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Grading Brian Cashman’s Work on the Trading Floor

June 2000: Outfielder Ricky Ledee and pitchers Zach Day and Jake Westbrook to Cleveland for outfielder Dave Justice. After the trade, Justice blasted more homers in half a season than any everyday Yankee ripped all year—save Bernie and Jorge. Then he led the team with 12 RBI in 16 postseason games. Cleveland quickly traded Ledee for two months of David Segui. Day, the AA Eastern League's best pitcher, and Westbrook, one of the AAA's best, could become solid Major League starters. Without this trade, the Yankees might not have won the division last year, let alone the World Series. grade: A-

July 2000: Third baseman Drew Henson, pitchers Ed Yarnall and Brian Reith, and outfielder Jackson Melian to Cincinnati for pitcher Denny Neagle and outfielder Mike Frank; and March 2001: Outfielder Willy MoPena to Cincinnati for Henson and outfielder Michael Coleman. Henson—an undeniable talent—is back. Otherwise, the Yanks didn't get much. In a half-season in New York, Neagle pitched erratically. Coleman doesn't get on base enough to hold a full-time job. And Frank was a throw-in. What the Reds received could be tremendous. Yarnall has yet to convert his great minor-league stats into Major League success, but Reith, a top prospect, is dominating the AA Southern League this year. Melian reminds scouts of Alfonso Soriano, while Pena is hitting bombs in A ball. Each struggles to get on base, but at age 21 and 19, respectively, they've got time to improve. grade: D+

July 2000: Pitchers Ben Ford and Ozwaldo Mairena to Chicago (NL) for outfielder Glenallen Hill and March 2001: Outfielder Glenallen Hill to Anaheim for outfielder Darren Blakely. Hill was outrageously productive for the Yanks last season, including a Spencer-esque stretch of 10 bombs in his first 51 at-bats. The Cubs traded Mairena this spring to Florida for Manny Aybar, who would be better in the Yankee pen than Todd Williams. Neither Ford nor Blakely, a slap hitter in the minors, are expected to reach the majors. grade: B+

Imagine the 2001 Yankees without Cashman's moves. The roster would be younger, stronger, and about $12 million cheaper. Wells and Milton would replace Clemens and Lilly. Lloyd would take Todd Williams's spot in the pen. Lowell, Guzman, and Curtis would be in the everyday lineup instead of Brosius, Knoblauch, and Justice. That's a better team.

Also, the Yankees have resumed their old habit of mortgaging the future. Cashman has traded nearly half of the Yankees' top prospects. The third-base fiasco illustrates what this costs. Had they held onto Lowell, they would have an All-Star in his prime earning a paltry $500,000. Instead they are paying a declining Brosius (despite the fast start this season), a worthless Andy Morales (recently put through waivers), and Henson over $9 million to do a worse job this year.

How can a team win three titles in a row with a GM making so many bad trades? The prior brain trust secured tremendous talent—Bernie, Mariano, Derek—and the organization has the money to keep all those players. While Cashman's lousy swaps created flaws he had to fix, there is no question he came through in the clutch last summer. He will have to do it yet again to keep the Yankee dynasty alive.

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