Five GM Candidates to Replace Brian Cashman
By E.J. Fagan
August 21, 2023
NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.
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If the Yankees fire Brian Cashman, who should replace him? In the short term, they have Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya hanging around, but my guess is that they would be short-term placeholders at best. The Yankees will have their pick of GMs out there if there is an opening.
Before we get to some names, what do we want in a new general manager? Obviously, we want someone who is going to chart a successful path forward, mixing old school baseball systems with new school analytics. Some teams will hire a young hotshot executive, like Brian Cashman was in the late 1990s. But I think the Yankees need a more experienced hand, given how much of a mess their organization is right now.
I’m going to include executives currently under contract with other teams at a rank below general manager, but not current GMs under contract after 2023. It’s not unusual for teams to let their current employees interview for promotions, but it is rare they would allow a rival to poach their GM, even if the GM would love to move up to New York.
I have four names here, ordered from most likely to least likely.
The favorite: David Stearns
Stearns is a former hotshot GM who took over the Milwaukee Brewers in 2015 as the youngest current GM just after his 30th birthday. His early tenure with the Brewers sounds like just what the Yankees need: he immediately fired most of the Brewers coaching staff, restructured the front office and turned over half the roster. The Brewers were transformed from a perennial loser to one of the top five teams in the National League since he was hired, despite being in a small market. They are one of baseball’s smartest teams.
Stearns is available. He was fired after a disappointing 2022 season for reasons that I don’t really understand. He’s 38 years old, but also has tons of high level major league experience. The Mets might be interested in him. Some team is going to hire Stearns soon and be very happy.
The Safe Pick: Jon Daniels
Daniels is another former hotshot, hired as a 28 year-old by the Rangers in 2004. His record with Texas wasn’t exactly filled with success, but Daniels had a strong enough reputation to keep his job until 2022. He’s now working in a front office role with the Rays.
If the Mets or some other team beat the Yankees to Stearns, Daniels is in many ways the discount version to fall back on. My problem with Daniels is that I’m not sure that he is worthy of his reputation. He had a lot of initial success, bringing the Rangers to the 2010 and 2011 World Series, but rolled out some pretty awful teams during the second half of his tenure. Some of that was tied to the Rangers trying to time their rebuild around a new stadium, but its certainly a mixed track record.
The Dark Horse: Theo Epstein
I have no idea if Theo wants back into managing a baseball front office. He’s now 49 years old and has what I assume is a pretty low pressure job as baseball’s rule change guy. The rule change process is well underway, with a lot of success.
If Theo wants back into baseball, I imagine that a lot of teams would give him a call. He’s done everything that a GM can do. Maybe he’ll end up as Commissioner instead of back with a team. Theo would certainly be a splashy, Yankees-like move.
The Controversial Pick: Jeff Luhnow
Jeff Luhnow built the Astros. Jeff Luhnow presided over the Astros during the cheating scandal. Since resigning and being suspended, he’s been out of baseball. Other Astros involved in the scandal are doing fine. Alex Cora has a job. Gerrit Cole has a job. The Yankees can endure a little heat if they want to hire him.
The bigger problem is that I’m not sure that Luhnow wants back in. He’s been involved in soccer stuff since resigning. But his suspension is now over. Luhnow has done his time. I think a lot of teams would jump to hire him, but Luhnow has stayed away baseball.
The (Maybe?) Crazy Pick: Derek Jeter
A few years ago, I would have been a hard no on hiring Derek Jeter. I don’t think that being a former Yankee player has much to do with being a general manager of the Yankees. But, Jeter now has real experience CEOing the Marlins and I think deserves at least some credit for their success. It’s not a crazy idea to bring him back to the organization.
If you think attitude and culture are the big problems facing the Yankees, Jeter makes a lot of sense. I don’t think that he would have much patience for Aaron Boone’s excuses, Josh Donaldson not running when he thinks he hit a home run or Giancarlo Stanton jogging home on a single. I’m less sure about his GM skills, but maybe you could hire Jeter as a CEO/President of Baseball Operations with a more hands-on general manager.
I don’t know a lot about Hal Steinbrenner’s relationship with Jeter, but he might be someone he can be comfortable with. Hal and Jeter (and Cashman) are right about the same age. They grew up in the same stadium with the same overbearing father figure together. If Steinbrenner values someone he is familiar with, there aren’t a lot of other choices.
I don’t think that Brian Cashman is an awful GM. But I think that at least three of these guys on the list are clearly better, and I could be convinced that Jeter and Daniels are too. The Yankees deserve the best GM in baseball. They certainly have the money and prestige to attract the best. If Andrew Friedman or Erik Neander or Farhan Zaidi were available, I bet they would be favorites to land them as well. But there are a lot of great names who don’t have jobs. Steinbrenner could improve his organization if he wanted to.