The Mariners and Yankees had discussions about a trade involving infielder Robinson Cano, who is owed $120 million over the next five seasons, and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is owed $47.2 million over the next two years, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported on Monday. The talks apparently broke down rather quickly because Seattle was not willing to eat a larger chunk of Cano’s salary. If the talks do get going again, though, there’s a solid chance that Ellsbury — a Madras, Oregon native — would waive his no-trade clause to go to Seattle, while Cano presumably wouldn’t have much of a problem returning to the team with which he established himself and won a World Series, per a Tuesday tweet from Fancred’s Jon Heyman:
Latest notes: #Mariners pushing Canó; why #DBacks do not want to attach Greinke to Goldy; intrigue in the bullpen market; Farrell’s thinking on #Cubs; Friedman’s trading record with #Dodgers. https://t.co/Ppf6mMSMs3 $— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 26, 2018
Mariners, Yanks talked about a Cano return to the Bronx. Ellsbury would have been going to Seattle in proposalbut Mariners didn’t want to eat extra $ at time. Cano has $120M left, Ellsbury $48M. Ellsbury May be more open to waiving no-trade, and good chance Canó might accept NY.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 27, 2018
The left-handed hitting Cano is still pretty good for being 36 years old — more than anything, he’s been tarnished by the controversial PED suspension he received in May of this year. The eight-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger hit .303/.374/.471 with 10 homers in 348 plate appearances this year, and he hasn’t posted an OPS+ that’s been any less than 14 percent above league average since 2008. With that said, Rosenthal wrote that Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is “actively trying to” trade Cano — not a huge surprise considering that Dipoto is unquestionably baseball’s most active trading GM, and he’s been open about shaking up the team’s roster and undergoing a bit of a youth movement this offseason.
While Cano is widely projected to move off second base at some point in the future and is now “blocked” to an extent in Seattle due to the presence of Dee Gordon, he’d probably still have a bit of a shelf life at second base in New York — he did post a totally respectable four defensive runs saved and a 9.3 UZR/150 over 561.1 innings there in Seattle this year, after all — and that’d be key for a Yankees team that will be without Didi Gregorius for at least half of the 2019 campaign. If they could get at least a partial season of production from Cano at second, they could shift Gleyber Torres to shortstop and likely not see much of a defensive shortstop. Once Gregorius returns, they could figure out what to do with Cano, and there would be several options: make Cano the primary designated hitter and give Giancarlo Stanton more time in the outfield, which may be a necessary move anyway since Stanton seemed to struggle with the adjustment to the DH role in 2018; move Cano to first base, where he started 10 games last year, and abandon the Luke Voit and Greg Bird experiments; or, perhaps the most logical choice of all, move Cano (who started two games at third this past season) or Torres (who was briefly projected as the team’s third baseman of the future last spring) to third base and move Miguel Andujar — who was pretty clearly the worst defensive third baseman in the game in 2018 — to first base and/or DH.
Meanwhile, if he’s ultimately dealt, Ellsbury may end up being the closest MLB comparison you see to the veterans who are often traded in the NBA and NHL for salary reasons and never end up playing in a game for their new teams. He’s 35 years old now, and after missing the entire 2018 season with an oblique issue (or at least what the Yankees want us to believe was one), it seems unlikely that he’s going to bounce back and become an MLB-caliber contributor again — especially with much of his game having been centered around his speed and defense in his prime, two skills that are still somewhat present but have obviously deteriorated as he’s aged.