Robinson Cano can’t be replaced by any second baseman through trade or on the free agent market. He is the best player at that position in the game. However, Kelly Johnson is not the answer at second base, as the New York Yankees continue to move on from Cano leaving the Bronx to play with the Seattle Mariners.
This isn’t to say the Yankees made a mistake by signing Johnson. The Yankees gave him a one-year contract for only $3 million, which is a good value. He has been a serviceable player for eight years and will help the Yankees with his ability to play second, third and in the outfield. With Johnson capable of playing multiple positions, the Yankees should use him in more of a utility, Jayson Nix type of role, not as a guy you pencil into the lineup every day and keep at second base.
Yes, Johnson is a left-handed hitter, and yes, he did hit 17 home runs last year for the Rays, so you will hear that he will flourish because of the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, which is the standard argument for every lefty the Yankees sign. However, right field can’t solve every problem for a hitter. Johnson won’t suddenly become a .300 hitter because of the short right field in the Bronx. He is still a career .253 hitter who batted .235/.305/.410 and struck out in 24 percent of his plate appearances last year in 118 games, which aren’t great numbers. He has some power, but Johnson doesn’t get on base or make enough contact for the Yankees to feel confident that he can play in 145-150 games at second base. As a utility player, he has excellent value for the Yankees, but they still need to either go out and sign a free agent second baseman, or use a guy like Brett Gardner to trade for a more well-rounded, productive offensive player at second base.