Editor’s note: Material used for this post also appears in a story I wrote upon interviewing Brian Cashman. The interview took place after he addressed the entire media group and explained acquiring Chase Headley on July 22.
This is the time of year when things get crazy for general managers and many others in baseball.
The non-waiver trade deadline is four days away and those in the mix are trying to improve what they have by obtaining some of the better talent from those out of it. General managers are so eager to get things done that sometimes they happen during rain delays like in the case of Joakim Soria, who spent part of a nearly two-hour rain delay being briefed by Texas management about a deal to Detroit.
That came a day after the Yankees acquired Chase Headley from San Diego. Headley found out about the deal about two hours before the Yankees officially announced it. Six hours later, he arrived from Chicago and four and a half hour later he had the game-winning hit in the 14th, jokingly becoming a “true Yankee”.
The preference would have been to get Headley three weeks ago. That’s when the need for a higher quality third baseman really surfaced. Including Alex Rodriguez’s final two months of last year, 14 different players had played third base, The three most recent ones had been Yangervis Solarte, Kelly Johnson and Zelous Wheeler. While each provided a few home runs, Brian Cashman knew he needed to act somewhat decisively.
So now comes the exchange of ideas. Would you do this, would you do that? No way, don’t insult me. Things like that or as Cashman told me the following:
“A lot of conversations, a lot of ideas,” Brian Cashman said last week in describing the process. “It seems like the new technique is texting. Some of it’s not as much by phone as it used to be but you just throw out a lot of ideas. First you find out what teams are looking to do, how they’re trying to accomplish it and then you try to see if you match up in any shape or form. It’s not easy.
“Man, probably five, six or seven years ago that texting started. I think it’s easier to insult somebody via text than it is to on the phone.”
When the Yankees faced the Red Sox last month, FOX’s cameras picked up a shot of Cashman attached to his ear. A few days later, Cashman said he was ready to “rock-and-roll”. In other words a code word for I want to make a deal and what better setting to say it in front of about 20 members of the New York media.
That was June 30. The Yankees were flirting with disaster which is having a .500 or sub-500 record. Their needs were a starting pitcher and perhaps some hitting help at third base.
They were six days away from acquiring Brandon McCarthy and this was before they realized CC Sabathia would be gone for the season and before learning that Masahiro Tanaka would be gone for at least six weeks and possibly more with elbow.
If you scour MLBtraderumors.com, you can see the evolution of Chase Headley coming to the Yankees or the evoloving rumor front for possible Yankee deals.
When Cashman spoke about the Headley deal, he said that if he could have made the deal three weeks ago he would have. That’s a further emphasis of the fact that deals rarely happen instantaneously.
Three weeks before the July 22 deal would be July 1 when the Yankees were getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays. That was four days after a report surfaced that the Blue Jays were looking at Headley as an upgrade. Then came a report that the Yankees were looking at Headley but not “heavily scouting” him. That was followed a few days later with the Blue Jays reportedly discussing a deal.
So with this in mind, Cashman knows he has to act on two fronts, one to keep Headley away from a team in competition with the Yankees and secondly to upgrade a position of need.
There’s still time to swing a deal though the preference would be to get the asset quicker. To do that, it comes with a cost of high-end chips in general manager jargon and most general managers won’t do deals that way.
“It feels like it’s getting harder,” Cashman said. “The deals are getting tougher to make. It’s harder to find common ground. It’s not as easy to match up. One of the reasons probably is I think the competitive balance is really much stronger than it’s ever been. So more teams being in it, they’re less likely to take away from their major league club. It’s harder to match up.”
Eventually the common ground is met and in this case, it’s Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael DePaula. And even better for the Yankees it comes with nine days to spare before the deadline so Cashman can focus his attention elsewhere and maybe get a last minute piece that he might not have been expecting.
It’s the same process that he did to get Alfonso Soriano last year for some sorely needed right-handed power but not the same process in getting David Justice 14 years ago to help a slumping offense. That was mostly done by phone but regardless of the method, the goal remains the same for Cashman and others trusted with general manager responsibilities.
Breaking down the timing of Brian Cashman’s trades by any scale:
Offseason/Spring Training/April, May, September – 62
June – 14
July – 43
August – 8