Does Zimmerman’s extension help us gauge one for Cano?

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Good form, McCann. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

This weekend the Nationals made headlines when they signed Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year, $100 million extension. That contract will keep him in Washington through 2019, with a club option for the 2020 season. In the meantime, Zimmerman will continue to play out his previous contract, which pays him $12 million this year and $14 million in 2013. The obvious question, from the Yankees angle: Can this be a barometer for a Robinson Cano extension?

While the Yankees have made public their policy of not negotiating new a contract before the old one expires, they don’t follow it to a t. If the situation is right, they’ll consider extending any player. Since Cano is probably their best hitter, chances are they’d hear him out if he wanted to explore an extension beyond the 2013 season. If he’s willing to take Zimmerman’s terms, the Yankees just might have a match.

There are plenty of similarities between Zimmerman and Cano. Both, for instance, have more than six but fewer than seven years of service time. Both play infield positions that aren’t particularly deep with quality hitters. Both are highly regarded around the league, both for offense and defense. They also both signed extensions early in their careers: Cano when he was about to become a Super Two, Zimmerman as he was about to hit his first year of arbitration.

Yet there are a number of differences between the two players. Zimmerman is two years younger than Cano, which might seem to play in his favor for contract negotiations. His six-year extension will cover his age-29 through age-34 seasons; a similar extension for Cano would cover his age-30 through age-35 seasons, assuming they rip up the last year of the old deal and replace it with the new one.

On the other side of the ledger, Cano has produced better offensive numbers than Zimmerman. Since Zimmerman’s full-season debut in 2006 he out-wOBA’d Cano only once, and that was Cano’s poor 2008 season — and even then it wasn’t by much. Cano has hit for more power, especially in recent years; his ISO has risen while Zimmerman’s has fallen. There’s also a matter of staying on the field. Cano hasn’t gone on the DL since 2006, and has missed very little time with day-to-day ailments (according to Baseball Prospectus, just two days since ’06). Zimmerman, on the other hand, has a much longer injury list. He missed 58 games just last year with an abdomen injury, after missing 19 games in 2010 with thigh problems (and an intercostal strain that ended his season a little early). In 2008 he missed 48 games to the DL, which he increased to over 50 with day-to-day stuff.

Unfortunately, the performance and injury information wipes out any advantage Zimmerman’s age afforded him in this comparison. While he does receive high praise from baseball writers, and from other players, he simply is not as good a player as Cano. If the Yankees were going to explore extension possibilities with Cano they’ll surely turn to Zimmerman’s deal as a comparable, but Cano’s agent, Scott Boras, will likely have none of that. Cano’s durability and performance will put him in line for a much bigger extension.

Still, we can use Zimmerman’s deal as a base. If the Yankees do want to extend Cano after this season, rather than waiting for him to hit free agency, it’s probably going to cost them in the range of seven years and $140 million. That accounts for Cano’s superior production, his durability, and his agent. The Yankees could well pass on the deal then, getting their last bargain year out of Cano before dealing with him as a free agent. But if he has another good year then, what happens? The answer to that question is just one reason why we might see this come up again following the 2012 season.

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  • jeremy

    whats your gut feeling in regards to what will happen with cano? extension? let him walk? personally i think its possible it comes down to what angelo gumbs shows he is capable of and if he could “replace” cano with reasonable production

    • GardnergoesYardner

      The Yankees can not afford to let Cano walk. In coming years, they would be better off to let Swish and Granderson, two players with similar ages to Cano and great production, walk. However, Cano is a franchise player. He is a franchise player, and a great link to the Domincan Republic, which attracts many more fans. The Yankees need to lock him up ASAP, even if it is expensive.

    • Jesse

      They gotta lock him up and I think they will, although no way in hell should he get 8/200.

      • Jesse

        Ok, “no way in hell” was probably a bit harsh. Either way, I think it’s too much for him.

  • Kyle

    Cano is a franchise player who the Yankees desperately need to supplement the lost productivity from their aging stars. No way he agrees to a Zimmerman-esque deal. 7/140 is the starting point. This number will surely escalate after another MVP-like season.

  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    Cano is going to leave after the 2013 season. California bound Cano

    • Jesse


  • nolan

    if we traded cano next year what could we expect to get back? Any comparable deals we can look at here?

    • Rey22

      Why the hell would the Yankees trade Cano? To tank the rest of the season and miss the playoffs?

  • j6takish

    You don’t hire Scott Boras at age 28 while still under a previous agents deal if you want to sign an extension

  • Bubba

    I have a horrible feeling that this will end badly… either Cano walks or the Yankees get stuck with another albatross contract.

    • CJ

      That’s baseball, Suzyn.

      • Bubba

        It’s a game played with 9 men, a bat and a ball… and stop calling me Suzyn.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Yes this is the man you pay. An up the middle position player with an elite bat. Use the Swisher money for Cano.

    • Tom Swift

      How long can he stay at 2nd base? When does he move to the outfield? I like Cano, but I wish he had a higher OBP.

      • Boomer’s Boy

        He’s a gold glover at 2nd Base. Talking about moving him already? SMH

  • JohnC

    Cano is definitely the one player I try to lock up before FA. Maybe Granderson too, if he keeps producing the way he did last year

  • CountryClub

    Sherman wrote this weekend that he thinks Cano will get 8/200. At that price I think the Yanks let him walk (and I wouldnt blame them). If I were them, I wouldnt want to give him more than 6 years. I think the Arod deal will definitely give them pause when it comes to outlandish deals for players at the end of their prime.

    • Mike Axisa

      Yeah really. Love Robbie, but I don’t 8/200 love him.

      • CountryClub

        The scary thing is that someone might actually offer him that type of deal.

        • Dan

          I agree, especially once the Dodgers and Mets financial problems gets cleared up.

        • Havok9120

          Then let him walk. I hate to see a homegrown franchise guy go, but I’m quite willing to let someone else overpay on that scale.

          He’s a great hitter and defender, but he’s not worth that.

    • Billion$Bullpen

      I am not giving ANY player $200. Nobody. There has got to be way better ways to use resources than that. Robbie as a corner OF or a 1st baseman or something other than 2nd greatly reduces his value. I am all for getting all the value we can now and when its time for him to sign his $180 to $220 million deal he can do that for somebody else. The first few years it might be even hard to stomach but no more of these absurd deals. I got no problem with short term deals for big $ each year but its these 8 and 10 years deals on those same dollars per year which can sink a franchise.

      The Cardinals just lost Albert and they are going to be fine. The Yankees could lose Cano and do pretty well anyway because its not like they are just going to put the money in a safe and not spend it elsewhere.

  • jjyank

    I may be biased, since Cano is currently my favorite active player (it was Bernie until he left), and I spend way too much money on his jersey, but the Yanks gotta lock up Cano. If not extension, then in free agency. They simply cannot let Cano walk. He’s a franchise player, and having a bat like his at an up-the-middle position is a huge advantage over other teams. I like Granderson and Swisher a lot, but if letting one or both of them walk means keeping Cano, I’m all for it.

    Without researching this, I feel like replacing a RF (Swisher) or a LF (Gardner can move to CF, to replace Grandy) is easier to do than an elite 2B.

    Cano has gotta be one of the best 2B in the game. There are plenty good ones, but the combination of his power, his ability to hit for average, and his durability makes him the best IMO. Pedrioa, Kinsler, Uggla, and maybe Ackley are all up there, but I would take Cano. The Yanks simply cannot let their most dangerous bat walk, especially with guys like Jeter and A-Rod getting older, Posada retired, etc.

    • jjyank

      Let me add to this: I think the Montero trade makes it more important to keep Cano as well. I was a huge Montero fan, but I do like the trade. However, considering we just lost a young, potential impact bat, I don’t see how the Yankees can let Cano walk. In addition to Jeter and A-Rod getting old, we are also banking on Granderson proving last year was not a fluke, Teixeira improving from the left side, and Martin to not get hurt. Cano is one of the few sure things our lineup really has.

    • Kosmo

      Pedroia, Utley and maybe Kinsler OK but Uggla ? and Ackley ? what has he accomplished in his 1 year career?

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Epic nitpicking skills.

      • jjyank

        I was just spit-balling man, no need to get all worked up over the names I threw out. Ok, agreed Ackley needs to establish himself more, and maybe I was wrong about Uggla. But you are also work about Utley if we’re playing that game. Dude is getting old and has trouble staying on the field. Trust me, he was on my fantasy team last year and I wanted to kill him.

        How about responding to my overall point, rather than getting worked up about the comps I threw out there?

        • jjyank

          also *wrong about Utley

    • jsbrendog

      i agree with you about cano’s placement except for uggla. after last year dude has to 100% prove he can do it at the ml level this yr

    • thenamestsam

      I love Cano too, but I don’t think resigning him is cut and dry. For one, while you’re right about it being a major advantage having big bats up the middle, how long will Cano be there? Defensively he gets mixed reviews already, and his lack of quickness is already a weakness at the position. As he ages that lack of quickness is going to move him off 2nd base.

      I’m also a bit concerned about his offense as he ages. He relies so much on his quick hands that even a small loss in that area might have major repercussions for his numbers. Most players make up for losses in other areas as they age with increases in their power and patience. While Cano has definitely unlocked his power the last few years, the patience has remained elusive, and unless he figures that out, I’m not sure his offensive game will age gracefully.

      I’d give him the Zimmerman deal in a heartbeat, and I’d be fine with the 7 years 140M. At 8 years 200M, I think you’re getting into a different calculation. No way is that a good contract in terms of on-field value. You have to decide how much value as a franchise you place on keeping around home-grown guys, how much Cano means to your brand, other things that as fans we really have no handle on. Because that contract is almost certainly going to look really, really bad at some point.

      • jjyank

        I agree with you about 8/200 mil, that’s a crazy contract. I am in favor of extension now, specifically for that reason. I don’t get the mixed reviews on his defense, I think he’s pretty solid. He doesn’t make the flashy, diving plays, but he has a killer arm and can throw across his body better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Maybe in 4-5 years A-Rod moves to DH and Cano to third? Just throwing that out there, Cano probably has the arm for it and third requires less lateral movement. Didn’t Cano play some third in the minors?

        Anyway, I agree that 8 years is a little scary. But if there is a player on the Yankee roster worth doing 7 for, its gotta be Cano.

        • thenamestsam

          I think most of the defensive negativity comes from his poor UZR, but there are reasons to doubt that. For one, players who are smooth may tend to be underrated by the defensive systems that use batted-ball data because they make the plays look easier than they are, and Cano is one of the smoothest around. FRAA (which doesn’t use batted ball data) likes his defense a lot. However, while his arm is exceptional, I’m worried that his lack of lateral quickness may move him off eventually, even if we accept that he’s a strong defender for the time being.

          I agree that 3rd base seems the logical move, but they already have ARod inked through 2017. Will they be comfortable making him a full time DH? Also who knows how successful will Cano be making the transition given the questions about his work ethic in the past, specifically regarding his defense (which may or may not have been valid, but they were out there).

          • jjyank

            I agree that moving Cano to third can’t just be assumed, but with A-Rods age and health issues, I don’t think he’s going to stay at third base through 2017.

            I also give zero credence to the work ethic stuff. Every off-season we hear about Cano working out with A-Rod, with Kevin Long, and now even hosting his own winter workouts in the DR with guys like Cervelli and Nunez. I remember hear those rumors too, but I can’t recall every actually hearing specific instances of Cano being “lazy”. From everything I’ve read, the dude is in great shape and works pretty damn hard. Granted, that doesn’t mean he can move to 3B easily, but given his arm strength, he’d be better suited for it than a lot of second basemen.

            To be honest, I’d rather sign him to a 7 or 8 year deal and hope he can move to third 5 years in, rather than hold the line at 6 and let him walk. Who replaces him? Joseph does nothing for me, Adams needs to stay on the field for a year and show he can bounce back from the ankle problems before he’s a serious candidate, and anyone else is too far away to be seriously talked about as Cano’s replacement. If we had a blue-chip 2B prospect in AA, I might agree on letting him walk if he asks for too much. But hoping that Gumbs can develop into Cano’s replacement is a long shot.

  • Riddering

    I don’t think this is a question of whether or not the Yankees will try to lock up Cano for the next stretch of his productive years but how much they’ll end up paying him. The Yankees have bats right now but with Montero gone there is no current prospect with production the team can trust to come in and shoulder a load like Cano. Bats can be acquired but why spend money on another FA when Cano is already here and more than dependable.

    I just can’t see Cano being a casualty due to fear of long contracts or a big budget.

  • Dan

    I think unless Cano is willing to take somewhat of a discount the Yankees are going to let Cano get to free agency, and at that time the Yankees will most likely let their payroll committments dictate how seriously they will try to retain Cano. It seems like they are serious about getting under 189M so if Cano is going to want a monster deal, they will let him seek it elsewhere. The Yankees also do have two prospects in Joseph and Adams, and possibly Gumbs who could all be ready to play second base in 2014. If Cano wants a 7 or 8 year deal at around 25M per, I think they will re-sign Granderson over Cano.

    • CountryClub

      I think your last sentence is very accurate. I just dont see them giving out any more 25 mil per yr deals unless the player is just entering his prime.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    Robbie wants to get paid, the Yanks want to reduce payroll, and Snot Borass is involved, this will make the Jeter negotiations seem full of unicorns and rainbows.

  • TLVP

    If you strike a new contract now with Cano would the AAV counting towards 2014 be based on the new contract’s average? 2y at 15 + 5y at 20 would equal 130/7 and an average of 18.6, which would obviously imply a relief of 1.4m towards the 2014 budget.

    Not huge and I do not know what the follow on effects would be but I could see that having a small but not insignificant impact on the willingness to give out a new contract now.

  • JoeyA

    First priority for Cashman:

    Developing low cost bullpen: check

    Second priority:

    Developing a low cost rotation.

    Right now, Yankees are hoping to move towards CC/Pineda/Nova/Hughes/Banuelos by 2013

    Third priority:

    Develop lower cost offense. Obviously the hardest of the 3.

    To me, it comes down to this re: Cano:

    Do Yankees offer one of the big SP FA’s big $$ after this year?

    If they don’t, Cano gets locked up because, as many have pointed to above, we dont have any impact bats in upper minors or in MLs that are young and cost controlled.

    Tex, Granderson, & Swisher are already expensive and are the Yankees biggest offensive producers.

    Gardner, if he keeps up his play, will be in line for a raise, and it looks like Martin wants more $$ too. Also, after Jeter, we wil see a large drop off in offensive production for SS and eventually we will need a 3B, who will surely be a drop off in offensive production from Alex.

    Odds are, the Yankees fill those needs with lower cost guys, thus making Cano all the more important to stay with this team.

    • CJ

      Low cost bullpen includes 2/25 Soriano. Check.
      Low cost offense is inherently impossible with ARod, Tex, Cano
      Other things on the To-Do list for Cashman: find a DH, settle ugly divorce, get hair transplant plugs, testify in stalker extortion case, keep Pineda away from Melky

  • Swazi13

    If the decision was made that Cano and Granderson should be traded because of the pending free agency, what would/could you get? How about Danny Espinosa, Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke (when they are eligible to be traded) for Cano? And Granderson to Miami for Logan Morrison, Marcel Ozuna Jose Ceda etc package. I know this post is irresponsible but think how our two corner stones could turn into 2 infield starts, two outfield starters and two very potentially useful pitchers. Not to mention, if either one ISN’T extended with their new teams you can always debate on resigning them as a free agent.

  • AC

    Rey. Only reason they would move Cano is only if they are way apart on contract talks. Knowing Boras is his agent no discount here. They should sign him but not at 250 mill.