The Yankees and Mariners made an interesting trade on Friday. By acquiring Michael Pineda and Jose Campos for top prospect Jesus Montero and promising Hector Noesi, General Manager Brian Cashman is risking the organization’s top minor league player for Pineda who started quickly but compiled an ERA of 4.74 over his final 17 starts. Rookie wall? Perhaps. However if it is a harbinger of things to come and Montero turns out to be the hitter everyone forecasts him to be, this deal will look bad for New York.
Brian Cashman is entering his 15th year as the Yankees GM, a remarkable accomplishment as any in sports given the organization and the media market. Critics may point out that the size of the Yankee payroll gives him a big advantage over most executives. Some of that may be true but there is also no job in baseball that has as much pressure. Also, there have been plenty of organizations that have spent big money and have had either mixed success (think Dodgers and Cubs) and spectacular misses (think Orioles). A fair examination of his record will show that Brian Cashman has done an excellent job in his tenure as Yankees General Manager.
When Cashman assumed the role in 1998, he sought to solidify the winning Yankee ways begun by Gene Michael and continued by Bob Watson. His trade for Scott Brosius (giving up enigma Kenny Rogers) along with the signing of Chili Davis were more under the radar than the headline-grabbing, Steinbrenner-esq trades of Chuck Knoblauch and Roger Clemens but just as valuable to the success of the team. His trade for David Justice during the 2000 season ensured the Yankees of a third straight World Series title and very nearly a fourth in 2001. Starting with the signing of Jason Giambi in 2002, it seemed the George Steinbrenner model of a star at every position started to surface with players such as Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez eventually sporting the Pinstripes. Whether or not the Steinbrenner influence was there, the trades for Johnson and Rodriguez made baseball perfect sense. The Yankees had a need at Third Base and Rodriguez was available at the price of Alfonso Soriano and a minor leaguer. Johnson was coming of a 16 win, 290 strikeout season for a dreadful Arizona team and was acquired for 2nd half flameout Javier Vazquez and two other minor leaguers. Just because Johnson didn’t work as planned and A-Rod’s new contract is an albatross (not Cashman’s fault) doesn’t mean those transactions were not good trades.
I would say the only real big time busts were the signings of Kei Igawa and Jaret Wright. AJ Burnett is severely overpaid but has shaken off the injury bug that dogged him early in his career and pitched decently in 2009 when the Yanks won the World Series. You could argue Carl Pavano was a bust as well but only in the sense that he barely pitched during his four years with the team. He was a free agent in demand at the time he was signed. Igawa was the hopeful Yankee answer to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Wright had disaster written all over him after one nice season with the Braves.
Brian Cashman will never get a fair shake from those who detest the large bankroll of the New York Yankees. It is a shame because an achievement of 13 playoff seasons in 14 years as General Manager is a smashing success in any sport and in any market. Maybe it will take a few years away from the game to fully appreciate the remarkable job Cashman has done. By that time, he could very well have a plaque in Cooperstown.