Robinson Cano As A Free Agent
Through the first nine years of his career, Robinson Cano has proven himself as one of the best, if not the best, second baseman in all of baseball. In the field, Cano has two Gold Gloves in the last three years. At the plate, Cano has been one of the premier hitters not just for second baseman, but at any position. So why, after establishing himself as one of the top players in the Major Leagues, is his pending free agency such a tough case to crack?
Cano is so smooth in the field that he makes nearly every play with ease. His arm is so strong that when he goes up the middle all he needs to do to get the ball to first is toss the ball almost underhand while travelling away from first base. He has such incredible range that he has caught pop ups in left-center from his second base position. As a batter, Cano has proven himself as a middle of the order hitter. In baseball history, not many second baseman have consistently hit in the 3-4-5 part of the lineup. Cano has nearly every year since he has come up, and would have always hit 3rd if not for Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira. He has hit over .300 in seven of his nine MLB seasons, including .342 in his second season, and is a career .308 hitter. Cano does not just hit for average, in each of the last five years, including this year, Cano has hit 25 or more home runs. Cano has 204 home runs total in his career and trails Jeff Kent by 173 for the most home runs ever for a second baseman. And if you would rather look at OPS as a measure of hitting, Cano has a career .859 OPS, combining the power and on-base ability. Robbie hits free agency this year at the age of 30, and it seems like he has everything going for him, which makes predicting this winter all the more difficult.
The only knock on his game is that at times Cano can look lazy. It may look like he isn’t hustling out of the batters box. Michael Kay, the Yankees TV play-by-play announcer, has called him out multiple times this year saying, that Cano will not bust out of the box when he thinks he knows the outcome of the play. This has caused Cano to be thrown out trying to get to second when he hits a ball off the wall that he thinks is out. He also can hit into more double plays because when he hits the grounder, he isn’t running hard to beat it out. The same can be said for Cano’s play in the field. While Cano makes the spectacular play almost every time, there are plays that he doesn’t get to and sometimes it looks like he isn’t moving as fast. Other times the ball will pop out of his hand as he transfers the ball from his glove to his throwing hand. Most of the time, when this happens it comes off as lazy play because of how smooth Cano is in the field the rest of the time.
Aside from the lackadaisical running out of the box, and the smooth fielding being confused for lazy fielding, Robbie has another thing working against him. Teams with big pockets aren’t exactly is in the market for a big money second baseman. The Red Sox just locked up Dustin Pedroia. The Dodgers, who were thought to be the Yankees main competition for Cano, are on the verge of signing 26-year-old Cuban infielder. The Phillies locked up Chase Utley for three more years, so they wouldn’t make a play for Cano. Matt Carpenter has worked out at second for the Cardinals. The Angels probably aren’t going to be looking to spend big money after the past two winters. The only other teams who might be seriously interested are the Mets and the Cubs. Although both teams are desperate to add leadership and a consistent threat in the lineup, they’re pockets are not as deep as the Yankees, especially for a player that’s turning 31 in October.
A lack of teams fighting for his services clearly hurt Cano in any kind of negotiations, but he has already said he wants to be in New York, another leverage lowering move. If things hold as is, Cano will have next to no leverage between those two factors. If the new-era Yankees, led by Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman, stick to their word the Yankees will not bid against themselves like they did with Alex Rodriguez. One thing the Yankees and other buyers will consider is Dustin Pedroia’s nice new extension. Yes, Pedroia had two years left on his deal and was not threatening to go to another team. And no, Pedroia would most likely never go to another team. However, the Red Sox still gave their second baseman a seven-year, $100 million contract. That is substantially lower than what Robinson Cano and his representation seem to be expecting. With Cano said to want a contract in the Alex Rodriguez range, Pedroia’s contract is likely a starting point for the Yankees this winter.
With all that said, the Yankees need to be happy with where the negotiations with Cano seem to be going. This year more than ever before, Cano has become a leader on the Yankees with Derek Jeter missing all but 17 games of the season. Cano has been the one Yankee who has stayed healthy this year and has produced even without anyone to protect him in the lineup until recently. If Cano was hitting free agency at the same age and with the same statistics but in 2010, he would have been lock to get a 10-year, $200+ million contract up near the biggest of all-time.
Of course it’s early, but because there are no real suitors outside the Yankees for the 30-year-old second baseman, Cano will likely need to settle for much less.