Long-time Yankees GM Brian Cashman is not merely working within the new mold of roster construction in baseball as he guides the Bombers. Instead, Cashman has been facilitating its creation -- and the groundwork goes back longer than one might think.
Within an excerpt from a new book (published in the NY Post), "Inside the Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees," written by Bob Klapisch and Paul Solotaroff, we got a glimpse into the discussions leading up to the deal that brought Giancarlo Stanton to the Yanks. Klapisch and Solotaroff also paint the picture of what general managers strive to highlight in the new age of building rosters -- youthful dominance -- and how Cashman has been able to alter the club's methodology.
An aspect that might go unnoticed among the casual fan is that Cashman and the Yankees were working the youth angle well before what some believe to be the start -- the "sell-off" leading up to missing the 2016 postseason. That summer, the Yankees replenished a middling farm system and boosted the minor league organization's status to among the best in the game. But the basis for the current core was already established.
Consider this: Yankees right fielder and 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge was drafted in 2013 with the 32nd overall pick (it was the team's second pick of three in that draft's first round). Gary Sanchez, who finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2016 while playing just 53 games, was signed by the Yankees in 2009. Two-time All Star and a top-10 finisher in AL Cy Young balloting in each of the last two seasons, Luis Severino and 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner up Miguel Andujar were each signed in 2011.
Of course, no one can say Cashman or the Yankees knew for certain that these players would pan out, but the notion to invest beyond MLB's free agent market clearly began when New York intensified spending in the international market, while concentration on their draft efforts were heightened.
What Cashman has going for him in the age of youthful dominance in baseball is the ability to mesh the stringent requirements to maintain a bountiful farm system with the potential to overwhelm opposing clubs with the Steinbrenner's financial might. Further, Cashman has convinced ownership in recent seasons that surplus spending for spending's sake is not a necessity to success, but wise expenditures would produce a potential championship club year in and year out.
As such, Klapisch and Solotaroff point to the offseason leading up to the 2018 season as one with a different feel for Cashman.
"After fifteen years of being a reluctant shopper - the one guy who showed up every winter with strict orders to overpay for back-nine players - Cashman, the general manager of the New York Yankees, was suddenly in the catbird seat."
The Yankees didn't have to pull off a reactionary blockbuster free agent signing in the 2017-2018 winter because Judge, Sanchez and Severino had helped push the team ahead of projections. Instead, the club was intent on bringing payroll costs below the luxury tax threshold in an effort to eliminate the millions dollars deposited into a fund that aided other clubs.
While some fans feel the lack of a World Series title since 2009 equals zero success, Cashman and ownership believe that the organization's roster construction strategy will reap extended potential to win titles without having to consistently blow past MLB's competitive balance tax threshold.
"My job is to get as much talent as I can so we take a shot at the title. If I do my job well, we'll get multiple shots," Cashman told the authors.
As Klapisch and Solotaroff point out, the Yankees were fortunate to have the young stars (literally and figuratively) align, which allowed the team to pursue Stanton and stay under the luxury tax threshold for the first time in 15 years so that the tax rate would reset. Consequently, the Yankees were able to make a key trade for James Paxton, complete free agent expenditures in the offseason -- Zack Britton, Brett Gardner, J.A. Happ, DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino and CC Sabathia -- and provide extensions to Severino and Aaron Hicks, all of which has pushed the team along the edge of the second tier of luxury tax penalties in 2019.
The free agent signings might not have been the ones that many fans and industry experts expected with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper -- 26-year-old generational talents -- available.
Despite arguably having roster space to add either of the two players, the Yankees decided to double down on Andujar instead of pursuing Machado and its apparent that New York valued Stanton (in terms of straight dollars and performance value) over Harper. Moreover, the Yankees prefer invested in its own youthful core evidenced by the extensions to Severino and Hicks and similar discussions anticipated to be held in the near future with Judge.
In years past, the era with "The Boss" George Steinbrenner at the helm, avoiding Machado and Harper would have been unheard of after the Yankees took a step back in terms of postseason progress. It wouldn't have been without a fight from Cashman, who was often painted (and still is to an extent) as a mere puppet to the Steinbrenner in charge.
"He and George (Steinbrenner) would have scream festivals for hours," says Jean Afterman, the assistant GM of the Yankees, whose office at the new Stadium is next to Cashman's. "I'd close my door but could hear them down the hall. Brian backs down from no one - that's why George loved him."
Cashman likely doesn't have to yell at George's sons to get his roster points across.
This Yankees roster is a Cashman creation -- one that began construction many years ago even while money was thrown around without abandon. Under Cashman's guidance, the Yankees are set up to utilize player resources from varying angles. And when the organization wants to it can show financial might to keep their own stars and invest in the free agent market all in an effort to continuously compete for a World Series title.