Of all the criticisms I’ve heard about Brian Cashman, one of my favorites (and by favorites I mean that I find most ludicrous) came this past offseason, when many accused him of having no “plan B” after he failed to sign Cliff Lee.
Anyone who reads my postings here knows that I am a fan of Brian Cashman, but come on: can anyone – even those who dislike him – honestly think he had no plan? He runs the most famous sports franchise in the world. Despite taking time to repel down buildings in elf costumes around Christmas time, there is no way a person as hard working as Cashman is will not explore every avenue. Being GM isn’t a part-time job (though I’m not sure anyone ever told Omar Minaya that). The Yankees have a vast information network of scouts and advisors that Cashman has access to. If all the work Cashman did this offseason was sit down and say “We’ll sign Cliff Lee,” well, I’m pretty sure he would no longer be employed.
It seems like even Yankee executives though bought into the hype and thought Cashman had no legitimate alternate plan; so they went and got Rafael Soriano. Hank Steinbrenner even tried to sell Soriano as the replacement for Lee.
Here’s the thing though: there was no replacement for Lee. The Yankees were either going to overpay Lee (which they happily would have), grossly overpay some middle tier guy like Jorge de la Rosa, trade the farm for an imperfect fit like Zack Greinke, or go to the scrap heap. Cashman decided his plan B was to go to the scrap heap. People didn’t like this plan – so much so that they refused to even call it a plan.
So Cashman went out and got Bartolo Colon. He signed Freddy Garcia. He signed Kevin Millwood, Carlos Silva, and Mark Prior to minor league deals. He shored up the catcher position with Russell Martin.
We’re seeing now that these were not as minor of moves as it may have seemed. Cashman gave up no prospects and did not offer any long term deals and yet he found a way to improve the club. Now he can wait and sign the big free agent he really wants or trade for the player he really wants (or even better, have some prospects develop and contribute).
Colon has only tossed 18 innings, Garcia has made just 1 good start, and Martin’s hot start could easily be a product of a small sample size. But that is kind of the point: the Yankees have other cheap options available and the plan all along was to keep trying things and see what works. Since all these guys have essentially no risk attached to them, anything they do is a bonus for the Yankees. This sort of “wait and see” approach is not as satisfying for fans as they evaluate a team’s offseason, but it is proving pretty effective thus far for the Yankees.