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The manager and coaches? They are staying if it is up to Brian Cashman. The roster? There, the Yankees general manager is trying to make upgrades. As soon as today, if he could.
In a conference call with reporters, Cashman used the word “urgency” a few times when it came to discussing the trade market, adding: “We are fully engaged and in a buying mode in attempting to improve what we’ve got.”
The Yankees team Cashman joined in Buffalo for a three-game series against the Blue Jays was among the majors’ most underachieving: 33-32 and in fourth-place in the AL East.
Cashman traveled to join the club because there is a crisis in the game — the sticky-stuff “epidemic” as he called it — that brought a memo from MLB on Tuesday citing how enforcement will work. But this is a crisis Cashman shares with an industry, the burden of which falls mostly on commissioner Rob Manfred for the timing and execution of this crackdown.
But Cashman was mainly with the Yankees because of the crisis in his own house; of which he is the main author. It’s a crisis he — more than anyone else — will be asked to fix. To that end, he did not see firing Aaron Boone or his coaches as a solution. Quite the opposite.
“I don’t feel [manager and coaching changes] are warranted here,” Cashman said.
Instead, he defended the staff passionately, citing the quality of its work over time and the refusal to make scapegoats for a collective defect. He noted his two-decade GM history of never firing a manager or support staff in season and said — if up to him — the record will stay that way in 2021. No signs have emerged that firings are afoot. Those who have spoken to Hal Steinbrenner say he is not blaming Boone or the staff for the Yankees’ underachieving, and too often absent-minded, play.
“We are in this together,” Cashman said. “We made this bed. We are going to sleep in it. We are going to fix it together.”
To that end, Cashman said either he or his main lieutenant, Mike Fishman, has spoken to every team and that the Yankees are in hunt mode six weeks before the non-waiver trade deadline. As Cashman looks to upgrade this roster, however, he faces many hurdles, including these two:
What is his need?
Cashman cited the offensive difficulties of the team and conceded center field is an area he wants to address with Aaron Hicks out for the season.
He also noted the offense had picked up recently. However, that coincides with the pitching beginning to wilt. They both coincide with increased attention on the sticky-stuff issue.
So it is possible that, using Cashman’s words, there could be a “new narrative.” That the Yankees are about to hit better, but pitch worse. That already was a fear because key pitchers such as Domingo German and Jameson Taillon have been building innings in a way they had not in recent seasons and Luis Severino — who they had hoped would return in late June — has now been lost until at least late July with a groin strain.
So, besides center field, lefty hitters and overall better positional depth (if nothing else), Cashman may have to find a starter.
Which leads to…
How much money does he have to plug multiple leaks?
Steinbrenner had ordered the team to come in under the $210 million luxury tax this year, and they are projected to be roughly $3 million-$4 million under. Could they create a drop more if they could attach, say, Justin Wilson or Clint Frazier to a prospect? Yes, but the only way to really improve is to ignore the threshold, which if the Yankees want to contend, Steinbrenner should do.
Cashman said: “They [the owners] have always been open to conversations and considerations when it can help the team. They have never said, ‘Don’t bring it to me.’ ”
Still, until proven otherwise, Cashman is operating with a limited budget and multiple (and perhaps growing) needs while defending a manager who is increasingly unpopular with the fan base, when he himself also has lost a good deal of faith with that constituency. Nevertheless, Cashman said he believes in the product and that there will be much better days in 2021.
“I know people are sick of hearing that,” he said. “I have to answer anyway because it is the truth. It is frustrating to watch. I get it. We are dealing with it. I promise you that.”
For Cashman, this is truly his stickiest situation.
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