The day they lose Cano, the Yankees counter with Carlos Beltran
Beltran is coming off a very successful two year stint with the Cardinals. He hit .282/.343/.493 in those two years, while playing 296 games, showing that despite past injury issues, he's healthy. His incredible postseason performance also continued while in St. Louis.
The Yankees let Cano go, preferring not to pay him $24 million a year. Instead, they've given Brian McCann $17 million a year, Jacoby Ellsbury $21.8 million a year (going by AAV), and now Beltran $15 million a year. There's also close to resigning Hiroki Kuroda to a one year, $16 million deal, and also signed Kelly Johnson for $3 million a year. Their outlays for 2014 are just over $151 million so far, and that doesn't include what Ellsbury's final number will be, nor their arbitration and pre-arb players. Thus, it's become obvious that either the Yankees have abandoned the $189 million payroll mandate or it was just a red herring all along.
Beltran joins Ellsbury in a complete remaking of the Yankees outfield. Beltran will play right field, with Ellsbury at center and Brett Gardner at left. Contracts aside, that's a pretty outfield for the short-term if all are healthy, admittedly a big if as all three have injury histories. If they stay healthy though, it's a big upgrade from last year's combination of Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, and Ichiro. The outfield will need to stay healthy and productive, since the Yankees infield is looking like their Achilles heel. Without Cano, the Yankees for now will go with Mark Teixeria (injury riddled unknown) at first, Eduardo Nunez at second, whatever's left of Derek Jeter at short (with all-glove, no-hit Brendan Ryan backing up), and Johnson at third.
There's also the risk that Beltran will start declining. It hasn't happened yet, but these are age 37-39 years that the Yankees are paying for. That said, of their three big deals, this is probably the most reasonable one. It appears the team is going with quantity to replace Cano. They've helped their outfield significantly, but are left with many question marks in the infield. Time will tell how this strategy will work.