End of Year Pressers: Hicks needs Tommy John, Voit, Tanaka, rehab process, top-end pitchers

Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone had their end-of-year press conferences. Per usual, the big news came out of Cashman’s end. In the below clip, he summarizes the surgery news for the Yankees coming out of October.

Let’s get into all the news from the pressers, starting with Hicks’ long rehab.

Aaron Hicks to undergo Tommy John surgery

This was a big blow at the top of the presser. The Yankees’ centerfielder will undergo surgery on Oct. 30 and will miss 8-10 months in the rehab process. That’s the same timeline that Didi Gregorius followed last year and he had surgery only a week earlier in the year. That being said, Didi’s quick return (early June) may not be indicative of Hicks’ process.

This isn’t the Yankees being proactive and getting it early. “He’s getting Tommy John because he needs it,” Cashman said. Hicks gets plenty of value out of his cannon-ball arm, just as Didi has.

Though Cashman wouldn’t answer questions about the team’s plans this offseason, he said that the team doesn’t question whether Gardner can handle center field offensively and defensively after his standout 2019 season. A reunion could be in the cards to have Gardy handle center.

A question about Jacoby Ellsbury in center field elicited a sigh from Cashman, who indicated Ellsbury was not available health-wise at this moment.

Voit and Tanaka surgeries

Luke Voit had surgery on his core muscles after suffering a sports hernia at midseason, while Masahiro Tanaka already underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. Both players are expected to be ready for Spring Training.

For Voit, that helps explain why he didn’t get an opportunity in October. His injury was old news, so him needing surgery wasn’t out of the blue.

No elbow surgery is minor, but Tanaka’s surgery sounds minor relative to other potential elbow issues. Cashman stated that it was status quo on his UCL ligament and the bone spurs were discovered as part of end-of-the-year checkups. It didn’t change his season from start-to-start or anything, Cashman indicated.

Conditioning and Rehab Questions

A major topic in the presser was the Yankees’ injuries and how they dealt with them in 2019. That’s no surprise: The team set an MLB record with 30 players going on the injured list. Multiple players had setbacks or new injuries while rehabbing this season.

Cashman said that the team is “laser-focused” on the strength and conditioning process and whether issues that came up were preventable. These statements reiterated the ones he made at mid-year about the team’s mounting injuries.

Meanwhile, he refused to say if the team has made alterations to their process. The Yankees’ GM said that if changes are made in process or hirings, that the media will be made aware.

This problem isn’t going away. The Yankees have many players returning who have injury concerns or a checkered past there, and how the team prepares them to not only get on the field but stay there without setback is key to a successful 2020.

‘Passing’ on World Series-bound pitchers

The most fascinating exchange in the presser? WFAN’s Sweeney Murti pushed Cashman on the Yankees’ inability to reel in some of the top pitchers that now adorn the top of the Astros’ and Nationals’ rotations. Namely, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Patrick Corbin.

The back-and-forth was somewhat heated, and Cashman refused to say that the Yankees “passed” on those players. He did go into the reasoning for each non-move:

  • Verlander: As he has said previously, it came down to not going over the luxury tax in 2017. Editorializing, it’s disappointing that the Bombers couldn’t exceed that, but that’s been the consistent answer.
  • Cole: “Houston made an offer that in Pittsburgh’s mind was a better offer than ours,” Cashman said. At the time, reports had the Pirates asking for both Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar. In retrospect, you do that trade in a heartbeat, right? But we’re no longer in the winter of 2017. Could the Yankees have topped Houston’s offer and were they given an opportunity to do so? Yes and maybe.
  • Corbin: “The Nationals made a more significant offer for Patrick Corbin,” Cashman said. Last winter, the reports said that the Yankees were unwilling to go to six years for Corbin.

Regardless of how those all played out, Cashman remained steadfast in his approach and didn’t regret the process.

Randy will address this exchange in a piece soon.

Other Health Issues

Cashman said Edwin Encarnacion was fully healthy this postseason, citing his swings in the ALDS and ALCS. He doubts there was a lingering injury with the ribcage.

Giancarlo Stanton suffered a low grade II calf strain and would have been placed on the IL if it were the regular season. Cashman made the choice — right or wrong, he emphasized — to keep Stanton on the roster so he could contribute in the World Series (If a player is removed from the ALCS roster due to injury, they can’t rejoin for the World Series). “I weighed that as being more valuable than someone to come into the bench,” he said.

Leftovers

  • When asked about the team’s budget and willingness to go over the luxury tax levels, Cashman said he wouldn’t speak for Hal Steinbrenner. He added that ownership has spent some big coin in the past.
  • On the team losing in the ALCS: He said he’s “not afraid to admit this was a great team” and that they went up against a great team. He spoke to the importance of remaining objective and not getting too emotional in his decision-making afterward.
  • Cashman said the team lost because they didn’t get timely hitting against the Astros, particularly with runners in scoring position. He didn’t feel that the ALCS dissuaded him from a superbullpen approach.
  • Bradford William Davis asked him about some of the reliever’s comments about the over-exposure of the bullpen. Cashman spoke about the team taking a hit when they lost “one of the best starters in the American League” in September with Domingo German. He also mentioned Dellin Betances’ injury and how losing those two players had a “cascade effect,” forcing them to lean more on certain pitchers.
  • He was asked about Gary Sanchez and Cashman thought Sanchez had a great season outside of his injuries. Said he was “part of the solution.”
  • He “politely ducked” a question about Aroldis Chapman’s pending opt-out and any conversations that may or may not be taking place between the Yankees and his representatives.
  • Finally, when asked about Joe Girardi reportedly becoming the Phillies’ manager, the GM was highly complimentary of his former skipper, going into the process of hiring him.

Aaron Boone’s presser

Just a few notes here. I may have missed some things following Cashman’s presser, but Cashman also had more newsworthy questions.

  • He was in line with Cashman on why the Yankees lost in the ALCS, saying the series came down to execution and the Astros had a couple more impactful at-bats.
  • Boone mentioned the team needs to tighten up some areas and, in a follow-up, said the team never stops trying to do that.
  • He said he can’t watch the Jose Altuve homer and walks away from the TV when it comes up. Having hit a famous series-ending homer himself, Boone stated the obvious, that it is better being on the other side.
  • He said his dad, a scout for the Astros Nationals, is on his way to DC for the World Series.
  • Boone didn’t have an issue with at-bat quality in the ALCS. He said the team’s first-pitch swinging approach came in part due to the caliber of opponent. He spoke about Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander by name and thought the Yankees gave themselves a chance against both pitchers.

For the full Cashman presser, you can get Part 1 here and Part II here. For Boone’s presser, here’s the full video.

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8 Comments

  1. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    This entire medical and training staff needs to be put out to pasture, Steven. Players are dropping like flies and they’ll keep getting injured in the offseason. First Hicks needed TJS then he was fine and now he needs it and will be out half the season next year. I’m sorry but Stevie Donahue looks more like Homer Simpson than an “athletic trainer.” Do you think he’s a beacon of health in that clubhouse? And Dr. Ahmad has misdiagnosed everybody from ARod to Teixera to Betances to Hicks.

    Passing on Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Patrick Corbin has cost us at least 3 WS in the past 9 years and probably many more. This seems to be a theme with this GM. Astros GM goes for it. Nats GM goes for it. Sox GM went for it last year and what I loved about what they did was they fired him this year because he didn’t win. We used to have that kind of win first attitude around here. Cashman hasn’t won one in a decade and only one in the past two decades yet nothing ever happens to him.

    Phillies got themselves a hell of a manager yesterday and I think they just punched their ticket to the World Series next year. Wish we had a manager like that who instantly makes you a WS contender.

    Anyone notice how the Nats have no problems hitting Cole and Verlander? These two were supposedly unhittable and a weak hitting NL club scores 20 runs off them. It’s because the Nats actually have a lineup that doesn’t strike out 50 times a game. That should be a big flashing signal to Cashman to go out and get more guys like DJ and less guys like Encarnacion. We don’t need any more big left handed hairy monsters who do nothing but kill rallies in October.

  2. Paul John Fiore

    In the old days the Yankees would have been embarassed by this season. So happy Cashman isn’t “losing any sleep” over his lackluster performance as GM. He’ll let the fans do that!

  3. Dan A

    The bottom line is the Yanks would have gotten JV or Corbin if not for Hal’s cheapness. The Cole trade is different. But if we pass on Cole this off-season, it to will be on Hal. There will be no changes in the org (for the better) unless Hal starts to change his approach and legitimately raise payroll over where it was in 2004.

  4. RetroRob

    The Hicks TJS is curious as it indicates something changed in the last few days. Michael Kay, btw, was bitching that the Yankees delayed surgery that Hicks could have had months ago and that was a mistake since he might have been ready for the season if he had it back in early August. That’s not correct. TJS wasn’t recommended initially. Rest and rehab was. When that didn’t work, he had a second opinion in September, and that’s when TJS was recommended. He probably could have had the surgery in mid-September. His decision probably lost about six weeks. It would be nice if he was a month or so closer to returning, but the rest-and-rehab and second-opinion approach wasn’t the wrong one as Kay framed it. The player is given options, and Hicks clearly pushed for extra rehab time. As it is, it got him back into game action, he won a game that got the Yankees closer to getting into the World Series. Retroactively dismissing that, as Kay did, is so…Kay.

    Anyway, my point is that Hicks after the ALCS loss was still talking about how thankful he was to have avoided TJS. That means between the end of the ALCS last Saturday and this morning, he got another opinion, or the Yankees more forcefully told him he really needs to go forward with TJS for his betterment and the team’s.

  5. NYYROC

    The reporters asked the questions fans want answers to, the same things we talk about on these blogs
    Props to Sweeny
    Cashman is arrogant and defensive in his answers
    As Axsia said if the best pitchers keep ending up elsewhere then there is something wrong with your process

  6. The Original Drew

    Cashman’s response to Sweeny was so weak. I wish he would have pressed him a bit more and asking him why he is so hard in fast with his price when it comes at the expense of making the team better. He acted like he never got the opportunity to up his offer, but the various reports indicate that just hasn’t been the case in many of those negotiations.

  7. Wire Fan

    Holding firm on the super bullpen approach is kind of disappointing. Kahnle and Green were absolutely gassed, and that was with the ideal scenario of an LDS sweep leading into the LCS.

    If the Yankees hit better and there was a game 7, those two guys would either be unavailable or significantly compromised. And the innings probably would have been catching up on Britton and Chapman too. And if they got past game 7, what does the pen have left for the WS?

    • RetroRob

      Hard to say if they’re holding firm. He wouldn’t announce a change in strategy at the presser, especially before they have their organizational meetings.

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