Earlier this offseason, the Yankees tried to swap Jacoby Ellsbury for Cano with the condition that the Mariners include cash to relieve some of Cano’s contract. These talks never gained any traction, according to Rosenthal. Cano is owed $120 million over the next five seasons while Ellsbury is owed $47.2 million through the next two.
Considering Cano is entering his age-36 season and was recently suspended 80 games, it makes sense to ask for additional cash to offset his high price tag. Suspensions and money aside, the Yankees are looking for a temporary middle infielder to start the season until Didi Gregorious recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Cano hit .303/.374/.471 with ten home runs and 50 RBI in the half season he played in 2018. According to OPS+ he was 36 percent better than the league average hitter and compiled 3.2 Wins Above Replacement. During his time with Seattle, he owns a .296/.353/.472 slash line while averaging over 20 homers per season.
Even as old age settles in, Cano has not lost his ability to hit for a high average and get on base at a respectable rate. Additionally, his lefty bat provides some balance in the Yankees lineup and allows him to take advantage of the short porch. In his final five seasons as a Yankee, where he slashed .314/.369/.530, Cano averaged nearly 30 home runs per season.
Defensively, Cano still plays an above average second base. Last season, he posted an Ultimate Zone Rating of 2.8 and four Defensive Runs Saved in 561.1 innings. When prorated to account for a whole season, his UZR comes out to 9.3.
Ellsbury missed the entire 2018 season with a myriad of injuries and had played just 260 games in the past three seasons. In that stretch, he hit .264/.337/.385 with 16 home runs and 95 RBI. His 92 OPS+ indicates that he performed worse than the league average hitter.
The biggest hurdle that would need to be jumped to make a deal is for both players to waive their no-trade clauses. Cano would likely be open to going to a contender, especially his former team, considering the Mariners are stripping theirs. Ellsbury, on the other hand, would have to agree to go to a struggling franchise in the latter stages of his career.
Even if both players agree, Brian Cashman would need to convince the Mariners to throw in additional money. For a team that is looking for salary relief, dealing Cano for Ellsbury will save Seattle some money in the future. It would take a lot of maneuvering, but a reunion with Cano in the Bronx is not a bad idea for the Yankees.