Yanks’ Cashman, Mets’ Alderson Build Sustainable Playoff Teams

Courtesy of newyork.cbslocal

Courtesy of newyork.cbslocal

The Yankees and Mets are headed to the playoffs in 2015, the first time the two of them play in the same postseason since 2006. Since then it’s been one big soap opera for the the Amazins with a historic collapse on the field, a financial collapse off the field and a changing of the front office. The Yankees have lost two inconic players since their last playoff appearance in 2012 but have enjoyed the continuous service of its general manger for 17 years. The two men in charge of baseball operations, Sandy Alderson and Brian Cashman, also have something in common. They have built success not only in this season but in the years to come. The fruits of this year’s labor in both organizations were born prior to the 2014 season.

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Sandy Alderson has been a punching bag for most of his time in New York. Some of it is self-inflicted, like the “Panic City” comment and the tweet joking about the perceived notion of the Mets’ organization being broke. There is also the idea, which hit a fever pitch early in the Summer, that he was doing nothing to help the ballclub which was squandering great outings after solid outings by its tremendous starting rotation. Alderson struck with a series of deals around the trading deadline and the Mets roared past the Nationals, onto an improbable division title. But in order to get to that point, a lot of suffering had to be endured along the way.

There was no way the Mets were going to pay Jose Reyes after the 2011 season. The shortstop, a home-grown star had just won the batting title and was looking to cash in. Reyes took an enormous contract from the Marlins and the fan base sighed, realizing the plight of ownership’s finances. Another wound was opened a year later after the popular R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award. He was looking for a nice extension, his first and probably only shot at real money. It was hard to do but ultimately, Alderson made the right call and dealt the knuckleballer to the Blue Jays for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud. (In a happy twist, Dickey gets his shot in the playoffs with Toronto). So with the organization stockpiling pitchers thanks to the drafting of Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom by former GM Omar Minaya and the deals made by Alderson for Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, New York had the makings of a formidable rotation. All they needed was a couple of position players to make it work.

The year most fans expected to contend was 2014. However, Harvey ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2013 so it seemed to most outsiders (I’ll include myself in that group) felt that the organization “gave up” on 2014. The team did sign three free agents: Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young. At first, instead of looking at the positive aspects of the Colon and Granderson signings, it was Young’s performance that symbolized the frustration of the fan base during yet another losing season. Young was signed to a one year, $7 million dollar contract and performed miserably at the same time Nelson Cruz signed virtually the same exact deal with the Orioles and led the American League in home runs. Young was cut in August, picked up by the Yankees and proceeded to have a number of key hits down the stretch of the season. In the end, Young had a typical Young season: a low batting average with some pop and good defense. It wasn’t a terrible signing; it just worked out that all of his bad numbers came with the Mets and all of his good numbers came with the Yankees. Not that 2014 was all bad; in addition to Granderson and Colon who have turned out to be excellent acquisitions, deGrom won Rookie of the Year and the club took an outfielder by the name of Michael Conforto in the first round of the 2014 Draft.

We know how 2015 began and how much the season has changed since July 31st.  The early 11-game winning streak covered up a lot of holes and allowed the team to remain in or around first place. Then there were those crushing losses like the blown 7-1 lead to the Padres that felt like same old Mets. Alderson finally struck, first by calling up Conforto, trading for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson and finally dealing for the big fish, Yoenis Cespedes. The important thing to note is that the Mets, even if Cespades walks after this year, are set up well for next year and beyond. For one thing, the division is a complete train wreck. It will take more than just a manger change to fix the Nationals. The Marlins, Braves and Phillies will not be in serious contention for at least two years. Granderson is signed for another two years. Conforto is a keeper in left field. Jeurys Familia seems to be the answer as the closer. David Wright looks reborn enough to have another two or three more productive years. Lucas Duda appears as though he is the answer at first base. D’Arnaud’s bat will keep him in the lineup either at catcher or somewhere in the field. If he departs from behind the plate. Kevin Plawecki is ready to assume the position. And of course there are those starting pitchers. So if the Mets start off slowly in 2016, let’s not revisit Panic City. Let Sandy Alderson find the solution.

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Courtesy espn.com

Courtesy espn.com

The Yankees have not had a losing season since the first George Bush was the President. That is a run unheard of in any sport and much of that can be attributed to Brian Cashman who started out as an intern and worked his way up the food chain to become GM in 1998. Sure, money has a lot to do with it as the Yanks routinely have one of, if not the highest payroll in baseball. However, there is more to the New York run than just money. If it were all about dollars, teams like Orioles and Dodgers from years ago and the Phillies of today wouldn’t have gone through painful rebuilding processes.

For instance, when was the last time you saw Cashman get the bad end of a trade? For almost two decades, the GM has made deals that have bettered his team with most of the prospects going the other way not living up to their end. The first one that comes to mind is in 2000 when the Yanks acquired David Justice for Zach Day, Ricky Ledee and Jake Westbrook. Justice helped the Yankees win the World Series later that year and although Westbrook had some nice years, he was beset by injuries. The Bombers won the trade. Alex Rodriguez and his desire for a winner allowed  Cashman to send Alfonso Soriano to the Rangers. Even for all his warts, Michael Pineda has worked out better for the Yankees than Jesus Montero has worked out for the Mariners. Cashman’s acumen figured greatly again in a pair of trades before 2015.

Free agency has been a different story for the Yanks. Although he has connected more times than he has missed, Cashman still has made his fair share of head-scratching free agent signings. Jaret Wright‘s 3-year, $21 million dollar contract before the 2005 season was one of his worst decisions. For that, he received a 5.00 ERA in 43 starts. A.J. Burnett‘s 5-year, $85 million dollar deal before 2009 helped usher in a World Series title but overall was a bad one just as the ink was drying. We’ll reference one more bungled free agent deal, perhaps the most egregious of them all in the next paragraph.

Derek Jeter‘s final season was 2014 and it seemed as though the Yankees pulled out all the stops in order to send him out a winner. The checkbook was once again opened and making their way to the Bronx were Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka and Jacoby Ellsbury. They also made in season trades for Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy and Martin Prado. It ultimately fell short but it set in motion the playoff team of 2015. The Yanks re-signed Headley and then Cashman made one of his patented steals by sending Prado and pitcher Shane Greene in separate deals for Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi. So in essence, Cashman dealt a good infielder and a pitcher who eventually needed TJ surgery for the powerful right arm of the 24-year old Evoaldi and Gregorius who will be the shortstop for the next ten years. The Ellsbury contract is an albatross for the next five years. No team was even close to the 7-year, $153 million dollar deal the Yankees gave him. Other than that, the Yanks seemed poised for future success. The rise of home-grown Dellin Betances last year, the signing of Andrew Miller and the trade for Justin Wilson should give the bullpen a three-headed monster for the next three years.  A farm system, which has sent Betances, Greg Bird and Luis Severino to New York is now making big contributions to the Major League team. The excessive contracts of Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia will be off the books after 2017. It is next to impossible to rebuild and reload on the fly and remain competitive. However, that is what the New York Yankees have done thanks to Brian Cashman.

 

 

 

 

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