The season’s upon us. It’s that time of year. So close your eyes, Nats fans, and forget sugar plums. Dream of this lineup for just a moment.
That’s a quality leadoff hitter based on what he showed over the final two months of the 2013 season, followed by seven players capable of 25-plus home runs in a season.
The only problem? The second baseman isn’t a member of the team.
Yet. Or likely ever.
The odds of Cano, a free agent who has had a brilliant career with the Yankees, joining the Nats are only slightly higher than the odds of a Ferrari showing up under a certain tree in Accokeek, Md.
But what’s a holiday season without a few dreams? And this is one dream the Nats really should try to make a reality.
Cano has been one of the best players in baseball for a long time, maybe the best. He’s won two Gold Gloves and five Silver Slugger awards. He’s had at least 25 home runs every year since 2009 and driven in at least 107 runs three of the past four seasons. He’s had 41 or more doubles seven of the past eight seasons. He’s durable, too, having played at least 159 games for seven straight years.
Pause a moment to let those numbers sink in, because the next set of numbers may make heads explode.
For his efforts as a Yankee, he’s looking to cash in to the tune of $250 million over 10 or so years. Odds are, he’ll get it somewhere and if those are the terms, the Nats should take a pass. As good as the 31-year-old Cano is, paying him that kind of money as he nudges past the 40-year-old mark is not smart.
But if they can get him for the same annual salary over a five- or six-year contract? Buy a gold fountain pen and beg the man to sign.
If you are against this because the annual salary is too high, get over that. The Nats can afford it, as can most other teams. Baseball isn’t quite like football in its ability to print money, but the sport isn’t hurting. The Lerners can do this contract, extend Desmond and pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, plan for the huge contracts Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper will eventually command and not lose a bit of sleep.
If you are against this because it may retard the development of Anthony Rendon, get over that in a hurry. Rendon, 23, has plenty of time to develop. He showed during his time with the Nats why there’s so much fuss over him as a prospect, and that he still needs some work. A year on the bench as a utility infielder or a year in Class AAA isn’t going to kill him.
Can Cano keep this up? That’s the chance you take with any player, but there’s no reason to think he’s close to a regression.
The Nats don’t need Cano to be a contender. The roster they boast, particularly with this week’s addition of pitcher Doug Fister, is more than strong enough to make them one. Even putting Rendon at seventh in the batting order and moving the others up a spot, it should be a potent offense.
But just as the addition of Fister made a strong rotation into a “wow” rotation, the addition of Cano would make a strong batting lineup a “wow”-to-the-100th-power lineup. Glance up and take another look: You’d have Gold Glove and Silver Slugger potential at almost every spot.
Just because you’re already good doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make yourself better. The Nats, by signing Cano, can make themselves a whole heck of a lot better and not really upset the dynamics of their future too much.
Rendon played second last year because the Nats needed a second baseman after Danny Espinosa’s disaster of a start. He’s a natural third baseman. LaRoche is entering the final year of his contract and it is difficult to see him being brought back in 2015. That might be the time to ask Zimmerman to take a hit for the team and move to first, making room for Rendon at third.
Those are the kinds of things that will work themselves out. To add a player like Cano to this lineup will make it worth whatever juggling needs to be done down the road.
Cano would be a gold-plated bow on what’s already a pretty package.