The New York Yankees are used to signing players away from other teams, not losing them to free agency. They might be in for a rude awakening. Their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, has claimed he is seeking a 10-year, $305 million deal this offseason. Though I doubt any team will offer him a contract that lucrative, he is likely going to become the highest paid second baseman in baseball (a title currently held by Ian Kinsler), and he is reportedly going to play for the highest bidder, even if it’s not the Yankees.
Though fans are hopeful Brian Cashman can keep the 30 year-old slugger in the Bronx, there is a very real possibility that Cano will not be playing in pinstripes next year. If that’s the case, the Yankees will have to look elsewhere to replace their best player in 2013.
In terms of in-house candidates, one potential replacement could be Eduardo Nunez. A shortstop by trade, his poor defense led to the acquisition of Brendan Ryan and a move to third base. But if Alex Rodriguez is eligible to play in 2014 and Derek Jeter comes back healthy enough to play short, Nunez will need a spot in the field. At second base, the error-prone Nunez would have enough time to recover on any bobbled balls and still make the play at first.
As for free agents, the pickings are slim. Omar Infante would be the best option. He’s only 32 years old and batted .318 this year for the Detroit Tigers with 10 home runs and 51 RBI in 118 games. He’s a versatile infielder and his power numbers would no doubt increase in Yankee Stadium.
Switch-hitting Alexi Casilla would make the Yankees younger (he’s only 28), but with a .248 career batting average he doesn’t bring much of a bat. Still, if the Bombers are able to add Carlos Beltran and/or Brian McCann to a lineup that already boasts Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira, they won’t need to rely on huge offensive numbers out of the second base spot.
Nick Punto is another option, but he’s essentially the same player as Brendan Ryan – great defense, no bat. Brian Roberts and Skip Schumaker are also free agents. While all three players could bring experience to the team, they are 36, 36 and 34, respectively. Signing aging free agents is what got the Yankees into their current predicament, and continuing this practice will only cripple them more.
Basically, there would be no replacing Cano’s offensive production if he opts to sign with another team and an organization that is already rebuilding would only be set back further. Of course, this is all speculation. Cano could return to the Yankees and lead their offense yet again next year. Let’s hope Hal Steinbrenner isn’t hellbent on the $189 million salary cap.