Jobu ponders the unthinkable: If Cano leaves, who will replace him?
Everybody simmer down. I’m not saying I want the Yankees to let Robinson Cano go via free agency. That’s not what I want to happen at all, although I must admit it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as far as the long term future is concerned (as I duck out of the way of flying debris). I’m just open to the fact that Cano is one of the better second basemen in the league (and possibly ever). and is easily the best free agent hitter available, so he might have some suitors for the Yankees to contend with. There exists the possibility that he will sign elsewhere, no matter how slim. Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the options the Yankees might have if the unthinkable happens.
There actually aren’t too many solid options here if the Yankees don’t want some growing pains at the second base spot next season. Omar Infante is, by far, the best option on the free agent market outside of Cano. He’s been in the MLB for most of the last 12 years, since making his debut as a 20 year old for the Tigers in 2002, but outside of his impressive 2004 season (.264/.317/.449 with 16 HR), he never really put himself on the map until his breakout 2010 campaign with the Braves. That year, Infante made the All-Star team and hit .321/.359/.416. That off-season, he was traded to the Marlins with reliever Mike Dunn for Dan Uggla.
After a down 2011 season, Infante started out hot in 2012. The Marlins had signed everyone in the world in the hopes of buying another quick championship, but injuries and ineffectiveness led the wheels to come off very quickly, which led to eventual fire sales the next off-season. Infante didn’t make it that long, however, as he was traded back to the Tigers midway through the season, with Anibal Sanchez, for a package centered around stud pitcher Jacob Turner.
Infante, now back on the team that originally signed him out of Venezuela when he was 17, finished out the season and got himself ready for his contract year in 2013. He must have eaten his wheaties, because he rebounded to his 2010 form in impressive fashion. Infante hit .318/.345/.450 with 10 homers and 51 RBI for the Central Division winning Tigers. He is also known as a solid defender, only making 10 errors last season. He can even steal a base every once in a while, although he probably won’t approach the career high of 17 he set in 2010.
The ideal situation is that the Yankees bring back Cano. Infante is not Robinson Cano. He’s not even close. However, he is a reliable veteran who, at 32 years old, still has a few seasons of peak (for him) production left in his body. Being that he has spent some time at third base in his career as well, the Yankees might want to look at him even if they sign Cano. If ARod is suspended for the season, they’re going to need help there too. While 3B is usually a power position, having Cano’s power at a 2B evens out Infante’s lack of deep ball production. Too bad we won’t find out about ARod until December. It might be too late to get a lot of these guys.
We’re not talking trade, or I’d bring up Brandon Phillips. Here, we’re only talking about free agents (although we covered Phillips last time). Sadly, the available free agent second basemen leave a lot to be desired.
If the Yankees decide to do what they’ve been doing the last couple of seasons, which is to sign cheap, aging veterans to temporarily fill holes, there are a couple of options on the market right now. The best of the bunch is Brian Roberts of the Orioles. Roberts, 36, was once one of the best 2B in the league, regularly batting around .300, hitting 10-20 homers, stealing 30-50 bases a year and playing excellent defense. Unfortunately for him, the last time he approached anything like those numbers was in 2009, when he hit .283/.356/.451 with 56 doubles, 16 HR, 79 RBI and 30 SB.
His injury bug hit early in the spring of 2010 with a herniated disc in his back, but he was fine by opening day. However, an abdominal strain would force him on the DL in April, and he was limited to just 59 games that year. 2011 would be even worse for him. In April, in a game against the Red Sox, he suffered a concussion while sliding into first base. This injury kept him out for the rest of the season, through May of the 2012. When he finally came back, a groin strain and hip surgery cut his season short at just 17 games. He came back again in 2013, but ruptured a tendon in his knee just four games into the season, which caused him to miss another couple of months. Although he was effective when he came back (.249/.312/.392), I wouldn’t consider him more than a backup at this point in his career. His injury history is way too extensive and, at 36, it probably won’t get much better.
Let’s face it, the Yankees minor league system isn’t exactly beaming with quality hitters at the top levels… Or any other levels for that matter, save a few top guys like Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin and Mason Williams). Second base is a particularly weak situation. The only guys that are remotely Major League ready are David Adams and Corban Joseph. We saw what Adams was all about last year, and it wasn’t pretty. While I’m not giving up on him yet, I’m certainly not sold on him as an every day major leaguer either.
We also saw Corban Joseph for a brief stint last year. While he didn’t show much, and then got injured when he was sent back down, they can carry a down bat at the second base position, assuming they upgrade the power at third and get a viable outfielder to replace Granderson.
Sigh… let’s just hope they sign Cano.
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