***The blog below was originally posted on 2/23/13 on: http://sportsnuthub.com/ The site is no longer up so I am re-posting on my personal blog.
Robinson Cano may be the best second baseman in baseball. Robinson Cano may be the best free agent heading into the 2014 season. Does that mean he is entitled to be the next grossly overpaid athlete? We know his agent Scott, “who cares what it does to the rest of a team or baseball”, Boras thinks.
As great as he is, I thought the St. Louis Cardinals did the right thing in passing on Albert Pujols. I outlined a host of issues and other overpaid players prior to Pujols’ free agency here. (You can now add Joe Mauer to the list.) It’s just year one, but Pujols’ old team made the playoffs, and his new team, the Los Angeles Angels, did not.
Even by ludicrous standards, as good a player as Cano is, he is more hype than fact if he wants Pujols or Alex Rodriguez money. To get an absurd ten-year 225 – 300 million dollar contracts, which is what Boras is rumored to want for Cano, you’ve got to be an elite five-tool player. Historically great. Not just the best free agent in a given year who is repped by Scott, “I’ll manipulate a player’s numbers to get insane money” Boras.
And if you’ve been given an opportunity, like Cano has, to bring it in the playoffs, you’d better perform. At a minimum, an elite star should perform to his regular season standard. Ideally, he should be taking it to an even higher level and carrying his team for that kind of cheese.
In seven seasons, Cano has hit over 30 home runs one time. In lefty, hitter friendly Yankee Stadium, that is not exactly the second coming of Babe Ruth. On the offensively stacked NY Yankees, he has hit over 100 rbi’s, twice. His career batting average is .308. That’s better than very good, but not Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs either. Cano has hit over .320 twice. No batting titles. He has 31 stolen bases. For his career! He has been caught stealing 27 times.
So, Cano is not a speed guy. He has some power, hitting over 20 home runs four times, but he is not an elite power guy. Speed and power would be two of the five very important aforementioned five tools.
Let’s look at Cano’s playoff stats. Has he carried his team? No. He has appeared in fifty-one games, so not a small sample size. His batting average is .222. In his lone World Series he hit .136 with no home runs and one RBI.
By comparison, A-Rod, whose contract often gets justifiably ripped, hit .250 in the same World Series and has a career .263 post-season batting average. Forgetting PED use for moment, A-Rod’s regular season numbers dwarf Cano’s. A-Rod has won three MVP’s, Cano has never finished higher than third in the voting, (which he did once). A-Rod wasn’t worth his money and I don’t see Cano being worth that neighborhood either.
Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t bring this up but Cano doesn’t exactly have Derek Jeter’s reputation for hustle and running out ground balls or fly pops. Some say, “this is unfair and mention how former Yankee Paul O’Neill was the same way, and it was never talked about with him.” Paul O’Neill was never asking for the kind of money Cano is rumored to want. O’Neill was never going to be the face of the franchise. It’s the difference between how the media and the public scrutinize someone who is running for congress versus running for President. It’s a higher standard when you’re asking for that kind of contract.
So how much money over how many years should the Yankees offer Cano? I’d offer him the highest contract in baseball for a second basemen. Ian Kingsler currently has that distinction with a five year $70 million deal with a sixth year option that can raise it as high as $82 million or a buyout that makes it worth $75m. Working off of that, the Yankees should offer Cano five years at $85 million with an option for a sixth year that could raise it to $100 million. This offer is nothing to sneeze at or apologize for.
I expect Cano will make much more. He is a solid all-star, great fielder, good guy, with no off the field issues. He will garner interest from a few clubs that spend money like its monopoly. And, “the all you need is one dumb owner” rule is always in play with Scott, I’d rip the teddy bear out of a dying babies hands if I could find that teddy bear a better offer”, Boris.
The Yankees have broken with their tradition of not negotiating new contracts while a player is still under contract because they are wisely trying to change their ways. They have hit their financial ceiling at the same time that many other clubs are raising theirs.
In other words, the Yankees can’t buy their way out of mistakes like they used to. Two of those mistakes, A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, sit on their roster until 2017 and 2016. The old Yankees could have spent ridiculously on Cano and Curtis Granderson (who will also be a free agent at the end of 2013). There are rumblings now are that they can’t afford both.
Despite my argument here, I like Cano a lot. It would be great if Cano could be the next Yankee lifer after Derek Jeter, retires. But not at the expense of further handicapping the roster with a seven to ten-year north of 25 million per season contract. Post PED era, giving that to a thirty-one year old all but guarantees you’re not going to get close to value. And Cano’s peak numbers don’t warrant that kind of money anyway. Further, by spurning the Yankees in talks now to chase every last dollar in free agency, while it is Cano’s right, it reminds us it is a business and hurts his “true Yankee cred”.
Yankee money, which is no longer limitless, is better off being spread out over pitching, multiple players or even player development.