For sale: Five-time All-Star second baseman with four top-10 MVP finishes; entering age-31 season; comes complete with championship ring, as well as whip-like bat used to smoke line drives into gaps and over walls; also, fine leather and rocket arm on defense. Asking price: $300 million.
Please inquire at: Roc Nation Sports, c/o Jay Z.
If Robinson Cano was written up as a classified ad by his representation, it might look something like the above. No doubt, there's a lot to sell and even more to like about Cano.
And then, well, there's that price tag. That's the primary reason why the exceptionally talented, longtime New York Yankees second baseman isn't being courted, chased after and targeted by a dozen teams who would otherwise have no qualms about finding a way to insert a veritable top-10 talent in the middle of their lineup and in the middle of their defense.
It's also why Cano, to this point in the offseason, seems to be shaping up as the least sought-after free agent superstar since...well, we'll get to that in a bit.
First, let's be clear: We're talking about free-agent superstars here—not the Kyle Lohses of the world. Lohse, for what it's worth, is a darn fine starting pitcher who, largely because he was tied to draft-pick compensation last winter, didn't sign until he inked with the Milwaukee Brewers on March 25.
By comparison, Cano is undoubtedly going to be on a team long before a week prior to the 2014 season. But Lohse is no Cano. Not even close.
Let's also be clear: The first week of December—our current frame of reference—is not at all late for a free agent to be sans team. After all, at this very moment, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Ervin Santana, among many others, are also still out there, readily available.
And remember, the winter meetings—baseball's unofficial annual hub of trades, signings and other transactions—haven't happened yet. In fact, going back through the past several offseasons' worth of signings, via MLB Trade Rumors' trusty transaction tracker tool, dozens of big-money deals have gone down in Decembers past.
Cano could very well land somewhere before it technically even becomes winter.
And let's yet again be clear: It's not that Cano is unwanted. He is very much a desirable, coveted commodity, one that would be an asset to any of the 30 teams in the sport. What he is not, however, is being wooed and fawned over by very many clubs, at least not publicly, as Buster Olney of ESPN wrote recently:
As the Robinson Cano stalemate continues, it's a good time to play the same game that folks in the Yankees' organization are playing.
It's called: If Not Us, Then Who?
Meaning: Who could possibly afford to sign Cano in the same sort of range that Albert Pujols got two winters ago, $240 million over 10 years? The Yankees offered around $160 million in May, the Cano camp asked for a record-setting deal of more than $300 million, and despite recent talks, a massive gap of about $100 million between the two sides probably still exists.
The Yankees ask: If Not Us, Then Who?
The reason for that, of course, is the money. Cano's camp, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, seemed to pull back from their demands of a 10-year, $300 million-plus contract—but not by all that much. The new terms, per the New York Daily News, are somewhere around $260 million over nine years.
No wonder there doesn't seem to be all that much genuine aggressiveness toward Cano. Practically every Cano-related story acknowledges that it's hard to see any team other than the one he's played for his entire career ponying up for his services.
Heck, the Yankees themselves don't seem too keen on the idea of giving Cano anything close to what he wants, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes. Depending on various reports, they've offered something in the range of seven years and $160-$170 million, but have so far held firm beyond that, as team president Randy Levine told ESPN New York:
We want Robbie back; we think Robbie is terrific. But we have no interest in doing any 10-year deals and no interest in paying $300 million to any player. Until he gets a little more realistic, we have nothing to talk about.
And so here we have a perennial MVP candidate who apparently is struggling to find any real suitors. It's not like teams aren't into the player—they're just not into the price. And therein lies the potential problem for Cano and Roc Nation, who were so eager to set the $300-million bar that they indicated that was the target before the regular season even ended.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News explained how and why that number is like the opposite of a target on Cano's back:
We don’t yet know where Cano will play next year, and for how much money, but he was not helped by the leaking of the $300 million request, which made a great player seem suddenly overvalued, even greedy, in the eyes of some fans...
The $300 million figure will also have the effect of making a very generous deal seem smaller. Let’s say Cano lands an eight-year, $200 million contract from the Yankees, or eight/$220 million from another team, like the Washington Nationals; people inside and outside the industry will remember the midseason request, and calculate how much Cano dropped his price, not how much he earned...
But for a number that was never taken seriously within the industry -- “everyone always knew he was never going to get that,” said one rival executive over the holiday weekend, in comments that echoed the general sentiment -- $300 million certainly became a distraction for this free agency, a significant storyline that served the Yankees well in the public end of their negotiations, but did not help the player.
Whether Cano actually ever asked for $300 million or not, that figure is tied to him—and scaring off not only possible suitors but perhaps the entire market. The failure here for Cano and Co. is that there just isn't much of a chance for him to create a bidding war when he's having trouble, you know, getting actual bids because the cost is seen as so astronomical.
Would a batch of three or four or five clubs pursuing Cano result in a $300 million deal? No. But if that many were able to join the mix at $150 million, would that have been enough to start pushing the figure close to the $200 million range? Likely, yes.
It still very much stands to reason that a team or three will enter the fray alongside the Yankees—like, say, the Washington Nationals—so it's not as if Cano is going to be stranded well into January with only one clear option.
For now, though, it's tough to find seekers.
Speaking of being stranded into late January, who is the last big-name, star-caliber free agent who signed at a point in the offseason that could be classified as "late" by baseball's standards? Well, it hasn't been as long as you might think, but the answer is still telling: Prince Fielder.
The slugging first baseman, you may recall, agreed to his massive nine-year, $214 million contract with the Detroit Tigers just before February 2012, a deal that may only have happened, even at that point, because Victor Martinez injured himself during offseason workouts and would be lost for all of the upcoming campaign.
Funny, but that's the same player who, merely two seasons into his pact, was recently swapped to the Texas Rangers to help the Tigers gain some payroll relief. Heck, they even kicked in $30 million to facilitate the trade.
Maybe that has something to do with why Cano is finding that a superstar seeking $200 million—or more—on the open market isn't as sought-after as he might've hoped and expected.
Cano might be for sale, but he's not on sale.