As the Yankees' best player approaches free agency, will it be his last season in pinstripes?
Name: Robinson Cano
Position: Second Baseman
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 30 (born 10/22/1982)
Height: 6'0" Weight: 210 lbs.
Remaining Contract: 2014 Free Agent
2012 Statistics: (MLB) 161 games, .313/.379/.550, 33 HRs, .390 wOBA, 150 wRC+
Watching Robinson Cano play baseball as the best second baseman in the game has been such a treat for Yankee fans, but the four-time All-Star is set to hit the free agent market with Scott Boras in his back pocket and the Yankees suddenly interested in pinching pennies. There really is no replacing Cano at second base in the near future, so it's possible that the team will realize he's as close to indispensable as they have offensively right now and keep him in New York for the rest of his career. Does that have a good chance of being the next regrettable contract? Yes, but letting him walk away at the end of the season could be just as regrettable without any clear replacements on the radar.
Cano topped 30 home runs for the first time in his career in 2012, along with finishing fourth place in the American League MVP vote and earning Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors for the second and fourth time in his career, respectively. Though his season wasn't as impressive as it could have been in the RISP department, Cano put up the highest wRC+ of his big league career, and easily topped his best fWAR mark of 6.6 with a 7.8 for 2012. If there was doubt before, Cano has certainly played at a level high enough to earn him the distinction of best offensive player on the team and the best second baseman in baseball right now, regardless of what people from Massachusetts would like to say otherwise.
The 2011 Home Run Derby champion will be the first real test of the Yankees' willingness to let a superstar walk over their desire to keep to a specific budget. With him, Cano likely represents the new Face of the Franchise after Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera retire in the near future. Without him, the Yankees have a lineup of aging players and question marks that can in no way replace what they have gotten from Robinson Cano during his career. If Cano and Boras are chasing a ten-year deal, it's very possible that the latter will end up being reality once 2013 is complete.
In the meantime, I foresee a lot of hand-wringing over Bob's tendency to not bust it out of the box on routine ground balls and some fear about what the heck the Yankees do if they decide that they are better off letting him walk at the end of the year. Maybe he'll stay, maybe he'll win a batting title someday with his shortstop's arm. Who knows.