When Yankees’ season ends, their most important free agent re-signing will have never hit a home run, won a game or driven in a run for them. He will never have even worn the uniform because their most important piece of offseason work will be bringing Brian Cashman back to the Bronx.

Critics of Cashman will point to signings like Carl Pavano and trades for Jeff Weaver as evidence of his mediocrity, but judging Cashman by those moves isn’t entirely fair. He has been GM of the Yankees since 1998, but he didn’t have power over all facets of the operation. It was when he signed his most recent deal, October 2005 and moved the Yankees to a model where free agency would be used to “finish off” the team that Cashman had a chance to prove his value.

And prove it he did. Last week he managed to fill three big holes in the 2008 Yankees while most of the competition did nothing. It was reminiscent of 2006 when he got Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, moves that spurred the team to the division title. Sure, he has made some bad moves, Kei Igawa was a terrible signing, but the overall balance and direction of the team is much better than it was a few years ago. This offseason, the Yankees can build on the blocks Cashman has developed like Joba Chamberlain. In addition, almost $80 million will come off the payroll, giving the Yankees a chance to become younger and more dynamic. Hopefully, Brian Cashman will get the chance to make the decisions that prepare the team for 2009. He has certainly earned it.