During the offseason prior to 2009, the Yankees were in the midst of spending three times the GDP of Peru on three players: CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett. While all three of those players ended up playing a significant part in what would be yet another championship run for the Bombers, one could argue that a stellar season by Robinson Cano was as important to the team as anyone on the roster. However, during December of 2008, depending on who you believe, Cano was rumored to be offered to the Dodgers and Joe Torre. So I ask you: if the Cano for Matt Kemp swap was actually more than run-of-the-mill bored-as-hell offseason rumormongering, would it be Brian Cashman or Ned Colletti that hung up first?
In 2008, Robinson Cano had just finished a season that saw his wOBA plummet to a career-low of .307. He was labeled as "lazy," and Joe Girardi seemingly pulled out all the stops to light a fire under the talented second baseman. First, Cano's best friend, Melky "Below League Average" Cabrera was sent to Scranton in what was widely viewed as a scare tactic aimed at Cano. Ultimately, Girardi was forced to bench Cano in September for what looked like a piss-poor effort. As disappointing as 2008 was for the Yankees, Cano may have been the poster boy for the season.
Matt Kemp, on the other hand, seemed to be moving in the opposite direction. He was a budding superstar in La-La Land under Joe Torre, poised to become a superstar. Coming off of his first full season, Kemp flashed all five tools with a .290/.340/.459 slash in what equated to a 3.1 win season.
In taking this information at face value, it seems as though the Yankees have been committing what would equate to prison rape at the Dodgers' expense had the train been consummated. But what isn't shown here is the infinite potential of Robinson Cano. Potential that would end up translating into a .320/.352/.520 line in 2009 as a main cog in the Yankees' championship offense. So far, this looks like a "what were they thinking" rip on the Yankees, but a closer look at Kemp's numbers in 2009 suggest otherwise. His .367 wOBA was just three points lower than that of Cano, and his superior (according to UZR, anyway) defense gave him a 0.3 win advantage over Robbie.
So now that we have seen an absolutely torrid start from Cano -- as Frank McCourt publicly bitches about Kemp -- I am reviving this debate: if you had the option, would you trade Robinson Cano for Matt Kemp?* I look forward to seeing the answers in the comments.
*Please note - the scenario presented includes only the rights to Matt Kemp, and in no way suggests that Rihanna would be a part of the deal.