Brian Cashman knows Shohei Ohtani may or may not decide to play for the New York Yankees. At this point, it’s out of Cashman’s hands. But rest assured, he made all the right moves in setting the stage for Ohtani’s camp to feel the lure of Yankee Stadium.
Brian Cashman is no Johnny-come-lately when it comes to the pursuit of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani. As with all things he does as general manager of the New York Yankees, he first develops a plan of action. It’s a tiered plan with steps and plateaus to reach along the way.
Brian Cashman plants the seeds
Brian Cashman’s crusade began just before the trade deadline in July of last season. You’ll recall the Yankees being one of several teams hot and heavy for Sonny Gray. On the other end of the line sat Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s.
Beane, as everyone knows is not a babe in the woods when it comes to making deals, and other than Branch Rickey because he signed Jackie Robinson, is the only general manager Hollywood chose to make a movie about (Moneyball).
Ultimately, as we know, Brian Cashman leveled the competition trading three of their top 100 prospects (James Kaprelian, Jorge Mateo, and Dustin Fowler) to consummate the deal for Gray…two of whom were out with season-ending injuries.
But hidden in the fine print of that deal is $1.5 million in international signing bonus money the A’s transferred to the Yankees. Since essentially it’s only Monopoly money, Beane, in all likelihood, considered the transfer an afterthought in the deal. But not Cashman.
Brian Cashman had his eyes on a prize that still required more work and planning. Few, if any, paid much attention to the transfer and all the print and talk went to Gray.
So it was on that basis Cashman quietly flew to Japan on August 27 to catch a view of his baby while it was still in the womb. At this point, the cat was creeping ever closer to being out of the bag as many took notice of Cashman leaving the Yankees right smack in the middle of a pennant race to fly halfway around the world and back. Representatives from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers had made previous trips to Japan for the same purpose.
The talk was rampant now that Ohtani and Major League Baseball was getting ever closer to releasing the Babe Ruth of Japan to become a free agent, opening the door to what has now become known as the Ohtani Sweepstakes. Not since Chris Sale was for sale has baseball witnessed the frenzy Ohtani has brought to the offseason to date, and it’s only just begun.
Brian Cashman, the closer
But still, Brian Cashman was not done. He had one more move to make and once again he flew under the radar to make it happen. With the bonus money collected in the Sonny Gray deal, the Yankees were still $1 million dollars short of the Rangers who had successfully reached the pinnacle of allowable monies that could be devoted to signing Ohtani.
Whether by fate or design we’ll probably never know, but into the picture steps the new ownership of the Miami Marlins, led by Derek Jeter. Ergo, another trade executed by Brian Cashman which was reported by the Associated Press:
“NEW YORK — The New York Yankees raised their available signing bonus money for Japanese star Shohei Ohtani to $3.5 million, acquiring $250,000 in pool money from the Miami Marlins on Monday for left-hander Caleb Smith and first baseman Garrett Cooper.
And that’s where we stand today, five full months since Brian Cashman set his sights on Ohtani.
Money isn’t everything, it never is. But it’s unlikely the Ohtani camp will leave anything on the table when you consider Ohtani starts at the bottom of the process when he signs, and he will not reach full free agent status again for several years.
As we said before, and much like the Chris Sale sweepstakes we saw two Hot Stoves ago, anything can happen. And although the buzz is the Yankees are in the lead to land Ohtani’s services, don’t run to Vegas to bet on it.
At the same time, there is no question Ohtani can be a difference maker.
Yet, the overriding element to the story about Ohtani is how Brian Cashman maneuvered the Yankees into the position they are. And he did it all by himself, quietly and effectively, by putting his Lego set together in the war room at Yankee Stadium.
Take a bow, Brian. You deserve it, no matter how this Ohtani thing goes down.