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Yankees
Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hank Steinbrenner: I'll look at big picture for Cashman contract talks

Tuesday, February 26th 2008, 4:00 AM

TAMPA - Brian Cashman played an integral part this winter in the Yankees' decision to pass on Johan Santana, a move that could either make him look like a genius or come back to haunt him.

But according to Hank Steinbrenner, that decision won't be the sole criterion when the time comes to talk to Cashman about a new contract.

"The big thing with Brian is the organization he's put in place," Steinbrenner said Monday. "It's not based on one decision as far as do a trade or don't do a trade, sign a free agent or don't sign him."

Steinbrenner, the Yankees' senior vice president, pointed to Cashman's decision to turn amateur scouting duties over to Damon Oppenheimer as one of his best moves, also noting the GM's solid relationships with Tampa executive Mark Newman and manager Joe Girardi as factors in determining his future beyond 2008.

Cashman is entering the final year of the three-year, $5.5 million deal he signed after the 2005 season, leaving him as a lame-duck GM with an uncertain future.

Not that Cashman seems too worried. A member of the Yankees organization since 1986, he knows what comes with the territory, and has plenty more with which to concern himself than the status of his own contract.

"I just think that the time is not now; we both agree on that," Cashman said. "We have to get this team taken care of. I have no complaints or concerns about working this season without having future seasons resolved."

"I want to concentrate on the season and he does, too," Steinbrenner said. "During the course of the season, it will happen. We'll just be sitting together at the game and start talking about it. It's just that simple."

Although Steinbrenner plans to discuss Cashman's future with him during the season, it wouldn't be unusual for the two sides to wait until the end of the year to hammer out a new deal.

Cashman was in the same situation in 2001, eventually signing a three-year deal with an option, one the Yankees picked up for the 2005 season.

In 2005, Cashman contemplated leaving the Bombers after the season, fed up with the split between the club's New York and Tampa factions. Cashman eventually returned on a new three-year contract, but it came with the stipulation that he be given complete control over the baseball operations department.

Having united the New York and Tampa offices, Cashman turned his focus toward rebuilding the farm system. With the help of Oppenheimer, the Yanks have used the amateur draft to land blue-chip prospects such as Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Andrew Brackman, strengthening the organization dramatically.

Though Steinbrenner made it clear that he wanted to add Santana, the decision to hang on to Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera instead of dealing for the two-time Cy Young winner demonstrated how much the organization trusts and respects Cashman.

Although some of his acquisitions (Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa come to mind) have not worked out for the best, he has made enough productive decisions during his 10 years at the helm to have earned ownership's trust.

"I've known Cash for a long time, even back in the '80s when he first started out," Steinbrenner said. "He's been with our family for a long, long time."

Asked if he definitely wanted to bring Cashman back for 2009, Steinbrenner said he hadn't started thinking that far ahead.

"I have no idea yet. We haven't even talked," Steinbrenner said. "All we've been doing is talking about the team so far. I think he's as happy as I am with everything he's seen so far."

Cashman seemed to be on the same page with Steinbrenner.

"It's not something on the front burner," Cashman said. "It's not something I'm giving any thought to at this moment either way. It's not a focus for me."

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