Robinson Cano isn’t nearly the same player he was when he first left the Bronx, but he could still help the Yankees in 2019.
When Cano left the Yankees in 2013 it cost the Bronx Bombers a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s clearly not that sort of player anymore, but it doesn’t mean the Yankees should dismiss the idea of bringing him back into the fold. For the right price, he could prove to be a very shrewd acquisition by Brian Cashman.
The Mariners are understandably looking to get rid of Cano this winter. They’re not going to be in a position to contend in 2019. Keeping an aging star on the books who’s scheduled to make $120 million over the next five seasons doesn’t make any sense for a team that’s rebuilding.
Make no mistake about it, the money remaining on his contract is a huge issue. Even a team with the financial resources the Yankees enjoy will have to swallow hard before taking that kind of long-term obligation on. Even so, this is a move Cashman and company need to consider.
This all assumes the Mariners are being realistic about what they can get in return for Cano. If they’re going to ask the Yankees to assume the entire contract, they will have to attach another positive asset to the deal. In other words, New York would have to receive a prospect of value or a decent bullpen arm to make the transaction work. The Yankees, in this scenario, would only send a middling prospect back to make the trade legal per MLB rules.
No, the Yankees can’t demand an asset like Jean Segura in this sort of deal, but they can extract something of real value for taking on all of this money. If the Mariners aren’t willing to make that sort of deal, New York can simply pass on a Cano reunion.
If Seattle is willing to sweeten the deal, the Yankees have to strongly consider it. Cano almost certainly won’t live up to the value of his deal anytime over the next five years, but he’d absolutely give the team a boost in 2019.
The most obvious move the organization could make with Cano is to allow him to play second base while Didi Gregorius is on the disabled list. Moving Gleyber Torres to short temporarily isn’t an ideal scenario, but it is a workable one for Aaron Boone.
Once Gregorius returns to the diamond, Cano could move to first base. He’s already started to learn the position last year with the Mariners. His bat is good enough to put him in the lineup over either Luke Voit or Greg Bird until a suitable long-term replacement can be secured.
Cano can still rake at a high level. His PED suspension cast an ugly pall over his 2018 campaign with the Mariners, but he still slashed .303/.374/.471 in 80 games. No Yankee who played in over 40 regular season games in 2018 managed to hit over .300. Cano wouldn’t revolutionize Boone’s lineup, but he’d represent a steady upgrade at several positions.
Cano returning to the Bronx is definitely a longshot due to his contract, but it’s not as unlikely as you might think. If the Mariners are willing to attach a meaningful asset to the former Yankee’s onerous contract a reunion could make sense for everyone involved.