For the first time in a number of years, the New York Yankees are heading into the regular season with a fair amount of uncertainty regarding the team's standing in the AL East.
The Yankees have boasted one of the strongest pitching rotations in the game over the past few years, with stars like C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Rivera leading the way.
Their offense, however, has gotten the bulk of the credit, with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson adding up to one of the most feared lineups in the league.
Granderson and Rodriguez are absent from the lineup right now, and with Teixeira's best days admittedly almost behind him, the future lies in the bat of Robinson Cano.
The reliable slugger is set to enter free agency after the 2013 season, and with the team making him an offer already this spring, it's clear that they're making his place in pinstripes a top priority.
The report from Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York noted that the offer was "significant," but failed to provide any concrete details about how serious of an offer was posed.
Any contract he earns will need to be on an elite level, as Cano has missed only seven total games over the past four seasons, hit 114 home runs and posted a strong .314 batting average during that time, while averaging less than $10 million per year.
On top of that, Cano's .986 fielding percentage and two Gold Glove awards are a testament to the multiple facets he brings to the diamond.
There's no doubt that Cano has been one of the most underpaid players in the league over the past few seasons, but as he looks towards his pending freedom, there are certainly some other superstar infield contracts that he can look at for guidance.
When thinking about the best young shortstops during the game, you can't omit Troy Tulowitzki, who the Rockies have locked in as the cornerstone of their franchise through the 2021 season.
Tulowitzki has played more than 150 games only twice in his seven year career, with 2012 marking his low point as he made his way into only 47 contests.
He flashes just as much brilliance in the field as Cano, but isn't quite as efficient at the plate, though he does boast an almost identical OPS.
Tulo is set to make $10 million this season but will be earning $20 million annually from age 30-34, where Cano currently sits.
The Boston Red Sox made a big addition to their offense when they signed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a seven year, $154 million contract, and while his time in Fenway was short, he'll be earning his keep in a Dodgers uniform moving forward.
Gonzalez is the same age as Cano, and while he plays a less taxing position at first base, his ability to stay on the field allows him to remain as offensively sound as he has.
He'll be earning more than $21 million annually through 2018 and while it's hard to compare such different positions, their offensive numbers are quite similar, leading to the belief that Cano could command a similar payday.
As mentioned, drawing comparisons from different positions can be a difficult task, but looking at what Joey Votto has done at first base for the Cincinnati Reds could very well give a parallel to exactly how important Cano is to the Yankees' chances.
Votto is an amazing offensive talent and while he struggled to stay healthy in 2012 it's hard to argue with the results when he's on the field.
He's led the league in on-base percentage in each of the past three seasons and drawn the most walks in the past two, while batting no lower than .309 since 2008.
Under team control through 2024, the 29-year-old is set to earn $238 million in his 30s, perhaps setting somewhat of a bar for what Cano might seek with the prime of his career upon him.
In the end it's hard to believe that the Yankees would ever let Cano get away, and while it doesn't appear that a deal is imminent, there shouldn't be any concern in the Bronx.
With cutthroat agent Scott Boras representing the superstar second baseman, however, you had better believe Cano will be getting every penny available in a contract extension.
Looking at the body of work on Cano's resume, it stands to be money well spent.
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