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Ranking the General Managers

Mar 4, 2010, 2:15 PM EDT

SI’s Tim Marchman — after acknowledging just how hard it is to objectively rate general managers due to differing payrolls, owners, and expectations — tries to rate the general managers.

Top 5: Andrew Friedman, Theo, Cashman, Larry Beinfest  and Jack Zduriencik.

Bottom 5 (worst first): Dayton Moore, Ed Wade, Brian Sabean, Ned Colletti and Omar Minaya.

I like Friedman and Theo, but I think Cashman should probably lead the list. Yes, the Yankees have tons of money, but ever since the owners have gotten off his back, Cashman has made great moves, not just great-for-a-rich-guy moves. I think Jack Z may be a little high. Great offseason, sure, but until the guys he went out and got actually play a few games it may be worth being a bit conservative.

The bottom end is pretty much right.  Dayton Moore has stunk on ice and Ed Wade’s job security is one of the greater mysteries of the universe. I slam Omar a lot, but I still get this feeling that when he’s finally fired we’ll learn that Jeff Wilpon has authored some of the team’s worst moves.

Sabean is my least favorite GM in baseball, less for his actual moves than the fact that he is a spineless man and a loathesome boss. For this reason alone Sabean would be on the bottom of my list even if he traded Aaron Rowand for Stephen Strasburg straight up.

  1. JE - Mar 4, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    I know it sounds unfair, Craig, but until Cashman takes the helm of a small or medium-sized budget club, I just don’t see how he deserves the no. 1 spot. Friedman has been just as successful with his transactions with a fraction of the payroll.

  2. sjp - Mar 4, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    I agree with JE. In the Yankees scenario, Cashman never has to take risks…he can just waaaaay over-pay for any sure thing that comes along looking for a big payday (e.g. Sabathia, A-Rod, Tex, Damon 4 years ago). If you never have to take chances, you better have a high “success rate”. Any mistakes have no effect on the next purchase. Um…Kei Igawa anyone? How about the disaster that has been the handling of Joba, none of that falls on Cashman?
    He has a monster advantage over every team, he’s in a no lose situation.

  3. JoeT - Mar 4, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Shouldn’t they be rated by how much bang they get for the buck. Why not hypothetically subtract from each team any players that bring that teams payroll over 90 million dollars and then judge who has the best team.

  4. ReinDeerGames - Mar 4, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    With money comes enormous pressure as well. No one is going to fry Freidman for missing the playoffs last year, but Cashman got knocked down for it. Saying that, I don’t think I’d rank him No. 1 either.

  5. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 4, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    Um…Kei Igawa anyone?

    Ok he’s made one mistake, although I’m not even sure that was Cashman’s to make. But okay, 1 mark against him.

    How about the disaster that has been the handling of Joba, none of that falls on Cashman?

    Ok, separate what the NY Media have written, and what he’s actually done in his career. Where’s the mistake? In ’07 he was hitting his innings limit, and the Yanks needed a reliever. Joba succeeds. In ’08, he’s a reliever initially and converted to a SP (which he was his whole career prior to ’07). Gets hurt. Starts ’09 as SP and pitches 31 games. Yanks worried that he’s 60+ IP over career high, pitches postseason as RP.
    Where’s the “disaster”? Through 40 or so starts, his numbers compare with Halladay, Randy Johnson and Santana. The kid is still 24, give him some time.
    Also, while people can dismiss Cashman for his big signings, how about giving him credit for all the trades and low budget signings his made (as Craig notes)?

  6. YankeesfanLen - Mar 4, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Cashman’s only problem in an evaluation is that he has nowhere to go but down. As a home-grown GM he has gently nudged owners who may be a little over-the-top into making rational business decisions by being able to know when to throw money after (admittedly) cream of the crop choices (CC, Tex) and when, even when unpopular, cut bait (Bernie, Abreu, Matsui, Damon, etc.)
    Fans of the Universe tend to be overly sentimental to players who have become home town favorites and have to be proud of Cash for making decisions that are temporairly unpopular but put and keep the team on top.
    And don’t ever expect me to extend sympathy for teams that collect millions from revenue sharing and don’t spend it to improve their teams. Or Omar who has the money and doesn’t come close to spending his resources intelligently.

  7. Charles Gates - Mar 4, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    It’s not that the Yankees got Sabathia that makes Cashman a good GM, it’s how he got him. Yes, he has the ability to pay top dollar for what he wants, but he also refrained from giving up Hughes, Austin Jackson (who got him Granderson), and other prospects for Johan Santana knowing that he could get Sabathia during the next offseason. The way he handled Damon this offseason was great, which proves he’s not just a cheque writer.
    Think of it this way: Cashman uses a sniper rifle instead of a shot gun. When he shoots, he uses a really big bullet to make sure he gets what he wants.

  8. JE - Mar 4, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    Be fair. So far, no one who disagrees with Craig’s assessment says that Cashman is a lousy GM. No one has even said that he should not be in the top tier.

  9. NC - Mar 4, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Any GM that spends twice as much on payroll as the average MLB team should be winning a World Series at least every other year. A few teams made the playoffs last year and the year before that had less than 100 million dollar payrolls. And a few teams didn’t make the playoffs that had 130 million dollar plus payrolls. It seems these ratings were made more by personal bias than in actual performance evaluation.

  10. Jamie - Mar 4, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    For those bashing Brian Cashman, just imagine how much better shape the Cubs would be in if he were handling their $140 million payroll instead of Jim Hendry. They would at least have a starting second baseman and a fifth starter that isn’t Carlos Silva.

  11. Nasty Boy - Mar 4, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    I was going to jump all over the low ranking of Cashman, until I read your comment. What really made me realize your take is Kei Igawa, for gods sake Stevie Wonder could of seen he was a bum. That alone was a 40 mil. blunder. I don’t only blame Cashman, but also so-called scout that said he saw something in that loser .God knows that guy is keeping a low profile. That scout should be put out to pasture.

  12. Rays fan - Mar 4, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Man, I hate having to respect anything the Yankees do, but everyone swings and misses sometimes–so I wouldn’t make too big a deal out of Kei Igawa. Also, forget the big name free agents. Look at the Yankees’ role players that he signed. Look at the health of their farm system. Someday, when Cashman moves on, it should be a day of celebration for fans of the other AL East teams because he is that good.

  13. John F - Mar 4, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    The problem with seeing past the Yankee haters and the payroll is that we never really knew who was making the decisions. I believe Cashman wanted Guerrero vs Sheffield for example. Sounds like an old debate, but who really knows who wanted who as fractured as ownership was (and maybe still is to a degree). There is no way to really know whether Brown, Johnson, Wright, Karsay, Womack, Igawa, Quantrill and on and on were 10%, 20%, 30% or 100% Cashman’s decisions. One thing is for sure, love him or hate him, he’s done a decent job inside the minefield that is the GM job in The Bronx. He may not be the best, but it is ludicrous to assume he should win every year with the top payroll. It doesn’t work that way as history has proven. It’s a monster advantage, granted, but if you are going to crucify him for every mistake he has to get credit when it’s due. I don’t know if the Buhners, McGees, McGriffs, Drabeks, etc exist in New York’s farm system any more, but when the Yankees do part with an Austin Jackson nowadays they at least come back with a player in his late twenties like Granderson. It’s not an easy job when you can’t pack it in at any time to reload. Everyone with a lick of baseball sense has to know that Damon and Matsui were tough calls and I’m glad I didn’t have to make ’em. I think Cashman made the right decisions, but time will tell. It’s a major accomplishment to have the Steinbrenners, of any generation, in relative check and still be on the payroll after all this time in my book. Is he one of the top five GMs in baseball? Maybe, maybe not, but he’s in the conversation.

  14. MikeS - Mar 4, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    Over the last three years the teams with the most regular season wins in MLB are the Angels with 291, Yankees with 286, Red Sox 286, Phillies 274, Cubs 265, Dodgers 261, Rockies 256, Cardinals 255, Twins 254, Brewers 253, Rays 247, and the Mets 247.

  15. JE - Mar 4, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    Be fair. So far, no one who disagrees with Craig’s assessment says that Cashman is a lousy GM. No one has even said that he should not be in the top tier.

  16. Big Harold - Mar 4, 2010 at 11:14 PM

    If Cashman doesn’t deserve credit because of Yankee payroll then why does Epstein deserve any credit either? The Red Sox aren’t exactly playing for free room and board and a little beer money. Also, he didn’t assemble the 04 team. Not to mention his hissy fit. Getting all worked up because Lucchino isn’t nice to him and he leaves in a huff, .. in a gorilla suit. In Cashman ever did anything remotely like that he’d the New York media would’ve crucified him.
    The notion that Theo is some kind of baseball savant, .. frankly doesn’t hold water. Sure he jettisoned Nomar at exactly the right moment but on the other hand SS have been a revolving door since. Beckett and Lowell were not his trades so no credit there. He also let Damon go, .. without a ‘Plan B”, .. which got them Crisp and no playoffs in 06. And a year later they sign JD Drew for 75 mil? Last season it as “low risk high reward”, .. and three and out in the playoffs. This year they let their biggest bat walk because they won’t give him the same contract that the gave JD Drew. So this year it run prevention and pitching, .. and perhaps no playoffs again?
    Payroll is like a sharp knife , .. it’s great unless you don’t know what your doing because inevitably you will start cutting your fingers off.
    Whatever “degree if difficulty points” Cashman loses as a result of Yankees resources he should be credited back for successfully dealing with George Steinbrenner all these years.

  17. ejf - Mar 4, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    I don’t understand how he can even rank guys like Jed Hoyer. What did Hoyer do to be ranked so low? Nothing, right? Because he’s been on the job all of 4 months. There hasn’t been a single game yet and the Padres farm system is not his fault. Yet from this ranking you would think he had already traded Adrian Gonzalez for a bag of Cheetos. He should have been left out entirely for lack of data. Same with Alex Anthopoulos.

  18. 55Bill - Mar 5, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    Ed Wade put the majority of pieces in place for the Phils. Now he works for one of, if not the most meddlesome owner in MLB. I think he’s done a great job considering he came into a depleted farm system, a overpaid guaranteed contract DH playing left field, a shortstop with no range, little latitude in payroll expansion and a really poor starting pitching staff excepting Roy O and Wandy. In a win now world, no one has patience for building a team. He’s already made very positive coaching staff hires. I think Wade’s report card will look very good 4 to 5 years from now.

  19. Gary Mayer - Mar 5, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Who is Theo? Doesn’t he have a last name?

  20. tony - Mar 5, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    You show you know nothing about running a ball club with this article. Billy beane hasn’t won anything in years and that team is decimated for years to come. Seattle still hasn’t proven anything and shouldn’t be recognized. Cashman and Epstein money buys all and doesn’t make for a good Gm. You have to grow your team from within. Ruben Amaro as low as you have him is a joke. He signed Cole Hamels to a cheap contract for pitchers adn Halladay at an absolute bargain for the best pitcher in baseball. As for growth from within I give you Rollins, Hamels, Utley, Werth,Victorino, and Howard. That is a GM to look at you idiot.

  21. bob - Mar 5, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    do u even follow base ball? Everybody knows and i might spell his name wrong, its Epstine from boston.

  22. Mel Northrop - Mar 5, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    My opinion of GM’s ability to excel is like playing cards. If you have the cards to play with, you can win. In case of baseball or any pro sport: you have money, a farm or support system, good reputation, personality plus, and most of all knowledge of the business you are in. Doesn’t matter if your name is Brian, Theo or Omar, if the deck is stacked, anyone can win.

  23. mark greenberg - Mar 5, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    you are right about Jaba, when he came up to the majors, he had a 100 mile an hour fast ball and he was utterly un-hitable. What the hell happend?

  24. billyp01 - Mar 5, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    agreed! everything you had to say about Amaro was positive..and your gonna count trading away Lee to replenish the farm and signing Raul for a few years?? this is a joke..

  25. billyp01 - Mar 5, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    good numbers.. id like to see the total payroll for those teams over the last 3 years..

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