Any Yankee fan with more than 12 years of service under their belt knows the path the Yankees were headed down until their deadline came and went on Monday night/Tuesday morning. Any Yankee fan who's seen this team get to the playoffs and fail for the past 7 years, should have known the eventual outcome of a trade for Johan Santana. Any Yankee fan who is displeased with Brian Cashman today is just flat wrong.
If you haven't seen the news, both Bill Madden and Joel Sherman are reporting that Brian Cashman stood up from the negotiating table the other night and left the following offer on the table for Johan Santana:
Prior to the 2007 season, he was named the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues. In his second start, he absolutely dominated the Rangers, hurling 6.2 no-hit innings, and hardly even breaking a sweat doing it. Then the injury bug jumped up and bit him in the hamstring. His rehab was derailed by an ankle injury, but Hughes battled back. He made it back to the bigs, minus 3-4 MPH on his fastball, and worked himself back into game shape. When the playoffs came around, we saw Hughes for what he is, again. In two extended relief appearances, he dominated the Indians and picked up the only Yankee win in the series with 3.2 shutout innings of much-needed relief.
On that night, he showed exactly why the Yankees can't let him go. He's got what it takes to become Johan Santana. Is it a sure thing? Absolutely not. Is it likely to happen? Probably not. There is one certainty, however. There is no way the Yanks will ever develop their own Johan Santana if they trade away prospects like Hughes before giving them a chance to develop at the major league level.
When Andy Pettitte re-signed with the Bombers, it gave Cashman the leverage within his own organization to follow the path he's been taking this team down for the past two years. A path of rebuilding from within and augmenting the 25-man roster with guys who come at a hefty price in dollars, but not prospects. The Yankees have been giving their kids a chance to develop instead of shipping them out whenever someone else's toy goes on the market.
The official reason for not going through with the trade was payroll concerns. I'm not buying it. With Pettitte back in the fold, the Yankees didn't absolutely need Santana to compete this year. Once you took that stink of desperation out of the equation, it made perfect sense to just walk away. The Yankees have a plan, a plan not only to win a championship in 2008, but to build a foundation that will make the next 12 years just as successful as the last 12.
Obviously, something could change between now and the end of the Winter Meetings, beginning of Spring Training, or even the trade deadline. The Yanks could go back to the negotiating table, they could still part with Hughes and more for Johan Santana, but if that happens, I think it will be against Cashman's wishes. I think Cashman's view of the future for the Yankees is a bright one and I think Hank & Hal would be well served to listen to their guy.
There's already been a fair amount of backlash from the press and bloggers. Check out Stop Mike Lupica's take on the Madden article here. There's been plenty of people saying, "What if he goes to Boston?" and "Look what Detroit did, how are we going to beat them?" My answer to all of these people is this: Making moves to react to other teams moves, or prevent other teams moves is not a sound strategy. That's exactly what got us into trouble throughout the 80's. That thinking is the reason we haven't won a ring since 2000. The way to sustain success is to choose your own path (provided it's a valid path) and execute your plan. This trade would've gone against everything the Yanks have been trying to build, and I'm glad it didn't happen (for the time being, at least).
One final thought: A lot of people have equated the Santana situation to the Red Sox trade for Pedro Martinez after the 1997 season. Do you know what happened to the Sox in 1998 after trading for Pedro? They finished 22 games behind the Yanks and watched the Bombers hoist the W.S. trophy on television.