Thoughts after the end of season press conferences

Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman spoke to the media yesterday afternoon. Each took the better part of an hour for their discussions with the media, though I think folks were a bit more curious to hear what the general manager had to say. We had already heard Boone talk a bit after the Game 5 loss, though yesterday came with a few days to marinate after the end of the season. I know I was more interested in what Cashman had to say, at least.

I do have one thing I want to say about Boone’s presser, but the rest of my thoughts relate to Cashman’s briefing. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Aaron Boone needs to stop saying how close the Yankees are to winning a title.

This is grating. Boone said this in what seemed like a dozen different ways yesterday. Close? If this is close, then how do you describe the 2001 Yankees? Or the 2011 Rangers? Maybe make a World Series before you start saying that this team is close. Here’s how Boone’s seasons have ended since taking the helm:

  1. 2018: 100-62, Wild Card, Lost ALDS to Red Sox 3-1
  2. 2019: 103-59, Division Title, Lost ALCS to Astros 4-2
  3. 2020: 33-27, Wild Card, Lost ALDS to Rays 3-2

The “closest” Boone’s Yankees have gotten was a year ago. I don’t think there’s any other way to describe 2020 except as a step back for this group, unusual circumstances of this season notwithstanding.

Keep in mind that this year’s club was saved by MLB’s expanded postseason. The Yankees would have been home after the regular season without each division’s second place squad guaranteed a spot. Now, I’ve seen the argument on Twitter that this team would have gotten things together with a full 162 games. Probably! But at the same time, 60 games was the hand dealt this year. Not 162. This team is too talented, even with injuries to have had this type of campaign.

Look, not all of this is Boone’s fault. Still, his rhetoric is a bit tiring. You want to say the group was close to making the ALCS? Of course, I’ll buy that. But anything further is a stretch.

He may not have said it verbatim, but it sure sounds like Cashman has regrets about the trade deadline.


I was wrong about the Yankees needing a bat more than an arm at the trade deadline, but fortunately, I’m not the Yankees’ general manager. As it turns out, the Yankees badly needed another pitcher (or two).

It was hard to deny how great the rotation looked back in December after the team signed Gerrit Cole. Him, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and whoever would be the fifth starter comprised of an excellent looking rotation. Little did we know what was coming in the following months.

Paxton wound up needing back surgery in January and Severino underwent Tommy John surgery in February. And the Yankees knew Paxton’s back was a concern dating back to the end of the 2019 season! Yet, as crushing as those two blows were, the team still seemed more than capable of weathering them across 162 games. After all, Paxton was expected back in May. I assume the team was counting on a midseason return from suspension for Domingo Germán, too.

Obviously, the pandemic changed things, though seemingly beneficial for the Yankees at first. Primarily, it meant Paxton would actually be ready at the start of the season. It did mean no Germán all season, however. But once Paxton came out of the gate throwing in the low 90s, couldn’t regain velocity, and eventually had his season end on August 21st thanks to a flexor strain (though there was hope for a return in some capacity), it was time to act.

Cashman cited sky-high prices at the deadline as the hold up for any trade. And look, I get it. No one wants to lose a trade or overpay. But at the same time, the expectations for this group are to win a World Series. Maybe take a gamble and push your chips in at some point?

Anyway, based on the end of his presser, it does seem like Cashman wishes he could have had a do-over. Maybe this means he’ll be a little more aggressive with trading prospects this winter. We’ll see. In any event, I think it’s pretty clear what Cashman will pursue this winter. Pitching, pitching, and some more pitching.

Prepare for the Yankees to run it back with this group of position players. Cashman noted early in his presser that he and Boone discussed whether or not the team’s lineup balance is an issue. It’s something I’d like to see addressed, though as I wrote, it can be done via depth and not replacing starters. But from the sounds of it yesterday, it doesn’t seem like too big of a concern for Cashman. While it would be ideal to have more variation in terms of handedness, he specifically stated that any left-handed or switch-hitting alternative needs to be better than the righty currently in the lineup. Cashman even called out two names — DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit — as guys he would not replace simply to plug in a left-handed hitter. The alternative needs to be better if he’s going to let LeMahieu walk or trade Voit.

Additionally, the GM left the door open on the team’s catching situation. He said it was fair to ask whether or not Gary Sánchez would be the starter next season. This is clearly one of the spots the team will evaluate this winter and Cashman said as much. A trade seems plausible, though. Mark Feinsand’s breakdown of JT Realmuto’s suitors includes this nugget: “According to sources, the Yankees were open to the idea of trading Gary Sánchez in August, though no deal ultimately came to fruition”. I’d rule out Realmuto to the Yankees, but clearly, don’t rule out Gary getting traded.

This isn’t a Sonny Gray situation with Gary, though. He might get dealt, but don’t count on it just yet. Remember, Cashman telegraphed that they were going to move the righty before doing so. I don’t think he’s inclined to trade Sánchez at the moment, knowing how hard it is to find competent catching in this league (even as bad as Gary looked in 2020).

There is no love lost between the Yankees and JA Happ. Sheesh, Brian Cashman absolutely eviscerated JA Happ yesterday.

That tweet doesn’t give Cashman’s tone justice — he appeared exasperated. The GM mentioned how they had Happ’s buy-in behind the scenes going into Game 2, so I guess hearing Happ tell the media he was uncomfortable with it after the loss frustrated Cashman. In any event, there was clearly some sort of communication breakdown.

Both sides could have handled this better. If Cashman’s being forthright about Happ’s agreement with the plan, then the lefty shouldn’t have backtracked to the media in the postgame. Meanwhile, Cashman didn’t need to go on a diatribe about Happ’s past relief appearances in the postseason. I mean, in what way is Happ the ideal option as a bulk reliever in a big game? Cashman basically acknowledged this toward the end of his press conference in saying he put Boone in an impossible spot.

I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised about this. It came after a season-long saga regarding Happ’s vesting option. The lefty didn’t like having his starts skipped during the season and had some pointed quotes about what the Yankees were doing.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this vesting option as it needs to either be settled or arbitrated, but I think one thing is certain: he won’t be back in 2021. Cashman seems tired of him and Happ wasn’t happy all season.

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14 Comments

  1. Smurfy

    Definitely, they are picking bones for contention. Hap was the Union’s player rep. How could he not knock owners’ rights when he was “unfairly” dinged for pitching poorly. He didn’t live up to expectations, but he was admitting it, honestly, as he went. Like Jay, he did use guile when he needed it.

  2. Buddy

    Oh come on Derek!

    Love the blog, love the analytics, but it makes no sense to knock Cashman for tradeline deals if you dont know what he had in front of him!

    With the expanded playoffs, youre gonna pay a ransom for a starter cuz more teams have a shot. Deivi or Schmidt for Johnny Cueto? No thanks.

    Playoffs are a crapshoot. You do your best to get there and then you roll the dice. If youre healthy those dice are loaded in your favor… If not? You hope for a miracle run.

  3. DanGer

    I’m of two minds on this, and I don’t think their mutually exclusive either

    I wonder if they weren’t “all in” for 2020. Not that they weren’t committed, just not going extra mile. I mean hell, the day before deadline the lineup included Tauchman, Kratz, Wade, & Estrada with Deivi making his ML debut

    The expanded playoffs and short season also meant way fewer sellers so the options prob weren’t all that desirable anyway. DET was 1.5 out of WC before finishing 2nd worst in AL

  4. Wire Fan

    Yankees vs righties 122 wRC+ (4th)
    Yankees vs lefties 97 wRC+ (18th)

    I for one hope the Yankees bring in some lefty hitters to fix their problem hitting right handed pitching… Oh wait…

    I am a little encouraged that Cashman said any lefty bat would have to be an upgrade, but man the fan base has become too concerned with what box a hitter stands in when he comes to the plate.

    Performance trumps theoretical balance. Hopefully the manager starts to realize this as well and next year just groups the Yankees best hitters at the top of the order (without regard to handeness)

    • Smurfy

      Absolutely, the hot hand rules. Judgie should have been batted toward the bottom of the lineup until he showed his timing was back. Trade him? No way!

  5. chip56

    As for Happ: This is the second time in three years where Cashman has actively thrown one of his own players under the bus (the other being Sonny Gray).

    He needs to stop. Just admit you were wrong in giving this guy a contract when you should have signed Corbin instead. And please, none of this “well if we signed Corbin we wouldn’t have DJ crap” you could have done both.

  6. chip56

    “Aaron Boone needs to stop saying how close the Yankees are to winning a title.”

    Totally agree. The Yankees have gone from a team who year in and year out considered anything less than a title to be a failure to a team that wants credit for playing meaningful October baseball.

    The hundred-win seasons are all well and good until you realize that part of the reason the Yankees are winning 100 games each year is because so many teams are actively tanking.

    The question that wasn’t asked that should have been put to Cashman is this: You just replaced the entire training staff because of the team’s inability to stay healthy and yet, in this truncated season, you still lost an inordinate number of players to soft tissue injures, what the hell?

    • Smurfy

      Those hundred wins seasons kept you interested. Didn’t they? Try losing year after year. Yeah, they gotta plan spending toward pitching- Hey Derek J, said that in ’09 after the fact. Wasn’t mgmt listening? P-p-p-pitching is the name of the game.

  7. Troy

    Tough to blame Cashman for lack of options. Option for Game 2 was supposed to be Severino. For Game 3 it was supposed to be James Paxton. Are the Rays moving on without Glasnow and Morton?

    • The Original Drew

      Yeah! Totally! If only Brian Cashman had a GM that went out and made moves at the deadline to add pitching he would have had the options since Severino went down in February and Paxton had his setback well before the trading deadline. Here’s hoping that the Yankees will get a GM that is willing to help Brian Cashman!

      Wait a minute…

    • Derek

      I couldn’t disagree more. He had knowledge of these guys being absent and didn’t do anything at the deadline. He himself realizes they didn’t have enough pitching.

    • chip56

      When you rely year in and year out on oft-injured players, you can’t use those players being injured as an excuse. Maybe Cashman should focus less on guys who have elite upside but can’t stay on the field and focus more on players who, you know, play.

  8. Frankie Ho-Tep

    No one’s in love with the Game 2 decision. We get it. Should they have thrown Tanaka in Game 2? Most definitely. But it’s not difficult to understand what the Yankees were trying to do. Happ pitched well, VERY well, down the stretch. He’s going to pitch in the postseason. Probably the only thing Happ does well at this point in his career is get lefties out. So of course he proceeds to allow half the lefty batters faced to reach base on his way to getting shelled in what can only be described as one of the more gutless performances you’ll see on a mound. Not unlike the last time we saw the Yankees let him pitch in any meaningful way in the postseason… 2018 when he didn’t make it out of the third inning.

    Enough with this guy. Enough. This isn’t even a topic if Happ goes out and gives you a performance even somewhere in the vicinity of competitive. He knew what the plan was. It’s up to him to prepare and perform. And to top it off, after that gutless performance, he’s got the nerve to throw the Yankees under the bus. Enough.

    Truly the most unlikeable Yankee on this squad. Watching him pitch was nothing short of torturous. He gave the Yankees no shot in Game 2. I would liked to have seen him walk off the mound, straight into a limo that took him to the airport.

    • Brian Cashman specifically acquired him and then re-signed him for $17M a year, which is more than any specific portion of the Rays makes pick one of their , , or .

      Cashman then didn’t seek an upgrade to Happ’s rotation spot, or when he was doing well for us, seek to trade him.

      It’s entirely on Cashman.

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