New York Yankees: Show a Little Respect to Robinson Cano's Replacements

Assessing Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, and Dean Anna

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New York Yankees: Show a Little Respect to Robinson Cano's Replacements
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Brian Roberts.

COMMENTARY | While there's no replacing Robinson Cano's bat and glove, the New York Yankees seem poised to have at least filled Cano's shoes next season, and they did it for a relatively low cost.

Combined, Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts don't add up to Cano. However, the two -- both signed to one-year contracts -- could serve as a potent punch to the Yankees' lineup with ex-San Diego Padres prospect Dean Anna waiting in the wings.

Would Omar Infante have been the best option to replace Cano? Yes, but a deal similar to the four-year/$30 million contract that Infante signed with the Kansas City Royals would have hurt the Yankees' goal of keeping next season's payroll under $189 million to avoid being hit with a 75-percent luxury tax. (This week, the team -- charged at a 50-percent tax rate -- was hit with a $28.1 million luxury tax bill, according to ESPN.)

Kelly Johnson

Johnson, who signed for about $3 million, according to MLB.com, is only a few years removed from back-to-back 20-plus home run seasons, bats left-handed, and has a swing that may find a home in Yankee Stadium.

Will he hit 20 homers in 2014? No, but the former first-round draft pick will add some pop to the bottom of Joe Girardi's lineup and allow Girardi to play to situations. Last season, all 16 of Johnson's home runs came against right-handers. In 2012, 12 of his 16 homers came against righties.

Besides playing second base, Johnson, who turns 32 in February, has also played more than 100 games in the outfield and 16 games at third base, giving Girardi some flexibility when it comes to getting Johnson playing time, especially if Alex Rodriguez's suspension is upheld.

Brian Roberts

The Yankees were able to ink the oft-injured Roberts, who's coming off a four-year, $40 million contract for the bargain price of $2 million plus incentives.

The 36-year-old Roberts is no longer the perennial 30 doubles/30 stolen bases threat he once was; however, he's a solid right-handed bat when healthy. In 102 plate appearances from the right side last season, Roberts batted .284. (As a team, the Yankees batted .242 last year.)

Dean Anna

One of the more interesting players on the Yankees' 40-man roster, Anna was acquired in a November trade that made few headlines. However, people are starting to take notice of Anna's numbers, even prompting ESPN's Andrew Marchand to ponder a Roberts/Anna platoon at second base.

Anna, 27, spent last season at Triple-A Tucson, where, in 132 games, he batted .331 with 38 doubles, 5 triples, and 9 home runs. As Marchand points out, the left-handed hitting Anna had a .929 OPS against righties (.892 OPS overall).

Despite his performance last year, the Padres never called up Anna, as San Diego seemed content to start Yonder Alonso (acquired from the Cincinnati Reds as part of the Mat Latos trade) at second base. If he performs well in spring training, he has a pretty good shot of making the Yankees' opening-day roster.

Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.

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