For the first time since we were all wearing diapers, the New York Yankees are a mess.
Some of this chaos is no fault of their own, as injuries to Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira have turned a once ferocious lineup into a wimpy batting order.
Father Time is calling for the end of a legendary career. Closer Mariano Rivera recently announced that he will retire at the end of the season, concluding his illustrious reign as baseball’s best relief pitcher.
Not only are the Yankees in danger of missing the playoffs for the second time in 19 years, but a fourth- or fifth-place finish in the American League East is not out of the question. But there’s one glistening bright spot that remains in an organization fluttered with decaying stars and a void of blue-chip prospects, and that’s second baseman Robinson Cano.
At age 29, Cano probably registered the best season of his pro career. Most fans won’t award him that credit due to a decrease in RBIs (a stat contingent on his teammates), but he posted a career-high 33 homers and .550 slugging percentage.
Cano also played superb defense at second base, which propelled him to a 7.8 WAR, according to FanGraphs.com, that rates higher than Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
Unfortunately for the Bronx Bombers, Cano’s contract expires after the 2013 season. To make matters worse, he’s represented by super-agent Scott Boaras, who is notorious for pushing his clients to seek top dollar.
It’s odd to think that we live in a world where the Yankees are no longer the true Evil Empire. Once baseball tops spenders by a wide margin, they are aiming to cut their payroll down to $180 million by 2014, when Rodriguez, Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia are due to earn a combined $70.5 million. Adding $25 million more for Cano would make that goal hard to obtain.
Despite all of this that would suggest the Yankees should trade Cano to the highest bidder for an army of minor leaguers, they can’t. These are the Yankees.
Could the most spoiled fan base in sports tolerate five years of cellar-dwelling that would result from trading its only remaining star? When the Yankees start spending recklessly again in a few years with all the money gleaned from NewsCorp buying the YES Network, will they be able to explain that they let baseball’s premier second baseman go for no reason?
Unless New York hits a home run on several top prospects in a Cano trade, chaos would ensue from shipping away its one valuable commodity. How many other players on the current roster are guys the team would still want in two years? Maybe Brett Gardner, Phillip Hughes and David Robertson, none of whom are game-changers.
For the first time in a while, the Yankees are forced to make actual financial decisions that stretch past handing big names blank checks. If their new-found frugality shows, expect the Yankees to be the state’s second best team in a few years.