Brian Cashman’s Free Agency Performance: Relievers

Farnsworth struggled in New York.

After breaking down Brian Cashman’s history with free agent starters on New Year’s Day, I decided to expand the investigation into other positions. Today, I’m going to look at how the Yankees’ General Manager has fared during his tenure when signing relief pitchers. If you haven’t read the previous post on starting pitchers, I suggest you do so to get an idea of my process.

There are two changes I have made in this analysis compared to previous one. First, I color coded the players in three categories: (1) green is good (<$6M/WAR), (2) yellow is passable (between $6M/WAR and $7M/WAR), and (3) red is bad (>$7M/WAR). Lastly, I totaled the salaries paid and WAR accumulated to get an average of all players at the position signed in order to provide a top-down look at Cashman’s performance.

Below, the fWAR and rWAR charts (click to enlarge):


Both WAR metrics disagree significantly on Cashman’s performance. Baseball-Reference’s version thinks that Cashman has done an acceptable job, averaging about $6.9M per win in his career. On the other hand, Fangraphs’ stat has the GM paying a steep $10.7M price per victory. Why? Runs-allowed based rWAR proves to be favorable for a few pitchers (year signed & incremental WAR): Mike Stanton (1999, 1.5), Steve Karsay (2001, 1.0), Tom Gordon (2003, 3.0), Kyle Farnsworth (2005, 1.2), Mike Myers (2005, 1.3), Mariano Rivera (2007, 3.2), Rafael Soriano (2011, 1.7), Luis Ayala (2011, 1.4), and Rivera again (2012, 1.0).

Both metrics agree on some of the obvious duds, like Karsay, Farnsworth, Pedro Feliciano, LaTroy Hawkins, Damaso Marte, Octavio Dotel, Chan Ho Park, and Paul Quantrill. Karsay, Feliciano, Marte, and Dotel all battled health issues. Farnsworth, Hawkins, Park, and Quantrill underperformed.

The only four good contracts the two versions concurred on were for Stanton, Gordon, Clay Rapada, and Chris Hammond Personally, I think Cashman did a little better than that. With Rivera, bias certainly creeps in, but it would be difficult to argue that any of the contracts he inked were overpays. Furthermore, although Soriano’s deal was loathsome at the time it was signed, he filled Rivera’s shoes brilliantly in 2012. Regardless, the deal shouldn’t be attributed to Cashman as he has made it evident he opposed the pact.

Relievers are generally overpaid, and this look at Cashman’s history with them in the open market supports that notion. The best relievers can often push eight-figure salaries per annum, yet maybe only be worth one or two wins on the season. Additionally, given the outcomes of many relievers the Yankees signed, it’s apparent that it’s difficult to predict future injuries for pitchers. Thus, it appears the best bet is to develop relievers from within. The organization has seen success with David Robertson recently, and has potential in Preston Claiborne, Dellin Betances, and Mark Montgomery to name a few. Unfortunately, none of the latter three appear to be imminently ready to take over a prominent role, leaving the bullpen a weak spot entering 2014 without Mo. There are still options in free agency, such as Grant Balfour, but the nature of free agent relievers and Cashman’s track record with the bunch doesn’t excite me.

Photo by Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Kyle Farnsworth”) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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