John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
TAMPA, Fla. -- So why didn't the Yankees sign Manny Machado?
On Friday, GM Brian Cashman answered that question in detail for the first time, speaking for some 30 minutes to reporters on the field here during a workout at about the same time Machado was being introduced in San Diego.
Through all the verbiage, he made perhaps three most significant points:
- The Yankees preferred to spread their available money around.
- Troy Tulowitzki's unexpected availability changed their offseason game plan.
- To the fans screaming "if only George were still alive," Cashman said that argument is obsolete. Times have changed so much in terms of the business of baseball.
Ok, if your first reaction is surprise -- or skepticism -- that Tulowitzki's availability played such an important role in the Yankees' decision-making, well, I'm with you. But I'll get to that.
Let's start with spreading the available dollars around, using them to fortify the starting rotation and bullpen mostly, rather than commit $300 million to any one player.
"Every dollar affects somebody else's dollar," Cashman put it. "So we walked the path of diversification and we feel we've improved our club."
And that's fine, as I wrote earlier this week, as long as the Yankees get back to winning championships. Otherwise, it will be fair to ask if Hal Steinbrenner should have invested in a difference-maker like Machado, or even Bryce Harper for that matter.
To that point, Cashman essentially said he should be the one held accountable if a championship isn't won in the near future.
"The message from my perspective is we like our club," the GM said. "The product is strong. But if it's not good enough, then judge me on my recommendations to ownership on that."
In saying that, Cashman seemed to be trying to take Steinbrenner off the hook as to the perception that the Yankees could easily afford to sign Machado on top of what they did to strengthen the pitching.
Put it this way: Machado certainly would have made the Yankees better than the combination of Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu.
Which brings us back to Tulo, the 34-year old shortstop whom the Blue Jays released this winter, even though they still owed him $38 million. The Yankees are paying him only the mimimum salary, which is great if he can be productive.
"Once the Tulo thing came in play it kind of changed some of the equation for us, clearly," Cashman said. "It allowed us to secure a player that we're excited about what he can potentially do while Didi [Gregorius] is due to come back. And we were able to pull down some arms that we really like in the bullpen."
Cashman was also asked whether the Yankees would have been more likely to spend $300 million on a player if they hadn't like what they'd seen in Tulowitzki.
"I didn't say that," he said.
Still, Cashman made it sound like the Yankees found Tulowitzki's availability too good to be true, which seems like quite a stretch considering his injury history, even beyond the double-heel surgery that forced him to miss all of last season.
Yet, the Yankees GM made the case that Tulowitzki's heel problem was the root cause for other leg injuries in recent years.
"We're banking on the problem being fixed," Cashman said. "He was going down with a number of injuries that were the direct result of both heels. We have to recognize that we have to protect him and make sure we keep him fresh, but we're very excited about what we see, and the athleticism he possesses."
It still seems like a leap of faith, but if Tulowitzki turns out to be the bargain of the year, well, the Yankees will deserve kudos for believing in him.
Finally, to the point Cashman made that times have changed since the days of George Steinbrenner spending whatever it took to sign the best players, there is something to that.
Clearly Hal Steinbrenner is not as obsessed with winning as his father, but it's true that developments such as luxury-tax penalties, revenue-sharing, and capped spending on amateur talent via the draft and the international market all have made it more difficult for the Yankees to flex their financial muscle.
"Those days are gone," Cashman said. "The system now is completely different from what The Boss had free reign on, and most of the preventative measures are because of George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees. The game now rewards -- and reward might not be the right word -- but it rewards losing. It drags teams that are struggling back up into the winning environment, and penalizes teams that have been winning by pushing them back.
"We're real proud that we haven't been dragged down yet. We're doing as many counter-measures to that as we possibly can. But you can't have every great player. We're still spending a ton of money."
Cashman went on to defend the state of the Yankees' farm system and the ongoing effort to develop home-grown players, and when the questions finally stopped, he said, "I haven't talked this long in a long time."
Bottom line, he clearly felt it was important to defend the decision not to sign Machado. And while he made some legitimate points, two of his words are sure to be remembered most if the Yankees don't win big in 2019.
"Judge me," Cashman said.
The deliberating will begin soon enough.