According to Brian Cashman's post-trade deadline assessment, he viewed the 2023 Yankees as a sleeping giant that was about to click and deserved reinforcements.
According to Brian Cashman's mid-trade deadline actions, the 2023 Yankees were a stain on society, and didn't deserve anything further than a move-to-make-a-move in the form of Keynan Middleton.
If Cashman had properly assessed that his team was a flop, he would've sold off several rental pieces in an effort to recoup something from this rare lost season (and yes, there are rumors floating around that Hal Steinbrenner actually ordered the Code Red and stopped the sale).
If he was stopped in his tracks and forced to "go for it"? Well, then he certainly could've done better than Keynan Middleton -- at quite a low cost.
Every single year, there are teams within striking distance of a Wild Card who piece together a few vibe-shifters and change everything, facilitating a magical run. The MVP of the Red Sox 2018 World Series was literally Steve Pearce; Boston "slumped" (comparatively) in the second half, then regained their 108-win form in October. The 2021 Braves added several outfielders you wouldn't be blown away by individually (Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler), but once October rolled around, they merged into one four-headed wrecking crew. Where would the 2022 Phillies have been without Brandon Marsh and David Robertson?
All of this to say: Yankees fans didn't want to believe in this team a few weeks back because they were accustomed to being let down, but it wasn't impossible to foresee a turnaround with, say, two additional bats and a prospect promotion. Only problem? Brian Cashman has never presented an understanding of how to add the right pair of subtle pieces to the chemistry mix. Dave Dombrowski of the Phillies? Sure, he's known for busting farm systems like Boss Tweed, but he's also built a good portion of his baseball life on this type of thing. He nabbed Pearce. He snagged Marsh. He got World Series hero Eduardo Nuñez for a pittance.
And he did it again this summer, adding right-hander Michael Lorenzen for mid-tier Phillies prospect (now Detroit's No. 6 on MLB Pipeline) Hao-Yu Lee. It's the exact variety of move Cashman never seems willing to attempt -- one where you could lose on a misjudged prospect, but you could win spectacularly by capturing magic. In Wednesday's no-hitter, Lorenzen was magical.
Dave Dombrowski pressed right button again, Yankees' Brian Cashman left holding empty bag
The Phillies are America's All-Vibes Team. The Yankees? They're setting off the Vibes Meter at airport security for possessing dangerously low levels of vibes. Yeah, yeah, it's supposed to be over three ounces of vibes. They want you to bring vibes on a plane.
Sadly, Brian Cashman is too afraid of losing a trade to ever attempt to win one. The depressing irony is that he spent so much time these past few summers crafting trades with universal acclaim meant to mitigate risk, then somehow ended up imploding his reputation more than ever. Joey Gallo? Come on! Yankees Twitter was begging for Joey Gallo. And all he had to give up were some players he didn't intend to protect from the Rule 5 Draft that offseason?! Win! Until it wasn't. Until it provided the most monumentally incorrect vibe shift we've ever seen ... until that was topped the next summer by bringing in an injured Frankie Montas and sending Jordan Montgomery to St. Louis at the horn.
Again, the polar opposite of a carefully-curated Vibe Bomb.
Cashman wants to please everyone and no one. He doesn't want to pass an uncomfortable budget threshold, but he also doesn't want to surrender. He doesn't want to attack at the deadlne (or in, say, June), but he doesn't want to be left empty-handed. He doesn't want to be criticized for thinking outside the box. He wants to do what the media wants him to do, so at the end of the day, he can say, "Hey, you agreed with me at the time!"
Dave Dombrowski? He just wants to win. And he pulled off his favorite trick again by supplementing his Wild Card roster with Lorenzen, who could've easily helped New York in their pursuit of freshening up the locker room at their lost deadline.