BY JED WEISBERGER
We had just arrived at the Yankees’ Minor-League facility in Tampa for 2007 spring training.
Walking in, Brian Cashman was standing outside the offices at the Himes Avenue complex and had a smile on his face.
He talked to a few reporters about the plans he had for the organization, how he needed to oversee the rebuilding of the Yankees farm system.
“It will take time, and we really need to develop our own pitching as much as we can,’’ said Cashman. “We need to develop our own position players as well.”
“When we need to sign a high-priced free-agent to fill a spot or take on a big contract to help the team, we certainly still can. And we can develop players and will work at it.”
“There is no reason we can’t do both.’’
It took time for all this to come together, with a World Championship coming in 2009 under what it had been built previously on the big-league level, but then things began to change.
Led by a myriad of contributors – the Yankees improved their scouting, their drafting and their overall approach to how things were done. Other organizations noticed the Yankees were changing, led by the man, again assisted by many, in the GM’s chair.
Four years ago, Baseball America rated the Yankees system 11th, but it fell to 18th, 19th and 16th from 2014-16, as some prospects did not live up to hype like outfielder Zoilo Almonte. Others suffered injuries that ruined what would have been a good career like infielder David Adams. Catcher Luis Torrens was eventually taken in the Rule 5 Draft and kept by the San Diego Padres.
While Cashman, in 2016, acquired elite prospects such as infielder Gleyber Torres from the Cubs in the trade for Aroldis Chapman, who re-signed with the Yankees for 2017, and left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield from Cleveland for Andrew Miller, his own prospects, such as catcher Gary Sanchez, outfielder Aaron Judge, right-handed pitcher Luis Severino and left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery were ready to help the big club.
Cashman’s trades, as it turned out in 2017, with Sanchez, Judge, Severino and Montgomery blossoming, pulled off the quickest rebuild ever with a team that came within a game of the World Series.
In addition, Cashman picked up additional prospects in other trades, getting right-hander Albert Abreu from Houston in the Brian McCann deal, right-hander Dillon Tate from Texas in the Carlos Beltran swap, right-hander Domingo German from Miami and right-hander Juan De Paula from Seattle in the Ben Gamel exchange.
Those acquisitions joined right-handers Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo, making the system a pitching powerhouse. Position players like infielders Tyler Wade and Miguel Andujar joined Torres in bolstering that area, outfielder Billy McKinney also came from the Cubs.
Today, Baseball America ranks the Yankees system No, 2, with outfielder Estevan Florial and right-handers Luis Medina, nearly a clone of Severino, and Freicer Perez leading the next group.
Cashman has also used the system, with its depth, to trade for slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, right-hander Sonny Gray and infielder Brandon Drury.
What was hoped for 10 years ago is a reality today. The Yankees and their system have never been in better shape.
Credit goes to Cashman, as his operation, from top to bottom, is clicking on all cylinders.