Cashman Still In Charge, But A Rift May Be Growing

The Yankees held a press conference yesterday to announce the signing of reliever Rafael Soriano. It gave general manager Brian Cashman a chance to address the recent rumors that he wanted no part in the signing.

He took full advantage of that chance and said that he didn’t think it was an efficient way to allocate their funds. He even went further essentially saying that Soriano was shoved down his throat.

The man who did the shoving, Randy Levine, publicly addressed these statements by calling Cashman the best GM in baseball. But behind the scenes he doesn’t seem to have the same support.

Somebody within the front office spoke with Danny Knobler of CBS Sports and this is what he came away with:

Cashman said he spoke out Wednesday only because he wanted to be “transparent.” But some people who know him believe his strong comments were a sign of larger disputes within the Yankee front office.

Some people within the organization were telling friends that the divide between Cashman and the team’s Tampa operation is growing again, and even that ownership wasn’t happy with some of Cashman’s recent moves.

Last winter, Cashman traded for Javier Vazquez and signed Nick Johnson and Randy Winn as free agents, and none of those moves worked out well.

There was even talk that Cashman had mishandled the Lee negotiations by showing too much patience, rather than pushing to get a deal done quickly.

All of this and Cashman’s contract is up at the end of the season. If there really is a rift forming between Cashman and the Tampa faction, like there was after 2005, then two things could happen that could bring about a new GM for the Yankees.

The first thing is that Cashman could walk away. He’s been with this organization for decades and by all accounts absolutely loves his job, but after the 2005 season he nearly walked away because he felt like he was being undermined. Only when George Steinbrenner promised him more authority and complete autonomy over baseball decisions did he come back. If he feels the same way now that he felt in ’05 then he could just decide to walk away.

Another possibility is that Levine will make a power grab himself where he convinces Hal Steinbrenner to give him more authority. This doesn’t mean that Levine would try to make himself GM. More likely it would mean that Levine would try to have Cashman replaced with a GM who would be more likely to make the moves the Tampa faction wants to see.

The third possibility is that this is all being blown out of proportion. By all accounts the Steinbrenners really Cashman and will try to retain him after the 2011 season. Cashman may be against the decision to sign Soriano, but him speaking out publicly may be a way to protect his own butt down the road if the move doesn’t work out the way the Yankees hope it will.

Unfortunately we will not find out what’s really going on until Cashman’s contract is up at the end of the year. He may stay, but the stage is at least set for a change of guard after 2011.

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