Yankees GM Brian Cashman has taken quite a bit of heat this offseason. Unlike in December, 2009, during which Yankee fans were given CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett under the Christmas tree, with Mark Teixeira thrown in for good measure, the current offseason has been relatively quiet. Cashman has worked to retain the services of Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki, while re-upping the rehabbing Mariano Rivera. The major move thus far has been Kevin Youkilis, and as such, the natives are restless, “Where’s the big free agent signing?” “Where’s the big trade?” While it seems like nothing is happening at present in the pipeline, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees will continue to be quiet, as Cashman always seems to operate under the radar.
Just because the moves haven’t come the first day of free agency (this isn’t hockey folks), it doesn’t mean they won’t come for the Yankees. Anybody recall Jan. 13, 2013? With just about a month before pitchers and catchers were due to report to Tampa, Cashman made the most stealth move of the winter, picking up Michael Pineda and Jose Campos from Seattle for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. The proverbial jury may still be out on this trade: projected as a huge bat, Montero had a mediocre year offensively and an awful year defensively; Noesi was dreadful before a demotion to AAA; Pineda was lost for the year, and probably more, with a should labrum tear, and Campos suffered from a sore elbow that cost him much of the year. (For the record, a lot scouts and analysts said that Campos was really the hidden gem in the deal, even if he is in A ball and has quite a ways to go.) Thus far, it’s probably a wash, even if Seattle at least got production from their acquisitions in 2012. That said, should Pineda come back healthy, the Yankees acquired two solid pitching options completely under the radar. As we all know, pitching can get expensive in a hurry, and the fact that the farm system is restocking via the trade is a great thing. No one even knew this trade was going down until it happened, and certainly no one even knew the players involved were available. Cashman swooped in at the last moment and was able to secure a solid trade.
The other major recent move that the Yankees made came just before the trade deadline was the acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki. If only by getting the declining defense of Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones out of the outfield for the injured Brett Gardner, the move was solid. Beyond that, Ichiro was a nice spark plug for the offense, hitting well over .300 and giving an element of speed. More importantly, though, no one knew Ichiro was available. Though he was due to be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2012 season, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to assume that most people thought Ichiro was pretty much done as a player, and would remain a Mariner. Who else would have realistically thought that Ichiro was not only available, but would have been a target of the Yankees, too? It’s fair to say not many people at all. In acquiring him, the Yankees made a solid move that bolstered their team, and it was all done without anyone knowing anything of Cashman’s plans.
We have heard a lot of chatter this off-season, and a lot of prognosticating. Will the Yankees go after Justin Upton? What about trading Phil Hughes or Curtis Granderson? Clearly, Josh Hamilton was not a priority, as he signed with Anaheim, and Nick Swisher apparently wasn’t worth $56 million, as the Yankees let him walk to Cleveland. Given the track record, it’s fair to say that any trade or upgrade Cashman makes will be under-the-radar, and will unlikely be anything that any of us in the blogs/newspaper/media have spent hours carefully thinking about and writing about (because that would be too easy, right?). It wouldn’t shock me if Cashman sits tight until things become clearer as the season begins to form, and teams naturally drop out of the race, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if, in the next three weeks, something comes up that no one even stopped to consider.
The point of the matter is, despite the perceived “failure” of the off-season, there is still plenty of time. Further, just because a move isn’t done this off-season, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good chance for an upgrade down the road. For all the screaming about Cashman among the fans, he is actually one of the best and savviest GMs in the game, and arguably the master of stealth when it comes to trades and moves, always seeking out the previously unthinkable trades. He deserves the benefit of the doubt as we look forward to spring training. Be patient, Yankee fans — it’s a long off-season, and, if history is any indication, just because you’re not hearing rumors of a trade or upgrade doesn’t mean Brian Cashman doesn’t have something up his sleeve.