Brian Cashman’s State of the Yankees address
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman held court with the media for 51 minutes yesterday afternoon in his annual end-of-season press conference at Yankee Stadium.
You’ve probably already seen most of the headlines coming out of his session: the Yankees are interested in retaining manager Joe Girardi and could formally offer him a deal as soon as today, they want to keep Robinson Cano but not at any cost, and Hal Steinbrenner’s $189 million objective is a goal but not a mandate.
There are obviously a lot of chips that need to fall into place before we can get an idea of what the 2014 Yankees will look like. The Yankees have their pro scouting meetings scheduled for Monday, which is when they organize the chess board and decide which players to pursue. After Girardi’s situation is settled, they’ll wait to find out what Alex Rodriguez’s contract will look like for ’14 – if A-Rod’s 211-game suspension is upheld, that would knock about $25 million off the books for the ’14 budget, money that would likely go right into an offer for Cano.
They also need a solid answer from Steinbrenner about $189 million. Steinbrenner has articulated a few times that it would be a nice target to hit, considering it would set the Yankees up to use more of their future dollars to help the club rather than assisting other teams. But Steinbrenner has also said that the $189 million figure does not supersede the mission of fielding a World Series championship club. The ’13 Yankees obviously weren’t one, and after missing the playoffs entirely, scrapping the $189 million plan could still be in play.
Since I strongly doubt anyone wants to scour a 7,000 word Q&A, here are some of the most important talking points that were covered during yesterday’s press conference:
Opening thoughts: Your opinion of the 2013 season?
“It was a tough one. We didn’t get to where we wanted to be. Obviously it was a struggle all year; a lot of disappointment, whether it’s injuries, reoccurring injuries, underperformance, unexpected poor performance. We didn’t get where we needed to be and there were a lot of reasons for it. We obviously fought to the end. I appreciated the effort that our guys provided on a daily basis. Everybody that was healthy or even the guys that weren’t healthy that tried to get healthy and even those who failed in their efforts to return or their returns were brief. There was always effort. For that, I never saw that being an issue. We weren’t good enough, period. We are where we belong, which is on the outside looking in.”
Your opinion of Joe Girardi’s job performance?
“I think Joe has been consistent since we’ve had him here. The teams have changed, for instance, talent level, health, what he’s had to run out on a daily basis from year to year. The personnel has been different, but his effort and his efforts in pregame, in preparation for each series, how he runs Major League Spring Training as well as getting the 25 that are active competing on a daily basis, I think he’s been consistently tremendous at it. I know that because of the challenges this year presented to this organization, the amount of players that we had to use and find and replace on the run, there were more people to manage, people to welcome and let go. He has obviously gotten a lot of notoriety for keeping everything in check. I personally believe he has been exceptional ever since we’ve had him. I don’t feel this year was an outlier to other years. From your perspective, maybe that’s different, but I can tell you he’s been extremely consistent from day one with us. He’s been the same and has done a great job every year. Obviously the talent that he had to work with this year was significantly less than other years, but he still remained the same from my perspective. I thought this year was the same as other years. The job as a manager is to make sure these guys fight and compete on a daily basis, stay motivated, stay hungry. … This year was unique in a lot of different ways and he was able to still maintain that leadership, keep these guys hungry and motivated and not give up. They never did. I never saw that. Thumbs up. I thought he did a great job. Him and his staff.”
Why do you believe the 2014 Yankees can be better than this year’s edition?
“I think the intent is there. The ownership interest is there. But to talk about it right now, confidence or not, it’s what you do. There’s a reality of the situation that when you’re in a position of leadership, you have to attack areas of problems that develop over time. We will attack those. I’m not afraid of the reality. None of the people here are afraid of the reality. We recognize there are some challenges that we have to deal with – and we’re up for that challenge. But I can’t tell you at the same time and tell you, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.’ It’s going to take some time. Some of it can be fixed sooner than later, others might take some time. But I can’t predict how free agency is going to work out, I can’t predict how we match up with other clubs yet. It’s just too early in the process. My confidence would be in betting on ownership here, because their intent is always to compete for a championship. What took place this year, for instance, it could have been easy for them to give up and say ‘There’s no chance.’ They had no interest in doing that. They obviously had every interest in trying to not only keep us relevant but qualify for the playoffs and make a run at the championship. From the injuries that occurred in spring training, whether it was Vernon Wells’ addition to [Alfonso] Soriano’s addition and every small little addition in between, it was a reflection of their interest and desire to, ‘I don’t care what it takes, we’ve got to fix this thing as we keep losing guys along the way.’ It led to a record Yankee franchise players that propelled us to 85 wins. We fell short, but their intent was to find some way to get us in regardless of what had happened. That’s what we tried to do, but obviously we fell short. The only thing I can confidently tell you is, when the last name is Steinbrenner, the effort is going to be there in terms of making a full push for having the best team on the field you can possibly have.”
Evaluation of the player development system
“In terms of changes, we’re always looking at that kind of stuff, and if there’s any changes to be made, we’ll make them. We have struggled out of the draft here the last number of years, some of it signability, whether a Gerrit Cole, some of it was injuries, like last year’s number one pick Ty Hensley having double hip surgery, so he hasn’t even been available to us. Some of our picks haven’t panned out. I think this last year we did really well, but in fairness, you always feel that when you make the selections, so we’re evaluating that as well. I think we’re obviously starting top to bottom. We typically do it every three years. We started maybe two months ago evaluating the decision making process and the expected value from where you pick in the draft, and comparisons to other organizations, and so, you try to determine what is accurate and true and what is not as accurate and more perception. So first and foremost we’re going through that process, but yeah, we haven’t had as fruitful results from the draft here recently as we had hoped and anticipated. In terms of development, we’ve had guys three years ago ranked in the top seven in farm systems in the game and I think in the last two years, our players have either got injured that have taken them out, Manny Banuelos for instance, or we’ve had guys go backwards, like a Dellin Betances for instance, was considered a high-end starter and has now been converted to the bullpen because of the failure there in finishing it off. He’ll be competing for a spot out of the bullpen next year as he’s out of options, so those are examples of injuries, performance going backwards, or unexpected return.
How vital is keeping Cano?
“We’d love to have Robbie back. There’s not much more for me to say about that, but our intention is to have him back, if we can. He’ll receive without question, or has received, whatever, a significant offer to stay, so he’ll have something legitimately to ponder. We’ll have to again, play that one out as well, see where it takes us. He’s been a great Yankee. I think if he stays he’ll have a legitimate chance to experience what you just saw, for instance, for Mariano. Maybe he has the chance to be the first Dominican-born player in Monument Park. A home-grown Yankee. But at the same time. It’s a business. He has comported himself in a tremendous way both on and off the field for the New York Yankees and we’ve been extremely happy to have him and we hope to extend that relationship, but we have a process to still go through on that, and he will certainly be in a position to entertain offers from other clubs in the process.”
The Alex Rodriguez situation
“I operate on the assumption that I have him until they tell me otherwise. I’m not really in a position to talk about the Alex stuff. We’re not a party to it. … It’s not something that’s in our control, so I’m not focused on it. I have Alex plugged in unless I’m told something different. so there’s nothing else for me really to say on that.”
Derek Jeter’s 2014 outlook
“I certainly hope to get Derek back to the Derek that we’re all used to. He’s one of those guys that did everything in his power to fight through something that turned out to be pretty significant. And so now he’ll have some time to back off, get some rest, some more flexibility back, and get every aspect of that ankle in line, as far as the kinetic chain. So it’ll put him in position to have the typical training regimen he’s used to as he prepares for the season. He’ll be able to do that. The expectation is that when that happens, and does occur, he can put significant distance between what we saw and all lived through with him, the last year, where obviously it was something that was really limiting him to being the player he’s capable of being again.”
Is Jeter your shortstop? Is a position change possible?
“The options for him are shortstop and DH. I think the DH spot is utilized like it is for all our other guys too, for rest. It’s one of those things where we can’t run somebody into the ground, but hey, your bat’s too important not to have to in the lineup. So on a given day, as we were planning do this year, against left-handed pitchers, if it gives us a chance to rest him but still give him four at bats so can benefit from the bat, the DH spot, depending on how the roster is constructed, would be available. That was the plan this year, and it would benefit him, whether it was Alex, [Kevin] Youkilis if he was healthy, that there were going to to be situations, with [Mark] Teixeira and all those guys, that it would be utilized to give guys a breather but still maintain the offense. That’s our hope and expectation as we move forward into next year.”
Does this lineup need to get back to power?
“Players I like to gravitate to, clearly, are on-base percentage. I was taught by Gene Michael, as the guys who take — they’re are selective at the plate and can beat you with their bat. The long ball. I love the big long ball. Stick always believed in the old Earl Weaver way. That’s what I was taught and raised in, so the players I typically gravitate to are those type of guys. And it was certainly hard to find those type of guys on the run, as the roster choices, as we went from March on, trying to cushion blows, it’s not easy to find power guys, as much as maybe as in years past. Certainly it wasn’t easy for us to plug the holes. I wasn’t able to do that; failed in my efforts to get that done. Power is a big piece of this franchise, and something I believe in.”
Are these four outfielders – Wells, Ichiro, Brett Gardner, Soriano – your starting outfielders?
“We’ll see. It’s hard for me to get ahead of. That most important meeting for me is that pro scouting meeting. That’s something we’ve had a great deal of success with over the years, with that meeting setting up the chess board for ourselves. A lot of things can run interference about how we are able to execute that, whether it’s negotiating, being able to secure the trade, but these guys are I think some of the best scouts that are in the game. That pro scouting meeting sets the tone of what really is available to us. What players we really should be gravitating to and who we should stay away from. It’s hard for me to really say. Ultimately the truth of the matter is it’s my job to always – I mean, I’ve sat there in front of our players in the minor leagues, it’s my job to always find better than what we already have. I remember turn the clock back meeting with Melky Cabrera saying hey man I’ve got a guy named Brett Gardner and he’s coming fast. Don’t let him take your job. Those are many examples of hey it’s our responsibility to always look for better than what we have at those positions as a team. Then you hope it stays healthy and plays up to your expectations. Unfortunately this year we had a lot of all of it; which is players that we expected to perform better and they didn’t, or they went backwards with their performance, or maybe we misevaluated that effort on their performance, or the injuries. It’s my responsibility in all aspects of it.
“Bottom line is, we will continue that process. I cannot get ahead of it. I can’t tell you all those jobs are secure. I can’t tell you all those guys are satisfactory. I can’t tell you any of that stuff. I’ve got to look at what the options are available to us, what the costs are associated with acquiring those players, whether it’s free agent dollars, and we’ll just have to go through that process first. Once I secure that and have that knowledge, it’s definitely not in my best interest to share what it would be anyway until you go to marketplace and try to pull down what’s necessary.”