Robinson Cano is clearly the Yankees best offensive player, but he’s a free agent at the end of this season and will no doubt demand huge figures in contract talks this offseason so his inclusion on the 2014 is far from guaranteed.
The Yankees so badly want to keep Cano that they have been willing to break their own unwritten rule that they don’t negotiate with players until their contract is up. They offered him what they termed a “significant offer” last offseason, but with Scott Boras as his agent, talks with Cano didn’t go anywhere then. Since then Cano has fired Boras, but negotiations, which are on-going, haven’t progressed any further.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Yankees and Cano are nowhere near a deal at this point. Though, Heyman did say that they could resume serious negotiations after the All-Star break.
Heyman suggests that Cano could be looking for a deal for as much as Alex Rodriguez‘s $275 million deal, but the Yankees see Cano in more of a David Wright $138 million, eight-year zone. That’s a significant gap and if one side doesn’t make a major concession it seems likely that Cano will indeed hit the open market this offseason.
Despite the fact that Cano is the Yankees best offensive player, by a lot, signing him to a huge deal has many obvious risks. The biggest is A-Rod himself. That contract did give them the 2009 World Series, but it has severely hampered the Yankees since. They will definitely not go to 10 years and probably shouldn’t even go to seven or eight considering Cano will be 31-years-old next year.
Then there is Cano’s struggles against lefties. He might be their best offensive player, but he might not be the complete player that a team should consider for a $200 mega-deal. Since the beginning of 2012, he has hit just .236/.303/.347 in 389 plate appearances against southpaws. He does so many other things well that it’s easy to overlook this, but a team could simply stack themselves with lefties in the bullpen to render him useless and come playoff time that could be devastating.
Speaking of playoffs, that could be another reason to be hesitant to re-sign Cano to a mega-deal. Much like his buddy A-Rod, Cano struggles in the playoffs. In 51 career games, he has a .222/.267/.419 line. Like A-Rod, Cano has the potential to carry the Yankees to a World Champion all by himself, but like A-Rod it might take three or four crappy years to get to that.
I doubt that the Yankees will be able to successfully hold out for Wright-money, but they should try. For one thing, Wright has been a slightly better hitter throughout his career. Cano has been a picture of health throughout his career, but that was in the past. Cano is on the wrong side of 30 now and second base has always been a position where guys break down fast.
Even if Cano can’t get A-Rod money, his agent will correctly point to the contracts of Prince Fielder and Joey Votto and demand at least $200 million. It’s still possible that both of those players are better than Cano, but his agents will argue that he’s a bigger star than either of those two (although that certainly could be argued), and New York City is a town that loves stars. All you have to do is look at the Yankees attendance and YES Network’s ratings to see that.
If Cano did sign elsewhere he would leave behind a gigantic crater in the lineup though so the Yankees are handcuffed to a point. They have a couple of prospects in David Adams and Corban Joseph to at least attempt to replace him, but neither are elite prospects in any sense. Putting them out there could be a tough sell to Yankees fans who might end up skipping a trip to the ballpark and tuning out of the YES Network as a result.
The one final thing to consider is the upcoming $189 million budget. The Yankees are somewhere near the $230 mark right now with all of their commitments. They have some money coming off the books this offseason to help with that, but adding a contract with an average annual value near or beyond $25 million will hamper their efforts. If they re-sign Cano they might have to cut back at multiple other positions including their pitching staff, which has been a strength this year.
The Yankees could figure out a way to trade Cano in the next month. After all, they would like get at least one elite, close to major-league-ready prospect in exchange and they wouldn’t have to worry about signing him or not signing him. The problem is that the Yankees just don’t do that. They are under pressure to win every year and, as bad as this year’s team has been, they are still well within the mix for a playoff spot. Unless it also helps them this year as well, highly unlikely, they are going to be under a lot of pressure to just keep him and work out a deal.
My guess is that a trade is highly unlikely. In reality, the Yankees will probably re-sign him this offseason. My guess is that it will be for at least what Mark Teixeira got — $180 million over eight years. Whether or not that will be a smart or stupid move…time will tell.
Photo credit: (June 19, 2013 - Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America).