Will Yankees’ Brian Cashman regret calling out Giancarlo Stanton?

Brian Cashman said the quiet part out loud.

The New York Yankees’ general manager had a contentious and occasionally heated exchange with reporters at the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week. It was Cashman’s first time speaking since the Yankees’ disappointing season ended with a fourth-place finish in the American League East and a playoff-less October for the first time in eight years.

He railed against those criticizing the Yankees’ analytics department and its functions. He said the team had found areas for improvement but hardly detailed any. And then he snuck in a comment about much-maligned slugger Giancarlo Stanton that opened lots of eyes.

Cashman told reporters that he expects Stanton to “wind up getting hurt again more likely than not because it seems to be part of his game.” The GM wasn’t wrong about it being part of the Stanton experience at this point — he has played in just 63 percent of all possible regular season games (549 of 870) since he waived his no-trade clause to go from the Miami Marlins to the Bronx before the 2018 season.

Last year was Stanton’s worst. He hit just .191 with 24 homers, 60 RBI and a .695 OPS in only 101 games, spending six weeks on the injured list due to a left hamstring strain.

But when Stanton is healthy and playing to the best of his abilities, he may be one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Cashman acknowledged that, too.

“But I know that when he’s right and healthy, other than this past year, the guy’s a great hitter and has been for a long time,” Cashman said.

Cashman’s quote caught the eye of Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe, who sent The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal the following statement:

“I read the context of the entire interview. I think it’s a good reminder for all free agents considering signing in New York both foreign and domestic that to play for that team you’ve got to be made of Teflon, both mentally and physically because you can never let your guard down even in the offseason.”

Our Yankees beat reporters react to the back-and-forth:

Kirschner: What I thought was interesting about Cashman’s initial explosive comment regarding Stanton was that it was part of a long-winded response to a question about the team’s belief in Eric Cressey, director of player health and performance. Cashman was defending Cressey and his staff, then dropped that in. So, it wasn’t like reporters specifically asked about Stanton always being injured. He offered that up on his own. It kind of got lost in the shuffle of his rant about the team’s analytics and staff. But it was certainly an eyebrow-raiser because general managers are not usually that forthright, at least publicly, about a player. What did you think?

Kuty: Agreed. In the moment, it felt like one of his more tame statements, perhaps because it didn’t include the word “bullsh–” and because, well, is he wrong? Look, nobody doubts Stanton’s desire to stay on the field. He certainly seems like he beats himself up over his inability in recent years to stop getting hurt. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem like Stanton has done much to either change his body or his habits of late in a way that allows him to keep playing without extended stints on the injured list. So, did Cashman say something you’d probably advise your general manager not to say? Sure. But was it all that bad? I actually don’t think so. Fans ask for honesty from those who run the teams they care about.


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Kirschner: Exactly. I’d rather him be blunt than give some BS about how Stanton isn’t always hurt or isn’t coming off a bad season because everyone knows it’s not true and we would all say as much if Cashman chose that route.

What I do think is interesting though is Wolfe’s statement. Wolfe also represents Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the 25-year-old Japanese ace that the Yankees are heavily interested in. Wolfe’s comment mentioned “free agents considering signing in New York both foreign and domestic,” and I definitely think he said that with a purpose, but I don’t think it’s going to matter much in terms of negotiations. Let me throw a hypothetical out there: If the Yankees offer $250 million and the next highest offer is $200 million, is Wolfe really going to leave $50 million on the table because of Cashman’s comments? I find that incredibly hard to believe. Ultimately, a lot of these free agent decisions come down to answering one question: Which team is offering my client the most money? If the Yankees are that team, I doubt this affects their chances of signing him.

Kuty: Right. Wolfe did what he had to do to stand behind his client (Stanton), perhaps soothe another client with his eyes on a major market (Yamamoto) and dinged the Yankees while not calling out Cashman directly. Alexa, play Sade’s “Smooth Operator.” Here’s another consequence of this: That comment is going to follow  Cashman the next time he speaks with reporters, and it’s going to come up when Stanton has to speak to them, as well. Was it an unintended consequence, however? Probably not. Cashman likely doesn’t hate the idea of putting it on record that Stanton’s own team, at this point, doesn’t believe in his ability to play even close to 162 games in a season. Motivation — whether it’s good or bad — is still motivation.

Kirschner: One thing that I do wonder though is the Yankees probably would love it if they could get out of his contract ASAP. He still has four more years left on his deal and it’s likely not going to age well; it’s already not aging well. Perhaps looking at it deeper, maybe Cashman saying this is a way to inadvertently tell Stanton that, ‘Look, we don’t believe in the viability of you long term. Maybe another team will, but we think this is an issue that’s causing us problems.’ Stanton has a no-trade clause so he’d have to waive it, but I go back to what Cameron Maybin, his former teammate, recently tweeted. He said he isn’t so sure Stanton wants to finish his career in pinstripes. It sure is an interesting idea to throw out there. If Stanton doesn’t think he’s wanted or appreciated by the Yankees anymore, would he try forcing his way out? The Yankees would almost certainly have to pick up the majority of the rest of the money owed on his contract, but it would give the team much-needed flexibility if it ever got to that point.

(Photo: Elsa / Getty Images)

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