Yankees GM Brian Cashman was a guest on the latest edition of The Front Office with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, and discussed a number of topics related to the Bronx Bombers’ offseason. Perhaps most notably, some more moves could still potentially take place, as Cashman said the team would still like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder “to balance us out” in the left field mix.
While the Yankees have a noticeably right-handed heavy roster, left field is actually one of the only positions that already has some balance, between switch-hitters Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera, plus the left-handed hitting Estevan Florial. However, New York might prefer to move Cabrera all around the diamond rather than commit him to a fuller-time role in left field, Florial is still an untested commodity at the MLB level, and rumors continue to swirl that the Yankees are trying to trade Hicks and at least some of the $30.5MM remaining on his contract.
Cashman cited the Hicks/Cabrera/Florial trio as the team’s “default” for left field in lieu of any other moves, and noted that the Yankees are intrigued by what they see from their in-house options. Cashman said that Hicks “is fully recovered now” from the knee injury suffered in Game 5 of the ALDS, which kept Hicks from participating in the ALCS against the Astros.
In other health news, Cashman shared some details on Frankie Montas, following last week’s news that shoulder inflammation would keep Montas sidelined through the first month of the season. Montas is only set to begin his normal offseason throwing program this coming week, and thus he’ll need more time to fully ramp up. The right-hander visited Dr. Neal ElAttrache two weeks ago, Cashman said, and the silver lining is that Montas’ shoulder problem doesn’t appear to be structural. “All the diagnostic testing shows a thumbs up….and we’ll know a lot more as the throwing program commences,” Cashman said.
With Montas now sidelined for at least part of the season, the Bombers’ acquisition of Carlos Rodon has become even more important, as the starting staff might not miss a beat with Rodon joining Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes at the front end of the rotation. Cashman revealed that the Yankees first tried to acquire Rodon from the Giants prior to the trade deadline, and though the club “had our conversations with San Francisco” about a possible deal, the Giants opted to keep Rodon because they felt they still had a shot at both reaching the playoffs and re-signing the left-hander this winter.
As it happened, the Giants finished 81-81 and missed the postseason, and Rodon departed for the Bronx on a six-year, $162MM contract. Even with the Yankees focused on Aaron Judge, Cashman said the team “stayed in touch with [agent] Scott Boras and Rodon,” and the GM felt the Yankees were helped because “I know that this is the place [Rodon] wanted to be.”
Rodon’s interest in wearing the pinstripes was a boost to a club whose entire offseason was more or less put on hold while Judge made his decision. Even amidst the fast-moving nature of this winter’s free agent market, “thankfully there were things on the board still after [Judge re-signed], since we weren’t sure what was going to be in play,” Cashman noted. Once Judge had officially agreed to return to New York, “ultimately we were able to pivot” to also land Rodon.
There was certainly some risk involved in the process of making such a priority of Judge, as “certainly no team wants that scenario where you put all your eggs in that basket and then the basket comes up with goose eggs,” Cashman said. Still, the front office had little choice but to wait for Judge’s decision, especially since the AL MVP and his camp gave seemingly little information about which way he was leaning, despite Judge’s public declaration that he preferred to remain with the Yankees.
“I felt like for a long time we were flying blind,” Cashman said. “Normally you kind of get a feel for where things are at, and if you can come to the right number, or you get the numbers whispered….My speculative thought on [Judge’s] end was that he earned the right to free agency and he was going to go through that process in a very methodical, deliberate way.”
“In terms of negotiation, that waiting game….at times, it was difficult.”
Fortunately for Cashman, the Yankees, and the Bronx fans, Judge chose to re-sign for a nine-year, $360MM deal, and he’ll remain as the centerpiece of New York’s lineup. In terms of another returning face, “hopefully we have pure health on DJ LeMahieu’s side,” Cashman noted, “since he was a huge part that we lost last year, really the last two years with two separate injuries.”
A sports hernia kept LeMahieu from participating in the 2021 postseason, while a ligament issue in his right foot/toe area sidelined him for last year’s playoffs. It wasn’t entirely clear whether or not LeMahieu would ultimately need surgery to correct the problem, and while Cashman didn’t firmly provide an update on the infielder’s status one way or the other, the lack of news could be a good omen that LeMahieu’s efforts to rehab the injury without surgery are working.
If LeMahieu is healthy, Cashman described his role as an infielder who can play every day while bouncing around the infield, playing first base, second base, and third base. Breaking down the starting infield, Cashman cited Anthony Rizzo at first base, Gleyber Torres at second base, Josh Donaldson at third base, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing with star prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe for the shortstop job. Naturally there still might be some flux in this plan, depending on LeMahieu’s health and the fact that Donaldson is also reportedly a player the Yankees are trying to unload in order to save some payroll space.