If Not New York, Where Does Cano Go?

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Robinson Cano is a tremendous talent and there’s no doubting that. The 31-year old has tallied an OPS over .870 in each of the last five seasons. He’s also durable (seven consecutive years with 159+ GP) and plays a premier position in second base. Why, then, does the five time All Star seem to have no real suitors on the free agent market?

The answer, quite simply, is his agent. That’s right, Cano’s new representation, hip hop artist Jay-Z, has bungled this one from the start. Last summer, Cano’s camp made it known that the free agent was asking for at least $300 million this offseason. No player in the history of the game has reached that plateau, and after bad contracts to the likes of Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Prince Fielder, and Josh Hamilton were handed out the last few years, teams are more reluctant than ever to binge on one player.

Granted, that $300 million estimation was just a bargaining point for Cano and his agents. But, it was still a poorly designed ploy. Not only did it anger the Yankees, who have already spent some of their capital by signing former Braves’ C Brian McCann; but, it also priced out most of the league’s 30 teams from even discussing a contract with Cano.

If teams are publicly made aware that Jay-Z and Cano are seeking upwards of $30 million a year for 10 years, what is the point in even making a call? As predicted by most, Jay-Z was not ready for primetime this offseason. Now, as the Yankees appear closer to signing OF Carlos Beltran, one has to wonder whether or not there will be any money left in the coffers for Cano when he and his representation finally decide to lower their demands.

If it’s not the Yankees, who will it be? At this point, we can strike out most of the big spenders. Boston (Dustin Pedroia), Philadelphia (Chase Utley), Detroit (Ian Kinsler), Texas (Jurickson Profar), Los Angeles (Alexander Guerrero), and Anaheim (Howie Kendrick) could all technically afford Cano. But, don’t appear to have a need at second base.

Other potential landing points like St. Louis, San Francisco, and Chicago (Cubs) all seem unlikely due to budget restrictions and/or high level prospects ready to take the reigns at second.

In the end, Cano could find himself stuck in New York at a price dictated by the organization and not by Jay-Z. Regardless, here are the three most likely destinations for Cano if he ends up someone other than Yankee Stadium next spring:

1. Washington Nationals – At this point, it doesn’t seem very likely that Washington would commit such a large sum to Cano considering their eventual need to resign Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in four-or-five years. But, they have to be considered a dark horse. Last season, the Nationals got some of the worst production in baseball from their second base spot. Incumbent starter Danny Espinosa was brutal both on the field and at the dish (.158-3-12 in 44 G) and spent most of the season in Syracuse at the AAA level. Washington, considered by most to be the frontrunner in the NL going into 2013, suffered through a dismal offensive campaign due in large part thanks to a porous middle-infield.

But, the Nationals have young 2B Anthony Rendon (.265-7-35 in 98 G) ready for full-time duty. They’re also on the hook for $83 million still due to Jayson Werth over the next four years. A Cano signing could make the Nationals the frontrunners in the NL once again. Or, it could leave them stuck in purgatory when Strasburg and Harper are due for extensions.

2. New York Mets – The Mets just spent $7.5 million on a reclamation project in Chris B. Young. So, spending $27.5 million a year on Cano wouldn’t seem to be too much of a price to pay. Cano has made it known that he would like to stay in New York (Jay-Z would likely prefer that as well). Moving from the Bronx to Queens would allow the Dominican star to remain in the spotlight while simultaneously becoming the Mets’ de facto franchise player, as well.

The Mets’ 2013 payroll was a paltry $88 million. Now, with nearly $40 million coming off the books, New York should feel free to spend to their heart’s content this winter. Signing Cano would allow the team to move Daniel Murphy to 1B short term until Wilmer Flores eventually takes that job in the future.

The Mets seem the most likely alternative destination. But, they have publicly shown reluctance to commit to Cano at anything near 10 years or $30 million per season. We’ll see whether or not their wallets loosen up the longer the superstar remains unsigned.

3. Seattle Mariners – Always a dark horse this time of year, the Seattle Mariners came into this offseason with money to spend and the dreams of avoiding another losing season for the sixth time in seven seasons. For years, the Mariners’ offense has been their achilles heel. With phenoms like Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of the rotation, this should not be a 90+ loss team.

Youngsters like Justin Smoak (.238-20-50), Kyle Seager (.260-22-69), and Michael Saunders (.236-12-46) have shown flashes. But, ultimately, the lack of a solid star middle-of-the-order bat has put too much pressure on a lineup rife with youth (five of the Mariners’ seven most active starters were 25 or younger in 2013). Signing Cano, while expensive, would take a large amount of the burden off of those young bats and allow for them to play a more complimentary role.

Of course, the plan does not come without a few hitches. First, Seattle would have to find the finances to spend on Cano. They are nowhere near a small market and have shown an interest in other big free agents like Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury. But, Cano is expected to cost considerably more than those two.

Also, Seattle boasts impressive middle-infield depth in their system. Youngsters Nick Franklin (.225-12-45) and Dustin Ackley (.253-4-31) were once top prospects and still have value around the league. It remains to be seen whether or not Seattle is willing to give up on these kids and go with the proven (and expensive) commodity in Cano. If Seattle did sign the former Yankee, though, they could theoretically package Franklin/Ackley to acquire help at other positions.

In the end, it’s still a wise bet to believe that Cano resigns with the Yankees. Even if New York does sign Beltran; they will still have a massive hole at second that is unlikely to be filled adequately by anybody else.

Should the Dominican superstar choose that the New York life is not for him, the alternatives are thinner than Kate Moss’ waist line.

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