Spring Training, especially the early days before the actual fake game begin, is a time for narratives. There is little to discuss during Spring Training, so the few valid talking points get pounded into dust.
Positional battles, fifth starters and final bullpen spots are the usual fare. There are specific cases on a team-by-team basis, the soapier storylines often detached from reality. “Will Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey mend their fractured relationship?” “Where will the Marianas Trench-deep Cardinals get their innings from? Such is the life for perennial NL challengers.
The Yankees enter this season under very unusual circumstances. Despite being the defending AL East champs, winners of 95 games and owners of a $180 million payroll, this spring has an air of uneasiness about it for Yankees fans.
An winter conspicuous by its lack of spending, one superstar rocked by steroid allegations and injury questions, two other superstars looking to bounce back after wounds cut their 2012′s short, not to mention the incredibly advanced age of most of their key contributors. What will the Yankees be in 2013?
For an answer to that question, the New York Times suggests we look no farther than Robinson Cano. As the “focal point” of the Yankees attack to begin the 2013 campaign, the Yanks will go only as far as Robinson Cano takes them.
Or so we’re told. The Robinson Cano-as-savior narrative isn’t without its own subtexts. Robby Cano will become a free agent at the end of the 2013, as the six-year contract extension (four years guaranteed plus two options, both of which the Yankees picked up) he signed in 2007 expires. Cano earned nearly $60 million over the life of that deal, providing the Yankees with 25 WAR coming into this season.
That’s pretty good, even accounting for the three years of arbitration Cano sold the Yankees. Heading into his age-30 season, Cano must anchor the Yankees offense as well as make important decisions for his future. Coming off one of the finest seasons of his career, hopes are high for Cano to take the mantle from Jeter and A-Rod, becoming the One True Yankee.
Middle infielders, second basemen specifically, tend not to age so well. Cano is the rare second baseman who hits well enough to make a move to another position — left field, perhaps? — palatable.
PECOTA projects a .292/.342/.487 slash line with 26 home runs for Cano in 2012, a far cry from the 33 home runs and .313/.379/.550 Cano put up in 2012. An increasing ability to walk is encouraging though some fans might only remember Cano’s dismal playoff run, including an ugly 0-29 stretch, when wearily eyeing the future for the lifelong Yankee.
Cano recently enlisted the services of one Scott Boras to ensure the final payday of his career is a lucrative one. Can the Yankees afford to extend Cano now? Can the afford not to?
Suggesting that as Cano goes, so go the Yankees might be a little aggressive. He is the best player on a very good team, there are plenty of established players around him who stand to pick up any slack coming via his age or decline. Of all the problems facing the Yankees in 2013, Robinson Cano might be least among them.
And the rest
Great moments in headline writing [Philly High Cheese]
Sam Miller fights the war over WAR in convincing fashion. Unless, of course, you’re an ESPN commenter. [ESPN]
Which hot and horny prospects will figure most into pennant races in 2013? [Keri at Grantland]
The #Braves will retire Chipper’s number and induct him into their Hall of Fame on June 28.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) February 19, 2013
June 28th, the day Chipper announces his comeback.