It’s a little hard to imagine where this Yankees offseason might go if the team doesn’t re-sign Robinson Cano. The easy-to-envision set of expectations all hinge on Cano coming back and rest of the roster being built around him. It’s certainly not a sure thing that he’ll re-sign, but the Yankees generally seem to be the favorites, and without Cano, the handbook kind of goes right out the window. At that point, almost anything would seem possible.
Which might lead to the Yankees being connected — at least loosely — to almost every available hitter out there because . . . who knows what might happen? Have to be prepared for anything. Already the Yankees have been connected to Brandon Phillips as a just-in-case trade target and to Omar Infante as a just-in-case free agent possibility.
Here are a few ways the Yankees could go at second base without Cano.
Free agent market
In theory, I suppose Jhonny Peralta, Stephen Drew or Rafael Furcal could be considered second base options, but that theory might not carry into reality. Of those three shortstops, only Furcal has any big league time and second, and even he’s played only two innings at the position in the past decade. The free agent market for experienced second basemen falls off considerably after Cano. Infante has to be considered the next-best option, but he’s far more a table-setter or bottom-of-the-order bat than a true run producer. And after Infante, it’s a pretty significant drop off to the world of Mark Ellis, Kelly Johnson and Skip Schumaker. The free agent market is kind of a reminder of how difficult it is to find a second baseman who comes anywhere close to Cano’s offensive ability.
Phillips is known to be on the market. And as Jon Heyman notes in that first article linked above, Howie Kendrick and Dan Uggla are also believed to be available. Of those three, I have to think Kendrick is the most complete player and possibly the most difficult to acquire. Kendrick turned 30 in July and hit .297/.335/.439 this season, numbers that are more or less in line with his career production. He’s a nice hitter, has been for a while now, and should remain productive through these final two years of his current contract. Uggla has big-time power and takes a lot of walks, but his low average has really dragged down his production the past three years. Phillips has also been trending the wrong way these past three years. Of course, you have to wonder what the Yankees have to offer for one of these guys. Low-level prospects usually don’t carry a ton of weight on the trade market, and the Yankees can hardly afford to trade away a young big league pitcher like Ivan Nova.
Reallocation of funds. That would be the thinking behind an in-house replacement at second base. Eduardo Nunez, David Adams and Corban Joseph would be the top in-house options — with the obvious possibility of a Jayson Nix-type coming in on a minor league deal to compete for the job — and the Yankees would make up for the overwhelming decline at second by significantly upgrading elsewhere. That might have to start with Brian McCann behind the plate (second base becomes the weak-hitting spot in the order, catcher becomes the position with a lefty masher), and it would likely have to include and upgrade in right field and a legitimate bat to produce at designated hitter (and potentially play some third base). Of course, this contingency requires that the Yankees move on from Cano early enough to still have other impact bats available.
Associated Press photo