Assessing 2023 MLB front offices: Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees' numbers need an explanation

Brian Cashman's 2023 moves were productive. But the New York Yankees were undercut by the failure of their previously signed core of talent.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks with the media.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks with the media. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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Brian Cashman front office WAA impact for New York Yankees: +5.0 games. Rank in MLB: 8. Rank in division: 4.

Ranking the general manager of the New York Yankees eighth-best for front office impact following a season in which the Yanks failed to qualify for a 12-team postseason probably requires some explanation.

Toward this judgment, two factors mitigate in favor of Brian Cashman’s work. The first is that while his front office ranks eighth among the 30 GMs, it only ranks fourth in its own division. In 2023, Cashman was competing for talent against some exceptional AL East competition.

 The second factor is Aaron Judge.

Amid the moaning over New York’s 2023 failures, it’s easy to forget that Cashman won the competition to re-sign Judge, who entered the winter as a free agent. That was no small victory; it cost $360 million through 2031, not to mention a coveted Yankee captaincy. Judge rewarded that investment with a first-year return amounting to +3.0 Wins Above Average.

WAA is used in this series of front office evaluations because it is a zero-based version of WAR, therefore enabling valid approximations of impact against wins and losses.

The problem, of course, is that Judge only played 106 games, being sidelined much of the summer due to nagging injuries. Had he played, he might have come closer to his +8.4 WAA of 2022, and the Yankees may have made a stronger run at contention.

It seems silly to blame Cashman or the Yankee front office for Judge getting hurt.

What one could do is blame Cashman for an inadequate response to Judge’s injury. That’s fair enough. Between the June 3 injury and his return to play in late July, Cashman made only one personnel move of any significance, and it was a minor one involving a waiver claim on fringe pitcher Anthony Misiewicz.

Aside from that, he allowed the personnel on hand to cover for Judge, and it goes without saying that they weren’t up to the task.

Having conceded that, the data gives Cashman overall good grades for the short-term moves he did make. There were 44 of them since the conclusion of the 2022 postseason, of which 22 worked out in favor of the Yankees. Only 18 produced negative value for New York, the final four were neutral.

Here’s the full short-term and long-term statistical profile on the 2023 performance of the Cashman front office. Again, all figures reflect group Wins Above Average.

Acquired by trade, waiver claim or purchase:

  • Since October 2022, 7 players, -0.9 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 9 players, -2.8 net impact

Signed as a free agent or extended for multiple seasons:

  • Since October 2022, 16 players, +0.6 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 9 players, -3.4 net impact

System products:

  • Since October 2022, 8 players, +0.3 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 5 players, +2.9 net impact

Traded away, waived, sold, released or lost to free agency

  • Since October 2022, 13 players, +5.0 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 22 players, -0.1 net impact

Cashman’s big preseason gamble was his decision to turn the shortstop position over to rookie Anthony Volpe. That’s not a move a franchise makes easily when its fans have clear memories of Derek Jeter.

Volpe (+1.2) was no Jeter. But he was good enough for a first-year player, especially on defense. That .204 batting average and .666 OPS may not look acceptable, but Volpe was plus-14 on Defensive Runs Saved at a defense-first position. In most every game the Yankees played, he was the best defensive player on the field.

 Two free agent decisions of significance set back Cashman’s other efforts. His winter signing of free agent pitcher Carlos Rodon (-1.4) looked smart given Rodon’s 27-13 record and 2.50 ERA in 55 2021-22 starts. But Rodon came up lame in the spring, and was awful when he returned in July.

The December signing of Jake Bauers was an afterthought move at the time it was made. But circumstances dictated that Bauers would get 272 plate appearances. He wasn’t up to the challenge, hitting just .202 with a .693 OPS and a -1.8 WAA.

Cashman’s big problem was the large-scale failure of players already under contract to the Yanks when the 2023 signing season began. There were nearly two dozen such veterans and, with the exceptions of Gerrit Cole and one or two others, they produced negativity. Oswaldo Cabrera (-2.5), Oswald Peraza (-1.1), Luis Severino (-2.3) and Kyle Higashioka (-1.1) all fit that category.

The total long-term impact of Cashman’s prior-year signings on the 2023 Yankees worked out to -3.4 WAA.

Only eight general managers were burdened with overcoming a negative long-term score in 2023. None of those eight saw their teams play a postseason game.  

Next. NY Mets front office scores. How the New York Mets front office fared in 2023. dark