Brian Cashman talks with offseason acquisition Carlos Beltran. Credit: Getty Images
While a major league general manager isn’t healing patients or finding apartments, the job has its practitioners on-call at every hour.
The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday. Their time is devoted to the phone with multiple phone calls or text messages at all hours about potential trades.
“A lot of conversations, a lot of ideas,” Yankees general manager said Brian Cashman in describing the process. “It seems like the new technique is texting. Some of it’s not as much by phone as it used to be but you just throw out a lot of ideas. First, you find out what teams are looking to do, how they’re trying to accomplish it and then you try to see if you match up in any shape or form. It’s not easy.
“Man, probably five, six or seven years ago that texting started. I think it’s easier to insult somebody via text than it is to on the phone.”
It can be a drawn out process. It can be frustrating, mind-numbing, confounding and even insulting.
The tedium can be enough to frustrate even the most seasoned general manager but the potential payoff serves as the motivation.
“Sometimes my staff will prop me up to get me back, ‘You got to throw this in,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m tired of asking about this guy,’ and they’ll motivate me to get back in the game,” Cashman said. “But most of the time it’s a frustrating process that if you’re trying to acquire something that you think can really help you or you even think it’s fair deal, most of the time the other side doesn’t. I jokingly say in the office all the time that if we think this makes sense I guarantee the other team doesn’t.”
So far Cashman has swung five in-season trades of varying degrees and is looking for more help. In smaller transactions, he acquired pitchers David Huff, Jeff Francis and Chris Capuano for cash considerations.
In his recent larger transactions Cashman acquired Chase Headley from San Diego dealing with interim GMs Omar Minaya and A.J. Hinch, and in his first larger deal, he acquired Brandon McCarthy from Arizona while engaging with Kevin Towers.
Cashman said he had been trying to get Headley for three weeks and that he had been attempting to get McCarthy for what felt like a month and a half before making the trade on July 6. Cashman spent the build-up to both deals exchanging ideas and ultimately finding something agreeable.
“You have to stay engaged and you have to be willing to throw out the ideas,” Cashman said. “On some guys, I’ve talked [to other GMs] a lot. In most cases, you’re getting nowhere, you’re spinning your wheels, but you have to be willing to keep going back and knocking on the door.”
Proposed trades often start with high asking prices and, as in the case of Headley, another team entering the mix can influence the move.
On July 1, it was reported the Yankees were scouting Headley but weren’t actively pursuing him. At that time, their third base situation was Kelly Johnson and Yangervis Solarte. Then five days later, it was reported that the Padres and Blue Jays were discussing a deal for Headley.
So while reports are surfacing about possibilities, Cashman is working feverishly to make those a reality.
“It feels like it’s getting harder,” Cashman said. “The deals are getting tougher to make. It’s harder to find common ground. It’s not as easy to match up. One of the reasons probably is I think the competitive balance is really much stronger than it’s ever been. So more teams being in it, they’re less likely to take away from their major league club. It’s harder to match up.”
Eventually Cashman found common ground and wound up not having to deal any of the chips he regards as “high-end” by sending San Diego Rafael DePaula and Solarte and by sending Arizona Vidal Nuno.
Cashman will spend most of Thursday’s deadline on the phone.
“It depends on the person that you’re dealing with,” Cashman said. “Some people seem to like the vehicles of conversations via text than being in person. At some point you have to be on the phone. I like the phone better than the text.”
Occasionally trades just happen really quickly, though Cashman noted that’s usually in the last hours of the July 31 deadline. Basically it’s one text message asking if he would do something and one text message saying yes or no as a response, which is how Cashman recalled getting third baseman Casey McGehee from Pittsburgh two years ago.
Cashman has made a deal within 10 days of the trade deadline in three straight seasons, acquiring Alfonso Soriano on July 26, 2013 and Ichiro Suzuki on July 23, 2012. He has made deals on July 30 or July 31 on 14 different occasions, but some of the noteworthy deals happen well before the frenzy of July 31, such as when David Justice was obtained June 29, 2000 or when the deals for Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens were finalized right before spring training.