NEW YORK – Brian Cashman’s concerns have changed. The Yankees general manager left spring training reflecting on the status of his starting rotation, which was lacking three of his five perceived batters. Then a dizzying surge of injuries wiped out the starting lineup, avoiding bold-faced names like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
Cashman doesn’t need reminding that the American League East is a strong division, and with a record 16-15 going into play on Wednesday, his club sits 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Rays. He notes that the schedule is only five completed and says he still believes he has created a winning slate, if and when the key pieces come into play.
“Don’t abandon us. That’s all I can tell you; Cashman said. “We have a good group of people – on the player side, the staff, the support staff. It’s a tournament level process from that perspective, but we’re not currently flying as well as we were expecting, because we’re missing some very important pieces.”
What does the organization consider to be its biggest problem?
The Yankees have nearly $152 million of their 2023 payroll on the injured list, a group headed by Judge, Stanton, Carlos Rodon, Josh Donaldson and Luis Severino. Judge could be back as soon as Monday versus Oakland, and Severino is set to start his Minor League rehab assignment with Single-A Tampa this week, but the others are still weeks away.
From an offensive perspective, these Bronx Bombers haven’t lived up to the title: New York has scored two runs or fewer in 13 games, a number that leads the great players. On the offensive side, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Franchy Cordero, Aaron Hicks, and Willie Calhoun all received more playing time than expected.
“The team that we’ve got right now, it’s not really the team we expected,” Cashman said. “It happens on an ongoing basis; usually, you lose a guy or two along the way. But we’ve lost more than one or two people along the way. We patch up the gaps as best we can at this time of year.”
The Yankees should pin their hopes on improving health. Cashman has said several times that they hope to “walk in water” until their co-stars return. He does not see the market as conducive to promotions or acquisitions. The free agent market is pretty barren, and opposing teams don’t usually look to offload talent until at least the All-Star break.
“Ultimately, my staff and I are constantly looking to see what’s available,” Cashman said. “The time of year is tough—April, May, June. If you ask me this question in the winter or even March, what’s your biggest fear in the early part of the season? All the general managers will say you don’t want to be ruined by injuries early.”
What’s wrong with conditioning and training?
The Yankees hired Eric Cressy in January 2020, asking the famed performance coach to overhaul their training and strength/conditioning programs. Those changes seemed to work when they were healthy in the first half of the 2022 season, but now injury updates dominate each of coach Aaron Boone’s pre-match interviews.
“It’s unfortunate, and the question you asked is always fair to ask,” Cashman said. “I think we have really good staff on the healthcare side of this thing — doctors, coaches, strength coaches. I think we have players who have the right attitude, who care and who are competitive. … Our manager and coaching staff have been through those things before.”
Hal Steinbrenner said the Yankees were “not done yet”. What happened?
Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, made the comment in New York on Dec. 21. Judge and Rodon’s signatures were already complete, and Steinbrenner seemed to point to more moves on the horizon. Cashman said the club aimed to trade some of its surpluses (perhaps Gleyber Torres or Kiner-Falefa) for a left field promotion, with Oswaldo Cabrera and Hicks sharing the duties, but those moves did not materialise.
“I don’t think there was anything on the table that I could have knocked down and made a difference,” Cashman said. “We were definitely scouting a lot of effort; if you look at our roster, we were deep in the ballpark. We were looking for opportunities to trade from an area of strength if we got the right value. We didn’t get the right value. I don’t see any missed opportunities with whatever was out there.” .
Any regrets about last year’s trade deadline?
NO DEBATE: Cashman’s maneuvers aren’t over at the 2022 trade deadline. Right fielder Lou Trevino underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, joining Scott Efros and Frankie Montas in undergoing the procedures. Harrison Bader and Andrew Benintende (now with the White Sox) also dealt with injuries; In Bader’s case, he was injured when he was acquired.
Cashman protected his baseball operations department by saying any blame should rest with him, then added that there was nothing they could have done differently in terms of due diligence on players’ medical reports.
“I certainly hope last year’s trade deadline was better,” Cashman said. “Injuries happen, and eventually we get a lot of injuries right now. It definitely kills us. But I don’t have anything I can convict. If you want to convict someone, convict me. That’s my responsibility.”
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