After 20 years acting as the steering wheel ultimately under ownership's grip, Brian Cashman is now fully in control of the accelerator, the brakes, and direction of the Yankees' organization.
We began to see Cashman's power strengthen in the summer of 2016 when the mighty, cash-swelled Yankees, did the unthinkable and traded significant assets in order to boost an already improving farm system. The Yankees' sell-off required convincing of ownership, as did the recent decision to move away from the club's manager Joe Girardi after 10 seasons.
Make no mistake, permission is more like a formality at this point; Cashman is clearly running the team the way he sees fit.
While the Yankees' rebuild on the field looks to be coming together incredibly quickly, it's not complete. At a time when leadership continuity may have seemed the safe choice, Cashman went out on a limb to change the manager -- maybe more the managerial style -- as well as potentially replacing the entire coaching staff.
In doing so, he has diverted attention from roster construction to his next endeavor -- the coaching staff. Cashman's decision for the next manager will become the story if it fails, but his desire to put one more fingerprint on his recent handy work is understandable.
Cashman had been critiqued by many to be handed the fruits of Gene "Stick" Michael's and Bob Watson's work when the then 30-year-old became the Yankees general manager before the 1998 season. Over the years, many suggested Cashman benefited from the sizable Yankees' payroll, and to a certain extent that was true. However, it's been clear to those paying attention that he was responsible for some fine "secondary" moves while having to acquiesce to an ownership hierarchy that envisioned star-studded players propping up the organization.
Cashman and his staff worked drafts and international signings with the utmost care over the last several years, understanding that if he could create high-level talent amid the farm system, it would eventually be easier to convey the benefits of roster balance to ownership. While the Yankees have desired to pare down payroll on several occasions, the 2018 season represents the first chance to legitimately get below the luxury tax and still compete at a high level.
As he shifted and acquired assets through trades and minimized new free agent spending in recent seasons, Cashman has created a major league roster teeming with athletic talent and accompanied by veterans that fully complement the youth movement. The final imprint for him to make is on the managerial/coaching front. After an up and down and ultimately surprising 2017 season, Cashman jumped on the chance for a signature change, using the disputes with Girardi and the manager's high-intensity persona as his evidential reasoning.
Over the coming days - probably weeks - we'll begin to see a clearer picture of how Cashman wants to move forward. The current assumption is that he wants a younger, analytical mind that also possesses the ability to connect with the players at a different level than Girardi. It is possible Girardi's intensity was too much for the players, especially as they did their best (and seemingly succeeded) to create a loose clubhouse environment. While it doesn't appear that Girardi was opposed to the tie-loosening, he may not have fully embraced it.
Further, for as analytical as Girardi was, it is certainly possible that the way he formulated game plans based on the information ran contrary to Cashman's (and his front office personnel's) vision.
Cashman obviously believes new managerial blood is required to take the next step and while the decision is completely reasonable, it is also gutsy.
To this point, Cashman has been lauded - and rightfully so - for the roster transformation. Cashman is a favorite for MLB Executive of the Year awards because of the exceptional results surrounding the solid foundation for winning he has created with player personnel. However, Cashman's decision to move away from Girardi has taken the focus away from the players, even though he is still working that process.
When talking about Cashman's legacy, the results of this managerial change will either add to the fantastic roster reconstruction or derail it. If the Yankees continue to make inroads with the players, but switching managers is perceived to fail to push the group to the World Series and ultimately a 28th title, the focus becomes Cashman's choice to make changes in an area many believe was just fine.
Cashman has clearly taken full control of the organizational process; his fingerprints will be all over each facet which will earn him heaps of praise or a ticket out of New York.