By Steve Silverman
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The Yankees are now in the same mode the Red Sox found themselves in just a few days ago.
They are going to try to spin the loss of Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners in the best way possible.
But there’s no way to get around it. They have suffered a tremendous body blow and they have lost their best player.
That’s a tougher fate than the Red Sox suffered earlier in the week when the Yankees signed centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. He was one of Boston’s most important players, but he ranked behind David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester, and perhaps one or two others.
Cano did not rank behind anyone on the Yankees roster. He is the best second baseman in the game game and one of the greatest of all-time. His sweet swing is the love child of two former Minnesota Twins – Rod Carew and Tony Oliva.
Carew had a magic wand and could do anything he wanted with the bat in his hands. He set opposing pitchers up like few others before or since. Oliva, who starred during the 1960s before knee injuries wrecked him, had a very similar style to Carew. However, Oliva may have been even more special because he had explosive power to go with his remarkable hit-to-all-fields stroke.
Cano is in their class as a hitter.
There have been issues during Cano’s tenure with the Yankees. He has gone into slumps at the wrong time. He will make dynamic plays in the field, but he will also make mistakes on easy plays.
The “L” word has come up with Cano. Some observers have tried to call him lazy because of those slumps and inexplicable gaffes in the field. I would not go that far, but I would not acknowledge that there have been times where he has not been as consistent as you would expect.
It’s hard to condemn the Yankees for letting him go. They have been burned badly by the Alex Rodriguez contract, and you can’t blame Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner for not wanting to have another $200 million contract on their books.
But Cano’s numbers at the plate tell the story. At the very least, he is going to lash 40 doubles and 22 home runs, and that last total could easily be 25 or more.
He has a lifetime batting average of .309 and career slash line totals of .355/.504/.860. Those are difficult numbers to lose in the middle of the Yankee lineup.
The Yankees certainly will have the ability to make other moves, particularly if A-Rod’s contract comes off the books. But the hole at second base is huge, no matter what the Yankees do to fill it.
There certainly are alternatives and going after Brandon Phillips of the Reds or Howie Kendrick of the Angels in trades would seem to make the best sense. Free agent Omar Infante (.279 career batting average, .319/.402./.721) would just be too much of a drop in terms of production.
Phillips, 32, could be a 15-to-20 home run a year type, but his productivity has been trending in the wrong direction for the last two seasons.
Kendrick, 30, does not have as much power at the plate but he is consistent with a .292 lifetime batting average. His career on-base percentage of .329 speaks volumes, however. He has never walked more than 33 times in a season.
Eduardo Nunez can’t be a realistic answer if the Yankees are thinking about finding a replacement in house. He’s probably going to play another 100 games at shortstop. How can they count on Derek Jeter being healthy for more than 60 games in the field?
The Yankees have clearly been reacting positively after a non-playoff year with the acquisitions of Brian McCann and Ellsbury and the re-signing of Hiroki Kuroda. But the loss of Cano means that more work has to be done to get this team back to the top of the A.L. East.
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