The anticipation was building Monday when the Yankees announced Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman would speak five weeks after their disastrous season ended in Kansas City.
A day later, the bulk of the comments coming from Steinbrenner in Tampa and Cashman at the general managers meetings in Scottsdale did not offer much insight into any changes.
Rather, Steinbrenner did not disclose much of anything from the ballyhooed meeting of the minds to dissect everything that led to a 17-win drop to 82-80 to barely finish with a winning record. Other than disclosing his 40 pages of notes and manager Aaron Boone will return for a seventh season where he would like to see the Yankees bunt more, no real ground was uncovered.
“It was awful,” Steinbrenner told reporters Tuesday. “We accomplished nothing.”
Steinbrenner is 100 percent accurate with those six words and based on that short phrase, it would give the impression of a sweeping change, though whatever they are being guarded for the time being.
“I’m not trying to be difficult,” Steinbrenner told reporters. “These were private meetings, and they need to stay that way, or else we’re going to have a more difficult time getting things done.”
As for Cashman’s portion of the first notable Yankee day of the offseason, the theme was defense, defense, defense. As in defending against allegations of analytical overkill, pointing out the Yankees have more pro scouts than anyone while saying recent transactions for Sonny Gray, Joey Gallo and Frankie Montas are merely deals that did not work out as intended, which is certainly accurate.
Still Cashman was laying on the defensive spiel, which he can do given how secure he is due to his closeness to the Steinbrenner family and track record from earlier in his 25-year career.
“I’m proud of our people and proud of our process,” Cashman told reporters over two months after labeling the season as a disaster in August when the Yankees endured their first nine-game losing streak since 1982 and lost 13 of 16 to fall out of contention for the third wild card. “It doesn’t mean we’re firing on all cylinders; it doesn’t mean we’re the best in class. But I think we’re pretty [freaking] good, personally.”
Other than the first half of 2022 when they won 64 of their 99 games before the break and a 13-game winning streak in Aug. 21 the Yankees have hardly fired on all cylinders recently. They never were 11 games over .500, something that can possibly be attributed to Aaron Judge’s toe fracture or Anthony Rizzo’s disastrous two-month slump before the Yankees announced he was dealing with concussion-like syndrome.
And the lack of consistency backing up his strong words is something Cashman noted, especially if next season resembles anything like what unfolded during the Yankees worst six-month slog since going 76-86 in 1992.
“It doesn’t matter what I say — it matters what it plays like next year,” Cashman said. “Words mean nothing. Actions are going to be everything. The wins coming through are what’s going to make everything better, and until such time, it doesn’t matter. The rest of it’s going to be noise.
“No one’s going to buy what I say. It’s not selling — I’m telling you my facts and the world I’m living in. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the end result: are you going to have a team that’s believed to have a chance to win a World Series?”
If there’s anything to interpret from Cashman’s pointed and defensive speech is where the focus will be when it comes to offseason shopping. With Jasson Dominguez recovering from Tommy John surgery following his dynamic eight-game stint in September and left field an extremely rough patch, getting two outfielders seems to be a priority.
The obvious candidates are Cody Bellinger and Kevin Kiermaier or one of those and a trade for an outfielder. The possible trade for an outfielder may come from the glut of infielders, especially with Oswald Peraza in contention for a everyday job and Gleyber Torres entering the final year before getting enough service time for free agent.
“We need two outfielders because of Jasson Dominguez being hurt,” Cashman said. “Obviously, that doesn’t help. So now I need a center fielder. I need a left fielder, preferably left-handed.”
Of course the trade could be in the form of Juan Soto from San Diego, which recently took out sizable loans and may look to move him to save payroll.
The Yankees also seem to be in the market for pitching depth beyond Gerrit Cole. They believed the problem was solved by signing Carlos Rodon a year ago but the left-hander was injured for three months and other than a few starts, struggled immensely, notably in his final start when he did not get an out.
The obvious name is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is about to get posted by his Pacific League team in Japan.
“Everything is on the table when it comes to free agents,” Steinbrenner said. “So if anybody comes to me with a deal or a piece that we feel we need to do what we need to do in 2024, I’m going to strongly consider it.”
The offseason can move slow though the pace has accelerated in recent years. It just seems longer for teams who endured the season the Yankees finished off last month and are trying to figure out how to improve while offering little to keep fans patient about.