Coming off an 82-80 season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016, it’s safe to say that tensions are running high within and around the New York Yankees right now. GM Brian Cashman is as embattled as he’s been in his long tenure with the club, and as he approaches a make-or-break offseason, he’s taken a defensive tone regarding the state of his roster and who exactly is to blame for last season’s struggles — a tone that could be coming back to haunt both he and the team.
It all started at the GM Meetings in Arizona last weekend, when Cashman responded to a question about Giancarlo Stanton with the following:
“We’ve gotta get Stanton up and running again,” Cashman said in Arizona. “He’s injury-prone. We all have lived and known that, but he’s never not hit when he’s playing, and this year is the first time that that’s happened.”
“We try to limit the time he’s down,” Cashman said. “But I’m not gonna tell you he’s gonna play every game next year because he’s not. He’s going to wind up getting hurt again more likely than not because it seems to be part of his game. But I know that when he’s right and healthy – other than this past year – the guy’s a great hitter and has been for a long time.”
It’s hard to quibble with any of that, exactly, but just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to say — especially not in such a public way, and especially when you’re the guy responsible for assembling a roster that could also be described as “injury-prone”. And needless to say, it hasn’t gone over well. Cameron Maybin, Stanton’s former teammate with the Marlins and Yankees, hinted that the former NL MVP may not want to finish his career in pinstripes.
You know I agree with everything you said except the big G part…. And I’ll leave it there. Im not putting words in his mouth but not so sure he wants to finish his career in the pinstripes.. I’m sure he’d like to finish somewhere that actual appreciates how’s he’s handle every…— Cameron Maybin (@CameronMaybin) November 9, 2023
But that’s not even the half of it. Per Ken Rosenthal, here’s what Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe, thought of Cashman’s comments:
“I read the context of the entire interview. I think it’s a good reminder for all free agents considering signing in New York both foreign and domestic that to play for that team you’ve got to be made of Teflon, both mentally and physically because you can never let your guard down even in the offseason.”
Yikes. Consider this a not-so-veiled warning that Cashman’s public comments about Stanton could harm the Yankees’ reputation with players they may have interest in signing in the future — players like, for example, Japanese star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, whom the Yankees are reportedly very high on and who just so happens to be represented by Wolfe as he looks to come to the States this winter.
It’s true Stanton’s injuries have become seemingly inevitable, and that he did not perform up to his typical standards even when healthy in 2023. The 34-year-old played only 391 of 708 possible regular season games since 2019, and he had the worst season of his career in 2023, slashing .191/.275/.420 with 24 home runs in 101 games — a big reason why the Yankees finished 24th in OPS and 25th in runs scored.
But it’s also true that Stanton is far from the only reason that New York’s offense was as bad as it was this year; plenty of blame also falls on Cashman for assembling an aging roster, and for failing to stockpile adequate depth to help weather those inevitable injuries (a team with as much money as the Yankees have should simply never be giving that many plate appearances to the likes of Jake Bauers and Willie Calhoun). Part of being an executive is accepting responsibility, something Cashman has been seemingly unwilling to do so far this offseason. It’s not a great sign moving forward, especially if it costs New York with the players it’ll need to get back atop the AL East.