The GM's Office: Robinson Cano

What GMs are talking about this spring 

March, 14, 2014
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Robinson CanoLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesRivals GMs don't understand why the Mariners stopped spending after getting Cano.
One of the advantages of being a former general manager is that there’s something of a fraternity among GMs. This proves advantageous when digging for information. Most are generous and readily available. As I bounced from spring camp to spring camp, here’s what some GMs and executives had to say:

• Several general managers told me they don't understand how the Seattle Mariners could give Robinson Cano almost a quarter-billion dollars and then claim not to have the money to bring back Kendrys Morales or make a run at Ervin Santana.

Seattle is emboldened by its lucrative local television deal, but many general managers are wondering what the Mariners’ plan is.

Eight big names who could be traded 

December, 7, 2013
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David Price, Jeff Samardzija and Matt KempGetty ImagesDavid Price, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Kemp will keep the rumor mill churning.
General managers have been feasting this offseason on blockbuster trades and huge free-agent acquisitions. Some of the game’s biggest names -- Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann -- have new homes, as do major players such as Jim Johnson, David Freese, Doug Fister, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Joe Nathan.

However, consider that the appetizer. The main course awaits at baseball’s annual winter meetings in Orlando. Expect to see another slew of big names swap teams. Here are eight players who are most likely to be on the move.

1. David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays

I think the Rays most likely will trade Price during the winter meetings. While they have the option of waiting until next July’s trade deadline or even next offseason if they don’t get the prospect package they’re looking for, their history says he’s gone.

The Rays will likely be in the pennant race by July so it will be difficult to trade Price at that point. The 2014 offseason is just too late to trade him considering Price’s value would be much lower because his new club would only control him for one season and thus net a correspondingly lower trade package. And an extension simply is cost prohibitive based on the present market.

But where will he go? After acquiring Wil Myers in the deal for James Shields last year, executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will insist on a prospect of at least the same caliber, but this time around will prefer a starting pitching prospect who could develop into a No. 1 starter.

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GMs with the toughest offseason jobs 

November, 1, 2013
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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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Early look at MLB free agency 

August, 14, 2013
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CanoElsa/Getty ImagesRobinson Cano will command a hefty contract this offseason.
Throughout baseball, general managers and their scouting departments are already out in force evaluating this offseason's impending free-agent class. They’re watching every at-bat, every pitch and every defensive touch. They’re also conducting background checks on player character and medical reports. The preparation is essential, rigorous and exhaustive considering the millions of dollars that might be invested.

Here is an early breakdown of some of the top free agents who will be available in this year’s market:


Top position players

Robinson Cano | 2B | .291, 22 HR, 73 RBIs
Cano remains baseball’s best second baseman since Roberto Alomar. He’d like to start and finish his career with the Yankees. However, with one of the best negotiators in baseball in CAA’s Brodie Van Wagenen as his agent and Jay-Z as his marketing/promotional engine, it won’t be easy. The length of Cano’s contract will be the biggest barrier.
Best fits: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers


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GMs with the toughest jobs this winter

October, 30, 2012
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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.

Time to blow up the Yankees

October, 20, 2012
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Alex Rodriguez and Nick SwisherGetty ImagesThe Yankees must resolve the Alex Rodriguez issue and upgrade over Nick Swisher.

Let’s consider these facts from ESPN’s Stats & Information department regarding the New York Yankees’ historically poor performance in the American League Championship Series:

• The Yankees' .188 batting average in the 2012 postseason is the lowest in MLB postseason history by any team that played at least seven games. They scored just 22 runs in nine games, for an average of 2.4 runs per game. That's the fourth-fewest runs per game in a single postseason by any team that played at least seven games.

• The Yankees had played 36 consecutive postseason series without being swept -- that was the longest streak in MLB history. This is the first time they've been swept in any series since the 1980 ALCS, when the Royals swept them in a best-of-five series. The last time the Yankees were swept in a best-of-seven series was in the 1976 World Series, when the Reds beat them.

• The Yankees enter an offseason filled with uncertainty. Although they're almost certain to exercise a pair of club options for 2013 on Robinson Cano ($14 million) and Curtis Granderson ($13 million), the key players who are eligible for free agency are Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda and Russell Martin.

Add the fact that Rafael Soriano also has an opt-out clause in his deal, so he is no lock to return.

With all that uncertainty on their roster and questions about things, I've come to one conclusion: It’s time to blow up the Yankees.

It’s time for the Yankees to get younger and more athletic. For this storied franchise, anything less than a World Series championship is considered a failure. The team is built to withstand a 162-game season in which an aging lineup can routinely feast on fourth and fifth starters. But in the postseason, when those same aging bats see the absolute best pitching in a short series, as the statistics above indicate, they fall short. Outside of Derek Jeter and Cano, the lineup’s holes and weaknesses were exposed.

But the only way to rebuild and win now is for Hal Steinbrenner to take a page out of his father’s strategy -- which sometimes worked, sometimes did not -- and that means spend money and trade prospects.

Start with Rodriguez


The most prudent thing to do is to try to persuade Alex Rodriguez to waive his no-trade clause. The Yankees likely would have to pay nearly all of his salary with the exception of perhaps a few million. This would come with the stipulation that the Yankees would pay only if Rodriguez plays and is on an active roster.

There’s simply no hiding or denying Rodriguez’s decline. As Dan Szymborski pointed out, it has been coming for years. Rodriguez at 37 might still be a serviceable player capable of hitting .260 with 20 home runs, but the Yankees would do well to turn the page. Ideally, it would be best to cut ties and pay his salary and move on. But if they cannot, the next move is to convert him to designated hitter.

The Yankees have a track record of leading aging sluggers out to pasture by converting them to designated hitters. In the footsteps of Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Rodriguez should follow suit and join Raul Ibanez in what could be turn out to be an effective lefty-righty platoon, albeit perhaps the most expensive DH combination in baseball history.

Resolving Rodriguez would free up the Yankees to chase, well, Chase Headley, the Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas or Washington Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon. To acquire someone like Headley, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will have to do that which he most despises: trade prospects.

Frankly, I say empty the farm system to get whatever pieces they need. New York's farm system took a hit this year with the poor performance of top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, and he is going to miss the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Still, the Yankees could get this kind of deal done if they were willing to part with outfield prospect Mason Williams and catching prospect Gary Sanchez. George Steinbrenner never had a problem sacrificing prospects, and New York needs to be aggressive.

Cashman has said repeatedly that he wants complete players, and Headley, for example, is exactly that. Even with Petco Park as his home field, switch-hitting Headley batted .286 with 31 home runs, stole 17 bases and led the NL with 115 RBIs while playing very solid defense. At 28, he enters 2013 in his prime and is about to get very expensive in arbitration. The Padres have built an incredibly deep farm system, and if they sell high on Headley, they can further fortify their farm while freeing payroll to lock up some of their top youngsters.

To get Headley, it probably will take a prospect package similar to what the Cincinnati Reds forked over to San Diego for pitcher Mat Latos in December.

Buy, buy, buy


Outfielder Josh Hamilton will be by far the biggest name on the free-agent market. Fittingly, the team in the biggest market should be the one to reel him in.

Hamilton fits Cashman’s proclivity for “complete” players, and his left-handed swing is tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. They Yankees need a better postseason hitter than Swisher, who has been exposed in October, hitting .169 in the playoffs in his career.

Likewise, the Yankees should pursue speedster Michael Bourn. Signing Bourn would free Cashman to trade or decline the club option ($2 million buyout) on Granderson and his 195 strikeouts and move Brett Gardner to left field. Bourn also would serve as the leadoff man the Yankees desperately need and, once again, add some much-needed speed.

On the mound, Pettitte will announce soon whether he will return in 2013. Outside of CC Sabathia, and perhaps Hughes, the rest of the rotation is simply not World Series caliber. Michael Pineda should be back from shoulder surgery and could be an upgrade, but there is no way the Yankees can assume he will be an impact player in 2013.

Re-signing Kuroda will help, but signing Zack Greinke or Kyle Lohse will be necessary to deepen the Yankees’ starting rotation. None of the prospects they have will do that, and the Yankees can’t afford to wait for kids.

I know there has been talk about the Yankees wanting to avoid the luxury tax, but they’re the Yankees -- they should be paying the luxury tax. And let's be honest, George Steinbrenner would have been this aggressive.

Bring back Russell Martin?


As our own Buster Olney suggests, the Yankees loved Martin’s toughness and winning attitude, but a long-term contract just wouldn’t work.

If the Yankees miss out on Hamilton or Greinke, they might think about turning to Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer. The Twins probably would love the chance to shed Mauer's huge contract, and the Yankees are one of the few teams that can afford him. As noted, the Yankees could end up clearing a lot of payroll this year if Soriano opts out, Swisher leaves and Granderson's option is declined.

As with Hamilton, Mauer’s swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium. The Twins are desperate to rebuild their pitching staff, and giving some prospects might appeal to them.

To be sure, the Yankees can't make all of these moves, but the point I'm making is that the team needs to think aggressively. The Yankees have been relatively inactive the past couple of winters, but it's time for them to channel some of The Boss' bold mentality. They are baseball’s uber-team, and they should be prepared to lose draft picks and pay the luxury tax. The Yankees have never settled for mediocrity, and they shouldn’t now. The time has come for Hal to become George for just a few years to get the Yankees back to where they belong.

First guesses: AL All-Star team 

June, 8, 2012
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Adrian Beltre and Josh HamiltonAP Photo/Gail BurtonBeltre and Hamilton remain the Rangers' best players and should be All-Stars again.


After two months of the season, there are already some clear and obvious choices for the 2012 All-Star Game. But there are also some not so obvious names, as well as intriguing names among as possible first-time All-Stars, too.

The fans will vote the starters in; managers will pick their favorites. So while the best players in baseball are supposed to be representing both leagues, due to the process, however, the best players often times don’t start or even make the team.

So free from any variables like that, here are my first-guess picks for the American League All-Star team. This includes the starting lineup, the bench and the pitching staff. To view my first-guess picks for the National League roster, click here. Tomorrow we will follow up with the 10 most intriguing possible All-Stars from my rosters.

Don’t agree? Leave a comment and tell me who you think should be on the 2012 All-Star Teams.

AL starting lineup

First base: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
This will be his sixth All-Star appearance and third consecutive nod. Despite missing games after getting hit in the face by a Jeff Samardzija fastball, Konerko leads all AL first basemen in OPS, and his clutch hitting has been instrumental in the White Sox’s first place start.

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The 10 best contracts in baseball 

December, 28, 2011
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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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Yankees had to pay Sabathia 

October, 31, 2011
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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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Deeper Yankees have edge at home 

October, 6, 2011
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Doug Fister/Ivan NovaGetty ImagesDoug Fister or Ivan Nova could decide who goes on to face the Rangers in the ALCS.

There are few things more exciting than an elimination game, which is what we have in the Bronx tonight. Here’s what I’m looking for in Game 5 of the ALDS between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers:

• Rookie Ivan Nova put together the quietest 16-win season in recent memory. What is also fresh on the Tigers’ minds is the Yankees' 9-3 win in Game 1, in which Nova gave up just two runs on four hits and four walks, striking out five. Nova’s composure and demeanor will help him stay in control during this pressure-filled start. He’s figured it out, doesn’t pitch like a rookie and will run through the Tigers’ lineup two or three times before he comes out.

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