My gut feeling is that I would have voted for Mike Trout for the American League MVP award, but I’m not sure. When I sat down to finalize my Cy Young ballot, I fully expected to settle on David Price, but I wound up voting for Justin Verlander. In close races like this, it’s pretty easy to make a case either way, and I haven’t studied the MVP race like I did the Cy Young.
Tonight, though, the Baseball Writers will announce their picks for MVP, and the American League race is fascinating choice between all-around Trout and triple-crown Miguel Cabrera. It’s really a decision of how voters define value.
It’s a similar question when trying to figure out a Yankees MVP.
We already know that Robinson Cano finished highest among the Yankees in the league voting — he’s the only Yankee among the five finalists — but when taking out the generalization of an entire league, was Cano the most valuable player for this particular Yankees team? Given the roster’s specific needs, and it’s specific path to the postseason, did you consider anyone else to be more valuable than Cano?
Here are four players who standout as potential Yankees MVP candidates. Which one you prefer probably depends on what you believe to be most valuable. It’s an intentionally open-ended question, open to interpretation.
The source of consistency
By basically every possible metric, Jeter was not the Yankees best offensive player this season. But by a very subjective measure, he’s the one who made this lineup work from beginning to end. Because of injuries and struggles, the middle of the order came and went, but Jeter was a constant at the top. And frankly, before Ichiro Suzuki had his resurgence, the Yankees had absolutely no one to replace Jeter in the leadoff spot. He was the only man for the job, and he got it done all year long. Factor in his role as Captain, and his steady presence when the division race got tight down the stretch, and Jeter’s value was enormous.
The unexpected ace
Kuroda struggled late in the year, which was enough for me to keep him off my Cy Young ballot, and which might be enough to rule him out of his discussion. But let’s take a big-picture look at the Yankees rotation this season: CC Sabathia had a down year, Phil Hughes was inconsistent, Andy Pettitte was hurt, Ivan Nova was awful, Freddy Garcia was worse and Adam Warren was the only backup plan. Then there was Kuroda and his sub-3.00 ERA in late August. Considering all that went wrong with the rotation, the Yankees ability to lean on Kuroda every five days was absolutely necessary and unquestionably valuable.
The fill-in closer
Admit it, when Mariano Rivera crashed to the Kansas City warning track in early May, you thought the season was over, didn’t you? It’s easy to say a closer is overrated, but the idea of a season without the greatest of all time was horrifying for this team. And not long after Rivera went down, so did Dave Robertson. In stepped Rafael Soriano, to actually live up to his massive contract and re-establish himself as an elite closer. Even without Rivera, the Yankees bullpen was a source of real stability this season, and the keystone was Soriano in the ninth inning.
The best player on the team
I don’t think this is up for debate: Cano is the best player on the team. At the very least, he’s clearly their best all-around hitter, as well as a Gold Glove winner. According to Baseball Reference’s WAR rankings, Cano was the second-most productive player in the American League behind Trout and ahead of Cabrera. So how is this not a runaway decision? Because Cano’s overall numbers went through the roof in the final two weeks, and because really wasn’t very good against left-handers, and because his lower-than-it-should-be RBI total is a product of his failure to produce in key spots. Maybe that’s unfair nitpicking, because there’s no doubt Cano’s overall numbers were MVP-like this season. He’s the best player on the team, and that makes his value awfully hard to dismiss.
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Associated Press photos