Hal Steinbrenner acknowledges what Brian Cashman has to do
Hal Steinbrenner sees what you’re seeing.
Sure, the Yankees’ managing general partner expressed pleasure with his team’s stellar start to the 2018 season. Yet he knows — or at least he hopes — that his front office has not yet completed its heavy lifting. More arms will be needed to lift the Yankees to where they want to go, Steinbrenner acknowledged Wednesday.
“Clearly, starting pitching was always a concern [since spring training],” Steinbrenner said at the Major League Baseball owners’ meetings in Manhattan. “You can never have enough of it. And now we’ve had a season-ending injury in [Jordan] Montgomery. [Domingo] German has stepped up and filled in nicely.
“I think there’s definitely a need. It’s definitely one of the areas we’re going to be looking at. And we’ve got some flexibility payroll-wise, as you know. The question is, what’s going to be available and what are the asks?”
Steinbrenner’s long-desired goal of getting under the luxury tax, which the Yankees have never accomplished since the penalty went into effect in 1997, is extremely attainable. As Steinbrenner said, “We purposely left a decent amount of money for just this.” He continued, “I absolutely think, if we decide to go get a pitcher and if a pitcher’s available, I think we definitely have the flexibility to allow me to [stay under the luxury-tax threshold].”
The Yankees have about $12 million to spend without surpassing the $197 million threshold, and the only likely trade target who would present any sort of fiscal challenge is Texas lefty Cole Hamels, who makes $23.5 million this season. The Yankees could induce the Rangers to pay down some of that commitment by offering superior young talent.
Although, as Steinbrenner noted, he isn’t particularly keen on offering up any of the exciting youngsters who already have made an impact at the major-league level. Players like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar might be necessary to get someone like the Mets’ Jacob deGrom.
“I love the young guys. Our fans love the young guys,” Steinbrenner said. “I think it’s obvious to all of us they’ve made a heck of an impact. To see Gleyber, Andujar and others right on the heels of [Aaron] Judge and [Gary] Sanchez and [Luis] Severino, that’s pretty amazing. Our fans were really enjoying watching them play. So am I.”
Other potentially available starting pitchers include the Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ, the Padres’ Tyson Ross and, if he gets healthy, the Rays’ Chris Archer. The Giants could shop their icon Madison Bumgarner if they fall further out of the race.
Steinbrenner touched on a handful of other Yankees matters:
— He expressed support for his high-profile acquisition Giancarlo Stanton, who brought a modest .240/.318/.479 slash line into Wednesday night’s game against the Nationals.
“I’m not worried about Stanton right now,” Steinbrenner said. “… He’s had his ups and downs, but when he gets hot, he’ll carry a team. We’ve all seen that. And it will happen. Work ethic is great. Worked his way right into the clubhouse in a great way. Teammates like him. So he’s going to be great, and obviously he’s one of those veterans I always say we need to have along with the young kids. A mentor type.”
Asked if his concern would grow if Stanton doesn’t get hot, Steinbrenner said, “National League MVP [last year], it’s going to be hard to get me concerned. As long as he’s healthy.”
— Not surprisingly, he voiced enthusiasm over the Yankees’ rookie manager, Aaron Boone.
“Everything we could ask for. Calm, cool, collected,” Steinbrenner said. “Making good decisions and when he doesn’t, he’s the first one to admit it. Players have a lot of respect for him. He’s been great in the clubhouse. Been great with his coaching staff. The coaches he’s brought in have been good. So, as advertised. Pleased.”
— In the wake of Masahiro Tanaka going on the disabled list thanks to injuries he sustained running the bases, Steinbrenner reiterated his support for making the designated hitter universal.
“If you’re asking my opinion, I would say it’s unreasonable to expect a guy to do something, especially at this highest level, that he hasn’t done since high school. It’s a tough thing,” he said. “But that’s the American League in me talking.”
— Asked whether he thinks the Yankees and Red Sox owning the industry’s best records is good for baseball, he said: “I do. And I would hope that just about anybody in baseball would agree with that. …To have both of us doing what we’re doing right now, I think, is a pretty cool thing.”
The loser of this duel is on track to host a do-or-die wild-card game.
“It’s a tough thing,” Steinbrenner said, “but having said that, it certainly makes it exciting, doesn’t it? For all of us. Maybe too exciting for me. Nonetheless, we did it last year [when the Yankees beat the Twins]. It definitely makes for an exciting night.”
— The Yankees’ travel problems, particularly when they spent a night at Dulles Airport due to logistical issues, have caught Steinbrenner’s attention.
“Obviously it’s not ideal and I wasn’t happy about it,” he said. “Having said that, I’m a pilot. I know how complex these machines are. But there have been serious conversations with Delta [the Yankees’ airline], and they’re not happy about it, either. They’re going to continue to work on crew management and what happens if a plane does break down and another one arrives. … They’re a great partner of ours, and they were very, very responsive.”