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Debunking the Cashman Myth: Part 1

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At the end of this season, Yankee GM Brian Cashman's contract will be up and there is a good deal of speculation that George "Ming the Merciless" Steinbrenner won't re-up his contract.  The thing is, how exactly has Brian Cashman survived as long as he has?  Since Steinbrenner took over the Yankees, there have been 15 GMs , yet somehow Cashman has lasted nearly twice as long as any of them.  On a similar note, Cashman is now in his 8th year as GM and has lasted as long as his last two predecessors combined.  Finally, in the not-too-distant past, in a USA Today poll, 66% of nearly 1000 people rated Cashman as the best GM under Steinbrenner's tenure.  By looking at Cashman's results against those of his two predecessors, Gene Michael and Bob Watson, I hope to do one of three things: confirm that Cashman actually was a better GM than those he followed, show that Cashman started off well but doesn't deserve to have his contract renewed at the end of this season, or (as the little Yankee-hater deep inside of me hopes most) to bust the Cashman myth and to show that a guy with such a short leash on his previous GMs was just plain stupid to choose this guy as the one to have a long tenure.

Part 1: Trades

When looking at a GM, the one thing that can be attributed almost entirely to that GM is the trades that he (or hopefully in the near future, she - I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you Kim Ng!) has made.  Sure, there are some monetary factors involved here as well, but we're talking about the Yankees here, so who really cares about money???

To break down whether a trade was a good trade or a bad trade, I've decided to use Runs Above Average (adjusted for all time) as my baseline.  Once you net the two sides of the trade against each other, it gives you the same result as RARP or some of the other runs measurements, but when looking at each individual side, I want to know whether the GM was trading crap for worse crap, or whether he's actually getting something good out of the deal.  Second, the adjustment needs to be for all time here as the tenures actually cross into two different hitting eras.  The other reason I chose this measure is just because it's available for everyone on a season to season basis and doesn't incorporate rates.  If a guy can't crack the lineup but hits a homerun in his only at-bat, that doesn't mean it should be considered to be a good transaction.

For this part of the analysis, I'll look at what I'll call "significant trades", or trades where there is more than a 10 run swing between the players given up.  I'll mention the other trades as a group, but it's really these big trades which could make or break a GM.

Gene Michael

First off, it's interesting to note that Steinbrenner probably didn't want Michael around for as long as he was to being with.  Having a 5 ½ year tenure, he was the longest serving Yankees GM up to his time, and is the only person to serve as Yankees GM twice under the Boss.  However, his initial contract was given by Steinbrenner just to fill out the season and a half left on his predecessors contract, who Steinbrenner had lovingly fired exactly 1 day before the Boss went on a "suspension for life", which ended up being a two and a half year long suspension for, essentially, doing exactly what he's been doing for the past 10 years.  Still, during this tenure, Michael managed to pull off some pretty decent trades.

December 3, 1990: Traded Oscar Azocar (-17) to the San Diego Padres. Received a player to be named later. The San Diego Padres sent Mike Humphreys (-5) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade. Michael's first trade in his second go-round as Yankees' GM didn't make much of a splash, but it did do what Michael seemed to specialize in - getting rid of a player on his way down and taking back a player who doesn't hurt the team quite as much.  Net Trade Value: +12.

January 10, 1992: Traded Steve Sax (-33) to the Chicago White Sox. Received Melido Perez, Bob Wickman (+9), and Domingo Jean. Once again, not half shabby for selling high. Net Trade Value: +42.

February 29, 1992: Traded Alan Mills (+38) to the Baltimore Orioles. Received players to be named later. The Baltimore Orioles sent Francisco de la Rosa and Mark Carper (minors) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade. This wasn't his shining moment. Net Trade Value: -38

June 9, 1992: Traded Lee Guetterman (-12) to the New York Mets. Received Tim Burke. Net Trade Value: +12

August 22, 1992: Traded Tim Leary (-16) and cash to the Seattle Mariners. Received Sean Twitty (minors).   Net Trade Value: +16.

November 3, 1992: Traded Roberto Kelly (+16) to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Paul O'Neill (+296) and Joe DeBerry (minors). This would be the big one.  O'Neill's numbers are through his retirement in 2000.  Unfortunately, one thing that the transaction tracker doesn't capture well is players who re-sign after trading before they are named free agents.  O'Neill just kept re-upping with the Yankees, and from the record I have, it's impossible to tell just who resigned him before the initial contract ran out.  Thus, Michael, whether he deserves it or not, gets full credit for this trade.  As I'll explain when I discuss free agency, Michael deserves at least some of the credit for his full tenure either way.  Net Trade Value: up to +280.

December 6, 1992: Traded J.T. Snow (-5), Jerry Nielsen (-3), and Russ Springer (-19) to the California Angels. Received Jim Abbott (-3). If you believe in the "pay it forward" theory of baseball trades, where you should incorporate the trade value into evaluating the trade, Snow was then traded for Allen Watson, who was another -21 for the Angels.  I'm not going to count this from this angle.  While a GM might deserve credit for receiving the pieces to make a future good trade, I don't think he should be credited or docked when the GM he traded with then makes a dumb or smart trade.  Net Trade Value: +24.

February 9, 1994: Traded Bobby Munoz (-7), Ryan Karp (-4), and Kevin Jordan (-41) to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received a player to be named later and Terry Mulholland (-21). The Philadelphia Phillies sent Jeff Patterson to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.  Mulholland had a bad year for the Yankees that season, but was even worse the next season.  In addition, Jordan just had a bad career.  Maybe it's not fair to give Michael credit for the manager's stupidity in playing Jordan for so long, but I haven't figured out what ratio of credit to give overall quite just yet.  I suspect that it swings the other way just as much, where the trador manager was too dumb not to play a good player and the receiving team plays him, getting the player's value, so over time, it probably evens out.  Net Trade Value: +31.

March 21, 1994: Traded Paul Assenmacher (+4) to the Chicago White Sox. Received Brian Boehringer (-11). Just a bad trade.  The Yanks didn't even get value out of Boehringer, losing him to the Devil Rays in the expansion draft several years later.  Net Trade Value: -15.

April 5, 1995: Traded Fernando Seguignol (-8) and cash to the Montreal Expos. Received John Wetteland (+38).  Now that cash is included in the deal, you can see that Steinbrenner is clearly starting to run the show again.  The unfortunate part is that it's difficult to find out how much cash was exchanged in evaluating the trade.  However, unless it was enough cash to have signed a pretty good player to a long-term contract, this one still comes out pretty good.  Net Trade Value: +46.

July 28, 1995: Traded Marty Janzen (-15), Jason Jarvis (minors), and Mike Gordon (minors) to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received David Cone (+10/+65). One of those `boost the team through the end of the year' deals.  Still, trading a below-average player and two guys who would never reach the majors for someone with any positive value is an accomplishment.  In addition, one of Bob Watson's first moves was to re-sign Cone, giving him +65 through this Yankee tenure.  As I'll go into regarding free agents, Michael deserves some credit for this, but for now, I won't go into how much.  Net Trade Value: +25.

Total for "significant trades": +435.  Total net value for smaller value trades: +6.  I'd also like to mention that a few of his trades for bigger names (Blackjack McDowell, Charlie Hayes, Lee Smith) ended up being for about equal value.  In any case, over the course of his tenure, Gene Michael improved the team by 441 runs via trade.

Bob Watson

November 20, 1995: Traded Mike DeJean (+10) to the Colorado Rockies. Received Joe Girardi (-8).  Inauspicious start.  Net Trade Value: -18.

December 7, 1995: Traded Russ Davis (+15) and Sterling Hitchcock (-10) to the Seattle Mariners. Received Tino Martinez (+190), Jim Mecir (-4), and Jeff Nelson (+39). Here's the biggie.  Hitchcock never developed the way anyone expected him to, but even if this trade was only for Jeff Nelson, it would have been a good deal.  Tino is all icing here, and a whole lot of it.  Once again, this trade took on a lot of salary, but that's not a big deal if I'm only comparing Yankees to Yankees.  Net Trade Value: +220.

December 28, 1995: Traded a player to be named later to the Chicago White Sox. Received Tim Raines (+41). The New York Yankees sent Blaise Kozeniewski to the Chicago White Sox to complete the trade. Even if this was a salary dump and something for nothing, credit needs to be given for getting someone good rather than someone who ends up hurting the team.  Net Trade Value: +41.

June 22, 1996: Traded Mike Judd (-14) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Billy Brewer (-3).  Just goes to prove that trading away a bad player improves the team, even if you're trading for the mascot.  Net Trade Value: +11.

July 31, 1996: Traded Ruben Sierra (-8) and Matt Drews (minors) to the Detroit Tigers. Received Cecil Fielder (+18). Another one of those trading deadline salary dump / push for the playoffs type maneuvers.  It appears that the Yankees caught Cecil just in time before he ate his way out of the league.  Net Trade Value: +26.

August 23, 1996: Traded Bob Wickman (+53) and Gerald Williams (-27) to the Milwaukee Brewers. Received a player to be named later, Pat Listach (returned), and Graeme Lloyd (-4).  The Milwaukee Brewers sent Ricky Bones (-3) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade. Net Trade Value: -33.

August 30, 1996: Traded a player to be named later to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Charlie Hayes (+13). The New York Yankees sent Chris Corn (minors) (August 31, 1996) to the Pittsburgh Pirates to complete the trade. Net Trade Value: +13.

December 5, 1996: Traded Jim Leyritz (+16) to the Anaheim Angels. Received players to be named later. The Anaheim Angels sent Jeremy Blevins (minors) and Ryan Kane (minors) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade. At least it was an attempt to build up on prospects.  Net Trade Value: -16.

November 7, 1997: Traded Kenny Rogers (+30) and cash to the Oakland Athletics. Received a player to be named later. The Oakland Athletics sent Scott Brosius (+59) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.   Here's the first instance where you see the Yankees literally paying another team to take a bad signing off their hands.  Unlike most of the times it happened in the future, this one actually worked out, kind of.  Rogers was actually good again the next couple of seasons, but Brosius added a lot and was a key component in the Yankees' three-peat (please don't sue me Pat Riley!).  Net Trade Value: +29.

November 11, 1997: Traded Charlie Hayes (-11) and cash to the San Francisco Giants. Received Chris Singleton and Alberto Castillo (minors). Singleton didn't amount to much until after he was traded, but once again, paying someone else to take an aging former star did the trick. Unfortunately, Singleton turned out to be an above-average player for a few seasons, so the team lost value.  But that one hangs on Cashman.  Net Trade Value: +11.

February 6, 1998: Traded Brian Buchanan (-5), Cristian Guzman (-94), Eric Milton (+14), Danny Mota (-1), and cash to the Minnesota Twins. Received Chuck Knoblauch (+34).   This was Michael's last gasp.  By this time, Cashman was probably already de facto in control of the team, even if the title didn't become official for another month.  Here's a trade that, on paper, looks a lot better than it actually was.  Fact of the matter is that Christian Guzman stunk back then, stinks now, and will continue to stink in the foreseeable future.  And the Twins were dumb enough to keep playing him.  Maybe they really couldn't afford / develop anyone else, but I'm sure I could go through the annals and find minor league free agents who were better players than Guzman.  In any case, the chances that the Yankees (with Derek Jeter in tow) would have played Guzman 1/3 as much as the Twins are about as good as the chances that Vin Diesel will win an Oscar for his acting prowess.  Still, Knoblauch wasn't as bad as people remember him, and even in his worst defensive season, he was still more above average for his offense than he was below average for his defense, with all due respect to Keith Olberman's mom.  Net Trade Value: +120, max.

Total for significant trades: An inflated 404 (but at least 284).  Total net value for smaller trades: +20.  In the smaller trades, the numbers could go a lot worse if you pay it forward with the trades.  Two of the pieces in these smaller trades were Tony Armas Jr. and Rafael Medina, two fairly significant pieces in the trades that brought Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox and Kevin Brown to the San Diego Padres.  Over his tenure, Bob Watson increased the value of the team by 424 runs (or 304, if you count Knoblauch under Cashman), with the potential for some pretty steep discounting.  However, even if you cut that in half, it's still a 200+ run improvement, which ain't half bad for 3 ½ years.  

Brian Cashman (through the end of the 2004 season)

Here's the golden boy who Steinbrenner loved for many years, yet now uses as his whipping boy, and who the Yankees fans seriously loved until about a year ago, when they started venting some frustrations on him as well.  As far as trades are concerned, Cashman didn't get off to a good start, and things never really got significantly better.

March 7, 1998: Traded Andy Fox (-20) to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Todd Erdos and Marty Janzen. Net Trade Value: +20.

December 8, 1998: Traded Chris Singleton (+27) to the Chicago White Sox. Received a player to be named later. The Chicago White Sox sent Rich Pratt (minors) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade. The real question here is whether to give a negative credit to Watson for this one.  My answer is that I don't think so.  Much like how a GM shouldn't be docked if the opposing GM makes another dumb trade, I doubt that a GM should be docked for his successor's dumb moves.  Singleton could have had some value backing up Bernie for a few years, rather than playing Bernie into the ground like they did instead.  Net Trade Value: -27.

February 1, 1999: Traded Mike Lowell (+138) to the Florida Marlins. Received Mark J. Johnson, Ed Yarnall, and Todd Noel (minors). Here's one where you can fault the GM.  At 3B, you have Scott Brosius, who was alright, but never that great.  You trade away someone who is infinitely cheaper, and he turns out to be just as good as the guy you have, as a rookie.  Still, he was only rated as the organization's fifth best prospect at the time, but his minor league stats indicated that he would be a pretty good player .  The three guys they received?  Couldn't stick, and were exactly average in the few games they did play.  Net Trade Value: -138 (so far, with potential to get much worse).

February 18, 1999: Traded Homer Bush (-5), Graeme Lloyd (+6), and David Wells (+23) to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Roger Clemens (+41). Big name deal, but not a big value deal.  It surprised me to see that Clemens was only 41 runs above average as a Yankee, but that was indeed the case.  Just goes to show where adjusted stats might take you.  Net Trade Value: +17.

December 22, 1999: Traded Hideki Irabu (-13) to the Montreal Expos. Received players to be named later and Jake Westbrook (-10). The Montreal Expos sent Ted Lilly (-8) and Christian Parker (-5) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade. Lots of pieces for future trades involved here, but none of those trades turned out that great either.  One of those trades is next, so no need to double-count.  Net Trade Value: -10.

June 29, 2000: Traded Ricky Ledee (-1), Jake Westbrook (-15), and Zach Day to the Cleveland Indians. Received David Justice (+32).   Day was later traded for Milton Bradley, who gave Cleveland a +30, but that whole `different GM' thing I've been harping on comes into play here again.  Westbrook looks to finally be getting better, and PECOTA thinks he will continue to improve.  Net Trade Value: +48, with potential to swing a bit higher or significantly lower.

July 12, 2000: Traded Ed Yarnall, Drew Henson, Brian Reith (-26), and Jackson Melian (minors) to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Mike Frank and Denny Neagle (-8). Remember when this seemed like a blockbuster deal???  The strippers at Peep World could not be reached for comment.  Net Trade Value: +18.

July 21, 2000: Traded Ben Ford and Oswaldo Mairena to the Chicago Cubs. Received Glenallen Hill (+16).   The Yankees partake on the buying end of yet another salary dump.  Net Trade Value: +16.

August 7, 2000: Traded Chris Spurling (minors) to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Luis Sojo (-12). Net Trade Value: -12.

March 21, 2001: Traded Wily Mo Pena (+4) to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Drew Henson (-1) and Michael Coleman (-5).   Wily Mo has finally started to show life over the last season.  PECOTA rates his breakout percentage at 55%, and an attrition rate at 22%.  Net Trade Value: -10, with a little potential to improve, great potential to get much, much worse.

March 28, 2001: Traded Glenallen Hill (-11) to the Anaheim Angels. Received Darren Blakely (minors). Cashman got off the train at the right time.  Net Trade Value: +11.

July 30, 2001: Traded Brett Jodie and Darren Blakely (minors) to the San Diego Padres. Received Sterling Hitchcock (-24). It's never a good thing when you pay a lot of money to get a below-average player.  This looks like the beginning of a bad trend.  At least before he wasn't taking on payroll in the bad trades.  Net Trade Value: -24.

December 7, 2001: Traded David Justice (+15) to the New York Mets. Received Robin Ventura (+30). Net Trade Value: +15.

July 1, 2002: Traded Scott Wiggins to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Raul Mondesi (+44). Salary / problem child dump turned out well for the Yanks, from a runs perspective.  From a PR perspective, it may have been more than it was worth, however.  Net Trade Value: +44.

July 5, 2002: Traded Ted Lilly (+1), Jason Arnold (minors), and John-Ford Griffin (minors) to the Oakland Athletics. Received Jeff Weaver (-28). This one, on the other hand, REALLY didn't work.  Lilly and Griffin turned out to be a useful trading pieces for the A's, while Weaver pretty much stunk up the joint.  Net Trade Value: -29.

March 19, 2003: Traded Rondell White (+7) to the San Diego padres.  Received Bubba Trammell (-3) and Mark Phillips. Yet another bad PR trade (Trammell went into a deep depression after getting to playing time with the Yankees, never recovered and is out of baseball).  Net Trade Value: -10.

July 31, 2003: Traded Brandon Claussen (-22), Charlie Manning to Cincinatti Reds.  Received Aaron Boone (+5). Boone did alright, but the dagger was that dinger which gave him a new middle name to Red Sox fans.  Claussen, on the other hand, hasn't been good and probably won't get much better.  Net Trade Value: +27, with a little room for improvement.

July 29, 2003: Traded Dan Miceli (+14) to the Houston Astros for cash.   Considering the Yankees' various bullpen woes, this was a dumb trade.  Net Trade Value: -14.

December 4, 2003: Traded Nick Johnson (+21), Juan Rivera (+15) and Randy Choate to Montreal Expos.  Received Javier Vazquez (-9).  The Yankees then bailed on Vazquez at what was probably the wrong time.  While Johnson continues to be injury-riddled, he does improve the team when he plays.  Rivera was good while he was there, then was used as a piece to acquire the better Jose Guillen.  Net Trade Value: -45, with room to get worse.

December 13, 2003: Traded Jeff Weaver (-1), Yhency Brazoban (+12) and Brandon Weeden to LA Dodgers.  Received Kevin Brown (-6). Brown hasn't been his old self with the Yankees, and once again, has inflicted more negative PR than just about anything else.  Brazoban now looks like one of the bright relief prospects in the majors.  Net Trade Value: -18, with room for the trade to get worse.

February 16, 2004: Traded Alfonso Soriano (+3) and Joaquin Arias to Texas Rangers.  Received Alex Rodriguez (+57) . This is the one good big money trade Cashman has pulled off.  Still, considering the HUGE monetary disparity, it better REALLY pay off in the future.  Soriano, who's real age was changed to 43 the last time I checked, is already in the decline, whereas ARod keeps on chugging.  Arias could be decent, but as his best he probably won't be as good as ARod at his worst.  Net Trade Value: +54, with significant room for improvement.

July 31, 2004: Traded Jose Contreras (-4) to Chicago White Sox.  Received Esteban Loaiza (-15).   Contreras is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, but I don't expect that he'll be much better than an average player over the remaining life of the contract.  That sound you heard, however, was Loaiza shooting Cashman in the foot.  Net Trade Value: -11.

Total for significant trades: -78.  If you count all of the Knoblauch trade, then he's a +42 (but there's almost no way that all of that deal should be counted for anyone).  However, since there is residual left over for many of these trades, it seems that what Cashman has done so far on the trading block could get much worse.  He hasn't stuck with many of the guys who he has traded for, while he has traded away several guys who have room to improve.  Only the ARod trade has potential to get a lot better for the Yankees, whereas Contreras, Brazoban, and Nick Johnson leave room for the trades to look much worse.  That's not even counting the Randy Johnson for Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey and Javier Vazquez bonanza, which is already looking like a steal for the D-Backs.  As for the minor trades, they total at -33 runs so far, although a few of those trades still have some potential to increase or decrease slightly.

So folks, looking at trades so far, here's the final tally:

Gene Michael: +435 (5 1/2 years)
Bob Watson: At least +284, up to +404
Brian Cashman: At most +11, more likely -111, with likely further decline due to players still relevant.

Next time I'll go into free agency signings, and I promise it won't be as long as this section!