Last Updated on October 29, 2023 at 12:13 pm by Sara Molnick
For the past six years, the New York Yankees, who are currently at the bottom of the standings, helmed by Brian Cashman haven’t been able to create a successful team despite having Aaron Judge as one of their key players.
Amongst the string of crippling and utterly catastrophic defeats that have plagued the Yankees throughout this season, the latest one emerges as particularly distressing. The recent match on Sunday against Miami showcased a colossal unraveling, akin to an epic implosion. In a stunning turn of events, the Marlins managed to erase a daunting four-run gap during the ninth inning. Brian Cashman can’t foresee it despite all pointing to the inevitable. This grim turn of events has left the Yankees trailing five games behind a coveted playoff position, with a mere 44 games remaining on the horizon. This unfortunate situation places the Yankees precariously atop the heap of challenges they face.
With a record of 60-58, Brian Cashman’s New York Yankees are facing a significant challenge. Not only could they miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but they’re also at risk of ending the season with more losses than wins for the first time in thirty years. The last time they finished with more losses than wins was back in 1992 when they had a record of 76-86. Their impressive streak of having winning seasons for the past thirty years is second only to the 1926-1964 Yankees, who managed a streak of 39 consecutive winning seasons in Major League Baseball history.
Manager Aaron Boone commented that they are in clear need of wins, following the disappointing and debilitating loss to the Miami Marlins on Sunday. He emphasized the importance of accumulating victories and acknowledged that although the defeat was difficult to accept, they must proceed and focus on what lies ahead. But can he carry on with this team of Brian Cashman?
Since Aaron Judge came back after his toe injury, the Yankees have won 6 games and lost 10. It’s worth noting that he’s been playing despite having a torn ligament. Looking at their performance over the past 57 games, Brian Cashman’s team has won 24 and lost 33. If we go back even further to the last 162 games, which includes the postseason from last year, they’ve won 84 and lost 78. This shows that the Yankees have been facing difficulties for a while now, not just a short period. Their performance hasn’t been great; in fact, it’s been pretty average for a whole year, and recently, it’s even been worse than that.
The team doesn’t have many standout players aside from Judge and Gerrit Cole. Even though they have experienced players like Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu, their performances haven’t been as impressive as anticipated. Key players like Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino, who were expected to make a big impact, have been dealing with injuries and haven’t been effective. And it was Brian Cashman, who has assembled them.
Additionally, a significant number of at-bats are going to players like Billy McKinney and Ben Rortvedt, who aren’t considered top-tier. A highly anticipated rookie shortstop named Anthony Volpe has shown promise, even though his statistics might not fully reflect his abilities. While his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) is 0.674, which isn’t great, statistics are a factual representation of what happens on the field.
Even though the team is facing many clear issues, it’s expected that GM Brian Cashman will continue his role in 2024, marking his 27th year in the position. On one side, the Yankees have never ended a season with more losses than wins during Brian Cashman’s time, and they usually have one of the best records in the league. On the other side, the current team lineup indicates that new viewpoints and a fresh way of looking at things might be necessary.
It’s doubtful that there will be another year of rebuilding for a major market team in 2024. This is because players like Cole and Judge, who are at their best playing years, won’t be at their peak performance for much longer, and it wouldn’t be wise to let those years go to waste. However, it does seem like a necessary step for Brian Cashman.
Brian Cashman played with Yankees’ financial vitality
In 2017, the Yankees reached Game 7 of the ALCS, which was a notable achievement. They were in a really good position at that time. Their MLB team had many talented young players like Judge, Severino, Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Jordan Montgomery. Additionally, their farm system was highly regarded, ranked second by Baseball America. Plus, they didn’t have a lot of money tied up in contracts, unlike in the recent past. The contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira had ended, and CC Sabathia’s expensive contract years were done. With promising young players and available funds, the Yankees were in an exciting phase.
The series of mistakes started in 2018, right after the Yankees almost made it to the World Series but fell just one win short. Brian Cashman supervised a plan to reduce the team’s payroll to keep it below the $195 million competitive balance tax threshold. To put it simply, in 2018, the Yankees reduced the amount of money they spent on player salaries. They made a noticeable reduction in their spending.
Just a year after reaching Game 7 of the ALCS, the Yankees under Brian Cashman decreased the amount they spent on player salaries for the competitive balance tax by $31.2 million. It’s important to note that they still had a payroll of $193 million in 2018, which is a significant sum. However, when you consider that they reduced their spending by 14% after coming so close to the World Series, it’s something that could upset any fan. This move raises concerns about how dedicated was Brian Cashman to put together the strongest team possible. Typically, when a team gets close to winning a pennant, that’s the moment to go all-in and invest heavily, not cut back.
The reasons given weren’t very convincing. Brian Cashman explained that the Yankees aimed to stay below the CBT threshold to avoid providing extra money to other teams that could use it against them. Then, it would have made it easier for them to try and get players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado in the next year’s offseason (2018–19) by investing the penalty dollars. While that might sound like a good idea, the Yankees didn’t end up signing either Harper or Machado. They didn’t even make a real offer to Machado, and they didn’t talk to Harper at all when he was available to sign with any team.
One of the main reasons for trying to stay below the CBT threshold is that it leads to smaller penalties when signing a player who is good and available as a free agent. But interestingly, Brian Cashman didn’t sign any of those types of players that offseason.
In 2019 and 2020, the Yankees spent more money on their players’ salaries, but it was still not as much as they spent in 2016. In 2021, they made sure to spend even less to stay within a certain limit. When Brian Cashman signed Cole in December 2019, the owner, Steinbrenner, said they wanted to win several championships.
However, just a year later, the Yankees reduced their spending by 14% to stay under that limit. This doesn’t match their goal of winning many championships. Brian Cashman blamed the pandemic for this change, but there are a couple of things that don’t quite make sense. First, other teams increased their spending from 2020 to 2021, which is different from what the Yankees did. Second, their actions from 2017-18 make us question if they mean what they say about winning championships.
Because the Yankees cared a lot about staying within a certain spending limit (CBT), they made some contracts in a way that made the player’s average yearly pay seem lower for CBT purposes. But these contracts weren’t good for the team overall.
For example, when LeMahieu became a free agent after 2020, the normal pay for a good infielder in their 30s was about $90 million for four years (like what Josh Donaldson got). But the Yankees spread out the $90 million over six years. This made LeMahieu’s yearly pay for CBT calculations lower, going from $22.5 million to $15 million. However, this means LeMahieu will stay signed with the Yankees until 2026 instead of 2024.
In February 2019, when Brian Cashman decided to keep Aaron Hicks on the team for a longer time, they looked at how much other good center fielders were getting paid. Normally, players like Lorenzo Cain and Dexter Fowler get around $80 million for five years. But the Yankees did something different. They took a $70 million deal for five years and made it last for seven years. This way, the amount they showed on their spending limit calculations was lower, going from $14 million to $10 million each year.
Earlier this year, Brian Cashman let go of Hicks, but they still have to give him money until 2025. Normally, a contract for five years would have ended after this season. But because of some decisions made by Brian Cashman, these contracts that they don’t want will stick around for much longer than they should.
Thanks to players like Judge, the Yankees became good again in 2017. But instead of spending more money on players in 2018 to keep getting better, Brian Cashman decided to spend less money. Even though they spent less to stay under a certain spending limit, it didn’t seem to help them perform better on the field.
Over the last twenty years, the Yankees have used a lot of money to pay their players, but in 2018, they suddenly spent much less money when it was an important time. Brian Cashman didn’t push hard to improve the team when their rivals, like the Tampa Bay Rays, were regrouping and the Baltimore Orioles were not doing well. Now, the competition in the AL East has gotten a lot tougher. The Yankees are the only team in the division that seems to be struggling to keep up.
When the Yankees had a good chance to win championships in 2017, Brian Cashman chose to spend less money on players. Whether they have reasons for this choice doesn’t matter. They went ahead with it, and this decision goes against the idea of putting the strongest team on the field. By occasionally reducing spending on players, the team’s chances of winning the World Series were negatively affected.
Brian Cashman’s poor decisions
Even though the Yankees had plans to manage their spending, they’ve still spent a huge amount of money on their team’s players throughout the years. They’ve been at the very top in terms of paying their players compared to all the other baseball teams, except for one year (the pandemic year of 2020). Almost every year, they’re among the top three teams in spending. Right now, only the New York Mets have a higher payroll than the Yankees. The Yankees have a total of $291.0 million set aside for spending based on certain rules, and they’re spending $277.7 million.
But the way Brian Cashman decided to distribute this money among the players is causing issues—to put it mildly, it’s a problem.
The trade between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins last year involving Josh Donaldson and Kiner-Falefa shows the Yankees’ issues well. Brian Cashman didn’t want to hire a good shortstop who’s in their best playing years (like Carlos Correa or Corey Seager). Part of the reason is that long contracts often end up causing problems when players get older. Instead, they tried to solve this by getting Kiner-Falefa, who is a decent player. Brian Cashman got Donaldson, who is 36 years old and earns a lot of money. The problem is, what they got in Donaldson is exactly what they were worried about if they had signed Correa or Seager: a player who’s getting older and making a lot of money.
The Yankees had a problem with their shortstop position, but they didn’t fix it. Instead, they traded for a player named Donaldson, whose skills were getting worse and who was getting paid a lot of money. This trade helped the Twins get a good shortstop, Correa, at a very good price for just one year. Brian Cashman thought he was making a smart move, but it turned out bad because they got players who were expensive and not very good, while the other team got a great player. Any fan can imagine how much the Yankees could have benefited from Correa’s excellent performance in 2022.
Let’s look at the seven players the Yankees are paying the most for this year. Except for Cole and Judge, the team is spending a lot of money on players who haven’t been performing very well.
|PLAYER||2023 CBT SALARY||2023 WAR|
|RF Aaron Judge||$40 million||3.0|
|SP Gerrit Cole||$36 million||4.7|
|SP Carlos Rodón||$27 million||-0.5|
|3B Josh Donaldson||$25 million||-0.1|
|DH Giancarlo Stanton||$22 million||0.1|
|1B Anthony Rizzo||$20 million||0.6|
|IF DJ LeMahieu||$15 million||0.6|
Judge has been really good, even when he had a weird toe injury, and Cole has been outstanding since the start of the season. He’s been the best pitcher in all of baseball, and the money Brian Cashman is paying him is definitely worth it. But when you look at everyone else on the team, it’s not looking so great. The Yankees are spending a lot of money on players who should be making a big impact, but they’re only playing at the level of regular players. And the problem is, most of these players are over 30 years old, and three of them (LeMahieu, Rodon, and Stanton) are signed by Brian Cashman to stay with the team until at least 2026. This makes it really tough for the Yankees to plan their team for the next few years with these players as the foundation.
Brian Cashman’s master stroke on Stanton too has failed. The Yankees got him in a trade where they didn’t have to give up much, and this happened right after he was named the best player in the National League in 2017. When Brian Cashman made this trade, he knew that the last part of his contract might not be great. Unfortunately, he got injured a lot during those times.
When really good players in their best years become available, it’s smart to sign them. But Brian Cashman erred. Players like Harper, Machado, and Seager became free agents when they were 26 or 27 years old. This meant their contracts covered their best years, and the Yankees decided not to sign them. Instead, Brian Cashman went for temporary solutions like Donaldson and Kiner-Falefa, and many players in left field who didn’t do well making it a nagging problem.
Brian Cashman’s hopefuls faired below the expectation
Many of the Yankees’ young batters and talented future players got to play in the major leagues and did well at the start. But after that, they didn’t keep improving, and some even got worse except Aaron Judge. Gleyber Torres has found his place as a better-than-average player, but he’s not quite reached the level of being truly great.
Bird, Miguel Andujar, and Clint Frazier were all considered by Brian Cashman as really good young players who were expected to do great things in the major leagues. But they couldn’t keep up their good performance for different reasons like getting hurt. Sánchez is another player in this situation. But Brian Cashman never tried to find out permanent replacements for them. He went on to have temporary fixes.
When this happened with the Yankees and their players, it’s time to wonder why. The players themselves have some responsibility because they’re the ones playing the game, but the Yankees also need to look at their decisions and actions, where Brian Cashman and his chosen team did a big letdown.
Brian Cashman never learned from his failures
For years, it is becoming clear that Brian Cashman is not paying attention to what the Yankees need. Take, for instance, when Boone talks about “lanes” for his relief pitchers. He means that he wants to put certain pitchers against certain hitters in the opposing team’s lineup because they have the best chance to do well. This idea has been around since at least 2019. It’s a smart strategy that successful teams use to make the most out of their relief pitchers’ strengths. The Yankees aren’t the only team that does this – many good teams do it too. The Yankees have actually had strong bullpens for about the last 10 years.
However, Brian Cashman has focused a lot on having right-handed batters in their lineup in recent years. This actually makes their lineup kind of easy for the other team to handle. While the Yankees try to find the right situations for their own relief pitchers, they don’t seem to worry about how the other team’s relief pitchers match up against their batters.
From 2018 to 2022, the Yankees’ offense often struggled in the postseason against hard-throwing right-handed pitchers because they didn’t have enough left-handed batters to balance things out. But Brian Cashman seldom paid attention to it going into the 2023 season despite all pointing to it. Let’s look at the lineups in three years: 2019, 2020, and 2022. Out of 24 spots in total, 18 of them were taken by right-handed batters. Then, there are 6 spots left, and two of those went to Gardner, who was later in his career.
It’s not just about having a lot of right-handed batters; it’s about having similar ones. There have been many righties like Judge, Stanton, and Donaldson. They all have power but they also often miss the ball when they swing. Having one or two of them is okay, especially when one of them is Judge. But having three, four, or even five of them is too much. But Brian Cashman doesn’t mind trading according to the need.
It’s really puzzling that the Yankees have been using so many right-handed batters in their lineup, even though they play in Yankee Stadium where the right field is shorter and perfect for left-handed batters. This season, they’re ranked 28th in the number of times left-handed batters come up to bat, and since 2017, they’re ranked 27th.
Despite of having negative results in the postseason every year, Brian Cashman kept putting together lineups with too many righties. This is a big issue for Brian Cashman and the people in charge of the team. It’s a clear problem that’s been going on for multiple years, and it’s still causing trouble.
During the time when Judge has been a key player for the Yankees, Brian Cashman repeatedly made a mistake by not making their batting lineup more varied. The problem is that this has been going on for a while, and Brian Cashman hasn’t really tried to fix it. The way the games are going shows that what the Yankees are doing isn’t working, and they need to make changes. But Brian Cashman hasn’t paid attention to these signals or made the necessary adjustments. Even the 2023 deadline saw him getting bullpen assets when the offense was in jeopardy.
Brian Cashman has put the Yankees into a hole
Years of mistake has finally put the Yankees into a position where players can have a second thought about joining the team. For example, Brian Cashman really eager to sign Ohtani from Japan and even traded for a lot of money to do it, but he politely turned down their offer without even listening.
Meanwhile, the Yankees suffer more injuries than ever for having an aging team. Aaron Judge, their offensive pivot, goes down catching, and with him, the team went off the winning way. Another big signing, Carlos Rodon, also has a similar fate. So are Harrison Bader and Nestor Cortes. They went on with an injured Anthony Rizzo for two months before his concussion daignosis. These are just some examples of how things can go wrong in baseball and the responsibility for this mess lies on Brian Cashman.
Their current struggles aren’t mostly because of bad luck. This is because Brian Cashman has failed to boost the team and secure it against aging. He hasn’t made good spending choices when they had enough money and hasn’t really fixed the problems, many of which they caused themselves.
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