It would be an understatement to say that the Yankees started the season flat. But all it took was a couple games in Cleveland for the Bombers to start exceeding expectations. Five wins and five losses is far from a hot start, but it leaves the Yankees just one game behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead, and it is precisely the kind of performance the Yankees need to remain in the hunt until Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter return.
Most of the focus has fallen on Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells, new Yankees who have gotten off to unsustainable hot starts to help keep the team competitive, but the best two players on the team have been old hands: Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia. Cano started the season right where he left things off in the playoffs. He was ice cold. Since the opening round versus Boston, however, Robbie has caught fire. He’s put together as strong a 10 games as any in his career, posting a .434 wOBA. If there has been any weakness to Robbie’s game throughout his career it has been his risk to start slowly in the cold months. So far it looks like Cano is getting off to a hot start, and the Yankees will be the beneficiaries.
This is the most important season of Robinson Cano’s career. He’s established himself as one of the game’s premier players. Now, he’s about to enter free-agency for the first time. He’s even gone out and hired Jay-Z to be his agent. Everything about what Cano is doing indicates that he wants to make a big splash. The numbers being tossed around are as large as $200 million. Setting speculation aside for one moment, what would constitute fair value for Cano? If the Yankees were in a position to construct a deal that figured to compensate Cano fairly over the next several season, what would that contract look like?
Make no mistake, Robbie is a great player and the best hitter on the Yankees right now (his abysmal start to 2013 aside). The numbers back it up. According to Fangraphs, Cano is the 7th most valuable player in all of baseball since 2009, having accumulated 23.3 fWAR in that time. He’s just two wins behind Miguel Cabrera, the best player in all of baseball since 2009, according to fWAR. As a result, Robbie will get his due.
Little, if anything, on Opening Day is predictive. The Astros probably aren’t going to beat the Rangers many more times this year and I don’t think there are going to be many innings when CC Sabathia coughs up four runs at a time. To break my own rule, though, there are things that may give us a bit of an indication as to how something will unfold over the course of the season. In the case I’m about to present, it has much more to do with process than it does with results.
As time has passed and the other big name players on the Yankees have waned in terms of talent or health–think Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira–and with Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson injured to start the season, Robinson Cano is, even more obviously (if possible) the focal point of the offense. And even though there are (semi) brand names backing him up–Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, and Vernon Wells–they’re not shining like they used to. To wrap this all up succinctly, it’s not a stretch to say that for the first part of the season, Robbie isn’t going to get many pitches to hit.
Per Buster Olney, Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano has fired his agent, Scott Boras. This definitely comes as a shock and out of no where, especially considering that Cano fired his previous agent before signing with Boras. We’ll have more on this situation as it develops.
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As we wind down Spring Training and approach Opening Day, we’re really just going through motions. At this point, we’re just hoping that no one else gets hurt. And, of course, there is a chance that Derek Jeter will miss Opening Day. Great. Let’s officially start the rambling there.
If Jeter is out for Opening Day, that is going to be one hell of a lineup in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way. What could it look like? Let’s assume they’re facing Boston’s lefty, Jon Lester.
1. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
2. Eduardo Nunez, SS
3. Melky Mesa, CF/LF (justification here)
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Juan Rivera, 1B
6. Ben Francisco, DH
7. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
8. Francisco Cervelli
9. Brett Gardner, LF/CF
Um….yikes? That is…not desirable. It could shake out differently and we could end up with Ronnier Mustelier in the fold, likely at third. If that happens, the lineup could be:
1. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
2. Eduardo Nunez, SS
3. Ronnier Mustelier, 3B
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Juan Rivera, DH
6. Melky Mesa, CF/LF
7. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Brett Gardner, CF/LF
Honestly, I can’t tell which one is better/less worse. Your thoughts?
Earlier yesterday, I read this piece from the New York Times about Hal Steinbrenner and the “new course” he’s plotting for the Yanks. In defense of Plan 189, Hal broke out one of his favorite justifications:
“My firmly held belief is that you don’t have to have a $200 million payroll to be world champion,” he said last week in the team’s plush conference room at the spring training complex here. “And the historical data that led me to that conclusion is rock solid.”
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