Life after Cano: filling the void left at second base

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The second base position for the Yankees is nice and vacant for the first time since 2005. Who shoulders the burden in 2014?

The Yankees have just lost the best and most prominent free agent ever to come out of their own system. This has left just a bit of a hole in the roster. Robinson Cano was far and away the best hitter for the Yankees in 2013, but his production is likely going to have to be replaced somewhere other than his second base position. There is a grand total of zero second baseman lying around that sported a 142 wRC+ last season. Still, according to MLB rules and regulations the Yankees need to put some warm body out there to roam Cano's former territory. There are a few avenues open to the Yankees for acquiring that warm body.

Free Agency

Here's where the biggest problem with Cano possibly leaving always laid. There just aren't any other good free agent second baseman out there. The Yankees scooped up one of them already in Kelly Johnson, but they may just be envisioning him as a utility backup type. The best one besides Cano would be Tigers second baseman Omar Infante. Unfortunately for the Yankees, he is just as likely as Cano to be overpaid for his services for two reasons: he's coming off a career year (117 wRC+, 92 career) and is the only clear starting-caliber option left. Desperation and scarcity is a sure formula for an ugly contract. The other options are either quite old (Mark Ellis, Brian Roberts, Jamey Carroll) or just not very good (Jayson Nix!). It sure would have been nice of Chase Utley to not have resigned with the Phillies.

Trades

If you've decided to stop spending money indiscriminately all of a sudden and have immediate no help in the farm system, you're going to have to make trades to get better. The Reds seem to have made Brandon Phillips and his .310 OBP available, but that may be a case where they hope his name value brings more than his actual value should. The Angels have been listening on offers for Howie Kendrick, but their desire to get quality starting pitching makes the Yankees an unlikely trade partner, short of them making Ivan Nova available. Any other players, like the Diamondbacks Martin Prado, would require a dip into the Yankees' shallow prospect pool. All difficult choices even assuming a willing trade partner.

Internal Options

This is probably the least palatable of the three options. The freshly acquired Kelly Johnson is likely not a starting caliber second baseman at this stage of his career (101 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR in '13). As noted before, there's really no help from the minors as the Yankees chose to outright Corban Joseph last month, and he wasn't really starter material anyways. Eduardo Nunez would likely be a terrible idea, and despite the bizarre suggestions of some, Alfonso Soriano is not a second baseman anymore. Jayson Nix could make a triumphant return, but he is also Jayson Nix. The cupboard is very much bare in Cano's absence.

It's a tough task ahead for Brian Cashman and the Yankees brass. Short of swinging a miraculous trade, an underwhelming free agent is likely to be the Yankees starting second baseman in 2014. It's a tough pill to swallow for a fanbase that just sat through a 2013 littered with unremarkable players being penciled in the lineup day after day. But these are the chances you take when you let one of the better players in team history head for the great Northwest.

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