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Brian Cashman hoping bargain shopping nets big return

The Yankees continued their off-season discount shopping Monday with the news that a bullpen reunion with lefty Justin Wilson was pending a physical. Following the signings of Corey Kluber and Darren O’Day, trade of Adam Ottavino, trade for Jameson Taillon and free agent departures of Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, the ownership mandate to Cashman is clear – keep the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold while fielding a championship team.

It’s convenient to look at Cashman’s track record compared with resources and be critical of his tenure – and it’s certainly fair to point fingers at several decisions that have, for lack of a better word, completely backfired (no one needs a reminder of that list). But if there’s one area where he seems to shine in recent years, it’s picking players out of the bargain bin who play an impactful role on the team – see Luke Voit, Gio Urshela Mike Tauchman, and Cameron Maybin for recent examples. And if you want to go back a little further – Brandon McCarthy and Miguel Cairo. And does anyone remember Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small?

Re-building the bullpen this offseason has been a two-for-one approach of replacing the output of Ottavino with the input of O’Day and Wilson. In Cashman terms, it translates to replacing about $8 million owed to Ottavino with what will reportedly be less than $5 million owed to O’Day and Wilson combined.

In the rotation, Paxton just re-upped with the Mariners for $8.5 million and Tanaka was reportedly seeking between $15-20 million to stay stateside – they represent a combined estimated cost of more than $23 million. Both were replaced with Kluber and Taillon who will cost the Yanks a combined $13.2 million this season.

If you’re a believer of WAR – Ottavino’s career translates to 10.7 vs. 24.4 between O’Day and Wilson, while Tanaka and Paxton have combined to the tune of 29.4 vs 40.5 combined between Kluber and Taillon. Interpret that stat as you want, and it’s fair to throw out Kluber’s WAR given how he’s been the last two seasons, but it provides some line of sight into Cashman’s strategy.

Like it, hate it or disagree with it, baseball essentially has a salary cap. And the Yankees intend to stay under it. Calibrate your expectations accordingly.