In a typical New York Yankees winter splash, the team has signed free agent centerfielder and former Boston Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven year deal. The contract is reportedly around 150 million dollars, or possibly more, pending a physical. With the recent payout, will the Yanks realistically shell out more money to keep Robinson Cano?
Ironically, the newcomer may entice Cano to stay in the Bronx. After all, Ellsbury is arguably the best free agent after Cano for this offseason. The Bombers have shown that they are willing to spend money to win…now. Unless he somehow is able to receive the ludicrous, lucrative deal he wants, Cano wouldn’t travel to a team like the Cubs or the Astros, in rebuilding mode. After all, he is 31 years old, and the window for a championship run is still open, but not quite as open as three years ago, in the beginning of his prime. Unless Cano receives a crazy deal from a contender, there doesn’t seem to be a good enough reason to leave New York.
As for the money concern, Cano would probably be satisfied with a contract that will pay 22 million dollars. It’s classic negotiating: always ask for more than you want. Cano and his agent Jay Z (no hyphen anymore) may be a little inexperienced in the free agent market, too. This is Cano’s first go-around in free agency, and Jay Z has only been an agent for a few months now. It would be very suprising if the two stubbornly hold on to the 10 year, upwards of 30 million a year offer.
And it seems the Yankees will have trouble affording Cano. If the team REALLY wants to stay under the luxury tax limit of $189 million, how much can they really give Cano? Potentially, both sides could structure a deal that pays Cano more money per year, such as a $12 Mil base in 2014, and an increase by another two mil in each of the next five years. But then the same problem occurs; the Yankees don’t want to pay a large sum to a player approaching forty. Alex Rodriguez was great five years ago, but even with a sparkling reputation and sterling drug tests, his production at his age will never be worth the 27 million he “earns.”
Either way, though, the Yankees win. Even if Cano pulls an Albert Pujols and flees to Los Angeles, for example, the Bronx finally has an elite speedster. Ellsbury is undoubtedly a speed demon, and he has shown he can hit for power (32 homers in 2011). Of course, that number is an aberration, but the potential still remains. Ellsbury also has played in the AL East for his entire career, so he is used to and comfortable with playing against the Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays.
One last thought. The last notable Red Sox the Yankees have signed was Johnny Damon. Damon was 32 years old. Ellsbury is 30 years old. While the former was stronger and the latter is faster, the basic hitting and fielding numbers are extremely similar. There even was a beard issue! Damon was forced to shave his hard-grown facial hair, and now the Duck Dynasty wannabe will have to shave his. But most importantly, Damon was on the 2009 Yanks World Series team. If history repeats itself, and the Yankees return to the playoffs (where Ellsbury is a .301 hitter) some good things might happen.
If Cano returns, that’s great. The Yankees really want him, and he is the best second baseman in the league. But if he leaves, then the Yankees at least can point to their newest prize.