‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Brian Cashman deserves strong praise for a number of smart-value off-season signings.  None have been more vital than Thursday night’s hero Russell Martin.  The Yankees’ backstop gained the go-ahead two-run double in the seventh inning that led to the Bombers completing a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox and taking two games out of three at Fenway.

Martin hasn’t always been showered with praise for his contributions this season but maybe now fans will take notice just how important he is to the Yankees.  Through 106 games, he has put up 17 home runs and 61 RBIs which respectively rank him 5th and 7th among major league catchers.  Combining that with his excellent defense and MLB-leading 80 assists, Martin has been invaluable member of the Yankees.

He is set to earn a $4M base salary with a number of intricate small bonuses kicking in per games played.  Even if the entire $1.4M in incentives kicks in for a total of $5.4M, Martin will have been one of the best bargains around baseball.

Picking up Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon off the ‘scrap heap’ has worked wonders for the Yankees.  Garcia has been a dependable starter that Joe Girardi can count on to give a solid outing almost every time he takes the mound.  Even with sub-average velocity, Garcia gets by on control, guile and mental strength.  A win-loss of 11-7 to the tune of a 3.09 ERA and WHIP of 1.27 makes impressive reading. Signed for an original $1.5M, Garcia will earn additional per-start bonuses at the end of the year.

Bartolo Colon was considered in baseball circles as ‘the great experiment’ after undergoing a stem cell transplant to repair damaged tissue in his right shoulder.  It was unclear how well the procedure would work out or how long Colon would last.  Cashman decided to allow Colon to join the Yankees on a Spring Training invite and began to surprise the baseball world.

Originally set to be used out of the bullpen, Colon was able to make his way into the rotation after Phil Hughes suffered an inflamed shoulder.  For a period of the season, Colon has pitched like one of the more dominant starters in the American League and his WHIP stands at a terrific 1.24.  His velocity is near that of his youth and has registered 116 strikeouts in 138.2 innings pitched.  Even if he suffered a season-ending injury in his next start, Cashman will have gotten unbelievable value from Colon at $900K.

Having Eric Chavez around has been particularly important with Alex Rodriguez missing most of July.  Even as A-Rod inches closer to a return, Chavez will allow Rodriguez to ease himself back into the Yankees’ lineup and get the occasional rest to keep him fresh for the playoffs.  Chavez also is able to spell Mark Teixeira at first base and makes a useful DH against right-handed pitching.  As seen on Thursday night, Chavez has a knack for hitting in clutch situations and throughout the year he’s collected some noteworthy hits.

Even at 33, his defense is still reminiscent of six-time Gold Glove résumé and has been a bargain at a base salary of $1.5M.  Chavez would earn a maximum of $4M in additional pay based upon playing time and days on the Yankees’ roster but injuries have limited him to 41 games thus far.

One signing I was very skeptical about was Andruw Jones.  He was coming off three consecutive seasons full of injuries and short welcomes with the Dodgers, Rangers and White Sox.  Jones has actually provided a valuable power bat against left-handed pitching.  Over 106 at bats against LHPs, Jones contributed 8 home runs, 24 RBIs and a .538 slugging percentage.  He will likely fall short of the 250 plate appearances needed to collect bonuses and will earn a total of $2M.

Despite his struggles of late, Luis Ayala has been a pleasant surprise as he’s given the Yankees an ERA of 1.97 and WHIP of 1.38 through 45.2 innings pitched.  Same goes for Cory Wade who has registered a 2.17 ERA and a sparking WHIP of 0.97 through 29.0 IP.  Both signed minor league contracts and Cashman and his scouting staff deserve a pat on the back for mining these gems.

Outside of season-ending injury victim Pedro Feliciano, Cashman should be given top marks for his acquisitions.  When the Yankees were at their most dominant, their strong depth was an underrated factor in their success.  Their ability to plug in quality replacements due to injuries or for use in certain match-ups was a key element in their championship run.

Whether it was Colon sliding into Hughes’ spot in the rotation early in the year, Chavez filling in admirably for A-Rod or the number of successful ‘scrap heap’ bullpen arms added, Cashman’s reassembling of the Yankees mirrors part of what allowed them to win their four championships between 1996-2000.  Will it lead to a Word Series title in the 2011 playoffs?  Only time will tell…

Yankee fans – how would grade Cashman’s acquisitions?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

Comments (21)
  1. BleacherCreature26 says:

    Please, this article is a joke. Cashman and Girardi are both disgraceful at their jobs. The good news is that the Yanks dont even need a manager because of Jeter and Posada’s leadership, so that takes care of Joe for the most part. More good news is that the Yanks have a virtually unlimited payroll, so Cashman can get away with mistake after mistake after mistake while still having money to sign players. eventually, by the law of averages, the guy signs enough players for 1 or 2 to be “good signings.”
    and by the way Sean Hartnett, 5.4 mill for a decent part-time catcher is not what id call some amazing bargain.
    oh and 1 more thing – with all of his “great signings,” the only 2 players batting over .285 are Jeter and Cano. Neither of which Cashman can take credit for.

    1. hartylfc says:

      I’d say that you’re severely underrating Martin. He’s been a quality power and RBI man at a position that isn’t typically offensive. I think you’re spoiled by watching Posada over the years. Jorge was a rarity. Taking into account Martin’s solid defense and MLB-leading assists to go along with his offense and I’d say he’s been quite a bargain.

      You shouldn’t look entirely at batting average. Example: Nick Swisher is batting below .270 but his on-base percentage is over .380. He’s 9th in the AL in OBP.

      Same goes for Granderson who is a shade above .270 in batting average but ranks just below the top 10 in OBP. Although useful, batting average is an out-dated stat. (Sean Hartnett)

    2. Ronnie Lester says:

      I totally agree. You nailed it on the head. Cashman has been the second-best GM in the AL East for a long time. Every single Yankee hitter on the team is having an off year. As a general rule for the past decade, the majority of players brought in have not panned out. There are precious few exceptions.

      If Joe G. had any brains at all, Cano would bat third. Batting him 5th is NUTS! You don’t bat your best hitter 5th! You bat him 5th so he can get an RBI in the first inning and get you off to a good start. Fifth spot in the order is for people like Graig Nettles who drive in runs but don’t hit for average. Tex should bat 5th now.

      1. Ronnie Lester says:

        Correcting: you bat Cano THIRD so he can get a first-inning RBI and bat more times in the game. You want Cano to get 5 at bats in a game as opposed to Tex, who’s hitting 60 points lower. Then you want Tex getting 4 at bats, if it has to be one or the other. The law of averages with .300 hitters and .245 hitters is that the better hitter will win you a few extra games a year. But this is far above Jolted Joe’s head.

        BleacherCreature is spot on.

  2. Ronnie Lester says:

    I believe Cashman is a lingering part of the malaise that characterized the latter portion of Torre’s reign with the team. And I also believe that if the Yanks change GMs this off-season with a dynamic new GM they can do a better job of reaching their full potential. I don’t know who that would be, but I am confident that such a GM can be found and hired.

    1. David says:

      I would like to see the Yankees’ team ERA for the reign of Cashman and his predecessor. The Cashman reign has been characterized by less than adequate pitching.

      1. Mellissa says:

        Kevin Brown. Period.

  3. Thompson says:

    Andrew Jones. Now there’s another guy who had injuries. He was overmatched by righthanders earlier in the season. Only more recently has he produced.

  4. Bart says:

    Cashman and the manager blew it with 3 bright young pitching prospects. Joba Rules and Phil Rules were disasters. Even last year they kept Phil from winning 20 by holding him back. And Ian Kennedy is winning big for another team now. I’d like to have them all in place now instead of Garcia, Colon, Burnett. Cashman deserves plenty of blame for the mismanagement of young pitchers.

    1. hartylfc says:

      If Cashman hadn’t traded away Kennedy, he wouldn’t have gotten an AL MVP candidate in Granderson.

      I agree that Cashman mismanaged Chamberlain and Hughes and that is a valid criticism of Cashman. I’d like to see him take a book out of Nolan Ryan’s school of extending young arms without pitch counts. (Sean Hartnett)

  5. hartylfc says:

    In the cases of Burnett, Pavano and Giambi, they were all coveted free agents. It wasn’t like the Yankees were the only ones throwing money at them. Thanks for your feedback Ronnie. (Sean Hartnett)

    1. Ronnie Lester says:

      You’re right and you’re welcome. The intent is not what counts. They just did not pay off and caused more problems than they were worth.

      1. hartylfc says:

        If the free agents you mentioned chose the Yankees over other clubs making offers, they could have been problems somewhere else.

        Are you willing to give Cashman credit for trading for Granderson and Swisher, sticking with Gardner as opposed to signing a replacement?

        He refused to sign Rafael Soriano and was overruled by the Steinbrenners. Look how that turned out… Cashman knew what he was doing and didn’t like Soriano’s makeup. He didn’t want to pay him top closer money and knew that there was a terrific in-house setup option in Roberston. (Sean Hartnett)

      2. Ronnie Lester says:

        Still not that impressed with Swisher. For much of the season he was Nick Whiffer. He disappears in the postseason.

        Yes, precisely! I wish those players had been problems for other teams. 🙂

        So we should reward Cash with a huge new contract despite the underwhelming career as NYY GM and his opposition to signing Soriano? I think not.

        I think you’re a cheerleader for Cash.

        Cash out, Yankees!

  6. roberttappitt says:

    Last time I checked, Russell Martin was hitting in the .220s for most of the season. Eric Chavez started off hot, went to the DL for a long time, came back and his average nose-dived. The writer is praising people who have under-performed for one good game.

    1. Samwell says:

      Chavez and Colon have been so injured for the last few years that they’re unlikely to be of much help in the long-term. What’s the next hope after that? Mark Prior?

      1. roberttappitt says:

        It is true. Count how many days Martin’s average was in the .220s and .230s.

    2. hartylfc says:

      That’s not the case at all. Martin was an All-Star selection and if you look over the article again, I mentioned that he was among the best catchers in HR and RBIs along with his great defense.

      As for Chavez, he wasn’t expected to play a full season. We all know his injury history and he’s been there when the Yankees have needed him filling in well for A-Rod and Teixeira when injured. (Sean Hartnett)

      1. Michael says:

        The point is he is a short-term fix who’s done good things. He is this year’s Lance Berkman. But his average has plummeted from over. 300.

      2. Michael says:

        Even now Martin is at .240. Not impressed. Catching is at a low spot in MLB. There aren’t many good ones. To be 5th and 7th in stats among catchers in 2011 iis not anythng to write home about.

  7. Ronnie Lester says:

    I hope Cashman leaves after his contract runs out this season. He has only won 2 championships since he became GM and has under-performed. Colon and Garcia have been pleasant surprises, but at best they are one-year wonders (actually more like half a season for the gimpy Colon) and do not provide a base for the Yankees’ pitching staff for any length of time. Burnett and Texeira have not performed up to the money or the expectations. Many of Cashman’s acquisitions have been dreadful: Vasquez twice, Pavano, Giambi, Nick Johnson, Igawa, Knoblauch, Feliciano, Jaret Wright, Farnsworth, Randy Wynn, Rafael Soriano, and on and on.

    Boston’s GM has danced circles around Cashman and has built a solid pitching staff for the future with solid young pitchers. Signing Adrian Gonzalez was huge for Boston this past season, and the Yanks and Cashman have not kept up.

    The Yanks (Cashman) have made questionable decisions tying up tens of millions of dollars in players already in decline who will be collecting (and sitting?) into their 40s.

    I fully believe someone else can do a better job as GM of the New York Yankees and hope someone else gets that chance after this season.

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