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Robinson Cano

Trade Analysis: Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees

(Last night, Jacoby Ellsbury was signed to a massive, 7-year, $153 million dollar deal to play for the New York Yankees. Living in NYC, I have more than my fair share of Pinstripe Fan friends, none of which were overly thrilled with the proceedings. Here are my thoughts, as well as MAMBINO contributor El Miz, whose words were culled from no less than half a dozen e-mails)
KOBEshigawa: I’m confounded by this signing. Still, I’m trying to find reason in the seemingly unreasonable.
Ellsbury’s still a great defensive outfielder and often capable of being spectacular. He’s the lead-off hitter that Brett Gardner might not ever be (though he’s shown flashes at times) and certainly won’t ever blossom as while as a Yankee. Ellsbury is still an elite base stealer (52 for 56 this season), though truthfully I can’t say whether he’s more of a skillful base stealer or just a burner–I haven’t seen him play enough. Still, he might be one of these intellectual runners that still swipes 20+ bags into his late thirties, a la Kenny Lofton or Rickey Henderson. Again, if I were to watch him more, I could probably have a better informed decision.
With the bat, it looks like he’ll never be a 20-30 homer guy after that one extremely fluky year, but it’s clear to me that as long as his speed stays with him (at least for another two or three years), he can still be a 30 double threat. He’s got a fairly solid batting eye, doesn’t strike out a ton and generally seems to be a hard worker. On top of everything else, his injury history has been largely contact injuries: broken ribs that were exacerbated by playing while still injured (due to a bad misdiagnosis) in 2010 and a dislocated shoulder after a collision on a slide in 2012
The world is of course comparing this deal to Carl Crawford’s record contract with the Red Sox that is both similar in size (7 years, $142 million) and potential for disaster. I’m not sure I buy it completely. For his entire career, it’s obvious that Crawford’s game was contingent on his athleticism. He was a fast runner, but never an efficient base stealer; he was a pretty good hitter, but it was probably because of his speed that he hit over 100 triples in Tampa; he had a good batting eye, but never a spectacular one. Ellsbury, unlike Crawford, is a better baseball player. Crawford was a better athlete. Big difference. Ellsbury will age better into his deal, I presume, than his counterpart has.
That being said……

A Brand New Start of It, in Old New York

In 2006, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland described the potent New York Yankee lineup with the phrase “Murderer’s Row and Cano.” Of course, everyone looked past the blasphemy of comparing any lineup to the first six hitters of the 1927 team, because Leyland couldn’t have been 100% serious, the Yankees had just run through the American League with considerable offensive firepower, and hey, it rhymed. But that was 6 years ago. 6 years ago, Derek Jeter was 31, Alex Rodriguez was 30, both in the primes of their athletic careers. 6 years ago, nobody would dare call Yankee Stadium a bandbox or lament of a possible jet stream. And 6 years ago, Robinson Cano was merely the tail end of a Yankee rhyme.

In 2012, both Jeter and A-Rod will spend time in the designated hitter slot to make sure their brittle bones can stomach another 162+. Pitchers visiting the Boogey Down will see their earned run averages increase ever so slightly. But this season is all about one man.

Last year, Cano produced a triple slash of .302/.349/.533. He was an All-Star for the second consecutive year, finished 6th in the American League MVP voting, and won his third Silver Slugger award. The best second baseman in baseball was actually coming off a 2010 season in which he actually produced better numbers, but his impact on the 2011 team went beyond the statistics. The Yankee infield, minus Cano, missed a combined 100 games last season. And while nothing should be taken away from Curtis Granderson’s surprise production, we must remember what player the opposing scouting reports primarily featured. Cano can hit the balls tailing outside and ones jamming inside. Throw a ball in the dirt and he’ll foul it off; throw the cheese up high and he’ll smack it over the shortstop. He can hit off of righties, and he smiles when you bring in a situational lefty. If the opposition wanted to groove a fastball to Granderson, they took that chance, because there was no way they wanted to deal with men on base once #22 stepped in the box.

The upcoming season will showcase the other 24 members of the active Yankee roster, and just for completeness, I’ll try to overlook the fact that they will be standing in Robinson Cano’s shadow. The starting rotation is as deep as the lineup that plays on the NYC hardwood, finally giving undisupted ace, CC Sabathia, some help. Youngsters Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova have the smell of front-line potential. Hiroki Kuroda won’t match the top 3 zero for zero in earned runs, but his ability as an innings-eater has carved out a special spot in KOBEsh’s heart. And battling it out for spot number 5 is Freddy Garcia, last season’s unsung hero, and Comeback Player of the Year candidate, Phil Hughes.

The bullpen doesn’t feature any slouches either features only one slouch, and he’ll be out for the year anyway. There might not be a better 1-2-3 combo in former closer Rafael Soriano, strikeout whiz David Robertson, and Yankee God Mariano Rivera. It would have been nice to be flanked by Joba Chamberlain, but an unfortunate trampoline injury actually overshadows what may have been a lost season for the kid regardless. Some pitchers take two years to recover from Tommy John surgery; one look at the roller coaster career track of Joba would not surprise any Yankee fan, were Joba to struggle in his first recovery season.

That rotation and bullpen may provide just enough breathing room for YOUR New York Yankees to win games by scoring 4 runs instead of 6. But rest assured, the offense will put up som… Read more...