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Oh no, we didn’t. Yes, we did. NoMaas. Ca$hMoney. Together.

NoMaas’ Sensei John Kreese sits down with Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman for an exclusive 1-on-1 conversation about…well, EVERYTHING.

SJK: Since you were given full authority over baseball decisions after the 2005 season, how do you believe the organization has changed — whether it be fiscally, philosophically, or in methodology?

CASH: I think we’ve changed in all aspects. There were a lot of people before involved in the decision-making process and now that’s more defined. I felt like we were the Roman Empire where our operations were stretched far and wide. We weren’t king of the hill in player development, king of the hill in amateur scouting, king of the hill on the major league side, king of the hill on the international side…we weren’t maximizing our resources at any level. We had department heads making decisions for other departments that weren’t their responsibility. Now, I have localized each department to their specific area and maximized their expertise in those areas for the greater good of the organization as a whole.

Draft day, for example, has become critically important to us again. They’re vital to success and I’m proud to say that some of our recent draftees were part of a world championship team this year.

SJK: Between players graduating to the big leagues and recent trades, the minor league system is thinner than it has been in recent years. Would you agree with that assessment and what is your strategy for re-stocking? Do you anticipate having an increased budget for the draft and IFAs?

CASH: Yes, the minor league system is thinner. I traded nine to eleven prospects this offseason, but that is what the system is there for. You can utilize homegrown talent for yourself or you can use it to get what you want. And that can keep you out of the free agent market, because you have to overpay in the free agent market. Having a farm system allows you to acquire talent in the most cost-efficient way. We’re always asking for more money for drafts and IFAs, but our budgets are at the highest level and that’s likely where they’ll stay. It’s hard to increase budgets in this type of economy.

SJK: Speaking of the budget, whenever the Yankees win, the payroll police comes out and says that any GM could win with those financial resources. Does that ever get at you?

CASH: Does it bother me? Yes. But, we’re proud to say we have the most successful baseball company in the world, maybe even the most successful sports organization in the world. We have a great business model. We have a tremendous brand. We’ve increased our attendance, first breaking the 3,000,000 barrier, now we draw 4,000,000. We have a new stadium. Our owner built us up to this and it’s fantastic.

SJK: Among some pockets of Yankee fans, you’ve developed a reputation as a ninja, silently stalking your victim and then out of nowhere slaying him with a flying star. In other words, you have a reputation of making acquisitions without them receiving much publicity before they happen, i.e Mark Teixeira. Do you make it a point that your front office keeps negotiations private? Do you feel that gives you an advantage?

CASH: One of the things that has taken place is that we’ve streamlined our process. When it comes to major league acquisitions, I work with our pro scouting department and only include others when the circumstances warrant. By doing that, I limit leaks. I control what I’m working on and it’s less likely to get out. And it works to our advantage. Because if people read or hear the Yankees are looking at someone, they’ll take a look too. That’s what I do. If a club is in on a guy, you take a second or third look. I don’t want to get anyone else’s attention when I’m working on something.

SJK: Over the last few years, it seems like the Yankees are becoming less inclined to pay players based on nostalgia and public opinion. For example, early in this offseason you said Hideki Matsui’s World Series MVP wouldn’t be a factor in your valuation of him. How has the decision-making process changed?

CASH: I will say that I’ve been educated about sample sizes and the true value of a player’s abilities. If a player has a hot week in October, I don’t think that necessarily gives you an idea of his abilities.

SJK: On to the 5th starter competition — Joba Chamberlain lost significant juice on his fastball last year, in some estimates over 2 mph. How concerned are you about that and is that something which will weigh into your decision about who becomes the 5th starter?

CASH: Performance will dictate. He was inconsistent last year. He has completed his development program. May the best man win.

SJK: But, speaking of what you just said about sample sizes, how can you make a decision based on Spring Training?

CASH: You are forced to make those types of decisions. You take into account their prior history, but really no one is coming in with an edge. We’ll see what we see. Maybe someone shows up out of shape or pulls a hamstring, that helps make a decision. Maybe someone is throwing ball better than someone else.

SJK: Will Phil Hughes’ reported innings limits factor into the 5th starter competition?

CASH: No, it will not be a factor on his chances of becoming 5th starter. We will mandate what his innings limits will be and Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland will have full authority on how they would manage those innings – just like last year with Joba. They could truncate it at the beginning, it doesn’t matter me. It only matters to me if they exceed their limits.

SJK: Is the loser of the Hughes/Joba battle going to be permanently placed in the bullpen or is this just a 1-year situation?

CASH: There is no permanent anything. Your team has to be flexible. The great thing is we have guys who have the ability to both go in the bullpen and start. If somebody gets hurt, somebody’s performance suffers…Chad Gaudin can start and relieve, Sergio Mitre can start and relieve, Aceves can start and relieve, Hughes and Joba can start and relieve. These guys have the ability to succeed at both ends, some more than others.

SJK: Why were you willing to give up Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson?

CASH: Granderson is a “now player.” What Granderson is currently doing in the big leagues, we didn’t necessarily project for Austin Jackson. We thought Jackson would be an above-average everyday player. Did we see 30 HR potential? Not necessarily. It’s easier to bet on Granderson than the projections of what Jackson may or will do. If Granderson was on a $100 million contract, I wouldn’t have made the trade. He’s on a good contract. But there is risk, Austin Jackson has a lot of talent and it could all come together sooner than you think.

SJK: If the season were starting tomorrow, who would be your starting CF?

CASH: Curtis Granderson. But if Gardner proves our team is better with him in CF and he can be an everyday outfielder…he has a lot to show in a short amount of time in Spring Training. We believe he is better in CF and we believe Granderson would be terrific in LF. But, Granderson was acquired to be our everyday CF and that is our expectation.

SJK: When God created OBP, did he also create Nick Johnson?

CASH: Well, he would be in that category. I just hope for good health, because if he’s healthy the numbers will be there.

SJK: Speaking of health, while you have done a great job lowering the average age of the team, you still have a group of core players who are old in athletic terms. Not only did these older players display excellent durability last season, but they also showed little signs of performance decline, if at all. How concerned are you about their durability this season and do you expect these players to continue to defy their ages?

CASH: You can’t expect that, because at some point, the music is going to stop. They’ll be looking for a chair to sit in and there will be no chair. Like anything else, athletes are on borrowed time. But, for us, there have been no indication that this is upon us.

SJK: Why do you believe these players have been able to perform at these high levels despite their advancing age?

CASH: I think it’s their commitment to excellence, it’s our manager and training staff, our strength and conditioning staff…and I think it’s luck too.

SJK: During the offseason you stated that you wanted a right-handed OF on the bench to hit LHP, which is understandable considering Granderson’s track record versus lefties and that Brett Gardner is not yet proven. We advocated for Reed Johnson who is better against left-handed pitching than both Randy Winn and Marcus Thames. Why did you move in another direction?

CASH: We looked at Reed Johnson quite a bit. He’s a tremendous player. He smashes left-handed pitching. But he has had health issues.

This is how I looked at it. I just traded Melky Cabrera, I just traded Austin Jackson, I don’t have much outfield depth in the farm system…so my 4th outfielder has to have a history of playing full seasons. I need an everyday guy. My outfield depth is an area of weakness. I need someone my manager can turn to.

Randy Winn didn’t hit left-handed pitching this past season, but he has in previous seasons. He can play all the all the outfield positions, he can pinch hit, pinch run, steal a base for you….he gives you better coverage for our lack of outfield depth.

Reed Johnson plays like Brett Gardner. He plays hard. He plays really hard. He has make up. He has tenacity. Everything I want. He gets after it extremely hard, but I can’t afford any health issues with our lack of depth.

I really wrestled with some of these decisions, more so on the smaller ones than the bigger ones. But I have to give my manager more coverage. If someone gets hurt, I’ll be happy we have Randy Winn there.

SJK: We also would have liked Eric Hinske to return, as it’s uncommon to have a player of his quality on your bench. Was their an effort made to re-sign him?

CASH: He just didn’t fit. We’re left-handed dominant. And we have Juan Miranda if we wanted to go down that path.

SJK: Do you think we’ll see Jesus Montero in the Boogie Down at some point in the season?

CASH: I don’t see him in the Bronx this season. He needs to take his next step in the process.

SJK: Do you think his future is behind the plate?

CASH: We hope so. His value is highest as a catcher. His bat will find a way into the middle of the lineup, that’s without a doubt. Whether he stays behind the plate, is a first baseman, a rightfielder, a DH – that remains to be seen. But he’s got one of the best throwing arms in the minors, he’s got some of the best blocking…he’s just so big, mechanically he takes a lot longer in his release. That’s an area he needs to shorten up.

SJK: Is it true that you drive a car with a huge “Cashmoney” decal on the back window?

CASH: No, it’s not true.

SJK: Lastly, have you ever challenged an opposing GM to a rap battle?

CASH: No, but a number of my friends know what I listen to. When we’re at the GM meetings hanging out or talking trades, I take out my Ipod and play some pretty good stuff.

Much appreciation to Brian for taking the time to speak with NoMaas. It was a real treat getting to talk to him and we hope all of you enjoyed the interview. Big ups to C-Money.

*Props to Louis Winthrope III (video) and everyone else on the NoMaas staff for also contributing to this interview.