Despite the New York Yankees' third trip to the ALCS in four years, this 2012 offseason will be bitter for the players and fans as they ponder what went wrong with the team's bats after their sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers when they scored just six runs in four games.
One of the disappointments was Robinson Cano, who had a career year (his 33 home runs and .929 OPS were career highs) and finished the season with a .527 average in the final 12 games but went 3-40 (.075) in the playoffs.
The Yankees have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, one of them being what to do with Robinson Cano. They hold a $15 million option for 2013 that they will exercise, but beyond that, they can do one of three things:
- They can let him play 2013 into free agency then try to re-sign him to a long-term deal (or let him leave and get nothing in return, which is unlikely).
- They can try to negotiate an extension with him now to keep him off the free-agent market next year, in the process violating their self-inflicted team policy against negotiating contract extensions.
- They can try to trade him now and get back as much value as they can instead of letting him walk in the free-agent market in 2013. They would do this if they decided he does not fit in the Yankees' long-term plans and wanted to capitalize on his high trade value.
I wouldn't be critical of the Yankees if they chose one of the first two options, but trading Robinson Cano would be a mistake.
Despite Cano's rough nine-game stretch in the playoffs and generally poor postseason numbers (he has a .222 playoff batting average in 51 games), he's still the Yankees' best hitter. The lineup would be much weaker without him.
For the first time in what seems like years, the Yankees need to rebuild their offense this offseason instead of their pitching, which performed admirably in both the 2012 regular season and the playoffs.
But if you look at the offense, there are only four players virtually guaranteed spots next year: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner.
Russell Martin, Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki are free agents, Alex Rodriguez may be traded or released (although he will likely be back in pinstripes) and Curtis Granderson may be shopped around in a trade with one year left on his contract.
General manager Brian Cashman would be foolish to deal his best player, who is also an excellent defensive player and is not injury prone (he has played at least 159 games every year since 2007), especially with all of the question marks surrounding the lineup. Of all the hitters who struggled for the Yankees this postseason, Cano is the most likely to turn things around.
I know there's a lot of panicking from Yankee fans in New York and throughout the world, but trading Robinson Cano would hurt the Yankees more than it would help.