NEW YORK — Brian Cashman knows Yankees fans are ready to smash the panic button. The injury bug is sweeping through the clubhouse, the roster looks like a shell of itself and the team is sitting in last place.
Despite this, the Yankees’ general manager said he believes they can win a World Series, as long as they get healthier.
“Don’t count us out,” Cashman said before Wednesday’s game. “Don’t give up on us. … This is a championship-caliber operation.”
On May 3, 31 games into the season, the Yankees don’t look like a team fielding a $277 million payroll, having posted a 16-15 record and sitting 8½ games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays. More than $151 million of the expensive clubhouse sits on the injured list, highlighted by right fielder Aaron Judge and his hip issue, designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton and his hamstring, and pitcher Carlos Rodon and his arm-turned-back issues.
But it’s more than the superstars. The roster is missing a lot of depth, with Josh Donaldson, Luis Severino, Frankie Montas and key relievers Tommy Kahnle, Lou Trivino, Jonathan Loaisiga and Scott Effross all missing time.
“What’s the biggest fear coming into the season on behalf of all general managers?” Cashman said. “I would say that you would not want to get wrecked by injuries early.”
To deal with all the injuries, Cashman and the front office are exploring the trade market, but with the season just one month old, there is not much interest from other teams in trying to make a deal. Cashman said the Yankees continue to explore trades that would deal from the roster’s surplus of infielders, but both in the offseason and early in the campaign, no deal has made sense.
“It’s not like the NBA with the G League where you can pick and choose whatever you want if you have a rash of injuries,” Cashman said. “You have to deal with what you have internally here.”
Cashman and the team have received criticism for building a roster with injury histories, notably Judge, Stanton and Rodon, but the GM dismissed those critiques given the track record of success for those stars when healthy.
“They’re elite players when they’re healthy, and we just need to get them healthy,” Cashman said. “Whether it’s an overreliance on them or not, they are our players, and I know when they’re healthy — and I’m looking forward to getting them healthy — so we can get what they’re capable of because they are impact, talented players.”
Rodon has been dealing with a stiff back after starting the season on the injured list. While Rodon has been pushing the team to begin throwing in order to make his return, Cashman said the team has prevented that in the interest of caution and trying to maintain his health for the rest of the season. In eight big league seasons, Rodon has thrown more than 30 games just once.
Rodon will undergo more testing Thursday before the Yankees make a decision on whether to ramp up his throwing.
“Carlos is frustrated; he wants to throw it again,” Cashman said. “We want to wait to get through tomorrow and then we’ll be in a better position to make sure that we feel enough comfortable. It’s more of a precaution, and yeah, we’re losing days, but it’s the safe way to go.”
Prospects and minor league depth have not been enough for New York to keep up in the toughest division in baseball. Cashman hopes the current group can tread water until the roster gets healthy.
“In the position we’re in, we got to be thankful we’re in a long season, because we’re banged up so bad right now,” he said. “If it was a short season, we’d be taken out. But we have time to make up ground.”
The Yankees also experienced a mild setback with Nestor Cortes, who has been dealing with strep throat for the past few days and will have his start pushed back from Friday to Monday. But there likely will be some reinforcements soon, with Severino beginning his rehab assignment Thursday with the Single-A Tampa Tarpons.
Cashman knows this is a results-oriented business. The season has not lived up to fan expectations, and someone needs to take the blame.
“If you want to convict someone,” Cashman said, “convict me.”