A couple weeks ago, Mike Axisa of RAB contemplated on whether the Yankees could benefit from an early extention on Cano’s current contract. The Yankees had previously broken their own policy regarding contract negotions for Cano once before as they signed him to a four year, $30M deal that included two additional club options (in 2012 and 2013). Anecdotally speaking, although Cano’s by no means cheap now, he still is probably half as expensive as he could be on the open market (seriously!). In 2010, Cano’s 6.6 fWAR was valued at approximately $26.4M and this year’s 4.5 fWAR (which is still counting) is already up to $20.4M.
Mike concluded in his post that despite the inherent risk of a new long term deal, renegotiating Robby’s contract would behoove the Yankees.
In a perfect world, I think the contract would cover six years. The Yankees could guarantee his 2012 and 2013 options, then tack another four years on top of that. That would take Cano through his age 33 season, giving him enough time to land one more big contract, assuming all goes well. The money would certainly be substantial, something like $14M and $15M in the two option years, then $19M, $20M, $21M, and $22M in the four additional years. That’s six years and $111M right there, then throw in a signing bonus and a buyout of a seventh year option, and you’re talking $120M guaranteed. Definitely less than what he’d probably get on the open market after 2013, but also a freaking ton of money [that would provide Cano with the generational weath he's expecting].
Although I generally agree with the Yankees philosophy of not renegotiating contracts early, in this particular case, I couldn’t agree more with Mike’s conclusion. Aside from the (remote) possibility of a discounted rate, the benefits of retaining Cano’s services speak for themselves — especially when contrasted against the uncertainty of the free agent market and the farm system as we currently know it.
Consider Robby’s production in the tables below.
|2001||18||NYY-min||Rk,A-||59||241||208||3||36||.231||.328||.361||.688||YNK,STI · GULF,NYPL|
|2002||19||NYY-min||A,A-||135||599||561||15||81||.276||.319||.437||.756||GBO,STI · SALL,NYPL|
|2003||20||NYY-min||A+,AA||136||571||530||6||63||.277||.322||.374||.695||TAM,TRE · FLOR,EL|
|2004||21||NYY-min||AA,AAA||135||563||508||13||74||.283||.339||.457||.796||TRE,CLB · EL,IL|
|2005||22||NYY-min||AAA||24||114||108||4||24||.333||.368||.574||.942||CLB · IL|
|2006||23||NYY-min||AA,Rk||4||18||15||0||3||.467||.556||.600||1.156||TRE,YNK · EL,GULF|
|162 Game Avg.||162||679||632||22||95||.308||.347||.494||.841||119|
Honestly, who’s going to provide better results in the immediate future? Dustin Pedroia? Chase Utley (assuming he’s healthy and not showing signs of aging, which is a major “if”)? Perhaps, Ben Zobrist? Not that it really matters; those guys are all unavailable anyway. It’s not as if external candidates from around the league are itching to help the Yankees cause either. Here’s a fairly uninspiring list of second basemen who are expected to hit free agency in 2012 and 2013 (compliments of MLBTR).
Alfredo Amezaga (34)
Clint Barmes (33)
Willie Bloomquist (34) – $1.1MM mutual option with a $150K buyout
Orlando Cabrera (37)
Jamey Carroll (37)
Alex Cora (36)
Craig Counsell (41)
Mark Ellis (35)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (36)
Bill Hall (32) – $4MM mutual option with a $250K buyout
Aaron Hill (30) – $8MM club option for 2012 and $8MM club option for ’13
Omar Infante (30)
Kelly Johnson (30)
Adam Kennedy (36)
Felipe Lopez (32)
Jose Lopez (28)
Aaron Miles (35)
Brandon Phillips (31) – $12MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Jeff Baker (32)
Orlando Hudson (35) – $8MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Maicer Izturis (32)
Howie Kendrick (29)
Jeff Keppinger (32)
Ian Kinsler (31) – $10MM club option with a $500K buyout
Luis Rodriguez (33)
Freddy Sanchez (35)
Skip Schumaker (33)
With the exception of Kinsler, who will probably demand a fairly sizable payday anyway, there is not another guy I would even consider remotely close to Robby’s talent level. Frankly, if the Yankees are considering who they should pay vast sums of money to — for what will likely represent at least some decline years — between either Kinsler or Cano, I’d just assume they stick with Cano. At least then they have the batting average to go along with the power.
In terms of internal possibilities, there are some considerations I suppose. Guys like Corban Joseph or David Adams are both prospects with some potential. However, these guys are both highly unproven ballplayers (neither of which have any experience in MLB). I spoke to TYA’s very own prospect specialist, Eric, regarding both these players and here’s what he had to say.
“The Yankees have two promising second base prospects in David Adams and Corban Joseph who have had success in the upper minors, and could probably be big league ready in the next two years. However, both have question marks: Adams has not played much since suffering a terrible ankle injury in 2010, and Joseph’s ability to stick at 2b defensively is not certain (though he has showed significant improvement). Neither of these guys project to be anywhere close to Cano offensively or defensively, though both could be above-average regulars at the position if everything goes well. Then again, Robinson Cano the prospect was not supposed to become the star that he is now, so I guess you never really know.”
Basically, on their best day, neither prospect is predicted to be as prolific as Cano, and on their typical day, they both represent a hell of a dropoff. Additionally, it is both unfair and unrealistic of us as fans to expect either of those kids to come up immediately and deliver MVP caliber numbers while simaltaneously adapting to the league. We all know that more often than not, baseball simply just doesn’t work that way.
The best part (in my eyes) of Mike’s proposal is that the Yankees would still be able to release Cano come the 2017 season. He’d only be 34 at that point (only a couple years past the point most second basemen begin to rapidly fade). If the Yanks wanted to extend him out yet again, they certainly could. He’d also be at a reasonable stage in career to potentially test the free agent market should he want too.
However, if the Yankees wanted to part ways, they’d be able to go that route before “it was too late” (another uber-expensive guy entering into his late thirties). Yes, the proposed contract would be an albatross in terms of duration and dollars, but at least it would be one that would occurr during the most desirable timeframe. By the time Cano ends the new deal, the Yanks would also have a better idea of which prospect is best prepared in the minors to make the transition or be able to make a better choice from what could very well be more desirable class of free agent second basemen.
Granted, this arrangment wouldn’t exactly be fair to other players on the team, but sometimes exceptions have to be made. That’s also part of the business of baseball. What this all comes down to is the fact that Cano is a tremendously gifted player. Given the volatility associated with the position in general, the prudent decision has to involve locking up a guy who is already a “sure thing.” Financial savings aside, there just isn’t another option for the Yankees that can deliver the way that Cano can during the immediate future; and as it just so happens, the desired contract duration seems to coincide with this way of thinking. Lock Robby up already!
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