Brian Cashman

Is the Soriano deal a sign of chaos in the Yankees organization?

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The Rafael Soriano deal was a shocker. Mostly because until very recently Brian Cashman was telling anyone who would listen that the Yankees were done with their days of giving multi-year deals to non-Mariano Rivera class relievers and that they were not going to give up the draft pick required to get Soriano because doing so directly benefits a division rival.

As a result of this. the big question as the deal went down last night was whether this was merely a change of course by Cashman or if he was overruled by his superiors.

Based on the reporting we’re seeing today, it was clearly the latter. Scott Boras got into the heads of Randy Levine or a random Steinbrenner and Cashman’s philosophy was set aside, at least in this instance.  Troubling? William J. over at TYU thinks so:

If true, that could be disastrous for the Yankees. Whether you like Cashman or not, the Yankees have seemed to benefit from having one coherent voice on baseball-related matters, so a return to the days of front office factions could have undesirable consequences.

I’m not so sure. Mostly because I don’t think any of us truly know how much input guys like Randy Levine and Hank Steinbrenner already have on personnel matters.  We have assumed that Cashman has been calling all of the shots in the past few years, but do we know that for sure? Each year the Yankees have a big organizational meeting right after the season ends. Who are we to say that Cashman’s priorities rule coming out of those meetings?

To be fair, as William J. notes, in this case the fact that there were reports of this being a front office move so quickly after it happened suggests that someone — maybe Cashman — was angry and was spreading the word that he was overruled.  But if others have serious input in setting the agenda in October, and if that agenda has been successful in recent years, who are we to say that they can’t change their minds about things in mid-stream?  It may be uncommon in recent years and it may be bad for office politics, but the point is that the right moves be made at the right time, isn’t it?

The Soriano signing is not a great move as we tend to understand them. It’s expensive. It’s very player-friendly.* But it is a move that makes the Yankees better in 2012.  And after a winter in which most of the Yankees’ original  objectives have not been met, any move that improves the team without sacrificing good prospects has to be considered a positive, does it not? The Yankees can afford to throw away some money. But they can’t afford to fall too far behind the Red Sox in the talent acquisition game.

Maybe Cashman was undermined. Maybe he wasn’t.  But I don’t think one transaction can tell us that for sure.  And even this was a case of Cashman being undermined, it may end up being  a situation in which it was a good thing for the sake of the team on the field.

*The most player-friendly aspect of this thing is that if Soriano performs well in 2011 and 2012, and if Mariano Rivera, as expected, retires after 2012, it’s a dead certainty that Soriano will use his opt-out provision to maximize his leverage against a desperate Yankees team.  One can never know what happens in negotiations, but I wonder if anyone tried to give Soriano an opt-out after 2011, but making it so that if he didn’t opt-out, 2013 became a team option.  Just spit-ballin’.

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.