Some perspective on Robinson Cano

Yanks call off November stadium event
Heyman: Yanks playing 'Pick Two' with pitchers

Robinson Cano was one of the Yanks’ great disappointments this year. Coming off of two strong campaigns in 2006 and 2007, Cano had a terrible start to the year and ended up hitting just. 271/.305/.410. As Joe explored earlier this week, Cano’s troubles were a key factor in the Yanks’ missing the playoffs.

Of course, as is the norm in New York, as soon as a player struggles, they are automatically the subject of multiple trade rumors, no matter how ludicrous. While the Yanks have shown no indication that they would shop Cano and while 29 other teams are gleefully wondering if the Yanks are stupid enough to sell low on Cano, this reality isn’t stopping anyone from thinking out loud about trading Robinson Cano.

Today’s backhanded efforts at slamming Cano come to us from RAB whipping boy and New York Post scribe Joel Sherman. He seemingly questions why the Yanks are valuing Cano not at 2008 but at 2006-2007 levels:

The more I talk to Yankee officials the more I become convinced that Robinson Cano Robinson Cano will not be dealt. That is because the Yanks plan on valuing him as the 2006-7 Cano and not last year’s discouraging version. As I canvas executives from other teams, however, they all say something like this: “Cano still has value, but not the same as last year.”

So unless this is a leverage play the Yankees New York Yankees are not going to be able to turn Cano into either the top-end starter or center fielder they crave. Essentially outside teams want to hedge the risk that Cano is not a serious enough person to ever consistently maximize his talent. So what would be most possible would be a risk-for-risk trade, and the Yanks don’t want to take that risk. Enough of their top decision makers continue to believe Cano is going to be a .300-plus hitter who hits between 20-30 HRs and approaches Gold Glove defense to give him up for a project.

Why this would be a surprise to Sherman or any nameless executives is beyond me.

For all of his perceived struggles in 2008, Cano’s numbers break down nicely, in a way. On May 3, Cano bottomed out at .150/.213/.230. Over the rest of this season, his numbers were nearly in line with his 2007 level. From May 4 until the end of the year, Cano came to bat 512 times and hit .300/.327/.452 with 12 home runs, 32 doubles, three triples and 65 RBI. Much as we look at Melky Cabrera‘s last four months for a better indication of his overall failures in 2008 so can we look at those numbers for Cano.

Furthremore, some of Cano’s numbers indicate that he was woefully unlucky this year. According to The Hardball Times, Cano’s line drive percentage was actually higher in 2008 than it was in 2007, and he cut his groundball rate at the same time. His BABIP, however, dropped a stunning .050 points. For all his troubles, Cano could have just been unlucky this year.

Now, there are some warning signs, and I could see why the Yanks’ potential trading partners would be wary of Cano. As with Cabrera, Cano’s rate stats have declined in each of the last three seasons. He hasn’t developed the batting eye or patience at the plate that the Yanks would like to see him develop. But he is far from a lost cause as a mid-September adjustment to his batting stance seemed to deliver promising results.

Right now, the Yanks have no real reason to trade Robinson Cano. The youngest of the Yankees’ every-day players, he fills an important position and has the potential to be one of the AL’s best hitters. He’s cost-controlled and can play solid defense. With only Orlando Hudson as a viable free agent alternative, the Yanks, in trading Cano, would be opening up one hole while potentially filling another, if they could even land a premier Major League center fielder or pitcher.

As is often the case, this focus on Cano and his supposed tradeability is all about the media. They see something they don’t like — Cano’s .271 average, in this case — and this all of a sudden means he can’t make it in New York. Let’s not lose perspective here.

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Yanks call off November stadium event
Heyman: Yanks playing 'Pick Two' with pitchers
  • RobC

    The main problem I see with Cano is the low OBP.
    Very possibly a coach or teammate can stay on him and keep him focused but I suspect Billy Beane is right that you cannot teach plate discipline…maybe you can but you better start when they are in diapers.
    Floating Cano for offers is not a bad thing you don’t know unless you ask but it doesn’t sound like they will get a great offer.

    • whozat

      So he’s not a perfect hitter. He’ll need to hit around .300 to really be an elite player year in and year out. We know that. If he’s slugging .450+ as a second baseman, hitting .300 (leading to a league-average OBP), and playing the level of defense we know he’s capable of…at 2B, that’s worth a bunch.

  • http://www.mlbtraderumors.com Tim Dierkes

    I am not sure why you blame the media for discussing Cano trade rumors.

    Peter Gammons said Cashman ran a Cano for Hudson swap past his coaches in the summer of ’07. Ken Rosenthal says multiple clubs have expressed interest. Jon Heyman heard talk the Yankees may consider trading him. I have never known any of these three to make things up. With the evidence we have as outsiders, it seems that trading Cano has been discussed both internally and externally.

    I understand your point that now is not a good time to trade Cano. I agree that the Yankees probably will not sell low on him. But I don’t agree that it is pointless for the media to discuss this.

    • jsbrendog

      the converging of mlbtraderumors and riveraveblues is making my head swell to the point of explosion.

      and peter gammons totally exagerrates thingas if nto make them up and is clearly biased to the red sox. he does have scopps occassionally but his time has come and gone.

      and i love your site. and this one. and my h ead just exploded.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      “I agree that the Yankees probably will not sell low on him. But I don’t agree that it is pointless for the media to discuss this.”

      Agreed, there’s nothing wrong with the media discussing it. But Sherman is discussing it poorly, by fabricating problems and organizational questions that don’t really exist and criticizing the Yankees for failing (in the future, no less) to do something that they probably shouldn’t do at all in the first place.

      Responsible journalists would note as they’re discussing the Cano rumors the considerable evidence of why trading Cano would be foolish, or at least mention that a great majority of these Cano rumors are rooted in the idle speculation of other journalists and not in any expressed or hinted at statements of any individual from any actual MLB organization.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I think these two hit the nail on the head. It’s not pointless, per se, for the media to discuss it, but they are, by and large, fabricating a need to trade him. When the Yanks were thinking about trading Cano for Hudson 18 months ago, their needs and the situation was different. Now, if only Heyman is reporting that the Yanks would “consider” trading Cano, I’d take that with a grain of salt.

      I may be exaggerating the media’s reporting this story. I won’t deny that possibility. But I think the vast majority of the Cano coverage over the last two weeks has come from reporters asking other teams if they would be interested in Cano, and of course the answer to that will be yes. The Yanks probably wouldn’t trade Cano unless they were blown away by the offer.

  • X-Man

    Don´t trade Cano! is only 1 bad year(for him) of 4

  • Ivan

    Unless, you can get a very lucrative deal in concern with trading Cano, the smart idea is to just keep him and see if he bounces back which I think he will not only offensively but defensively as well.

    Part of the reason why the media has a beef with Cano, is that he’s sorta the anti Pedroia. He has supreme talent, he makes plays difficult look easy and can hit good pitching, he’s not a rah rah guy or gritty or underdog type persoanlity of being laid-back and calm makes him sorta special which rubs off negatively towards the media.

    The one positive I can say is this, is that his K rate was the lowest in his career as well, so his LD% was higher, less balls on the ground and lower K rate, really means that his season was quite unlucky and those factors should indicat he will improve in the 09 season.

    Plus, from 05-07, his BB rate has increase steadily. Of course this season that was not the case but I think in 09 with the new stance and learning from the 08 season, that maybe his BB rate can increase. Compare his plate disipline to the likes of Soriano, Kendrick, Hart and Franceor, he’s not that bad really albeit far from great but still better than those guys.

    Cano will bounce, I know it.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Racism says hello.

      • Ivan

        Well it’s more sterotypes/misconceptions than anything else but hey I think we agree on what Im trying to say.

  • jsbrendog

    trade cano for eckstein! he’s a gamer!

    unless you can get the farm for cano then you keep him. ride him out see what youve got this coming year. you can’t trade someone after one bad year. anomalies happen, people have off years. he has too much talent and too much upside to trade with such a dearth of position player talent in the pipeline

  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

    School of Bad Journalism Writing Tip #1: Invent a problem that doesn’t exist to base your story around, like, “The Yankees are not going to be able to turn Cano into either the top-end starter or center fielder they crave.”

    Sherman thinks the Yankees want a top end starter (even though they can get one in free agency and and already have a few in-house), a centerfielder (even though they have a highly-thought of one in the pipeline), and want to move Cano (they don’t) but won’t be able to (they don’t want to) because they’re foolishly overpricing him (they aren’t and shouldn’t).

    “Enough of their top decision makers continue to believe Cano is going to be a .300-plus hitter who hits between 20-30 HRs and approaches Gold Glove defense to give him up for a project.”

    Explain to me why this is a bad thing, exactly.

    • jsbrendog

      you sir, have hit the nail on the head squarely. amen.

    • Ivan

      “Enough of their top decision makers continue to believe Cano is going to be a .300-plus hitter who hits between 20-30 HRs and approaches Gold Glove defense to give him up for a project.”

      Hey if he does that, that’s a MVP Canidate.

  • steve (different one)

    As with Cabrera, Cano’s rate stats have declined in each of the last three seasons.

    this isn’t completely true.

    his batting average declined from 2006 to 2007. that is certainly true.

    but his isoD doubled and his isoP was exactly the same.

    his 2007 season was in no way a step backwards from 2006 as it wasn’t reasonable to expect him to hit .342 again. the question was if he could walk more (he did) and hit for more power (he hit for the same power).

    • jsbrendog

      isoD and isoP?

      what the hell is that?

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

        Back in my day, we had batting average and wins, and that’s it! AND WE LIKED IT!

      • Accent Shallow

        IsoD is the difference between BA and OBP, and IsoP is the difference between BA and SLG.

      • steve (different one)

        it sounds fancy but it’s not.

        isoD – isolated Discipline. it’s just OBP less AVG
        isoP – isolated Power. SLG less AVG

        it attempts to strip out the effect of batting average on OBP and SLG%.

        for example, if you are 50 for 100 with 50 singles and no walks, you have a line that looks like this: .500/.500/.500

        a .500 OBP is “good”, but since it is unlikely you will be able to hit .500 going forward and you haven’t walked at all, that would be reflected in your isoD. same with your SLG%. you have a .500 SLG, which is “good”, but in reality you haven’t slugged at all. you’ve just hit a bunch of singles. isoP would reflect that.

        so even though Cano’s OBP fell from 2006 to 2007, you can see that he did improve his plate discipline based on the separation between his OBP and his BA.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          As fancy as a Catalina Wine Mixer.

    • Ivan

      I persoanlly thought he was better in 07 because, he was BB more and I remember in 07 that what turn his season around was that he was more selective.

  • Accent Shallow

    The issue with Robbie has always been plate discipline. His walk rates (BB/PA):

    2.9% (’05)
    3.5% (’06)
    5.8% (’07)
    4.1% (’08)

    If the ’07 campaign is his high-water mark, he’s going to need to hit around .300 every year to be effective, and he’s going to need to hit around .340 again to be an elite player. Perhaps closing his stance will help him to see pitches better?

    (While we’re talking THT stats, his percentage of infield flies increased this year, and his percentage of HRs per fly ball went down. Could we see a power surge next year?)

    • Ivan

      Yea but you notice the slight improvement every year with the exception 08. I think in 09, his BB rate might jump to like 7 or 8 percent.

      • Accent Shallow

        Who knows. I don’t think anyone expects him to ever have Giambi or Abreu’s eye, but he could learn a thing or two from his double play partner.

        If he could get his walk rate to 7-10%, he’s a similar player to Jeter. He’s already demonstrated comparable power to early career Jeter, and it seems to be the thought around baseball that he has yet to reach his full potential.

    • whozat

      “If the ‘07 campaign is his high-water mark, he’s going to need to hit around .300 every year to be effective, and he’s going to need to hit around .340 again to be an elite player.”

      I think many people have acknowledged that. However, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Is trading cano and signing Orlando Hudson really going to make anything better?

    • steve (different one)

      If the ‘07 campaign is his high-water mark, he’s going to need to hit around .300 every year to be effective, and he’s going to need to hit around .340 again to be an elite player

      your reasoning is sound, but you are underestimating the value of his 2007 a bit.

      he WAS an elite player in 2007 and he “only” hit .306.

      i’m not trying to quibble over the definition of “elite”, but a plus defender at 2B (and he was a plus defender in 2007) who hits .306/.353/.488 is an elite player in my book.

      but again, i agree with the concept of what you are saying. i probably just have a looser definition of elite.

      • Accent Shallow

        I should have specified “elite hitter” rather than “elite player”. If he can nudge his OBP up around 400, then that’s ~900 OPS from your second baseman. That’s Derek Jeter with better defense.

        • steve (different one)

          ok. i don’t disagree.

          but i’d point out that in 2007, Cano had an OPS of .841

          Jeter’s career OPS is .845

          Jeter really only been that good (~.900 OPS) 3 times in 14 seasons….

          • Accent Shallow

            That’s true, but the difference there is that Jeter’s OPS is OBP heavy, while Robbie’s is SLG heavy, making Jeter’s OPS more valuable, although they’re a similar number.

            That said, I’m a big fan of Robbie, and wouldn’t want to trade him outside of a lopsided deal. I’d just like to see a few more walks.

            • steve (different one)

              agreed.

            • whozat

              I don’t see how being weighted towards OBP makes Jeter’s OPS more valuable. It just makes it different. Robbie hits in the lower part of the order. There’s not much value in walking or singling in the 7 hole when Jose Molina and Brett Garder are behind you and Matsui in on first. XBH in that spot in the order are more useful.

              As a 2-hitter, getting on base, getting runners over, and hitting doubles is great. As a 6/7 hitter, you want more doubles and homers because the guys behind you aren’t so likely to drive you in, and the guys on base in front of you tend to be slower of foot.

              • whozat

                But yeah…I wouldn’t object to Robbie getting on base more often. Who would?

                I disagree that a more OBP heavy OPS in necessarily more valuable, though.

                • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

                  But getting on base more ofter is more important than hitting the ball hard more often, generally speaking. We’d all love to have home run hitters, but someone who can get on base with a single, double, or walk and either become a baserunner or advance/score the baserunners already on probably equates more to actual wins and losses than slugging does.

                  It’s slight, but it’s real, IMO. I have no empirical evidence to support this, but I’d wager that a lineup that OBP/SLG’s .350/.350 would outproduce one that did .300/.400…

                  …but we’re splitting some fine-ass hairs here.

              • Chris

                OBP is inherently undervalued when looking at OPS. Basically the most important thing you can do as a hitter is to not make an out. That’s what OBP measures. OPS is just a crude and easy way to compare players, and not a perfect tool.

        • whozat

          That’s not a nudge. That’s asking him to become near Hall-of-fame caliber. .880-.900 OPS as a plus defending 2b? I mean…there’s a lot of room to be a very good player without achieving that level. He’s never going to OBP around .400 without hitting .350. He just isn’t. And that’s fine. .350 OBP while slugging .450 and defending well is a very reasonable expectation. They think he can slug better than that, and that would be excellent.

    • Old Ranger

      Yogi did alright as a bad ball hitter! You all (that say .300) are right, but I don’t see a problem with him doing that…as he ages, he will learn the strike zone. If not the strike zone, he’ll learn what he can and can’t hit with power. 27/09.

  • http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/profile.php?id=1383090075 Brad

    Cano’s defensive deterioration is what bothers me the most.
    I definitely believe his offensive year was for the most part, unlucky, as the more sophisticated statistics show. But I believe that his 1st half slump got into his head, leading to his stellar defense declining so much. All of a sudden, he was making foolish errors all the time. I wonder if those mental lapses and (perhaps) chokes are the beginning of a trend.

    Let me put it this way: I’m not in favor of trading Cano for a bag of balls. But, if San Francisco offered me Jonathan Sanchez straight up for Cano, or San Diego offered Peavy in a Cano package…I would have to consider it.

    • steve (different one)

      But I believe that his 1st half slump got into his head, leading to his stellar defense declining so much.

      and the data would support this. RLYW broke out his zone ratings by week:

      http://www.replacementlevel.co.....se_in_2008

      his poor defensive showing was really clustered into one horrible month.

  • X-Man

    Don´t trade Cano ·$·$””·%**

  • Dorian

    I think that we of course take offers this offseason and if something knocks our socks off then we move him. But, if not, then keep him and if he gets off to a insane start like .325/.375/.530 and we think we need to make improvements in the staff then we look to move him for a top of the line rotation guy. Then Leftie-Rightie platoon of Betamit and Ransom.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Oh, no. If he gets off to an insane start then we look to keep him even more, not trade him for a starting pitcher.

      If he bounces back in a big way, he becomes firmly untouchable.

    • UWS

      Do you really think that a L-R platoon of Ransom and Betemit would give you anywhere near the production that a working-at-his-full-capacity Cano would provide?? On either side of the ball?

  • Victor Eisenhower

    They at least have to explore the market for him, say Peavy for him?

    • whozat

      So…your answer to an offense that scored 200 fewer runs in 2008 than in 2007, which is losing Giambi and Abreu…is to trade for more pitching — the only thing that our farm system is currently producing.

      Kevin Russo is the best middle infield prospect the team has above A ball. And his upside is as a utility IFer.

      They CAN’T trade Cano. His value to the Yankees is greater than his value to pretty much any other team.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Urge to kill… rising…

      • whozat

        Wait…me?

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

          No. My urge to kill comment was directed at “That one”.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Deep breaths… Commenting Guidelines… Zen.

      • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

        Are you joking? I would jump at a chance to do a one-for-one between Robinson Cano and Jake Peavy.

        • Lanny

          An ace pitcher with an affordable contract?

          Who’s the other GM? Corky?

    • whozat

      And buyer beware on Peavy. Look at how he’s done outside of Petco. He clearly takes advantage of the cavernous nature of the outfield in SD. That won’t play in Feway, Camden Yards or even the new Stadium. Especially given the weak nature of the Yankee defense.

      • rad–nom

        I’m not in favor of trading the farm for Peavy but this statement is absurd. Sure, he pitches better at home, but a lot of guys do, and although he certainly benefits from Petco he would be a dominant starter anywhere.

        You realize he realies primarily on his sinker when he is effective, right? If hes going good he is getting strike outs and ground balls which don’t care how far back the wall is.

        Look at his home/road splits for his 2007 Cy Young season. He actually pitched better on the road.

        • whozat

          His GO/AO ratio is around 1 for his career. I don’t know where to find overall GB/FB ratio (including hits); I checked baseball-reference, didn’t see it.

          But, point is…he’s not a big groundball pitcher, it seems. Yes, he K’s guys. And I’m not saying that he sucks. But, I _am_ saying that there’s reason to believe he’s not the Uncontested Ace Pitcher that he will be priced as.

          Also…If they can sign CC, and have a rotation fronted by CC, Wang and Joba…do they really need to spend their most valuable commodity (young talent) on Jake Peavy? Hughes is still a promising young arm too.

          • radnom

            I’m not disagreeing with you there, I explicitly said to start off that I would rather not trade for him. He would, however, still be an ace outside of Petco, but obviously the cost of signing CC in money is much more palatable than the talent that would have to be given to get a pitcher of his caliber.

            • whozat

              “He would, however, still be an ace outside of Petco”

              And I don’t agree with that assessment. I think he’d still be a good pitcher, but not the guy he is in SD. I mean…NL West pitcher in a big park that does NOT have pronounced groundball tendencies…seems like exactly the kind of guy whose results would fall off upon a trade to a division like the AL East.

  • A.D.

    Interesting on Sherman, does he want the yanks to deal him at 2008 value? If so why bother making a trade? Trading Cano only makes sense if it is at 06-07 value, else he’s more valuable as the starting 2B, especially given that we don’t have a young 2B replacement.

  • UWS

    Whatever happened to the moratorium on linking to the NYP??

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      The end of the baseball season, likely…

  • J

    Cano is an example of a situation alien to the Yankees, and which Cashman has been trying to turn around, i.e. “The Youth Movement”. It not only involves more focus on prospects, but also DEVELOPING them.

    Cano (along with Hughes and a few others) has displayed enough raw talent that he warrants a little loyalty and patience. As Ben K. pointed out, factoring out his awful April, he had a good season. And if the vagaries of fate had swapped his scorching Spring Training with that dreadful April, you all would be singing his praises and beating down anyone who mentions “trade”.

  • Victor Eisenhower

    Cashman has to get creative to try to improve every aspect of the team. Trading Cano for pitching and then signing Orlando Hudson can help the team both improve in pitching and defense.

  • nick blasioli

    i say we keep cano…anytime you have a second baseman that hits 250 or better and is decent at the plate…its a great idea to keep him….cano will bounce back…he already is going to work with the hitting coach this winter…hes not the reason the yanks didnt make the playoffs…we all know that there is no (i) in team…..

  • Lanny

    I just don’t see Cashman trading Cano. A guy they committed to long term as a building block just ten months ago.

    What are his big problems? He needs to be pushed more and prodded and motivated?

    Then coach him! Isn’t that the coaching staffs job?

    I don’t know why Cano gets most of the blame here. What other team blames their #7 hitter for only winning 89 games?

  • Bonos

    It’s not so much coaching him as making him a leader on this team. In other words you motivate him by giving him responsibility for others. Standard coaching technique. Take your your worst rowdy with talent and make him a leader. Mark Messier anyone. Nothing holier than a reformed hooligan.

  • ortforshort

    A disappointing Cano is still a good player. Its just that you know he can be so much better. I think he plays hard, its just his style not to break a sweat while doing it. He does need to use his head more. He really needs to take notes on how Jeter approaches the game. Its ironic that you’ve got the headiest ballplayer in the game playing alongside his opposite. Also, if you were to trade Cano, which I wouldn’t, it wouldn’t be when his value is at its lowest.

  • josh

    i think most of us like cano but the main descision should lie in what we get back. this is not an addition by subtraction move. another important factor could be getting orlando hudson. i have heard really good things about his clubhouse presence and we all know he is a tremendous fielder. but more importantly is what we could get. a really good starter or outfielder (either would have to be young considering cano’s age) would be real nice.
    would you rather have cano and gardner or hudson and kemp. any way we could swing cano for justin upton (would we even want to?)