Friday, November 16, 2012

Season Assessment & Offseason Outlook: Front Office

By the Yankees’ standards, any season that doesn’t end with a World Series title is a failure, so the 2012 season is the latest addition to that category.  Critics have said this team – put together by general manager Brian Cashman – wasn’t made to produce offense in the postseason. And based on what we saw in the playoffs, it would be very difficult to defend the Yankees’ offensive performance.

But in Cashman’s defense, this was the second-highest scoring offense in all of baseball in the regular season. Nobody hit more home runs or finished with a higher OPS than the Yankees did. So the way I see it, the players deserve much more blame for the postseason failures than management does.

But pointing fingers now won’t do us any good now. A very busy winter lies ahead of Cashman as he prepares for next year.

(Sports Gulp)
Season Assessment: Going into last offseason, the Yankees’ 2012 starting lineup was pretty much set in stone, with the exception of the rotating DH-outfielder. So most of Cashman’s decision-making was bench and pitching-related.

Overall, I’d say Cashman picked the right platoon players for the roster. Jayson Nix was useful at a handful of positions. Andruw Jones provided some power off the bench, but wasn’t close to the outfielder he used to be and didn’t make the postseason roster.  But Raul Ibanez proved to be a great acquisition. 

When the 40-year-old struggled early in the season (except for his HR, 4-RBI performance on opening day), Cashman took some heat for signing Ibanez and not former Yankees Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Ibanez isn’t much of an outfielder, but was a solid contributor offensively and was unbelievably clutch in the playoffs, at a time the rest of the team simply wasn’t hitting.

Cashman also took some criticism (from me, especially) for signing Hiroki Kuroda, but that deal ended up bringing much-needed stability to the Yankees’ starting rotation. Cashman dealt struggling starter A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh in February. Burnett pitched well for the Pirates (16-10, 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) but no one can say for certain he would’ve done as well had he stayed in New York. 

In a perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward transaction, Cashman also pulled the string on the trade for Ichiro in late July, a trade that worked out pretty well as the aging star hit .322 in 67 games with the Yankees.

Offseason Outlook: This is a tricky offseason for the Yankees. With Nick Swisher on his way out and Curtis Granderson’s future looking somewhat uncertain, the outfield could look completely different in 2013. There’s reason to believe Russell Martin will return, but nothing is certain. Hiroki Kuroda is drawing interest from other teams and Andy Pettitte is in the midst of his annual “to retire or not to retire” debate, so the starting rotation could see some new arms. Rafael Soriano declined his qualifying offer and is looking to close elsewhere, so Cashman could look to replace his late-inning role.  Mariano Rivera has yet to sign a contract, although there’s no doubt that if the closer is pitching in 2013, it’ll be in pinstripes.

And with eyes set on a $189-million payroll for the 2014 campaign, Cashman’s funds are somewhat limited for this project of an offseason. There’s no telling what the general manager will decide on this winter but regardless of who comes and goes, the Yankees will be a competitive team again in 2013. 


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