We all know it isn't happening, but for a fan who fell in love with a sweet swing, it sure would be nice to have Robinson Cano back as the second baseman of the New York Yankees. Cano left at the end of the 2013 season after signing a ten-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, and at age 33, he has eight years and $192 million still remain on his contract. Nonetheless, there was a bit of trade buzz recently when a report came out stating that Cano "... is not happy in Seattle, especially with a new regime in charge there now, and that he’d love to somehow find his way back to New York."
The obvious, and laziest, route here is to blame Cano for this problem. Since he chose the money, many say, then this was the grave he dug. If only he chose the Yankees (even though it would have been a $65 million discount), then he would have been happy, they said. There's a lot in the fan discourse in regards to "loyalty", and we should know that that's manufactured. There is no such thing as loyalty in baseball, especially when dollar amounts in the millions are discussed. If it was me, personally, I'd take that money every time. If I had the chance to change my life--and the life of my children and grandchildren--forever, I take that extra money immediately. And for that, I can't blame him at all. He chose an amount that was so much larger than the Yankees' offer that it really can't be compared.
Then, even more unfathomably, people scorn a return. He's lazy, they say, because of his supposed lack of hustle. This is a long and tired argument that has gone on for the past few years, and it's largely debunked. His "lack of hustle" is largely an argument from emotion, and it cost the team little. Not only that, but he only missed 14 games from 2007 to 2015. Lazy players don't have that record. He's had some injury struggles this year, as many know, but that's largely because of a crippling stomach condition that left him barely able to eat at all. "Sometimes you drink water and it makes you feel like vomiting," he said of his condition. "I can't eat the same way I did. It's hard to deal with, especially being the first time this has happened to me. Sometimes I eat only once a day before playing, because I feel full. And you just don't have the same energy.'' Even with this, he hit 116 wRC+ in 156 games. Again, lazy players can't do that.
I, for one, would take Cano back with nary a complaint. Since his departure, the Yankees have yet to find a concrete solution at second base, and they might not find a player of his caliber at that same position for the next 15--or even 50--years, if they're lucky. Take a look at league average second basemen, Yankees' second basemen, and Robinson Cano, the past two seasons:
|2014 League Average 2B||.250/.307/.364||1.52/600 PA|
|2015 League Average 2B||.261/.315/.391||1.72/600 PA|
|Robinson Cano, 2014-2015||.300/.358/.450||7.3|
|Yankees 2B, 2014-2015||.223/.277/.372||-1.1|
It's no shock that the Yankees' second basemen these past two years have been much worse than average, but Cano leaves even the average player in the dust. Those extra four or so wins per year wouldn't have necessarily been the difference between failure and a championship, but it certainly would have helped a great deal.
Of course, at the same time, there's an emotional appeal. Robinson Cano is part of a Yankees team of old, and he's also one of the last great homegrown stars. He is 19th all-time on the Yankees' rWAR leader board. If (and he likely will) he goes to the Hall of Fame, he would most likely have a Yankees cap, and that, for me, means a great deal. To have him back on this team, even with the bad blood in the past, it would be worth it. As ruthless as Yankees fans are, I think they'd quickly forgive and forget when he lifts one over the short porch.
More than likely, though, it's a pipe dream. The Mariners would have to be willing to swallow some of his albatross contract while taking one belonging to the Yankees--likely Jacoby Ellsbury's--and it would have to honestly make sense for both sides. Ellsbury has a no-trade clause that he wouldn't just waive to live closer to home, and the Mariners aren't going to just give away one of their best players, even if he isn't happy with his current situation. It's just nice to dream, to think that maybe those good times could return. There's something so irresistible about this nostalgia that even in my most rational state, I would still welcome a lesser, older, and more expensive Cano back into the fold. Sometimes it's nice to think in a pure hypothetical, and to imagine what could be.