If the reports are true and Robinson Cano really is seeking a 10-year, $300-plus million contract, this wasn't the beginning of a contract negotiation between the All-Star second baseman and the New York Yankees. It was a ransom demand.
It also may be the beginning of the end of Cano's tenure in the Bronx.
In case you haven't heard by now, Buster Olney of ESPN.com (subscription required) is reporting the above terms as what Cano, a free agent at season's end, wants for his next deal. Here's the money part—both literally and figuratively—of what Olney wrote:
According to sources, the split between what the Yankees have offered in a contract is enormous, with Cano seeking a 10-year deal for approximately $305 million -- a figure that represents the total value of Alex Rodriguez's record-setting deal if he achieves all of the built-in incentives. Some friends of Cano have a sense that Cano will take the biggest offer that he receives this winter, regardless of whether it comes from the Yankees or some other team.
There's no other way to put it: That would be the most massive contract handed out in Major League Baseball history. It would also be completely ridiculous and franchise-damaging for the Yankees to give in to such demands, er, terms.
By the way, all this came out mere hours after Cano told Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com that he was planning on taking his time to make his decision this offseason.
There are two main reasons why this $300 million number—crazy as it is—can even be thrown out there in the first place. One is that back in April, Cano left agent Scott Boras to become the first client for rapper Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports, which, no doubt, wants to make a splash by getting its biggest name paid.
The second? Well, that's all about the state of the Yankees, who on Wednesday officially missed out on the playoffs for just the second time since the team's latest run of success began in 1995.
Between the looming retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, the pending free agency of Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda, the ongoing injury issues surrounding captain Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda, the growing speculation that manager Joe Girardi might not be back and (how could we forget?) the eventual fallout from the Alex Rodriguez suspension and appeal, the organization is in a state of flux that hasn't been seen in the Bronx since the dire days of the late '80s into the early '90s.
In other words, the timing is just right for Cano—who has been the franchise's best player for the past handful of seasons—to try to get the Yankees to do something silly. That has to be what this is about, and even with the Yankees in a desperate position going forward, this alleged 10-year, $300 million target might very well be overshooting its mark by quite a large margin.
Remember, the Yankees have made it clear, time and again over the past year, that their goal is to get below the $189 million luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season. While some money will come off the books (including whatever they don't have to pay A-Rod while he's suspended), the Steinbrenners aren't exactly going to be able to stay south of that figure if they're going to pay out $30 million annually to one player.
There's also the question of whether general manager Brian Cashman and Co., who already made what was dubbed a "significant offer" to Cano during spring training, would even consider giving another big-money, long-term contract to a player on the wrong side of 30, as Cano now is.
After hurling hundreds of millions at Rodriguez, Sabathia and Teixeira in recent years and then watching all of them break down due to injury or age (or both), one would think (or hope) that the Yankees front office has learned that the risks of such mega-deals too often outweigh the rewards.
Beyond all that, the other problem Cano could face by setting the bar so high is that he and his reps now have to find at least one team—other than the Yankees—that is actually willing and able to pay him $30 million a year until he's 40. The Yankees may have unfathomably bid against themselves to re-sign Rodriguez for $275 million over 10 years back in December 2007, but that doesn't mean they'll do so again. (Right?)
Sure, the free-agent market outside of Cano isn't exactly huge—Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza are nice players but not game-changers—which would seem to work in Cano's favor here. Thing is, though, even with all the money coming into baseball recently with enormous television deals, which teams are going to be able to write out a check with a "3" followed by eight zeroes after it?
The Dodgers and Cubs are among the few big-market clubs that have been mentioned at times as candidates to make a play for Cano, but even they must be cringing at that amount—and perhaps reconsidering that possibility.
It's not often a good thing when a team and player are described as far apart in negotiations, which is what Olney is reporting, but in this case, that's actually a good thing for the Yankees and their future. If Cano really does want to stay in New York, as he's indicated, we'll find out soon enough.
The Yankees are facing plenty of questions this offseason. Locking up their best player long-term is certainly a priority that would bring at least one big answer—but that doesn't mean the Yankees have to, or even should, give in to Cano's terms.
Or his demands.
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