A Busy Two Weeks for the Yankees Capped Off by a Cano “No”

It wasn’t $300 million, but it was the best he was going to get.  All-Star 2nd Baseman Robinson Cano, saying goodbye to the pinstripes for the dollar signs of Seattle?  It’s true.
After years of teams home-grown talent leaving for the Big Apple, the Yankees feel the ironic sting as Cano departs for the West Coast. Seattle was willing to not only give him the money he wanted, $240 million to be exact, but also the 10-year deal the Yankees are no longer willing to give.  The total value of the contract matches the Angels Albert Pujols for the third largest in baseball history, behind only two Alex Rodriguez 10-year contracts.  And we all know how those have worked out so far, hence the hesitation by New York to give in again.  But the Mariners are all in and so they got their guy.
The departure didn’t sneak up on anyone, but it still surprised many that Cano would actually leave the only team he’s ever known, after saying he wanted to go down as a Yankee legend.  It was setting up to be his team, with Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retired, and Derek Jeter at the tail end of his own storied career. Instead, he goes to Seattle where he can be the number 1 from the get go.
The move leaves a big hole at 2nd for New York.  Not many can field the way Cano can, and not many can hit the way he can.  But if there’s one thing Yankees fans won’t miss, evidenced by reactions to his leaving, his lack of hustle to first base.  It’s something that you hear a lot, guys shouldn’t be praised for their hustle.  But for top-flight guys like Cano, it’s noticeable, especially with players like Derek Jeter on your team, that hustle even when their ankles are seemingly made of glass.  That being said, Cano was a huge presence in the lineup, and he will be missed, and very hard to replace.
The 9-year veteran is a .309 lifetime hitter, consistently gets around 25-35 homers, 40 doubles a year.  He was a key part of the 2009 Championship team.  Cano was always producing, playing over 1,300 regular season games, picking up 1,649 hits, 204 home runs, 5 All-Star Game selections, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, 4 straight top 6 MVP finishes and 2 Gold Gloves. 
That’s a lot of production to lose from the right-side of the infield, but
the Yankees have already made strives to try to replace his numbers, starting with a 3-year, $45 million deal with Carlos Beltran. The 37-year-old outfelder had a fantastic season in 2013 to help the Cardinals get to the World Series, hitting .296 with 24 homers.  Not to mention his production in the playoffs.  Beltran may up there in age, but he  The move creates more of a log game in the outfield, after the addition of ex-Red Sox Centerfield Jacoby Ellsbury on a generous 7-year, $153 million contract.  Ellsbury brings very good baserunning and the ability to use the short porch to his advantage, along with an injury bug the bombers hope is behind him. Adding to the log jam, the Yankees already have Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Brett Gardner in the outfield.  But the Ellsbury deal in addition to the Beltran deal turns the speedster Gardner into a valuable trade tip.  He’s the perfect National League guy, solid defender, late game speed with a good eye at the plate.  And don’t forget, Beltran is a better option at DH than the Yankees had pretty much all last season.  Soriano and Wells will both also see time as the designated hitter.
Or how about answering maybe their biggest question: who’s catching?  That was answered by signing the Braves free-agent Brian McCann for five years to the tune of $85 million.  The Yankees saw 4 different people catch last year, and none of them were very good.  Chris Stewart was shipped to Pittsburgh to join former Yankee backstop Russell Martin following this deal. Stewart is nothing more than a backup, but started most of the year following Francisco Cervelli going down early in the year.  And known for his defense, Stewart wasn’t even that good at that in 2013, with 12 passed balls.  Austin Romine showed something late with the bat, and JR Murphy was brought up late out of necessity, but neither were ready to start.  So the 29-year-old looks continue his above average output behind the plate and give the Yankees stability there. 
Capping off the busy week in Yankee land was the re-signing of starting Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a 1-year $16 million contract. Kuroda took his time in deciding to come back for a 3rd year in pinstripes, as he weighed retirement and returning to Japan seriously.  But the innings eater is back, keeping the three-headed monster of the rotation in tact (CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova).
So many of the Yankees biggest off-season questions have been answered, while the Cano departure leaves one in its stead.  Who plays 2nd? Kelly Johnson was brought in, and he had a pretty good offensive year last season, though he’s more known for his glove.  But all the bats added, with the return of Mark Teixeira coming, you can get away with a light hitting second baseman if the glove is there, and with Johnson it is. 
So overall, I like what New York has done so far.  After saying they wouldn’t open the wallet, they have big time. McCann was my favorite move, becaues after they let Russell Martin go, they didn’t have a real answer at catcher, as seen by what happened last season.  I’d like to see an arm added to the pen, preferably a lefty, and another solid arm added to the starting rotation.  You can’t rely on Michael Pineda finally being healthy, but if he is, that’s going to be huge for New York.  Kuroda staying put was big to help stabilize the rotation in case they make no other moves and fill in with Adam Warren or David Phelps. I don’t like the length or amount of money in the Ellsbury deal, but if he can find away to play 100-13o games and run the bases like he can, I’ll live with it.  Cano leaving hurts, but I agree with the Yankees for saying no deal on 10-years. Those deals don’t end well, especially when given to guys over 30, even to guys as durable as Cano has been in his career. 
And don’t think the Yankees are done. Like I said, Gardner might be up for grabs, and he can bring the Bombers a pretty solid pitcher or infielder in return.  So time will tell.  I think we can expect a few new Yankees under the tree this Christmas season.

4,000 Hits: Big No Matter Where You Get Them

Ichiro Suzuki Acknowledges the Bleacher Creatures on Sunday August 11th against the Tigers

Ichiro Suzuki Acknowledges the Bleacher Creatures on Sunday August 11th against the Tigers

He got it out of the way early.  In his first at-bat of last years NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Ichiro Suzuki became just the third player in professional baseball to eclipse the 4,000 hit plateau.  The other two? Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb and Pete Rose.

The difference for Suzuki is that 1,280 of those knocks came while he was still playing in Japan, his native land.  So really Ichiro now has 2,722  at the Major League level.  But that doesn’t take away from what he’s done.  To say the 1,280 in Japan diminish the mark is absurd.  He is still approaching the magical 3,000, something only 28 other players have done here.  And those 2,722 are the most in a 13 year span in MLB history.

Suzuki has been a model of consistency ever since he brought his lithe frame to America.  He was both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, helping the Mariners eclipses the 98′ Yankees for most wins in a regular season, winning 116.  He has won 10 gold gloves (tied for an OF record), had 200+ hits in his first 10 seasons and has a lifetime batting average of .320.  From 2001-2012, he only missed 32 games.  All marks that have Hall-of-Famer written all over them. Not to mention the numbers he may have had if he had started his career here and not in Japan.

At 39 (he turns 40 in October), Suzuki is in his first full season with the Yankees and while he isn’t a .300 hitter anymore, he’s still a hit machine.  You can still see him stretching in the outfield, the dugout and everywhere in between.  Still see him hustle to beat out a ground ball, because without that hustle, he’d wouldn’t have those 500-plus infield hits.  He can still dazzle in the outfield, though most of his magic comes in right for the bombers.

So now that he’s hit the magical 4K, what’s left?  It’s simple.  You can’t play forever, though if someone could, Ichiro and his magical rubber limbs could probably make a good run at it.  In his 21 years as a professional ballplayer, Ichiro does have one championship ring, from the 1996 Japan Series.  But in 12+ years here, he’s been to just one ALCS, when the Mariners were defeated by the Yankees in 2001.

Suzuki and the Yankees of 2013 still have a shot (however small) to make it to the playoffs thanks to a hot streak here in August.  And he is signed through next season.  His window is closing, but there may still be enough room for his small frame, productive bat and above average glove to slip through to the promise land.