This holiday season, Brian Cashman is the regifter.
Because if you’re a Yankees fan, you’d better like the 2020 short-again Yankees. Because plan A is to put a bow on it and show it to you.
On back-to-back days, Tuesday and Wednesday, Aaron Boone and Cashman made it clear that re-signing DJ LeMahieu is the priority. They put it in such a way to suggest that the Yankees would find a way back to their best player, so public they were with their desire that things would look awful now if they don’t reunite.
But the way the Yankees move on with the budget likely set by Hal Steinbrenner would essentially formulate the 2021 Yankees. Maybe enough will remain for shoehorn in Masahiro Tanaka (though probably not) and probably Brett Gardner too. But that’s pretty much about reuniting the band that couldn’t beat the Rays in the AL East of Division Series in 2020.
What Cashman suggests is that last year’s Yankees were a team of championships that didn’t play at that level. That in fact it could be reversed with Luis Severino and Domingo German stepping into voids left by JA Happ, James Paxton and maybe Tanaka and that the end result could be a virus-free parade at the Canyon of Heroes next November.
As Cashman told reporters at a Zoom conference, “We are already starting this process with a strong group;” “There aren’t many weaknesses;” and “I have a very strong core and an almost full roster that we are proud of.”
Cashman admitted that the 2020 team did not play consistently, but that the two-game sweep against the Indians in the first round showed what those Yankees were capable of when they “shot all cylinders.” But the Central Division teams in each league showed themselves to be playoff fraudsters, having gotten there mainly by getting out of the mediocrity fostered by a regionalized short-season schedule. So two games against the Indians is not a bell.
In addition, Cashman again mentioned pitching injuries at Paxton, Severino and Tommy Kahnle, admitting to daydreaming that if the season were 100 games, what could have happened to Paxton back from an injury and German from a domestic violence suspension. Other than what likely would have happened, are more Yankee injuries with those extra 40 games – injuries have been the most consistent part of the team for the past two years.
Plus, the Yanks should stop talking about throwing injuries as an alibi. The Rays had more throwing injuries with a payroll of a third of the Yankees. Yonny Chirinos was just as good as Paxton in 2019, making two starts (three) less than Paxton in 2020. Add Jose Alvarado, Jalen Beeks, Oliver Drake, Andrew Kittredge, Brendan McKay, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe and there’s at least Severino and Kahnle.
“I thought last year’s team was really talented and we didn’t maximize that talent,” Cashman said. “That’s up to me.”
Cashman hasn’t diminished his belief in that talent by retaining Gary Sanchez, still projecting Gleyber Torres on short stop, and building an off-season strategy around keeping LeMahieu.
“Our intention is to find a way to make it happen,” said Cashman.
Cashman wouldn’t reveal Steinbrenner’s budget, but it’s pretty clear the Yankees aren’t crossing the $ 210 million luxury tax threshold. The GM admitted that: “We only dip toes in different waters [the LeMahieu situation] explains itself. Translation: The Yanks have about $ 30 million – $ 35 million to spend on what Cashman predicted will still be the largest payroll in the majors. So it’s hard to move on from other items until the Yanks are sure that they keep LeMahieu and, if so, for how much per year?
Cashman called it a “last resort” to create a deadline with LeMahieu so that other alternatives don’t disappear. It’s a slow moving market. But Lance Lynn, for example, has already come off the board in a trade. Japanese ace Tomoyuki Sugano must be signed on January 7th before his secondment ends. Jake Odorizzi is probably approaching a decision.
So potentially less expensive options for Tanaka come and go and spin experience, depth and innings are huge issues. Gerrit Cole gives the Yankees an ace. And Cashman talks about how good the rotation could be with health and benefits from Severino, German, Deivi Garcia and Jordan Montgomery – with support from Michael King, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure.
Alternatives will be introduced in January, February and even March. The Yanks will jump into the secondary market and try to find the next Chad Green or Gio Urshela. But the sooner the Yanks can resolve LeMahieu, the more considerations they have to supplement or replace around him. For now, “The strong wish is for LeMahieu to return and play second,” said Cashman.
The plan for now is to basically go back to the future – the 2020 Yankees will be the 2021 version. Is the regift a gift or a booby prize?