Following the 2013 season, the Yankees made the decision to let their all-star second baseman, and perennial MVP candidate, Robinson Cano depart via free agency. The Yankees balked at Cano’s price tag and saw him go to Seattle on a 10 year, $240 million contract. Today, Cano makes his way back to the Bronx, this time as a member of the cross-town rival Mets. Looking back, did the Yankees make the right decision letting Cano go?
Cano the Yankee
Cano was a mainstay in the Yankees lineup since his rookie season in 2005. In his nine years in the Bronx, he slashed .309/.355/.504 while swatting 204 homers. Perhaps what was most amazing is that he missed only 14 games over his last 7 seasons. Cano also represented the Yankees at 5 all-star games, had 4 top 5 MVP appearances and won a home run derby. Cano was also an analytical darling. He produced 44.4 wins above replacement, won a couple of gold gloves and was considered to be one of the best players in baseball.
However, Cano did have some drawbacks. Despite two gold gloves he was seen as a lazy fielder who made frequent base running gaffes. The Yankees decided that it was time to part ways and to use the money elsewhere.
Cano the Mariner and Met
Seattle viewed Cano as the superstar needed to bring the franchise back to relevancy. The 10-year contract, negotiated by agents Jay-Z and Brodie Van Wagenen, was the largest in franchise history. The three seasons in Seattle were successful for Cano as he slashed .299/.355/.479 and was worth 17.1 wins above replacement. However, the wheels were starting to fall off for Cano. 2017 saw his average drop to .280 and a PED suspension the following season would end his Seattle career.
The following offseason saw the Mariners flip him to the Mets, reuniting him with his former agent turned GM. In his six plus years outside of the Bronx, Cano has been worth 24.4 wins above replacement and is enjoying a bounce back year with the Mets.
The Yankees Replacements
After losing Cano, the Yankees originally struggled to find a consistent replacement. 2014 and 15 saw a disappointing mix of Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew followed by two years of moderate production from Starlin Castro. However, the Yankees would eventually see production at the position with the arrival of Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu over the past couple of years. The replacements have combined for a bWAR of just under 20.
While the Yankees were almost able to replicate Cano’s production, the players who they paid instead of Cano struggled. That offseason in 2013, the Yankees signed Brian McCann, who was unable to match his Atlanta production, and Jacoby Ellsbury who really only excelled in hitting the catcher with his swings.
A Disappointing Story
Overall its hard to look back at Cano without thinking what could have been. The contract Seattle offered him proved to be a massive mistake as the team failed to make the playoffs. Seattle was lucky to be bailed out by the Mets who will pay Cano $72 million over the next three seasons. Meanwhile, the seven year $175 million offer by the Yankees, which would have expired at the end of this season, would have paid Cano more each season.
Cano could have continued to be the face of the Yankees and possibly could have helped to push the Yankees past Houston in 2017. However, his PED suspension and declining play likely would have turned fans against him.
While Cano was one of my favorite players, it’s hard not to be happy that he didn’t resign in New York. His contract would have been another albatross on a messy payroll. Furthermore, it would have blocked Gleyber Torres from a middle infield position and may have prevented the Yankees from signing DJ LeMahieu.
While this weekend it will be sad to see Cano in blue and orange, it would have been sadder to see him in pinstripes.