Up next in our position-by-position look through the system is second base, a position of elite strength for the past half decade (and a position of at least good strength in the years before that). It’s also a position of remarkable uncertainty at the moment, with the Yankees best player heading for free agency and no obvious replacement in site.
Ideally, it would make sense to put someone else in this spot. It would be nice to lead off a second base analysis by writing about a second baseman who is, you know, actually under contract for next season. But the fact is, Cano is the incumbent, and unless he officially signs elsewhere, it’s hard to think about the Yankees second base situation without him. Losing Cano to free agency would create a massive void and an overwhelming unknown. Would the Yankees give the job to a young in-house player? Would they go after a free agent? Would they search for a trade partner? Would they move their shortstop to second base? Literally every option would seem to be on the table. But before we enter that sort of unknown, Cano is still on the table and very much in the mix. The Yankees have made it clear that they want to bring Cano back, and they’re going to make him a significant offer. Whether that’s enough to woo Cano and outspend the competition remains to be seen, but for now, it’s hard to look at the Yankees second base situation going forward and not consider Cano first and foremost.
Here’s part of the problem with trying to speculate about the possibility of losing Cano: There’s no obvious replacement ready to fill his position. Eduardo Nunez is the Yankees most advanced young infielder, and he just might be the best in-house option to fill in a second base. But can he handle the position defensively? Exactly how good is he offensively? Do the Yankees need him elsewhere? Jayson Nix is still under team control, but he also seems to be a non-tender candidate. My guess is that David Adams is better than a .193 hitter — that’s what he hit this season — but are the Yankees in a position to assume he can be an everyday player? Not based on what he showed this season. Corban Joseph is a lefty hitting second baseman who’s shown some Triple-A offense, but the Yankees aren’t really in a position to count on him either, and guys like Jose Pirela and Addison Maruszak have had some decent years but don’t carry enough prospect status to assume anything about them. The Yankees ready replacements are more mystery than certainty. But what about this possibility: Would the Yankees consider moving Derek Jeter to second base? Would that even make sense?
Heading into this season, Angelo Gumbs was probably considered the Yankees top second base prospect. He’s a former second-round pick and the Yankees love his all-around potential — has some speed, has some power, the Yankees seem to like him at the position — but he’s dealt with a handful of injuries, and this year he took a step backwards with a demotion from High-A Tampa to Low-A Charleston. It seems that he was quite literally passed by 2012 fifth-rounder Rob Refsnyder who jumped from Charleston to Tampa this year and finished with a .293/.413/.413 slash line for the year. He was an outfielder at the University of Arizona, but the Yankees have been encouraged by his move to the infield, and his high-OBP/low-SLG offensive approach better profiles at second base than in the outfield. I could be interesting to see whether this year’s second-round pick, Gosuke Katoh, can build on his strong debut and further establish himself as a second base prospect next season. There’s obvious potential, but he’s awfully young.
STATE OF THE ORGANIZATION
It depends entirely on Cano. With him, the Yankees have probably the best second baseman in baseball, in his prime, signed well into the future. And having Cano, really minimizes the questions about the systems upper-level second basemen and leaves room for patience with the low-level guys like Katoh. Bringing Cano back would be expensive, but it would also make this a position of absolute strength in the organization with an elite player up top and some intriguing talent below. Without Cano, the situation is completely different. Not having Cano would mean focusing on the lack of reliable options up top and the uncertainty of the players down below. It would also mean a strong possibility of spending elsewhere to add a second baseman who’s not nearly as good as Cano either offensively or defensively.
Associated Press photo