5 Players New York Yankees Can Sign If They Let Robinson Cano Walk
That being said, general manager Brian Cashman may end up looking for a replacement if another team sweeps in and offers Cano an exorbitant amount of money. The Yankees have already stated that Cano is not a "re-sign at all costs" kind of player—you can debate that amongst yourselves—and an asking price of over $200 million will likely deter Cashman from negotiating with him.
The departures of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte—coupled with the potential loss of Derek Jeter after next season—would leave Cano as the unquestioned face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. He's extremely valuable and difficult to let go, as he has been the Yankees' best player for the better part of the last five seasons.
Letting him walk would thrust the Yankees into an instant rebuilding mode. The team would not be nearly talented enough to make a run at the playoffs, and that would represent the official end of an era in New York.
The options to potentially replace Cano come via free agency because of the position's lack of depth in the Yankees' system. Second base isn't a particularly talented position down on the farm, and it'll be a few years before anybody is ready to make an impact.
The options aren't great in free agency, but Cashman will have to sign somebody to play second.
1. Omar Infante
Omar Infante is one of the best under the radar second baseman in baseball. Playing with the potent Detroit Tigers this season, Infante has been overshadowed by the likes of Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and, of course, Miguel Cabrera.
Infante has put together a solid campaign in his own right. He is hitting .318/.345/.453 with 10 home runs, 51 RBI and 141 hits in 467 plate appearances entering play on Wednesday.
The versatile infielder has rarely received ample recognition for his production at the plate. He was named to his only career All-Star team in 2010, but that's about it in terms of praise. He is a top-15 (at worst) second baseman in baseball, and the Yankees can pick him up relatively cheap on a two-year deal this offseason.
His current expiring contract was worth $8 million over two years, and a similar contract could lure him to New York. Heck, Cashman wouldn't even be wrong to offer $10 million for two years. If Cano walks, then the Yankees will be in a desperate position to put talent on the field. Ten million wouldn't be a huge financial hit to do that.
Infante offers the defensive flexibility to play both third and short as well, so he'll be useful to the team in both aspects of the game. He should be priority No. 1 at second if Cano leaves.
2. Kelly Johnson
The Yankees will have to add some serious pop to the lineup if Cano leaves, and not many second baseman can hit the long ball like Kelly Johnson. The top-flight players at the position can do so, but Johnson represents one of the best of the mid-level two-baggers.
This season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Johnson has hit 16 homers and driven in 51 runs. That's right on pace with his production from 2012, as he hit 16 homers and drove in 55 that year. If anything, his run production abilities are consistent.
Unfortunately, Johnson isn't exactly great in the OPS department. His triple-slash line of .237/.306/.412 this season leaves much to be desired, and his .718 OPS is equally as disappointing. It's not an anomaly, though. Aside from the first few seasons of his career, the eight-year vet has never been known for flashy numbers in those categories.
Like Omar Infante, Johnson offers some positional versatility. He can play left field and has a decent glove out there, and that could be useful for the Yankees if their aging outfield gets bogged down by injury.
Johnson's lack of a decent OBP makes him a distant second option to Infante, but his power makes him worth considering. Losing nearly 30 home runs and replacing it with a guy that can barely reach 10 will be a massive drop off in run production. Plugging a guy into the lineup that can clear the fences with some regularity would be a smart direction to go.
3. Skip Schumaker
Skip Schumaker has been a key contributor for the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, and he has been a quality starting infielder for the vast majority of his nine-year career.
This season, he boasts a strong line of .271/.342/.343 with two home runs and 29 RBI in 343 plate appearances. He offers little to no run production, but his consistency in getting on base is an asset for any team seeking a second baseman this offseason.
The Dodgers may choose to retain him given their great run in 2013, but the Yankees should jump at the chance to sign him as a low-cost, high-versatility kind of guy. A two-year deal worth $6 million would be plenty to lure him to the Yankees, and the team will benefit from his veteran leadership and ability play all around the field.
Over the course of his career with the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, Schumaker has played at least 157 games at each outfield position and over 400 games at second base. Even if the Yankees sign him to platoon with somebody else at second base, his versatility could keep him in the lineup for at least 120 games.
Schumaker is not a game-changer, nor is he a batter that opposing pitchers should fear. Simply put, Schumaker is the type of guy that can hit second in the lineup and set the table well for the bigger bats in the middle. On a potentially rebuilding Yankees team, having Schumaker as a stopgap option is a good idea.
4. Mark Ellis
Another second baseman on the Dodgers, Mark Ellis, has a $5.75 million club option with a $1 million buyout for next season. Seeing as nearly $6 million is a lot for a middle infielder with minimal pop and the inability to hit over .265, the team could choose to just buy him out.
On a one-year deal, Ellis wouldn't be a bad signing for the Yankees. He's a veteran and has had productive seasons in the past. Veterans seem to like coming to New York and producing (see: Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Vernon Wells (in April) and Travis Hafner (in April) for proof).
Ellis hasn't hit double-digit homers since 2009, nor has he eclipsed 50 RBI since that same season. Regardless, Ellis is a decent option for the bottom-third of the lineup. He'll consistently post an OPS around .650 or so and, for a 36-year-old middle infielder, that really isn't all that bad.
The Yankees wouldn't ask him to play a prominent role on the team, and they certainly wouldn't ask him to play all 162 games. If the Yankees get 120 games out of him, then the signing would be considered a success.
Ellis is a cheap option to man second base while the team continues to search for a better long-term option. Rebuilding mode is definitely a time for young players to grow in the bigs, but plugging in veteran options on one-year deals is sometimes the easiest way to get by.
5. Brian Roberts
Brian Roberts should not be the priority at second base, nor should the Yankees overpay to grab him. If none of the aforementioned options pan out, Roberts should be considered by default. After Cano, this winter's second base class is not very deep. This leaves Roberts and some other veteran options.
The Baltimore Orioles second baseman since 2001, Roberts has battled numerous injuries throughout the course of his career. He hasn't played more than 73 games since 2009, but he could be useful as a platoon player. At 35 years old, relying on him for more than 80 or so games is unreasonable.
Roberts used to be one of the more feared hitters in the American League East. He led the league in doubles twice—50 in 2004 and 56 in 2009—and led the league with 50 stolen bases in 2007. Speed was a huge part of his game, but he's lost a few steps with the number of injuries he's suffered.
Signing him to anything more than a one-year deal worth $5 million would be silly. Cashman knows the value of the available players, and he won't push to sign a guy that hasn't been completely healthy in years.
If he's willing to platoon with somebody like Mark Ellis or even Eduardo Nunez at second, then Roberts can be a spark plug. He's no the best option but, if all else fails, there are players available that are worse.
This free agent class isn't ideal to replace a superstar like Cano, but Cashman will have to find bodies somewhere.