Lost in the juxtaposition of Yankees' splashy free agent acquisitions and the general timidity with which GM's around the league have approached this offseason, has been Brian Cashman's attention to detail. Sure, Cashman has financial resources that other GM's do not, but he's also paying attention to the little things just as much as an executive of a small or mid-market team would.
Remember this move? The Yankees sold the rights to Darrell Rasner to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League for $1M. Aside from that cool million, the Yankees are off the hook for Rasner's salary (maybe another $500K?). The move also works out nicely for Rasner, who also has a chance to make up to three times what his salary would have been if he stayed in the MLB and will have a chance to pitch against weaker hitters than in the AL East. I think Cashman realized that it would be better for both parties to ship Rasner to the Pacific Rim, and saved a million and a half bones in the process. At a time when the Red Sox broke some unwritten rules and signed Junichi Tazawa, Cashman has maintained a more amicable relationship with Japan.
In trading for Nick Swisher, Cash picked up an underrated guy coming off of a terrible season for marginal bench guy Wilson Betemit, and B-level minor league prospects Jeff Marquez and Johnny Nunez. A corollary to this, I believe, is that proclaiming Swisher as their starting first baseman, quieted the "Teixeira To Yanks!" rumors enough for them to swoop in at the last minute, under nearly every one's radar.
Cashman also declined to offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte, Bobby Abreu and Pudge Rodriguez before it was apparent just how far teams would cut back spending this year. If they had offered arbitration to any of those players, they all almost certainly would have accepted, leaving the Yanks with too many catchers or outfielders or Andy Pettitte for over $16M. A less conscientious GM might not have gauged the market correctly, leaving the Yanks with untrade-ably expensive spare parts.
When Cashman signed his 3 year $6M extension at the end of September and went on the New York talk radio circuit, he had an edge in his voice. It seemed like he was out to correct the public perception that because of the massive payroll, anyone could GM the Yanks.
I think he's the perfect, and possibly the only guy for the job. Cashman is entrenched in the organization (an employee since he was 19) and has shown the ability to manage the sometimes unwieldy undercurrents of the front office. Do you think a new GM could have understood the complicated dynamics existing between Hal, Hank, an aging George and Randy Levine (more on him soon) quickly enough to get as much accomplished as they have this offseason? I would tend to think not.