The New York Yankees are certainly afraid that second baseman Robinson Cano might be leaving in free agency, as general manager Brian Cashman has reached out to Cincinnati Reds GM Walt Jocketty regarding the availability of All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
The price is apparently very high, and understandably so. Phillips is arguably the best defensive second baseman in the game, routinely making highlight-reel grabs and throws that not many other middle infielders could make.
Phillips was a Gold Glove winner for the fourth time in his 12-year career in 2013, and he was also pretty good at the plate. He hit .261/.310/.396 with 18 home runs, a career-high 103 RBI and five steals.
Cashman has also reached out to free-agent Omar Infante about the potential vacancy at second, per George A. King III and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, and Infante is arguably the best free-agent second baseman available after Cano.
Infante did hit .318/.345/.450 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI this past season, but Phillips is by far the better option offensively and defensively. That, however, will come at a price.
Heyman cites that Phillips is still owed $50 million over the four years remaining on the six-year, $72.5 million contract he signed a few seasons ago. The Yankees could certainly fit that number into their payroll if Cano were to leave, but a declining on-base percentage since 2011 should be an area of concern.
Overall, Cano is the top option at second for the Bombers. He's the best player on the team—and one of the best in the American League—and simply cannot be replaced.
Is he worth upwards of $300 million? Probably not.
Is he worth a seven- or eight-year commitment in the $200 million range? I think so.
When asked about what it would take to re-sign Cano, Cashman told Pat Bradley of NESN.com that he wasn't sure what it would take:
I don’t have a gut [feeling], I really don’t. We’d certainly like that to happen, but the better you are at something, the more options and opportunities you create, and he’s certainly going to create a lot of opportunities for himself.
Cashman will negotiate for as long as it takes with Cano, so don't expect to see anybody different manning second in 2014. In the end, Cano will be hard-pressed to find another team that can pay him what the Yankees will.