In less than one week, Brian Cashman has transformed his public image from that of Stand Pat Gillick to Frank “Trader” Lane. Or better yet, he has pulled a few pages from the playbook of Whitey Herzog. Better still, he seems to have reincarnated the spirit of Charlie Finley. In making three deals in under seven days, Cashman has launched a massive effort to re-tool the Yankees for what they hope is a strong two-month push for a playoff spot out of the stacked American League East.
I’ve been highly critical of Cashman throughout the season, taking issue with his lack of initiative and creativity, a seeming unwilligness to make trades of any sort, and an over-obsession with retaining every single minor league prospect within the Yankee organization. Well, Cashman has shut me up but good by executing three trades, all of which seem to tilt heavily in the Yankees’ favor. First, he swindled Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates without having to give up a single one of his most prized pitching gems (Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy or Mark Melancon). Second, he satisfied the team’s gaping need for a competent hitting catcher by swiping Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez from the Tigers for Kyle Farnsworth, who had become expendable because of the emergence of several young right-handed relievers. And then late last night, he pulled off a lesser–but still impressive–deal, when he dumped batting practice right-hander LaTroy Hawkins on the Astros for minor league second baseman Matt Cusick, who was putting up good numbers in Class-A ball.
In making these three swaps, Cashman has succeeded in directly addressing several Yankee needs. He has bolstered the team’s right-handed hitting with both Nady and Rodriguez, solved the catching quandary with I-Rod, bolstered the team’s paper-thin bench, added a capable left-handed reliever in Marte for the late innings, and succeeded in ridding the Yankees of their least effective pitcher. At a time when the Yankees appeared to have a realistic chance of filling only one or two of their multiple needs, Cashman addressed all of the problem areas– with one exception. All that’s left is to bolster the starting rotation, which could happen today with a trade for Jarrod Washburn, or could happen later, if Hughes, Kennedy and/or the injured Chien-Ming Wang find their way back to the Bronx.
Need some right-handed hitting and a lefty reliever? Check. Need a catcher who can hit more than .225? Check? Need to get a warm body for our worst pitcher? Check.
Better said, lets’ call it, “Checkmate.” That’s just how good Brian Cashman’s moves have been over the last six days.