Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cashman passes on Webb as patience plan rolls on

The Texas Rangers signed Brandon Webb this week, a move classified by some in the baseball world as a "smart gamble" given the veteran pitcher's Cy Young Award pedigree and outstanding goatee.

Still, others regarded the signing as a "stretch" or "risk", or to tie it in with the counterpoint, a "stupid gamble" given Webb a) hasn't pitched in two years and b) has a right shoulder that could trade war stories with Hideki Matsui's knees and Don Mattingly's back.

It's likely Brian Cashman has had his fill of war stories after rolling the dice on Nick Johnson a year ago. The Rangers failed to retain Cliff Lee, then chose a Plan B that really deserved to be a Plan M.

It gives you some perspective on how paper-thin the market is this winter. After Lee went to the Phillies, Cashman preached that the Yankees' Plan B was patience. As Zack Greinke and now Webb found new homes, we're learning that the GM was a man of his word.

Consider yourself warned Yankees fans: Barring an unforeseen blockbuster trade, the team you see now may very well be the team that shows up at spring training—give or take a Pettitte. As frustrating as this may seem, it should be understood that this is ultimately a good thing.

This probably wouldn't be the case if Cashman weren't so confident in his job security. Had he been entering the final year of his contract, or had the Yankees still been riding a championship drought, he may have been inclined to guarantee Lee an seventh year at higher value, hand $150M over to Carl Crawford or roll the dice on Greinke or Webb.

But this is the Teflon Cash we're talking about. He cannot be killed by conventional weapons. Even as a host of poor moves led to 10/20 and various other playoff meltdowns, his job has remained secure. The '09 title reaffirmed the club's confidence in him, even when detractors argued that handing over massive checks to CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira didn't require much in the way of tactical brilliance.

Cashman knows he can sit tight, wait out this crap market and hope for better situation to present itself by the trade deadline.

The Rangers are rolling the dice that a former star pitcher with an 82 MPH-fastball can fill the void in their rotation. It was a risk Cashman had no interest taking, just as he passed on finding out if Greinke could stand tall in the New York spotlight.

The Yankees and their general manager are banking that the horses already in place can keep the club in contention before acceptable reinforcements arrive. Is it a sexy gamble? Most definitely not. But it's not a stupid one, either.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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