By Michael Parente
The Yankees have more money to spend than any team in professional sports, and they've spent a ton of it already this winter, so why not go all out to retain Robinson Cano?
Maybe this is a stupid question coming from someone who doesn’t have to put his money – or reputation – on the line, but would it have really killed the Yankees to give Robinson Cano a 10-year contract?
For the past decade, we’ve been told the Yankees’ “win-now” attitude and subsequent reckless spending would eventually come back to haunt them and prevent them from retooling and reloading in future off-seasons once all those back-loaded contracts reached their climax.
Despite being only six years into Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275-million contract, five years into Mark Teixeira’s eight-year, $180-million deal and only two years into the five-year, $122-million extension they gave CC Sabathia in 2011, the cash-strapped Yankees somehow scrounged up enough change between the couch cushions this winter to sign Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran for a combined $283 million. That doesn’t even include the $140 million they offered Shin-Soo Choo before they signed Beltran.
So why not Cano?
The Yankees have Mark Zuckerberg money. It’ll never run out. If they choose to let one of their own players walk or not kick the tires on a potential free-agent acquisition, there’s a reason, but it’s certainly not money, or lack thereof, which makes you wonder why they wouldn’t go the extra mile to retain Cano, whose career .309/.355/.504 slash line is worth every penny.
According to Levine, the fact Cano will turn 32 in October was the ultimate deal-breaker. On the surface, his reasoning makes sense; the idea of signing a player already in his 30s to a 10-year deal and paying him millions upon millions well into his 40s is scary, but trying to rationalize between paying Jeter $14 million at the age of 37, which the Yankees did in 2001, and paying Cano an average of $24 million when he’s 42 is splitting hairs when the team signing the checks makes more money than most small countries.
Likewise, $24 million in 2023 might be a bargain for a 42-year-old Cano, who, let’s face it, isn’t exactly Rob Gronkowski-like in terms of effort, which means he’ll probably stay healthy well into his 40s. Cano has missed only 14 games in the last seven years. At this rate, he’ll be the next Moises Alou or Edgar Martinez, both of whom remained effective once they reached 40. Even if he tails off, it doesn’t matter; as long as Cano brings a title to Seattle in the next four or five years, he could fall off the proverbial cliff the following season and that deal would still be a success. Why else is he there?
Levine referenced Jeter’s 10-year extension as the prototype, but Jeter was the rare case of a player who hit free agency in his mid-20s with enough meat on his resume to command such a lucrative extension. The reality is most players need to accumulate at least five or six outstanding years of service before they’re even in the discussion for a 10-year deal, at which point they’re probably already knocking on 30’s doorstep. As is always the case in free agency, you have to spend twice as much and offer twice as many years in hopes of getting half the production you paid for. That’s the reality of the free-agent market, and if you’re not willing to run with the big spenders, you’ll eventually get run over.
There’s a better chance of A-Rod reverting to MVP form before the Yankees find the next Cano. Why they chose to let the first one go is still a mystery. With their farm system in complete disarray, it might take 10 more years before they develop another five-tool lefty with power to all fields, so why not just pay for five or six more great years from the one you already know can perform under the intense scrutiny in New York?
Maybe the Yankees knew about his discretions with Joe Girardi’s constant lineup changes before Cano made them public upon signing with Seattle. Maybe they didn’t think he was enough of a leader in the clubhouse. Maybe they thought he was lazy and couldn’t tell whether he was loafing defensively or just that good where it looked like he was actually loafing all the time.
Whatever it was, it sure as hell wasn’t money. The Yankees have plenty of it, as evident by what they spent on Ellsbury, Cano and McCann. They should’ve peeled a few more dollars out of the vault to keep Cano in the Bronx. Would it really have killed them?
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