For the first time in about nine seasons, the New York Yankees are looking at a gaping hole in second base.
Since the 2005 season, Robinson Cano has been the Yankees everyday second baseman. In that time, Cano has become the game’s best second baseman and recently has become the Yankees best player and asset in the lineup.
Averaging a .309 batting average, .859 OPS, 22 home runs and 91 RBIs in his nine season in the Bronx, Cano turned those stats into a 10-year, $240 million contract. Something the Yankees have never done in the past, they weren’t the ones that gave him that contract, as Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees final offer was about seven-years and $175 million.
It was a smart move by the Yankees not to commit themselves to another long term contract when they have the Alex Rodriguez situation on their hands, the decline of Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia but now they are without their best bat in their lineup and without a second baseman.
They were able to soften the loss of Cano by signing the next top three free agents in the market after Cano, as the Yankees signed catcher Brian McCann, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and agreed to a deal with right fielder Carlos Beltran.
McCann signed a five-year, $85 million contract and has been one of the top offensive catchers in the league throughout his nine-year career with the Atlanta Braves. The seven-time All-Star joins the Bombers with a batting line of .277/.350/.473, 176 home runs and five Silver Slugger awards. His left-handed bat fits perfectly with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium and should see his power numbers climb.
Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million contract and has been one of the game’s best outfielder, when healthy. The three-time stolen bases leader joins the Bombers with a batting line of .298/.355/.426 and had his highest home run total in 2011 with 32 when he finished second in the AL MVP race. His left-handed bat also fits perfectly at Yankee Stadium and should be able to have more 25-plus home runs seasons in the Bronx.
Beltran and the Yankees have agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract as he has become the game’s new Mr. October as when the games become more important, Beltran becomes an even greater player. The 36-year-old joins the Bombers with a batting line of .296/.339/.491 while hitting 24 home runs and driving in 84 RBIs for the St. Louis Cardinals last season. The Yankees passed on Beltran the first time he moved to New York when he joined the Mets for the 2005 season and spent seven seasons with them.
As for second base, well, for now the plan is to go with the left-handed hitting Kelly Johnson, who the Yankees agreed to a contract for $3 million. Johnson hit 16 home runs in 366 at-bats for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, while Cano hit 27 in 605 at-bats for the Bronx Bombers. On defense, it is also a big drop off from Cano as Johnson isn’t a solid glove either.
They were targeting second baseman Omar Infante to plug at second base but he instead signed with the Kansas City Royals for a four-year, $30.25 million contract. Reports also came in on Thursday that the Cincinnati Reds offered second baseman Brandon Phillips in exchange for left fielder Brett Gardner but the Yankees passed on that offer but that was before Infante signed with the Royals.
Infante signing elsewhere may take GM Brian Cashman back to the negotiating table for Phillips as there doesn’t appear to be a better option at second base in the market at this time and Johnson just won’t cut it. With the amount saved on losing out on Cano, the Yankees have some flexibility to keep searching for a suitable replacement.