The New York Yankees have general manager Brian Cashman’s back, because all they’ve done this season is prove why he’s been the leader of the front office for the past two decades despite constant criticism.
Hand up, we’ve been there. In fact, we truly believed signing Freddie Freeman was a non-negotiable consolation prize if Cashman wasn’t going to upgrade at shortstop. It’s not that we didn’t like Anthony Rizzo … it was just that Freeman provided the necessary star power to elevate the Yankees and make them forget about the team not bringing in a star shortstop from one of the best free agency classes ever.
In the end, Cashman didn’t sign a shortstop and re-signed Rizzo. The result? The best record in baseball, and a whole lot of drama averted.
If you caught any of last weekend’s Los Angeles Dodgers-Atlanta Braves series, it featured Freeman’s return to ATL for the first time since leaving the only team he’s ever known in free agency. And it was an emotional scene.
Then it turned contentious. Freeman fired his agent after the weekend in what was peculiar timing, all but officially suggesting he was upset that Excel Sports Management couldn’t get him to reunite with the Braves, which was his preferred destination.
Then, rumors came out suggesting Freeman’s agent never communicated an offer from the Braves in an effort to get him to take more money with the Dodgers — though that was debunked in an official statement from Excel’s Casey Close. And then you have Ken Rosenthal’s piece suggesting the Braves were content with how the situation played out because they were able to get younger and sign Matt Olson to a more cost-effective contract.
The Yankees avoiding Freddie Freeman was actually a … blessing?
Reports from the offseason suggested Cashman and the Yankees took themselves out of the Freeman bidding, and then when the Dodgers signed him for $162 million fans were enraged. Why couldn’t the Yankees do that? Wasn’t necessarily an overspend and, though it made the team older, Freeman hardly ever misses time.
Turns out … perhaps Cashman decided not to waste another second because it was evident how Freeman was prioritizing the Braves — something that’s now clear based on his emotional reaction to returning to ATL and the residual controversy.
And imagine the Yankees dealing with this? They wouldn’t hear the end of it. It’d be consuming news cycles with the team being the focus rather than Freeman, the Braves, Doug Gottlieb (who dropped the “rumor”), or Excel. It’d somehow turn into “Look What the Yankees Did!”
Freeman’s been one of the best hitters in the league again in 2022 (.308 AVG, .888 OPS and 145 OPS+), but Rizzo is undoubtedly a better clubhouse guy based on the rave reviews he’s gotten from Cubs and Yankees players. He also has more RBI, more than double the home runs, and a comparable OPS+ (136).
New York might not have a first baseman for the long haul, but they can perhaps figure it out year to year with Rizzo, who was clearly the appropriate fit at a fraction of the cost. Didn’t come with baggage, either.