Oct 18, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (right) talks with home plate umpire Jeff Nelson after striking out in the first inning during game four of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Could This Be Robinson Cano's Last Year In Pinstripes?

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Many of us remember when Robinson Cano broke through the majors as a scrawny second baseman. I remember reading an article where Cano had a choice to make, does he want to bulk up and hit for power, or stay slender, spray the ball everywhere, and steal some bases? I think he opted for the former and it’s obviously paid off for him. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Cano will become a free agent. With how the Yankees have been dealing with their money lately, it’s entirely possible Cano will not be a Yankee in 2014.

The sweetest swing in baseball right now (Image: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

At age 30 most players are in their prime and Cano is most definitely at the top of his game. He’s not only the best second baseman in all of baseball, but he’s also one of MLB’s top players. Taking the fan hat off and donning a businessman’s hat for a minute, top players means top dollar and Cano is about to be paid mega bucks for his services.

In 2012, Cano led all second baseman in batting average (.313), On-Base% (.379), Slugging% (.550) as well as wRC+ (150). He was head and shoulders above his counterparts, and it wasn’t particularly close. Being a leader in those categories is going to make him all that more expensive in order for the Yankees to retain him. Couple that with him not being an injury-risk, and he’s the next Yankee to cash in, whether that is with the team or not.

The roster has its share of players over-the-hill and past their prime. For instance, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira to name a few are on the wrong side of their best days, and that’s only counting the infield. The Yankees new found budgetary concerns have stemmed from doling out long-term contracts to players entering their prime. Meaning that, sure you’re getting 3-4 good years, but you’re following that up with 3-4 bad years in the same contract. That doesn’t seem very smart, which is the reason we are seeing the club only offer short-term contracts to players in their early-to-mid 30’s.

This isn’t a “don’t sign Robinson Cano” story. However, it’s a cautionary article about paying him a huge amount over the long-term and being in the same boat 6-7 years from now when the Yankees have to somehow get under their self-imposed budget. Granted, in those 6-7 years the contracts of A-Rod, Jeter, Tex, and CC Sabathia will be off the books, so maybe it wouldn’t be that bad if the Yankees signed him to a long-term deal to stay a Yankee for life. Having nearly $80M tied up in four players is quite absurd, and I’m sure the club won’t be doing that again anytime soon, especially after what has transpired this offseason and the tough choices they’ve had to make.

It’s important to remember that if you’re going to give up something of value, you better have a plan of action to replace it. For the Yankees, that very well might be minor league prospect Angelo Gumbs (.272/.320/.432 in 2012) but he’s likely starting the season in High-A with the Charleston Riverdogs and won’t sniff the majors for another couple of years. Likewise, the free agent market includes no one of note other than Chase Utley, who will turn 35 before the 2014 season starts.

The Yankees have an important decision to make regarding Cano this season. He’ll turn 31 before 2014 and giving him a five-year, $90-$100 million contract will probably get it done, but Cano will probably ask for more, and why wouldn’t he? (doesn’t mean he’ll get it) It’s a scary thought that the Yankees might open the 2014 season without Robinson Cano, but it’s one thought that needs to be discussed.

Stats courtesy of FanGraphs

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