Cashman Has To Lay Groundwork For Plan B On Cano, Kuroda

By Ernie Palladino
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So the Yankees’ restructuring has begun.

We know this because it had to. With Robbie Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda all rejecting their free agent qualifying offers, the Yanks by necessity will be forced to find power and pitching. Or at least a backup plan.

Cano, of course, will be the toughest to replace if the Yankees get outbid. But everyone sort of knew that was coming, anyway, given the fact that the Yankees were not going to pay him the $175 million over eight years he seeks in a new contract. Maybe he’ll find that money, or something close enough to it, elsewhere in this great land of opportunity.

Or maybe he won’t, and he’ll be back. But what if it doesn’t go that way?

His subtraction, albeit a painful one, would undoubtedly help the Yanks stay under that $189 million salary ceiling they’ve set for GM Brian Cashman. But what to do about replacing his offense? This is a player, after all, who hit .314 this year with a .383 on-base percentage and 27 homers. He also had 107 RBIs.

Where, exactly, the Yanks will find that is anybody’s guess, especially if they expect to fit him into a reasonably-priced financial ballpark.

There is the possibility, however, that Cano could be back in pinstripes in 2014. But let’s face it, what team wouldn’t want a player of his ability even if he doesn’t always bust it down the line on ground balls and popups? If his number comes down due to his realization that perhaps he has outpriced himself, the Yanks could well jump into the bidding.

Already, according to the Post, the Marlins have dropped out of the Cano race. It’s not inconceivable that others might follow the Marlins out the door as the winter rolls forward.

Kuroda could also return. There looks to be little market for a 39-year-old pitcher who wilted in September. But until mid-August, when it all fell apart, he proved Cy Young unhittable.

Does he have another year in him? That’s the question the Yanks must figure out. But they have time. Kuroda will have to tell them first about his own plans; whether he expects to pitch in the majors in 2014, or sail off to Japan, or simply retire.

On Kuroda’s end, it might be worth giving it a last shot on a one-year contract. He’d have nothing to lose, really. And the Yanks would be taking all the risks.

Still, it will be up to Kuroda.

Not so with Granderson. He’ll probably have to find his next fortune elsewhere, as the Yanks are more in the market for someone with a higher on-base percentage. Granderson’s two long stints on the DL not only hurt his marketability, but his 2014 potential, too.

If the Yanks can land a Carlos Beltran, even at his advanced age, or Shin-Soo Choo, they’ll be in better shape in an outfield that returns Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano in center and left, respectively.

Jacoby Ellsbury wouldn’t be a bad pickup, either, though Choo and his .425 on-base percentage would certainly pick up a lineup that not only had problems putting runners on the base paths, but ushering them to the plate.

Choo scored plenty last year; 107 times, in addition to stealing 20 bases.

He’d be a better option at 31 than the 36-year-old Beltran. But still, the ex-Met did hit 296 with 24 dingers and 84 RBI.

All this has yet to unfold, of course. Cashman is undoubtedly busy working his contacts at the GM meeting in Orlando this week. If nothing else, he may set the groundwork in case he has to replace his three free agents.

He’d better. The Yanks have more holes than that, but those are a good place to start.

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