By Sweeny Murti
Meet the new Boss. Same as the old Boss? Quite possibly.
When Rafael Soriano was introduced Wednesday as the newest Yankee, Brian Cashman made no effort to hide the fact that he did not endorse this signing. He did not dispute that Soriano was a good pitcher or that Soriano can help the Yankees in 2011. But the problem was the contract, signing an 8th inning man for closer money (3 years, $35 million). And the opt-out structure is something that was made above Cashman’s pay grade.
What Brian Cashman is finding out is that Hal Steinbrenner might just have a little more Boss in him than maybe we all thought.
In 2009 and 2010 when Hal Steinbrenner came to the forefront of the Yankee organization there was an initial sense that he was much more level-headed and business oriented than his father George was, that Hal understood the Yankees were about winning but that he also understood they were a business. And while winning was good business, Hal wasn’t going to disregard sound business decisions recommended by his General Manager.
But it appears that’s what happened this time. The Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee, they watched Boston win the winter spending spree, and were about a month away from the start of spring training with a shaky rotation and no headline moves left to make. The free agent pitching market was paper-thin and the trade market wasn’t going to turn up the type of pitcher the Yankees wanted at a reasonable cost. Brian Cashman was preaching “patience,” a word he used several times in the wake of Lee’s signing with Philadelphia.
But patience was not George Steinbrenner’s strong suit. And apparently the voices in the Yankee organization whispering to Hal were coming in loudly, saying that the Yankees needed to get off their butts and sign Soriano to strengthen their bullpen. After all, with a rotation lacking depth like this one…better take care of those later innings.
A move like this would have come as no surprise under George’s reign. But Hal was supposed to be different. He was supposed to be the one who understood what patience meant, who held firm to a budget, who didn’t make a move for the sake of making a move.
Maybe it’s too early to assume Hal Steinbrenner has abandoned his Jedi training and thrown away his lightSABR. Maybe this won’t turn into move after move against the wishes of the GM. But this one move is the type of move his father would make. Its not a bad player to have, no doubt, and it’s a strong arm to fill a hole in the Yankee bullpen. But it’s a contract that was done without the GM’s input, and that’s what is going to make things a little tense in Yankeeland the next time there are decisions to be made.
Brian Cashman enters the final year of a contract in 2011. A bad season could doom Cashman after 14 years as Yankee GM. And the seeds of his demise may have been planted with this move that was made against his recommendation.
*Carl Pavano has found a home in Minnesota. He’s been reborn there as a durable pitcher and consistent winner and innings eater. He became the pitcher the Yanks wished he was from 2005-2008. In a very thin free agent pitching market after Cliff Lee, it did make sense to kick the tires a little and see if there was anything under the hood.
Turns out the Yankees did a little more than that. Cashman had several discussions with Pavano’s agent, Tom O’Connell about a return engagement. The Yankees went as far as offering Pavano a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $10 million plus incentives. When the Twins came forward with a two-year offer, the Yankees weren’t willing to match and that was that.
But it shows you two things: 1) Cashman has long wanted to prove that Pavano’s futility in New York was all health-related, and he may have a point when looking at the last two years when Pavano has racked up 31 wins and 420 innings. 2) There is such a drop-off in available pitching after Cliff Lee that Pavano actually made some sense, had it not been for the amount of baggage he would have brought with him.
But lets make no mistake. Even a healthy Pavano would have had a hard time overcoming his history in New York. All it would take would be a loss in his first start and drumbeats would sound. Anything short of a 10-0 start would be unacceptable. Pavano is finally in a good place…let him stay there.
But at least it would have been interesting to see how Yankee fans would have reacted to a rotation that featured both Carl Pavano and AJ Burnett.
- Yankees Introduce Soriano; Setup Man To Wear No. 29 (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Sweeny Says: Plan P (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Keefe To The City: Chat With Sweeny Murti (newyork.cbslocal.com)