Yankees expected to offer GM Cashman extension in offseason
Never mind the Yankees' current standing in third place, or their recent struggles. Both Steinbrenner brothers are now said by people familiar with their thinking to be on board with Brian Cashman as their general manager, for now and long into the future. Even if the Yankees fail to play into October for the first full season since 1993, club insiders say that the Steinbrenners plan to offer Cashman a contract extension after this season.
Cashman didn't want to discuss his situation when reached by phone on Tuesday night. But he should have plenty of clues to know he's wanted back, according to club officials.
Quieter Steinbrenner brother Hal, who appears to be growing into a real force behind the scenes, is said to have remained a consistent supporter of Cashman's.
Cashman's organizational detractor always appeared to be blustery older Steinbrenner brother Hank, who spent the first part of this season second-guessing Cashman over the decision not to trade for Johan Santana and other assorted gripes and even used to regularly fail to return Cashman's phone calls, according to intimates. However, Hank is also now believed to be strongly in favor of extending Cashman's contract. (And by the way, all Cashman's calls are now being returned.)
Club higherups are also expressing faith that Cashman, a Yankees employee since the late '80s and GM since 1998, will agree to return despite his call to delay contract talks last winter and continuing whispers throughout baseball that the rebuilding Seattle Mariners will target Cashman to fix their team, whispers that will surely grow louder should Cashman's longtime friend Pat Gillick accept a top role in a new Mariners hierarchy, as has been rumored. People who know Cashman, who similarly delayed signing a new contract three years ago before agreeing to a three-year, $5.5 million deal, suggest that he'll have to weigh the possibility of greater autonomy elsewhere against the strong pull to remain in his adopted hometown (and his wife's hometown), and the resources to contend for the title every year, and that ultimately he's likely to favor staying with the only organization he's ever known.
It isn't known what caused the stark change in Hank Steinbrenner's behavior toward Cashman, but a season working with the longtime GM may have given the neophyte general partner a greater appreciation for the complexities of the job. It probably didn't hurt that Cashman's trade of prospects to Pittsburgh for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte was seen as a coup in media circles and also among many baseball people, as was his deal of unpopular reliever Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit for future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.
Whatever the cause, Hank's early-season public bluster has given way to a long public silence. After threatening to become an overbearing presence this winter, Hank Steinbrenner has scarcely been a presence at all; he's been spotted at only a handful of games and people close to him wonder whether the change in Hank could be related to his rekindling of a relationship with his high school sweetheart.
Cashman, who declined to discuss a possible extension when Yankees ownership approached him last winter, still doesn't want to talk about it. "My situation is the last thing that should be in anyone's thoughts,'' Cashman said on Tuesday. "We have about 45 games left, and we're trying to figure out what the hell's wrong and how to get it right.''
Some figured last winter that Cashman didn't want to negotiate a new deal because Hank was making his job difficult by publicly discussing the team's plans and occasionally overturning his decisions (Hank reportedly was much more enthused about returning to negotiate and giving a 10-year deal to Alex Rodriguez and also about giving a four-year contract to Jorge Posada.) But Cashman pointed out that he shouldn't have the luxury of negotiating a new contract before it is up if longtime stars Mariano Rivera and Posada and even iconic manager Joe Torre didn't have offers to be extended until after the final season in their contracts.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to have dialogue now. We didn't do it for any of them. I should be no different,'' said Cashman, whose contract expires Oct. 31. "We've got a very short time to figure this out. I'm not thinking about anything until November 1.''
It's clear what consumes Cashman now. When it is suggested that no one could have foreseen all the injuries and no victories from touted rookie pitchers Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, Cashman said, "That has nothing to do with it. It's our ... offense. We can't hit with runners in scoring position.''
But make no mistake, Cashman isn't looking elsewhere for blame. "I'm responsible,'' he said. "My hands are full.'' The Steinbrenners, though, aren't blaming him.
Arizona's gambling GM is never Dunn
Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes is an assuming young man. But he has quietly joined A's GM Billy Beane and White Sox GM Ken Williams as baseball's biggest dealers/risk takers. Byrnes has made monster deals with both Beane (for star starter Dan Haren) and Williams (for outfielder Chris Young) among his numerous major trades.
Byrnes' latest deal, for slugger Adam Dunn, was a surprise, as Dunn became a rare star to move after the non-waiver trade deadline. Byrnes traded Class-A pitcher Dallas Buck and two players to be named later in the deal, and reports indicate that multi-talented pitcher Micah Owings, who has been struggling, may be one of them. Owings was recently demoted by the D'backs, but that would qualify as another gamble, as he has been considered a potential star.
Byrnes characteristically isn't grabbing credit for being able to land Dunn after the deadline. He pointed out that Arizona's unusually mediocre record for a first-place team put it in excellent claiming position for National League players on waivers. Dunn's falling rep also enabled Byrnes to buy low on a player who has had as many home runs and walks as anyone over the last five years (Dunn leads second-place Alex Rodriguez in homers and Todd Helton in walks). "He's a real force against right-handed pitching,'' Byrnes said. 'This should give us more balance left and right.''
Even bigger for the Diamondbacks might be the pre-waiver trade for reliever Jon Rauch that has fortified an iffy pen. Emilio Bonifacio, the second-base prospect who went for Rauch, has been likened by some to Delino DeShields. But baseball people think Byrnes got a steal in that deal, and one scout said of Bonifacio, 'He's going to struggle against the breaking ball.''
Byrnes certainly isn't afflicted by the over-caution gene that some of his GM colleagues seem to have, as he has traded away 10 young players between the Haren, Rauch and Dunn deals. But while highly touted Double-A left-hander Brett Anderson was among the six players that went to Oakland for Haren, Byrnes has kept almost all his elite prospects, who include Max Scherzer, Jarrod Parker and Daniel Sclereth and outfielder Gerardo Parra. Plus he'll add two top draft choices if Dunn leaves via free agency, as expected.
Another plus about Byrnes is his honesty. He isn't pretending that the Dodgers' big acquisition of Manny Ramirez had no effect on Arizona. "It's part of the equation,'' Byrnes said. "We're always trying to be as good as we can be, and we're always aware of our competition.''