12/5/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Cano will get lucrative deal, but not what he expected
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
Robinson Cano has dropped his asking price by $50 million. Two more moves like this and he'll have a contract.
Cano is clearly the catch of the remaining 2013-14 free-agent class. His performance on the field has set him up for a monster payday.
But external forces are not only arguing, but practically conspiring, against the kind of numbers he and his camp have been seeking. This is not Cano's fault, but it is the current reality.
Cano's initial contract offer suggested $310 million over 10 years. More recently, he has come down to $260 million over nine years.
This would be the second-largest contract in the history of baseball, behind only that of Cano's Yankees teammate, Alex Rodriguez, who has a 10-year, $275 million deal.
But this would be the largest long-term contract in terms of average annual value, defeating even A-Rod's $27.5 million per year. Average annual value is a truly big deal among the agents, the super-agents, the uber-agents and their clients. It has become another way of saying: "We won."
But that kind of money is not going to be awarded in a single contract this winter, not even to a slugging second baseman who has spent his entire career with the game's most imposing franchise.
The Yankees have demonstrated, again, a real willingness to spend, but in other directions. They needed a catcher and they got the best one on the market, Brian McCann, formerly of the Braves, for $85 million over five years.
This week they bolstered their outfield with the addition of Jacoby Ellsbury, formerly the center fielder of the Boston Red Sox. Ellsbury was not retained on the cheap, costing a reported $153 million over seven years.
There can be a quibble with the potential long-term effects of this signing. Ellsbury, whose game is based on speed, is already 30. How is he going to perform in the later years of this contract?
But that is for then, this is for now. The current Jacoby Ellsbury is a dynamic player in all facets of the game. He arrives as the daily double -- a valuable addition to the Yankees lineup and a major subtraction from the Red Sox roster.
In these two signings, the Yankees have defeated the notion that they are entering an era of fiscal austerity. They have committed $243 million to two players. McCann's deal was the most lucrative ever for a free-agent catcher. Ellsbury becomes the third-highest-paid outfielder in the game. But none of this helps Robinson Cano's current case.
The Yankees have reportedly made an offer of $160 million over seven years to Cano. The current market may be inflated, but at this juncture the Yankees' offer is closer to reality than Cano's.
What are the chances that another club will shell out an amount of money far in excess of $200 million and a number of years greater than eight for Cano's services?
Cano is 30. Given what has happened to date with Albert Pujols and his 10-year deal with the Angels, there is a growing concern about awarding that kind of contract to a player already in baseball's middle age, no matter how good he is. The other example that is used in this argument is A-Rod's contract. But there are too many variables peculiar to that individual case to generalize with it.
On Cano's side of the financial argument is the saying in these cases: "It only takes one." That means, regardless of where everybody else is on the bidding, it only takes one club to offer much, much more money and more years than every other club is even willing to consider. When Rodriguez first cracked every previous fiscal barrier with a 10-year, $252 million deal, a previous Texas Rangers ownership, essentially bidding against itself, was the one it took, the only one.
The Yankees remain logical employers for Cano. Their home ballpark is a perfect fit for his game. Playing in New York has been no burden for him.
There is plenty of distance between the Yankees' latest offer and Cano's latest offer for some other club to take the plunge, but at this point, that other club, while making a splash, would likely be overpaying in both dollars and years.
Baseball has never seen more broad-based prosperity than it currently enjoys. A number of free agents have already cashed in, and more will as winter takes hold and Spring Training draws nearer.
Robinson Cano is going to get a bundle, too. But he's not likely to break any records.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.