Is it time for the Yanks to extend Cano’s contract?

Swisher turns around his season
Triple-A Scranton to play all home games on the road in 2012
(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Over the last two, really three years, Robinson Cano has come into his own as not just one of the best players on the Yankees, but one of the very best players in all of baseball. He was a well-above-average contributor on a World Championship team in 2009, a legitimate MVP candidate in 2010, and although this year got off to kind of a slow start, Cano has been producing at his MVP-caliber pace for months now. Despite all the hoopla surrounding (and money being paid to) Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, it’s Cano and Curtis Granderson that drive the Yankees’ offensively.

A few years ago the Yankees broke their own rule of not negotiating with personnel (that’s everyone, including players, coaches, front office staff, etc.) until their contracts were expired to sign Robinson to a long-term deal. The team gave their second baseman a four-year contract worth at least $30MM right before Spring Training in 2008, even though he was still four seasons away from qualifying for free ageny. This is the last guaranteed year of that contract, and it’s paying Cano $10M. The Yankees hold club options for both 2012 ($14M) and 2013 ($15M), and those are locks to be picked up, no doubt about it. That’ll take Robbie through his age-30 season, and what happens after that is a great big mystery.

I conducted an informal Twitter poll on Saturday and Sunday, asking people what they think Cano could get on the free agent market right now. I got about two dozen responses, and the average was 7.13 years and $141.2M. That’s almost exactly Carl Crawford money, and it sounds reasonable to me. Assuming he produces like he has over the last three years for the next two years, Robbie will be looking at a deal of that size (adjusted for inflation) when he hits the open market after 2013. That’s why I think the Yankees need to break their own rule again and sign Cano to another long-term contract this offseason.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The benefits for the team are pretty obvious. They would be locking up one of their cornerstone (and homegrown!) players through his peak years, perhaps saving a little cash down the road, and avoiding the fiasco of the free agent market in two years. They would also be assuming a ton of risk, because they’d still have to pay Cano should he suffer a serious injury or just rapidly decline in his early-30’s like middle infielders are known to do from time to time. Robinson would be securing himself some serious financial security, we’re talking generational wealth. Money for his kids and his kids’ kids and his kids’ kids’ kids. He would be giving up his maximum earning potential though, because nothing raises the price like a bidding war on the open market.

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.

Now, there’s a significant hurdle that has to be cleared here. Cano hired Scott Boras this past offseason, and Boras almost always takes his high-profile clients onto the market. The one glaring exception is Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies (late add: Jered Weaver too), who landed himself a seven-year contract worth at least $80M after just one full season as a big leaguer. Pretty sweet deal. In an age where above-average middle infielders are getting locked up before they ever hit free agency, there’s little doubt in my mind that Boras is salivating over the prospect of having an in-his-prime middle infielder on the free agent market.

The Jose Reyes contract this offseason will give us a pretty good idea of what’s in store for Cano on the open market, but I don’t think the Yankees should wait that long. They’d be wise to at least make an attempt to sign him to a contract extension this coming offseason, potentially buying out his prime years for a (ever so slight) discount without getting locked into his mid-to-late-30’s at huge bucks. It’s certainly risky, but sometimes you have to go out on a limb for special players, and Robbie qualifies in my book.

Swisher turns around his season
Triple-A Scranton to play all home games on the road in 2012
  • Scully

    Do we think 6 years and 120 mil gets it done? Could there be a clause in his contract that makes him take at least 3.5 pitches per plate appearance please :).

    • Sarl

      Cano is an outstand player and I have liked him from the first time he came up. I am torn between extending his contract at this time. However, I would favor letting him play out the contract rather than an extension. Robbie’s defense is superb. There are two areas that I would like to see him improve in—one being more patient at the plate. Like Long once said about Robbie and I am paraphrasing here: “Pitchers don’t get Robbie out—he gets himself out by thinking he can hit any ball abet it being a strike or not.” I feel the same way; Cano can win numerous batting titles by just being patient and allowing his God given ability to take place. My other biggest beef with Cano is that he doesn’t run hard to first base on grounders to the infielders. You don’t see Jeet, Grandy or Garner on cruise control running to first base. Cano could be the “face” of the organization for years to come but he has to earn it by “doing the right thing” when it comes to hustling down the line. I rest my case!!!!!

  • Ed

    With Boras as his agent, the savings for the Yankees will be minimal (unless Cano overrules Boras) while the risk would be substantial. I do not see the benefit, unless Cano pulls a Weaver and gives a hometown discount. One could argue that if Cano was interested in a discount then he would not have hired Boras.

    • jsbrendog

      except weaver’s agent is……..

      scott boras

      • Gonzo

        Not taking sides here, but Boras was Weaver’s agent for his entire career. He was the one that got him big dough out of high school.

        Robinson Cano just hired Boras this year.

        Speculate as you want.

        • jsbrendog

          fair enough. you put it best though, at this point it is just speculation.

  • Brian

    It seems to me that extending Cano would save the Yanks only a few million a season. They would also be paying him when his value is at its highest. Middle infielders don’t always age well and the Yankees have no problem outbidding other teams. I see no reason to buck the trend of not negotiating and extend him, especially if it will be for $21 or $22 million a season.

  • Sean

    Um yeah, until he is 90

  • Billy Pilgrim

    It’s always time to extend Robbie Cano’s contract. It’s Robbie Cano dontcha know. You’ll never find another 2nd baseman like him.

    • Wil

      I know where you can find a better one. Boston.

  • pat

    Robinson Cano is my Derek Jeter. EXTEND HIM FOREVAAA

  • JimIsBored (Jim S)

    6 years, 111 million? Yes please.

  • Preston

    Welcome back Mike, hope the vacation was good.

    • pat

      I think it was prewritten.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      He’s not back. He was just kind enough to prepare some material while he’s out.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        That autopen-using bastard! This is a bigger constitutional crisis than TaftGate.

  • David, Jr.

    Cano article from an excellent Minnesota writer:

    • Monteroisdinero

      Wait we’ve got a Mercedes at 2b? Guy’s got an edge. I think Cano will age well and is flexible in playing other positions when he can’t play second-if that ever happens. Great YS swing. Retire #24 in about 15 years.

  • Pasqua

    I wonder if he would command more than Crawford money, if only because he plays a premium offensive position and his game is not dependant on his legs (whereas Crawford and Reyes certainly do depend on their speed). Should be interesting.

  • MattG

    I wouldn’t do it. I don’t even feel convinced by this article in the slightest. I wouldn’t even think about it until mid-season next year. Think about it–what could happen in the next 12 months that would make the offer suggested here (four additional years at around $20M per) go up substantially?

    • Pasqua

      What would happen between now and midseason next year to convince you that extending him ISN’T a good idea? Terrible injury notwithstanding, a lackluster performance wouldn’t negate his accomplishments over the last several years. I think it’s fair to say that this Robinson Cano is the real Robinson Cano. There’s no flukey production going on, he’s been doing it for years.

      • MattG

        Several things could happen between now and next year. Don’t you think the Phillies wished they waited another year before extending Howard?

        If there is reason to believe you would save money, then you have a motivation for making a deal. I don’t see how another 4 years and $80M is a significant savings at all, and I am at a loss to find any other motivation, so there is no reason to make such a deal now.

        • Ed

          It’s not about the money, it’s about the years.

          If you sign him long term now, you’re committing to him until he’s about 34. If you wait until he’s a free agent, you’re probably committing to him until he’s 37. Take a look at A-Rod and Jeter’s last few seasons to see why that’s a bad idea.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Don’t you think the Phillies wished they waited another year before extending Howard?


          Is Robinson Cano (a lithe hitting savant not overly reliant on homers who has shown no evidence of decline and plays a premium position on the diamond presumably signed to a two-years future four-year extension for his age 31-34 seasons) extremely dissimilar to Ryan Howard (a hulking slugger extremely reliant on the three true outcomes who has already shown signs of decline and plays the easiest position on the diamond from which to find offensive production who was at the time signed to an one-year future five-year extension for his age 32-37 seasons)?

          Fuck yes.

    • David, Jr.

      Not meant to convince. Just though that it was a good article about Cano.

      • David, Jr.


  • Bavarian Yankee

    I think it pretty much doesn’t matter when we extend his contract, he’ll get bazillion dollars anyway. So it would be smart to extend him now for 6-7 years and then they’re off the hook when he’s ~35 and maybe avoid his big decline years.

    btw: I’m still surprised that Weaver extended his contract in LA, seems like he doesn’t want to play anywhere else.

    • jsbrendog

      soemtimes the narrative of being close to home means something and sometimes it doesn’t.

      see: cc sabathia and jered weaver

  • nathan

    You will be buying high, now is not a good time. Imagine what would have happened if Yanks had signed DJ to an extension after 09.

    Given his production over the last 2-3 years, there is no upside in committing long term to Robbie, there is no discount to be had now.

    Whoever signed Cano to 4/30 extn Cash$/Hal/Levine needs a pat in the back. It has given serious leverage for Yanks and bought out his — quite possibly — 2 best years that are about to come. But, in case he slumps next year and the year after the extn cost will go down. I see no upside in signing him now, why not wait and see? IFers seldom age well and with Cano’s body type I donno if he can play great defense at 2B when he is 32-33.

    I definitely support the wait and watch approach here. They were right about it with Wang and I am sure they will be right about Cano also.

    • Jetrer

      The advantage of extending him now wouldn’t be so much in cost savings, but in what years he is signed to. Either way, he’s probably getting 6-8 years. Better to give long term now and have the contract end in mid-thirties than wait 2 years and have the contract end in his late thirties.

  • Gonzo

    Let me ask everyone this. If Cano was a free agent right now (or at the end of the year if you want), what would he get on the open market? The extension has to be less than that, right.

    Let’s go with the facts:
    He will be 29 at the end of the year.
    He plays a premium position.
    UZR rates his as an average to below average fielder.
    His wOBA for the past two years and this one are, .370, .389, .376.
    He is a high contact low walk/strikeout hitter.
    His name is cool.

    What would you pay him? Then, what would you subtract for an extension. Anything else you’d like to add?

    • EJ

      IF you watched him a bit instead of relying on UZR, you’d see his negative UZR does NOT pass the eye test.

      He’s a smooth fielding, left handed 2b. Some would even say the best 2b in all of baseball. He would be in for a payday if he were a free agent this year…

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Because obviously memory isn’t subject to personal bias, idiocy, or a lack of perfection. Quite obviously.

      • JimIsBored (Jim S)

        He doesn’t field left-handed.

      • Jetrer

        ” his negative UZR does NOT pass the eye test”
        lately, no it doesn’t
        First half, yes it does
        To my eyes, Cano was very disappointing defensively for most of the first half. Lately, he has played much better, and more in line with his capabilities. The UZR may be entirely accurate considering his first half defensive struggles.

        • EJ

          I’d concede he was a bit sloppy first half, but a negative UZR for his career and only one positive year seems to “not pass the eye test” is what i meant.

          • Bulldozer

            So you watched every 2nd baseman enough to say Cano is demonstrably better than most of them?

            I am sure you watch Cano enough, but without watching enough of all 2nd baseman that means squat.

            • coolerking101

              That makes no sense. If you watch every Yankee game, you watch not only Cano, but the 2B on the opposing team. As a result, you should have a very good idea of how he compares to other second baseman in the league.

              IMO, I think Cano is a better than average 2B. He generally plays a steady 2B and makes a few more spectacular plays than bone-headed ones.

    • Bavarian Yankee

      if he’d be a FA today then I think you have to start with Crawfords 7/142 deal. I could see him getting something like 8/180. He’s probably the best man at his position (plus he’d be a pretty young FA) and middle infielders are for sure more expensive than corner outfielders like Crawford.

      • Gonzo

        Yeah, I guess it’s Carl Crawford’s deal vs. Tex’s deal. Crawford did have 3 seasons of more than 5 or more fWAR when he signed vs. Cano’s 1 (two when he does it this year). However, Cano plays a more important position.

  • Kevin D.

    Ill throw in some money to help make him a Yankee for life.

  • Brian S.

    Favorite player. Please keep him forever.

  • Jesse

    10 year $300M please.

    /willing to pay anything for my favorite player’d

  • Rich in NJ

    Does anyone know how much Cano earns in ancillary (endorsements, etc.) income? A guy with his ability, playing in this market, with what his teammates call a Ray Charles smile, should be on his way to making some serious additional money.

  • MikeD

    The fact that Cano hired Boras says a lot about what Cano is thinking. Show me the money!

  • Will (the other one)

    Lock him up. Six years, seven years, however many millions it takes…just get it done and move on.

    /my humble opinion

  • Simon B.

    I’ve always hated the “no extension” rule. I guess it’s supposed to be some kind of bargaining tool, but I don’t exactly know why it’s trying to accomplish since they always have to pay through the nose whenever they resign somebody.

    Yeah, unlike other teams, the Yankees can afford to wait and see what happens. They really have little need to extend guys well ahead of time, but making it a rule has hurt them.

    • 28 this year

      Even if they have to pay through the nose, they can afford it. Plus, you end up with situations like Wang and to some degree with Hughes where injuries or something hinders performance. The Yanks can afford paying extra but at least they don’t lose out to injury. Probably worked out cause imagine how much Jeter would have gotten in an extension after 2009. The rule prevented speculation over an extension and as bad as his contract is, I don’t even want to think of what it could have been.

    • Midland TX
  • Carlosologist

    Seriously, lock up Cano now because the bidding war for him will be insane. 6/110 should be enough I think.

    • MikeD

      A middle-infielder with a corner-infielder’s bat? He’s going to break an annual average of $20 million, especially with Boras as his agent.

  • Jesse

    Cano isn’t going anywhere. There’s no way they’ll let him go.

  • Reggie C.

    Cano is worth every dollar of the proposed six year contract. Probably too good to be true that Boras would push Cano to sign at such levels.

  • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

    Robinson Cano is terrible. I don’t know what all the hype is. He’s barely an average infielder with a withering bat. He’s a black hole in the lineup.

    /Things Yankee Fans Say After an 0/4 Day

  • Carl

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to compare Cano to other simular players at the same position??? Wouldn’t being the highest paid second baseman be enough??

    Chase Utley was 28 when his last contract went into effect 7/85 and was good for nearly 6 WAR each year before he started to decline some last year. Of course one must add inflation to that number.

    Totally different player, but Dan Uggla just signed a 5/62 at 30 years old.

    Not many second baseman thrive well into their thirties. One could expect Robbie’s bat to hold up while DHing surely will help prolong his playing days. You just don’t see 20 Million/year DH’s out there.

    The Yankees are better off waiting this one out, using their options in the meanwhile.

    • Chris

      He won’t be DHing, A-Rod will have that locked up for a long time after this year

  • CBean
  • DZ

    20 per for 6 is completely fair for an extension. But if he walks, it would be worse then signing AJ for another 5 years

  • Hardcore Yankee Fan

    Middle infielders, especially great ones, decline in their early 30s most of the time, not “from time to time” as this article would suggest.

    And I’m not sure why everyone keeps talking about Carl Crawford’s contract. It was an awful contract the day it was signed. Crawford’s numbers were not that far above league average. Add in great defense and SBs sure but he is a $14-15 million player at best even accounting for other deals. And 7 years was outrageous. The Yanks should not calibrate ANY contract and use Crawford’s as a barometer.

    And his defense is far from superb. Pedroia is WAY better and Cano spend way too much effort trying to look cool rather than making the play. His an above average defender at best and that’s it.