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How Yankees Can Better Spend Robinson Cano's $30 Million Per Year Asking Price

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How Yankees Can Better Spend Robinson Cano's $30 Million Per Year Asking Price

Robinson Cano wants to be the highest-paid player in MLB at over $300 million over 10 years.

According to ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required), Cano is seeking a deal worth $305 million. It's the same amount Alex Rodriguez would receive if he reached all of his built-in incentives.

The Yankees believe they made an aggressive offer in spring training and will be open to more contract talks with the second baseman. At the same time, they will prepare for the possibility that he will play elsewhere next season. 

After seeing the way Rodriguez has performed as of late, it's hard to see the Yankees falling into the trap of another long-term deal for a lot of money. And if you look at the numbers between Rodriguez and Cano leading up to the free agency year, they're not all that similar.

Comparing Robinson Cano to Alex Rodriguez
Player AVG HR RBI OPS Highest MVP Finish
Robinson Cano (2010-13) .312 117 427 .907 3rd (2010)
Alex Rodriguez (2004-07) .303 173 513 .976 1st (2005, 07)

Baseball-reference.com

Note: The numbers for Rodriguez are in the four years before he opted out of his last contract.

As you can see, the numbers don't really match up. And it must be noted that the four Rodriguez years were from ages 28-31, while the four Cano years were from ages 27-30. So there's no way the Yankees should be paying him that amount of money, especially considering the other holes they have to fill.

The Yankees should spend $30 million on players this offseason, but it needs to be spread around.

 

Holes That Need Filled

Second base will be an obvious hole to fill if Cano doesn't return. Other positions that will need replacements are catcher, third base, starting pitcher and closer.

With Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner returning from injury next year, center field and first base will be taken care of. But with Rodriguez possibly getting suspended for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retiring, among other things, the Yankees do have other priorities.

New York will have seven players under contract, with another nine available for arbitration. Those seven players will make a combined $92.025 million as long as Derek Jeter accepts his $8 million player option. I'm also assuming Hiroki Kuroda will come back for one more year at or around $15 million.

It's also important that the Yankees re-sign Brendan Ryan as insurance for Jeter. He's not going to provide a lot of power, but he did have a defensive WAR of 12.3 between 2009-12 (according to baseball-reference.com) when he was a full-time shortstop.

In essence, the Yankees will have a little more than $30 million to play around with, but we'll stick with that number to see what they can get.

 

 

Go After Brian McCann

With McCann being available on the market this year, the Yankees could make an offer to the All-Star catcher and put him in pinstripes. That is assuming the Braves don't bring him back. 

He is batting .257 with 85 home runs and 272 RBI over the last four years and has been one of the more consistent catchers in baseball. Buster Posey has hit .311 with 61 home runs and 263 RBI, while Yadier Molina has a .300 average with 54 home runs and 278 RBI.

Outside of batting average, all are hitting with about the same power. Posey's numbers are obviously skewed from only playing 45 games in 2011, but you get the picture. McCann's stats are worthy of a decent-sized contract.

McCann could likely seek a deal for somewhere around five years and $80 million. The Yankees could backload the contract for when guys like Teixeira and Rodriguez are off the books. This deal could see McCann make $9-10 million in the first year, which would take away about one-third of the $30 million for 2014.

By signing McCann, you've bridged your gap to top prospect Gary Sanchez. And when he's ready, you simply move McCann to DH to keep his bat in the lineup.

 

Sign a Cheaper Ricky Nolasco

After signing McCann, Nolasco is the pitcher to go after. Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are going to command a lot more money, but Nolasco can be just as good. Just look at his numbers compared to the other two over the last three years:

Comparing Starting Pitchers Over Last 3 Years
Pitcher QS ERA+ WHIP IP
Ricky Nolasco 49 91 1.325 595.1
Matt Garza 42 110 1.218 451.2
Ervin Santana 59 101 1.208 617.2

Baseball-Reference.com

When you first look at the numbers, Garza seems to have the advantage. But you must remember that he's struggled to stay healthy over the last two years. And that's the last thing the Yankees want to deal with—another injury.

Santana's numbers look good as well. But which pitcher will you get? The pitcher with the ERA below 4.00 in 2010, 2011 and 2013? Or the one from 2009 and 2012 with an ERA over 5.00?

There's no consistency with Santana's numbers and it would be a crap-shoot if he'll pitch like he has this year in Kansas City.

However, Nolasco has started to come into his own as a starter in Los Angeles after leaving the lowly Marlins. He's 8-3 with a 3.56 ERA and is showing comfort on the big stage. If the Dodgers don't offer him a lot more money, expect Nolasco to get three or four years for around $11-12 million per year.

Like McCann's deal, if the Yankees make the last year worth more than the first, they'll given themselves a little more wiggle room.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

 

Omar Infante at Second or Third Base

Infante would be the best option to fill in at second or third base. Over the last three years, his stat line is .287/.318/.415 with 29 home runs and 153 RBI.

Infante isn't going to give you the kind of power that Cano will. But combine his average RBI output in the last three years (51) with that of McCann's (65), and compare that to Cano's average (106), you actually get more output from those two than Cano.

Some will say that's comparing two players to one, but is it really all that different with Chris Stewart at catcher? Stewart had 25 RBI this year. So, for a cheaper price tag, the Yankees could have the same output with McCann and Infante, compared to Cano and Stewart.

And the added bonus is Infante can play just about every position on the diamond. The Yankees could offer him $5-6 million a year over three years and not worry about backloading the deal.

 

Sign a Closer

With the remaining $5 or $6 million left for next year, the Yankees could go out and get a good closer.

While good closers are hard to come by, the Yankees could sign Grant Balfour to a two- or three-year deal for about that much. They would be getting a player who has saved 62 games in the last two years with an ERA of 2.59.

Balfour is currently making $4.5 million this year with the A's, so the Yankees could offer him a decent raise. Plus at 35, the A's might be looking towards some of their younger relievers to take on that role next year.

He has shown he can pitch in big situations, and putting him on a two-year contract would give the Yankees a little more time to find the heir-apparent to Rivera.

 

Should the Yankees re-sign Robinson Cano?

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At or Around $30 Million

In essence, signing four players to what their market value is would bring more to the Yankees than signing Cano for $30 million a season.

The Yankees can re-sign Kevin Youkilis to fill in if Rodriguez is absent to take care of the hole there as well.

There's no doubt Cano is a great talent and the best second baseman in the league. But what if the Yankees go through another string of injuries again? Can Cano continue to carry the team?

Depth was a big issue for New York this year, and that's something general manager Brian Cashman knows. If the Yankees are going to compete next year and beyond, they have to have better depth, especially on the infield.

Cano would be a nice piece to have, but the Yankees could have so much more for the same amount of money.

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