hasn’t been busy.

Fans might wonder why their team, which has historically used free agency to fortify its roster, would limit spending and hold off on signing the big free agents this year and instead just bring back veterans such as Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Hiroki Kuroda after the Yankees’ disappointing 2012 campaign. But Cashman has been adamant to get his payroll below $189 million by 2014, and for good reason.

Most important is the Yankees’ luxury tax goes up to 50 percent for every dollar over $189 million in 2014. The Yankees are the only team in baseball in that situation, because they’ve been over the threshold limit three times in a row. If they stay under the $189 million in 2014, they won’t pay a tax that year and they get to restart their luxury tax history. By restarting that history, the tax rate reverts to just 17.5 percent the next time they exceed it, which we should all expect to be 2015.

As the Yankees get below the luxury tax threshold, Cashman will have lined up his team for a possible bonanza free-agent haul – specifically starting pitchers -- in 2014 and perhaps 2015. The timing could not be better for the Yankees over the next two years. Here are several reasons why it should surprise no one if the Yankees blitz the 2014 offseason with a major spending spree.

Best free-agent class ever?

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Anyone can win the AL East 

January, 24, 2013
Rivera-Pettitte Getty ImagesWith Rivera and Pettitte back, the Yanks can contend. But so can everone else in the AL East.

During my entire 15-year career in baseball as a GM and through today, commissioner Bud Selig has emphasized improving the game’s competitive balance.

He said his goal was for all 30 clubs’ fan bases to have “hope and faith” on Opening Day that their team would be able to contend for a postseason berth. However, full parity has eluded one division for more than a decade. The American League East stood as an example of how wide the chasm can be between winning and losing teams.

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GMs with the toughest jobs this winter

October, 30, 2012
Brian CashmanJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesYankees GM Brian Cashman has an exhausting task ahead of him this offseason.

Even though the offseason has only just commenced for the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers, general managers of 28 other teams already have been pondering their futures for some time.

For five GMs in particular, their jobs for the next three months are uniquely difficult, perhaps the most difficult in baseball. A variety of obstacles stand in their way of effectively making over their teams. They will have to hurdle those obstacles in order to improve their teams, and that’s easier said than done.

Here are the five general managers who have the toughest jobs this winter. For the Giants and Tigers, it’s finally time to rest. For these guys, their work has already started.

1. Brian Cashman, New York Yankees
Hands down, Cashman has the most difficult path facing him of any general manager of baseball. Perhaps it just comes with the territory of being the GM of baseball’s uber-team, but this offseason is especially difficult. With the Yankees’ mandate of “anything less than a World Series is failure” hovering over him, the fixes Cashman faces are not easy. Additionally, the Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold by 2014, and their best prospects are not close to contributing.

The Yankees have never had the luxury of going with a full-scale youth movement -- they are expected to contend every year, so Cashman must resolve the situation with Alex Rodriguez, whose declining skills, massive contract and no-trade clause make him nearly impossible to move. Picking up the contract options for Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson was a good first step, but Mariano Rivera might retire and Rafael Soriano might opt out of his deal. And then you have Derek Jeter returning from injury, and who knows what to expect from Michael Pineda?

In other words, Cashman must retool a World Series contender with limited money, a fallow farm system and an aging roster rife with no-trade clauses. Toughest job, indeed.

2. Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals
Moore can position the Royals as 2013’s version of the Baltimore Orioles or Oakland A’s. Position players Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are all ready to lead a playoff team. But Moore must completely rebuild his starting rotation, and to do that, he will have to make some uncomfortable decisions, including trading one of the aforementioned players.

Moore has talked about 2014 as the Royals' year to compete. But he has the talent to win now, and he should start by acknowledging the failure of Luke Hochevar. Dumping him would serve as a philosophical change for a club that has become enamored with “stuff” rather than results. While Danny Duffy and Jake Odorizzi are good pitching prospects, the majority of them have been way overhyped. Their only way to improve the rotation so quickly is to bring back Zack Greinke or sign Kyle Lohse or Anibal Sanchez and trade one of those young hitters. I know Moore has gone down this free-agent pitching path before, with the disastrous Gil Meche signing, but he can’t keep waiting for 2014. It’s time to win now.

3. Ben Cherington, Boston Red Sox
The fact is, nearly every move Cherington made last season did not work. From hiring Bobby Valentine, to trading Jed Lowrie to Houston and Kevin Youkilis to Chicago and Josh Reddick to Oakland, to the failed conversion of Daniel Bard to the starting rotation, it was a rough rookie year for Cherington.

However, what did work was the massive trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that shed the Red Sox of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. That move shaved approximately $58 million in 2013 payroll alone. And with the acquisition of manager John Farrell, Cherington is effectively starting from scratch. And he’s on the clock now, too.

Cherington’s a bright guy and he will have ample opportunity to show what he can do with what almost amounts to a clean slate. He will have some cornerstones such as Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks, but he has to also hope Jon Lester and Bard return to form in their respective roles. His priority will be to figure out what to do with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is a free agent in 2013 and is represented by Scott Boras, so it won't be an easy negotiation. Cherington’s team has plenty of holes, and he will have some financial freedom, so there will be opportunities to show last season’s disaster was an aberration.

4. GM Mike Hill, president Larry Beinfest, Miami Marlins
It is a difficult situation when you’re the general manager of a ballclub, but not really the general manager, or when you're the president of a ballclub, but not really the president. Essentially, owner Jeffrey Loria calls the shots on all personnel decisions and managers, and Ozzie Guillen was the latest casualty. Don’t be surprised if outspoken outfielder Logan Morrison is next.

Of course, Guillen wasn’t without fault here, alienating the Cuban section of the Marlins’ fan base early last season. But after signing Heath Bell last winter and then trading him to Arizona, free agents will pause before going to Miami. So will managers who see no job security in South Beach -- in a span of six years, three managers (Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez and Guillen) have held the job.

The Marlins will be competing with a resurgent Philadelphia Phillies team that still boasts the best rotation in the National League. The New York Mets will have lots of money coming off the books in time for the 2014 offseason and the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals are both built to compete for the next five years. But the Fish have some core pieces to work with, namely Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton, as well as some good youngsters in Rob Brantly, Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi, as well as prospects Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich. If Hill and Beinfest can do something this offseason with some autonomy, they could compete in the NL East.

5. Chris Antonetti, Cleveland Indians
When I say Cashman doesn’t have any money and is restricted by his payroll, remember the Yankees’ yearly payroll is near $200 million. Cleveland's 2012 Opening Day payroll was $65 million.

So Antonetti really doesn’t have any money, nor does he have much of anything else to work with. His hiring of Terry Francona as manager is a step in the right direction. But a manager will only win if he has winning players. The “best” pitching pieces he has to trade are Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, who don't have a ton of value right now. His farm system is below average at best, with the exception of shortstop Francisco Lindor. Shin-Soo Choo, arguably Antonetti’s best player, is a free agent after 2013, and Boras is his agent. Antonetti simply can’t let Choo walk away for only draft-pick compensation.

Further, the AL Central is surprisingly deep with Detroit’s dominance, Chicago’s surprise and the Royals’ rise. Exacerbating things is his team and fan base seem to have lost faith in the front office, with closer Chris Perez openly criticizing him in the media. A rough road lies ahead for Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro, whose own deal is up after 2013.

Yankees must spend to solve problems 

May, 24, 2012
Brian CashmanJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesTrimming payroll is not something Brian Cashman and the Yankees are accumstomed to.

On March 1, Brian Cashman’s job got a lot more difficult.

That’s when the New York Yankees' general manager was reading the headlines Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner made when he said the Yankees would get their payroll below $189 million by 2014. They would do this despite spending at least $200 million every year since 2007.

Indeed, payroll reduction plans were always in place when George Steinbrenner was running the club, but they never seemed to materialize. For Cashman to continue the Yankees’ winning ways, they might want to delay that decreasing plan for some time.

With a farm system that lacks major league-ready players and a rapidly aging big league roster, the standard of success the Yankees have enjoyed for nearly two decades will be difficult to maintain with a payroll shrinking in the manner Hal Steinbrenner suggests it will. The only way they can continue competing and simultaneously rebuilding the team’s cumulative talent pool -- especially their cleanup hitter -- is to continue to spend.

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Cashman rebuilds Yankees rotation 

January, 14, 2012
Jesus MonteroAnthony Gruppuso/US PresswireJesus Montero is going to hit with plenty of power for Seattle.

Trust New York to liven things up on a Friday night.

After staying largely silent throughout the offseason, the New York Yankees awoke from their slumber by acquiring right-hander Michael Pineda and farmhand Jose Campos from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for catcher Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. Indeed, Yankees GM Brian Cashman again proved why he is one of the best general managers in baseball. Often he’s not given due credit because he's had the game’s highest payroll throughout his career. However, in a matter of hours, Cashman rebuilt the Yankees’ starting rotation.

What they got

Yankees: Pineda should slot in as the Yankees' No. 2 starter, between C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova. But make no mistake -- the 22-year-old right-hander is destined to lead a rotation at some point in the future. He went just 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA with Seattle last year, displaying an overpowering fastball that sat in the 95-100 mph range and that looks even harder and gets on hitters quicker because of his 6-foot-7 frame with late, explosive, four-seam movement. His slider is nasty, too, and as with his fastball, he possesses uncanny command of the pitch in the zone. He also backdoors the slider to lefties, putting it on the black at will. His changeup has good deception and arm speed.

The Yankees also get a promising prospect in Campos, 19. At 6-4, 200 pounds, Campos owns an electric 93-96 mph fastball with downward plane. His slider probably is his best breaking pitch, but his 12-6 curveball rarely makes the strike zone. However, a young man with this type of arm is no throw-in.

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The 10 best contracts in baseball 

December, 28, 2011
Robinson CanoAP Photo/Elaine ThompsonWhen compared to his production, Robinson Cano's contract is a bargain.

It is really difficult to compare the best contracts in baseball based on the present salary infrastructure. To compare and rank them, you have to take into account arbitration eligibility, free-agent years and non-arbitration years. In addition, one must compare each year within arbitration eligibility separately, because a player with three years of eligibility can be worth millions more than a player with one or two years of eligibility.

Keep in mind that these rankings must assume that the player stays relatively healthy through the length of the contract.

When you factor in a player’s production against his cost -- by total cost of the contract or by year (average annual value) -- it’s easy to see why these are the 10 best contracts in baseball right now.

1. New York Yankees: Robinson Cano, 2B, four years: 2008-11, $30 million, AAV: $7.5 million

Hands down, Cano is one of the top five players in the American League right now. For all the great work that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has done for the Yankees -- signing free agents CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira and trading for Curtis Granderson or drafting players like Phil Hughes -- he doesn't get enough credit for his foresight in shrewd multiyear deals like Cano’s.

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Winter meetings: Inside the GM suite 

December, 4, 2011
Billy BeaneAP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackBilly Beane has used the winter meetings to get deals done or start dialogues for deals.

During baseball’s offseason, there’s no better place to get face time with a potential trade partner than the winter meetings.

Major League Baseball’s winter meetings have evolved considerably since the days when teams used the meetings solely as way for team personnel to gather with their counterparts on other teams and exchange ideas and feedback. Media relations people, traveling secretaries, trainers and, of course, baseball operations personnel all used the winter meetings to discuss the industry with little fanfare.

These days, those same people still meet, but the winter meetings have become a major event.

Inside the Hotel Anatole in Dallas, each team is settting up its general manager's suite as the nerve center of information and interaction. It is every team's war room to perhaps begin talks with teams or agents or to pull off a deal. On average, each club will have about 20 baseball operations personnel ranging from the team president and owner, general manager and assistant general manager, scouting director, farm director, AL and NL scouts, traveling secretary, media relations and medical staff.

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Bowden's Bullets: The Yankees and Gio 

November, 22, 2011
GonzalezJason O. Watson/US PresswireThe Yankees could be in the mix for Gio Gonzalez if they are willing to part with a top pitching prospect.

• The New York Yankees have been reluctant to move top pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances for all the right reasons. However, if Oakland shops southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who has one of the best left-handed breaking balls in the AL, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will adjust and include at least one of the two in the right package. Cashman is also pursuing Jair Jurrjens from the Braves, dangling shortstop Eduardo Nunez , but so far will not give up either Banuelos or Betances for Jurrjens.

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Yankees had to pay Sabathia 

October, 31, 2011
C.C. SabathiaJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesIn the end, CC Sabathia and the Yankees were each other's best fits.

It isn't often the New York Yankees find themselves with their backs against the wall. And yet, that is exactly what happened when facing the possibility of life without left-hander CC Sabathia.

The Yankees' ace could have opted out of his contract, which would have allowed him to become a free agent, but Sabathia agreed Monday to a one-year $25 million contract extension plus a $5 million buyout. Added onto the four years and $92 million he had remaining on his deal, Sabathia is effectively sewn up as a Yankee through 2016. The deal also features a $25 million option for 2017 that vests if he avoids serious shoulder problems in 2016.

Why this move?

Credit Sabathia's agent, Greg Genske, with leveraging the Yankees in 2008 by having the moxie to insist on an opt-out clause and the foresight to know what starting pitching in this year's free agent market was going to look like. With starting pitching the Yankees' main area of need going into this off-season Yankees general manager Brian Cashman simply didn't have a choice but to accommodate Sabathia's wishes.

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