CARLSBAD, Calif. — Because he’s a good sport and I have known him for years, when Yankees assistant general manager Tim Naehring walked into the GM Meetings here I kiddingly said, “Hey Tim, enjoy the World Series? How about those World Series champion Boston Red Sox, huh?’ ”
Naehring took it all in stride and smiled.
So did Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ GM who had his own fun with it.
“The Red Sox winning doesn’t change the hunger level of trying to deliver a championship sooner than later for our fan base,” Cashman said.
“The hunger and the effort and the passion’s there — despite the horrible outcome that took place in the World Series this year.”
The Yankees likely will kick the tires on a lot of pitchers. Patrick Corbin likely will be high on the list. Maybe even Nathan Eovaldi, a pitcher Cashman once had and let go after a few months after Eovaldi needed Tommy John surgery.
“We need to reinforce our pitching,” Cashman said. “We’ll gravitate toward anything that makes sense [free agents or via trade]. I’m interested in adding more than just one pitcher. I need, I think, to add multiples.”
Cashman couldn’t get into specific players he might be targeting, but he did say, “I’m going to be engaging the entire landscape on the free agent market. I’m not going to say who and when, but we will make sure we check every box in terms of evaluating what’s available and the cost associated with what’s available in both marketplaces – free agents and trades.”
And so that’s the mind-set of the Yankees, one of the two other teams to win 100 games this season, and a team the Red Sox destroyed in the playoffs.
While Cashman will always say that what the Red Sox did will not affect what he does, you know that isn’t quite true. It’s one of those baseball white lies that all GMs tell at this time of the season when they’re trying to put their team together.
Last year, when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton and were making major acquisitions for a team that had taken Houston to Game 7 of the ALCS, the Red Sox’ Dave Dombrowski made similar remarks.
Except Dombrowski’s were spot on. The Red Sox won it all.
So now the Red Sox are the hunted. There will be teams trying to duplicate the Red Sox way, though most of them can’t compete on a financial level with the Red Sox, who could again have the highest payroll in baseball.
Eovaldi’s agents, the Levinsons, are already here trying to see what the landscape is for their client this offseason. The righthander’s bound to be in great demand as a free agent. In a perfect world, Eovaldi would likely return to the Red Sox as the third or fourth starter on a talented staff. But as Dombrowski has pointed out on a few occasions, it’s unrealistic to think that you can bring back a championship team in its entirety. Still, if you had the opportunity to bring back one of the Sox free agents, Eovaldi would probably be the unanimous choice because he was so important to the cause.
Dombrowski arrived here Sunday night ahead of most of the GMs. He didn’t meet with the Red Sox media until later in the day, a sign he was already working on things. The Red Sox have the tough task of repeating, which hasn’t been done since the Yankees did it from 1998-2000, three teams that Cashman helped build after he took over as GM from Bob Watson.
So Cashman really is the last GM who can brag about a three-peat. But that was 18 years ago. He did build a World Series winner with the Yankees in 2009. No current general manager can boast of four World Series championship teams, an accomplishment that will surely land him in Cooperstown one day.
But in the here and now, it’s Dombrowski’s turn to go for the back-to-back. And with a competitive team like the Yankees and the resilient low-budget Rays in the division, it won’t be easy. The Astros will remain a top team. The Indians are always good, despite the fact they’ll have defections.
The A’s, who won 97 games, could keep adding to their team though their payroll will continue to be one of the lowest in baseball.
In the National League, the Dodgers will continue to be good, as will the Brewers and Braves. The Cubs could resurface as a major team.
But the fun of it is that the Red Sox and Yankees always will be the two teams that baseball is most interested in. The networks love the rivalry because they still draw the big ratings. And even though there’s more than enough Red Sox-Yankees fatigue, it regenerates year to year.
In 2018, the Red Sox one-upped the Yankees. Who knows if the Yankees will turn the tables on them in 2019? That’s for Dombrowski and Cashman to duke it out this offseason.
Both, however, know that even if you win November and December, it doesn’t mean you win October.