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.
Aaron Boone: We’re trying to get a little bit better all the time … but it’s important to realize how close we are. pic.twitter.com/XOgQIzKKqm— YES Network (@YESNetwork) October 14, 2020
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:
- 2018: 100-62, Wild Card, Lost ALDS to Red Sox 3-1
- 2019: 103-59, Division Title, Lost ALCS to Astros 4-2
- 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.
It’s minute 56 and Brian Cashman acknowledges that he put Aaron Boone in a spot in Game 2 where he had to pick through backend arms. He’s right. The options need to be better.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) October 14, 2020
“The starting rotation was at risk and that needs to get improved upon.” Brian Cashman— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) October 14, 2020
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.
Cashman was ready for the Garcia/Happ question. He said that J.A. Happ has 15 postseason career appearances – four as a starter. Also points to Happ being used as a bulk reliever vs. Tampa Bay last September.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) October 14, 2020
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.