Cashman on Yankees' slow start: 'We're patching holes as best we can'

May 3rd, 2023

NEW YORK -- Brian Cashman’s concerns have shifted. The Yankees’ general manager departed Spring Training pondering the state of his starting rotation, which was lacking three of its envisioned five arms. A staggering rash of injuries then decimated the starting lineup, shelving bold-faced names like and .

Cashman needs no reminder that the American League East is a powerhouse division, and with a 16-15 record entering play on Wednesday, his club sits 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Rays. He notes that the schedule has only been one-fifth completed and says he continues to believe that he has constructed a winning roster, if and when their main pieces become healthy.

“Don’t give up on us. That’s all I can tell you; don’t count us out,” Cashman said. “We’ve got a good group of people -- player-wise, staff-wise, support staff-wise. It’s a championship-caliber operation from that perspective, but we’re not currently flying at the level that we would have expected, because we’re missing some pretty important pieces.”

What does the organization view as its biggest problem?

The Yankees have approximately $152 million of their 2023 payroll on the injured list, a group headlined by Judge, Stanton, , and . Judge could return as soon as Monday vs. Oakland, and Severino is set to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Single-A Tampa this week, but the others are still weeks away.

From an offensive perspective, these Bronx Bombers haven’t lived up to the moniker: New York has scored two runs or less in 13 games, a figure that leads the Majors. On the offensive side, , , and have all received more playing time than expected.

“The team we’re currently running out there, that’s not the team we actually anticipated,” Cashman said. “That happens on a continuous basis; typically, you lose one or two guys along the way. But we’ve lost a lot more than one or two guys along the way. We’re patching holes as best we can at this time of year.”

So what can change?

The Yankees must pin their hopes on improving health. Cashman said several times that they are hoping to “tread water” until their stars return. He does not see the marketplace as favorable for upgrades or acquisitions. The free-agent market is largely barren, and opposing teams typically aren’t looking to offload talent until at least the All-Star break.

“Ultimately, myself and our staff are constantly looking to see what’s available,” Cashman said. “The time of year is tough -- April, May, June. If you asked me that question in the wintertime or even March, what’s your biggest fear in the early portion of the season? All general managers would say you don’t want to get wrecked with injuries early.”

What’s going wrong on the conditioning and training side?

The Yankees hired Eric Cressey in January 2020, asking the noted performance coach to overhaul their training and strength/conditioning programs. Those changes seemed to be a success when they were remarkably healthy in the first half of the 2022 season, but now each of manager Aaron Boone’s pregame interviews is dominated by injury updates.

“It’s unfortunate, and the question you asked is fair to always ask,” Cashman said. “I believe we have really good personnel on the healthcare side of this thing -- the doctors, the trainers, the strength coaches. I think we have players that are wired the right way, that care and compete. … Our manager and our coaching staff have been through this stuff before.”

Hal Steinbrenner said that the Yankees were “not done yet.” What happened?

Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, made that comment in New York on Dec. 21. The signings of Judge and Rodón were already complete, and Steinbrenner seemed to indicate more moves were on the horizon. Cashman said that the club aimed to trade from its infield surplus (possibly or Kiner-Falefa) in order to upgrade left field, where and Hicks have shared duties, but those moves did not materialize.

“I don’t think there was anything that was on the table that I could have pulled down that would have made a difference,” Cashman said. “We were certainly exploring a lot of efforts; if you look at our roster, we were deep on the infield side. We were pursuing opportunities to trade from an area of strength if we got the right value. We didn’t get the right value. I don’t see any missed opportunities with everything that was in play.”

Any regrets about last year’s Trade Deadline?

There is no debate: Cashman’s maneuvers at the 2022 Trade Deadline haven’t panned out. Right-hander had season-ending Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, joining and in having undergone procedures. and Andrew Benintendi (now with the White Sox) also dealt with injuries; in Bader’s case, he was hurt when acquired.

Cashman shielded his baseball operations department by saying that any blame should fall on him, then added that there is nothing that they would have done differently in terms of their due diligence on player medical reports.

“I certainly wish last year’s Trade Deadline had gone better,” Cashman said. “Injuries happen, and ultimately we’re getting a lot of injuries right now. That’s certainly killing us. But I have nothing I can convict. If you want to convict somebody, convict me. This is my responsibility.”