New York's Finest
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has executed big deals, such as those for free agents Mike Mussina, Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia. He worked for mercurial owner George Steinbrenner, which meant living in the immediate, and when he and Hal Steinbrenner set out to make over the Yankees as a younger team less dependent on free agents, he did it with patience, modesty and detail.
Steinbrenner once said that he appreciated that, in the end, “Brian Cashman always tried to do what was in the best interest of the Yankees.” That carried weight when it came time to run the Yankees with regards to the franchise’s best interests—and not the back pages, talk radio or social media.
Since Sabathia and Teixeira helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series, Cashman’s teams have never drawn fewer than 3 million fans. They’ve averaged 90 wins a season. Cashman traded Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for prospects, and today shortstop Gleyber Torres, lefthander Justus Sheffield and outfielder Clint Frazier are three of the brightest young talents in the system.
Then after the 2016 season, when rookie catcher Gary Sanchez bashed 20 home runs in 53 games, Cashman made another trade. He sent Brian McCann to the Astros for Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, two righthanders fresh out of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
McCann went on to be a significant contributor to Houston’s World Series title in 2017. Against that backdrop, three different scouts called the 21-year-old Guzman one of the best arms they had seen all season. In fact, he ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League.
Now, Guzman belongs to the Marlins after the Yankees traded him, Starlin Castro and 18-year-old shortstop Jose Devers to Miami for Giancarlo Stanton.
New Marlins vice president of player development Gary Denbo’s knowledge of the Yankees organization helped. He left a similar post in the Bronx to help new chief executive officer Derek Jeter in Miami.
The night the Yankees beat the Twins in the 2017 Wild Card Game, the Yankee Stadium crowd was far louder, far more emotional than they were in 2009, when fans were trying to get used to the lack of feel in the new stadium. Part of the reason why is because fans have bought and embraced young stars like Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Luis Severino.
The 2017 Yankees team hit a major league-leading 241 home runs. They won four postseason games and pushed the World Series-champion Astros to seven games in the American League Championship Series.
As Gene Michael emphasized lefthanded power for the 1990s Yankees to play in the old Stadium, and the Mickey Mantle-Roger Maris teams of the 1960s hooked ’em into the right field seats, Cashman has reassembled the Bronx Bombers for this park.
Stanton hit 59 homers in an MVP campaign, while Judge hit 52 to shatter the rookie record. They combined to hit more balls 115 mph or harder than all other major league batters combined. They are righthanded-hitting sluggers who can drive the ball to right-center field, which in today’s game isn’t restricted to lefthanded batters.
Both Stanton and Judge ranked among the most productive batters in baseball in 2017 in terms of production when hitting to the opposite field. Sanchez has huge power to right-center, while first baseman Greg Bird is a prototype lefthanded-hitting slugger.
Cashman built one of the best bullpens in the game in 2017. He probably needs another starter, but with all the talent up and down the organization, he can trade for a Gerrit Cole, who in 2008 didn’t sign as their first-round pick out of high school and remains close with scouting director Damon Oppenheimer.
Stanton and Judge are cut from the same cloth. They’re modest, respectful and thoughtful. They’re now the biggest show in baseball. Red Sox fans shudder at the thought of potentially running four lefthanded starters to the mound against a Yankees lineup featuring Stanton, Judge and Sanchez—with young righthanded power hitters like Torres, Frazier and Miguel Andujar on the immediate horizon.
Not lost on Cashman and Steinbrenner is the fact that the Yankees now project to be under the luxury-tax threshold, so instead of being taxed at 50 percent for signing a free agent like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado next fall, it will be 20 percent.
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So while Cashman’s Yankees might not resemble the lefty-leaning clubs of the ’60s or ’90s, thanks to organizational prospect depth and shrewd decision-making, they have a chance to be similarly successful