SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman doesn’t buy into the buzz that the Yankees signing Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million contract is a sign the free-spending habits of yesterday have returned.
“I always thought that was a false narrative. We have been an aggressive franchise for what seems forever under the Steinbrenner family,” Cashman said Wednesday, a day after the record-setting deal was completed but not officially announced. “We have been among the highest payroll teams on a year-in-and-year-out basis and one of the best teams year-in and year-out competing for a championship. All those boxes get checked and I think they are false narratives and easy things that fall into that just aren’t true.”
Cashman noted the use of lesser trades that delivered Mike Tauchman and Luke Voit, and the system to get Didi Gregorius to replace Derek Jeter, and acknowledged the Yankees have the financial wherewithal if needed.
“We are just using every tool in the toolbox, not just the big hammer but it does not mean the big hammer is not available,” said Cashman, who used the biggest hammer to get Cole.
The Yankees aren’t the only organization that holds Carlos Mendoza in high regard.
With the Mets and Cubs having shown an interest in making Mendoza their bench coach, the Yankees shifted Mendoza from quality control/infield coach to Aaron Boone’s bench coach. Josh Bard, who was Boone’s bench coach the past two years, landed a bullpen job with the Dodgers.
“Mendy is just an elite coach. We felt like this was something deserved. Hopefully this will really benefit us,” Boone said of Mendoza, who will retain his infield responsibilities.
Phil Nevin, Boone’s third-base coach for the past two seasons, stays in that job. Mike Harkey remains the bullpen coach, P.J. Pilittere returns as the assistant hitting coach, as does Marcus Thames as hitting coach and Reggie Willits as the first-base coach.
Additions include pitching coach Matt Blake and quality control/catching instructor Tanner Swanson.
Since an “opener” shouldn’t be required next season, Chad Green will return to middle-to-late-game assignments. If healthy, Jonathan Holder should help a lot more than he did in a miserable 2019. Luis Cessa can fill the long man/spot starter role. Then you get into the teeth of the pen where Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Chapman lurk.
According to Boone the Yankees are searching for a second bullpen catcher to go with Radley Haddad after Jason Brown wasn’t brought back.
With Cole’s monster contract done, the Yankees and Brett Gardner’s representatives are expected to hammer out a deal that will satisfy the free-agent outfielder’s wish to remain a Yankee despite interest from other teams.
“Conversations are in play,” Cashman when asked to comment on where he is at with Gardner, Austin Romine and Dellin Betances.
Despite Adam Ottavino’s problems in the postseason for a second straight year, Aroldis Chapman experiencing his Mitch Williams moment by surrendering an ALCS-winning homer to Jose Altuve and Dellin Betances seemingly moving away from the only organization he has ever worked for, Boone still likes his bullpen.
“I feel like we are good. I am really confident in the pitchers we have, the depth we have,” he said.
Still, these are the Yankees and they rarely stop looking to improve. They told the Royals they are interested in lefty reliever Tim Hill should Kansas City look to deal him.
“It doesn’t mean we are done doing anything or making tweaks here and there. We still have a couple of months to spring training,” Boone said. “I know Brian and the front office will explore every option, trying to improve ourselves any way we can. I feel like if we rolled in where we are at right now we have a deep stable of guys capable of getting the job done.”
That is something Ottavino didn’t do in eight postseason appearances when he posted a bloated 8.10 ERA, blew a big save in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Astros that evened the series at 1-1 and gave up seven hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings. The year before Ottavino worked three games in which he went 0-1 with a blown save and a 4.91 ERA against the A’s in the AL wild-card game and Red Sox in the ALDS.
Thursday’s Rule 5 draft closes these meetings which will be remembered for pitchers Steven Strasberg signing a seven-year deal for $245 million to remain with the Nationals and Cole’s record deal with the Yankees.