This offseason, Robinson Cano will be the prized free-agent. The soon to be 31 year old consistently produces elite numbers from a position that is usually offensively challenged. Who wouldn’t want him?
.300-30-100 isn’t easy to find at second base.
The Yankees should be able to resign him, but what if his contract demands are too rich even for the Yankees’ blood? Is that even possible? Well, Hal Steinbrenner has stressed the importance of lowering their total salary below 189 million to avoid the luxury tax. Also, the Alex Rodriguez contract is a painful reminder of lengthy, expensive deals. Would they want to go all in on potentially a 10-year deal?
What if the Yankees decided to let Cano walk? Who could possibly be willing to spend the big bucks to ink the sweet swinging lefty?
Here are the ten teams after the Yankees with the highest payroll (in millions) this past season:
1.) Yankees ($229)
2.) Dodgers ($216)
3.) Phillies ($159)
4.) Red Sox ($158)
5.) Tigers ($149)
6.) Giants ($142)
7.) Angels ($142)
8.) Rangers ($127)
9.) White Sox ($124)
10.) Blue Jays ($118)
11.) Cardinals ($116)
What would hold back the other big market teams from making a bid on the All-Star?
- The Red Sox already have a great second baseman in Dustin Pedroia.
- Cano would be a significant upgrade over Omar Infante, but the Tigers already have a lot of money committed to Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Verlander. Additionally, they are in talks of extending Max Scherzer, whom is due for a big raise.
- The Angels and Blue Jays both have been burned the past 2 years on their big blockbuster deals and free agent signings. If anything, both teams need to spend on pitching, not offense.
- The Rangers currently have Ian Kinsler manning second base and are currently trying to figure prospect Jurickson Profar into the mix. Anything is possible, but signing Cano would mean dealing either Profar or Elvis Andrus as well as moving Kinsler to a different position.
- The White Sox have raised the white flag as they entered full rebuilding mode this past season.
- The Cardinals have proved that their organization doesn’t require them to break the bank on the big free agents. After all, they let Albert Pujols walk just two years ago in a similar situation.
That leaves us with 3 teams remaining that I believe could make an aggressive move for the Yankee second baseman, the Dodgers, Phillies, and Giants.
Why the Dodgers?
Their new ownership group rivals only Mikhail Prokhorov in the willing to spend and commitment to win. Looking at their starting lineup, Cano would provide an enormous upgrade over Mark Ellis and would lengthen an absurd lineup that already includes Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford. It also doesn’t hurt that current skipper, Don Mattingly, coached Cano in some capacity from 2004-2007.
Magic Johnson and the Dodger ownership are all in on winning.
Los Angeles is the second biggest market in the nation, so leaving The Big Apple for the Hollywood wouldn’t jeopardize Cano’s status as a major star of the sport. In fact, Cano’s personality almost seems better suited for the West Coast as New Yorkers for years have criticized Cano’s nonchalant, laid back approach to the game.
Why the Phillies?
Yes, they just extended current second baseman, Chase Utley for two more years, but Utley is also 34 years old and hasn’t played over 150 games since 2009.
Even with the team’s regression over the past few seasons, general manager, Ruben Amaro, has refused to dismantle the aging core. One would think this past season that players like Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelpon, or even Utley would have been dealt to facilitate the team’s rebuild.
Would it seem out of the realm of possibility if the Phillies signed Cano to be their second baseman and move Utley to third base? Michael Young’s contract expires at year’s end and a move to third could help preserve Utley’s health.
Placido Polanco was once moved to 3B to make room for someone else. Could Utley do the same?
It’s unlikely that this scenario could play out, but if Amaro refused to throw in the towel with this group, then perhaps management feels that the addition of a prolific offensive force can get this team back into the upper echelon of the National League. The top of the pitching rotation is still amongst the best and a lineup featuring Cano and Dominic Brown with Ryan Howard, Utley, and Rollins in more supporting roles could bring the Phillies back into the conservation of league contenders.
Why the Giants?
This is the dark horse in my opinion to pursue Cano if the Yankees decide to let him go. The team committed to Marco Scutaro after last year’s World Series with a 3-year, 20 million dollar deal. Scutaro is also 37 years old that doesn’t hit for power at all.
The Giants are in a good situation financially because both Tim Linecum and Hunter Pence’s contracts expire at season’s end. The two players combined are earning just about $34 million this year. If they don’t exercise the 2014 option, an additional 18 million will come off the books as well with Barry Zito’s deal finally coming to an end. It also helps that San Francisco’s other core players (Buster Posey, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner) are already locked up to long term deals.
San Francisco is about to get a lot of financial “relief”.
The team’s recent success has been built on their strong pitching, but the Giants need a proven star to pair up with Posey and Cano would perfectly complement him from the left side of the plate. Pence’s hitting flaws have become more pronounced and Pablo Sandoval consistently can’t stay healthy for a season.
The Giants have shown over the last 20 years that they pick their moments when they want to sign a highly coveted free agent to a lucrative deal. In 1993 it was Barry Bonds. In 2007 it was Barry Zito. Could 2013 be Robinson Cano?
How would a Cano signing work with the current roster? Would the Giants be willing to move current first baseman, Brandon Belt, to the outfield and shift Scutaro over to first base for the short term? With Brandon Crawford’s contract ending this year, could Scutaro be moved to shortstop? Obviously not having Scutaro under contract for two more seasons would be ideal, but his positional versatility could provide the Giants with some options.
Even with the complications with their current personnel, San Francisco will have over 52 million dollars freed up with the departures of Pence, Lincecum, and Zito. Cano is going to demand an enormous, long-term contract and if they pay Cano 25-30 million per season, they will still have plenty to address starting pitching.
Could the National League have a new starting 2nd Baseman?
The Yankees are truly caught between a rock and a hard place as their lineup cannot afford to lose the offensive production that Cano routinely provides. The Steinbrenners will have to decide between locking up their franchise star well into his late thirties, or avoiding the luxury tax and having financial flexibility. One thing is for sure, there should be some competition to sign their home grown talent.