Jan 14, 2011, 4:29 PM EDT
The Rafael Soriano deal was a shocker. Mostly because until very recently Brian Cashman was telling anyone who would listen that the Yankees were done with their days of giving multi-year deals to non-Mariano Rivera class relievers and that they were not going to give up the draft pick required to get Soriano because doing so directly benefits a division rival.
As a result of this. the big question as the deal went down last night was whether this was merely a change of course by Cashman or if he was overruled by his superiors.
Based on the reporting we’re seeing today, it was clearly the latter. Scott Boras got into the heads of Randy Levine or a random Steinbrenner and Cashman’s philosophy was set aside, at least in this instance. Troubling? William J. over at TYU thinks so:
If true, that could be disastrous for the Yankees. Whether you like Cashman or not, the Yankees have seemed to benefit from having one coherent voice on baseball-related matters, so a return to the days of front office factions could have undesirable consequences.
I’m not so sure. Mostly because I don’t think any of us truly know how much input guys like Randy Levine and Hank Steinbrenner already have on personnel matters. We have assumed that Cashman has been calling all of the shots in the past few years, but do we know that for sure? Each year the Yankees have a big organizational meeting right after the season ends. Who are we to say that Cashman’s priorities rule coming out of those meetings?
To be fair, as William J. notes, in this case the fact that there were reports of this being a front office move so quickly after it happened suggests that someone — maybe Cashman — was angry and was spreading the word that he was overruled. But if others have serious input in setting the agenda in October, and if that agenda has been successful in recent years, who are we to say that they can’t change their minds about things in mid-stream? It may be uncommon in recent years and it may be bad for office politics, but the point is that the right moves be made at the right time, isn’t it?
The Soriano signing is not a great move as we tend to understand them. It’s expensive. It’s very player-friendly.* But it is a move that makes the Yankees better in 2012. And after a winter in which most of the Yankees’ original objectives have not been met, any move that improves the team without sacrificing good prospects has to be considered a positive, does it not? The Yankees can afford to throw away some money. But they can’t afford to fall too far behind the Red Sox in the talent acquisition game.
Maybe Cashman was undermined. Maybe he wasn’t. But I don’t think one transaction can tell us that for sure. And even this was a case of Cashman being undermined, it may end up being a situation in which it was a good thing for the sake of the team on the field.
*The most player-friendly aspect of this thing is that if Soriano performs well in 2011 and 2012, and if Mariano Rivera, as expected, retires after 2012, it’s a dead certainty that Soriano will use his opt-out provision to maximize his leverage against a desperate Yankees team. One can never know what happens in negotiations, but I wonder if anyone tried to give Soriano an opt-out after 2011, but making it so that if he didn’t opt-out, 2013 became a team option. Just spit-ballin’.
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