Who Should the Yankees Sign? Part One: Robinson Cano

Going to try to do a little series on the top free agents of the 2013-14 MLB offseason. Breaking down their numbers, potential salary, the pros, the cons, and the overall verdict.

Part One:

2B Robinson Cano

Born: October 22, 1982 in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic (Age 31)

Major League Debut: May 3, 2005 (Age 22)

Teams Played for: New York Yankees (2005-2013)

By the Numbers:

2013 Numbers: .314/.383/.516/.889, 145 OPS+, 27 HRs, 107 RBIs, 7.6 WAR,

Career Numbers: .309/.355/.504/.860, 125 OPS+, 204 HRs, 822 RBIs, 45.2 WAR

Previous Contract: 6 years, $57 million, $9.5 AAV, made $15 million in 2013

Projected Deal (from FanGraphs): 8 years, $196.2 million, $24.5 million AAV

Pros– Robinson Cano is the cream of this rather underwhelming free agent crop. He’s the best second baseman in baseball and it isn’t even close. Since 2009, he’s hit over .314, averaged 28 HRs a season, and put up a 137 OPS+. He’s also one of the most underrated defensive 2B in the game. He makes just about any play when he gives it all.

Of course, the numbers may not do justice to how important Cano is to the Yankees. He’s easily been the Yankees’ best player since 2009. In short, the Yankees are going to be hard pressed to find a replacement for the best 2B in the game, especially with a very poor farm system. How many other players are worth 7-9 wins a year, and at such a tough position? Very few. It’s either Robinson Cano or Eduardo Nunez there next year.

Cons- But that’s the problem people have with Cano. There’s a perception that he does not give 110% in the field, while running to first base, and while shooting the gap for extra bases. People think he’s lazy. There’s also a concern that giving him a monster contract is a death wish, as he is already 31 years old and may start declining in his mid-30s.

Another legitimate concern is the history of second basemen in their mid to late 30s. It’s not very pretty. Ryne Sandberg began to decline after he turned 32. Roberto Alomar fell off after signing with the Mets at age 34. Right now, you can watch Chase Utley feel the impact of injuries playing one of the toughest positions in the game. In his prime he put up numbers identical to Cano’s in a similar period of time (late 20s, 5-6 years). You can bet the same thing will start to happen to Dustin Pedroia.

Verdict: Sign this man! The contract will no doubt be huge, possibly one of the biggest in baseball history. It may not be a good thing for the Yankees to be paying four players well over $100 million a year for the next three or four seasons, but Cano is the most irreplaceable player in baseball. Any other option for them at second is a significant downgrade. If the Yankees are indeed serious about contending next year and beyond, they have no other choice but to break bank. They have to sign Robinson Cano.

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