Were Yankees Smart to Draw Line in Sand with Robinson Cano Negotiations?

Jason CataniaMLB Lead WriterDecember 6, 2013

Robinson Cano turned his back on the Yankees and is headed to former teammate Ichiro Suzuki's former team.
Robinson Cano turned his back on the Yankees and is headed to former teammate Ichiro Suzuki's former team.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Options. That's what the New York Yankees have now, thanks to their firm stance against giving in to Robinson Cano.

Sure, losing their best player when they wanted him to stay hurts. But Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had made it known all along that if Cano was coming back, it would be on their terms—not his.

And Cano's terms—having started out at more than $300 million over 10 years before dropping slightly to $260 million and winding up at $240 million in his surprising deal with the Seattle Mariners, per Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes—were not amenable to even the mighty Yankees.

For once, it seems, the rich didn't get richer. Except, the rich still have all that money to spend. All that money that, until only a few hours ago, was expected to go into Cano's pockets.

Whether they were trying to call Cano's bluff and failed or not, the Yankees drew a line in the sand and stuck to it. Coming from a franchise that once out-negotiated nobody but itself in giving an incredibly ill-advised $275 million contract to a then-31-year-old Alex Rodriguez, that's progress.

After all, as that Rodriguez deal and a whole host of other eight-, nine- and 10-year pacts have shown, things don't tend to go too well on those in the end. Or even, as we've seen with Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford—to name a few—at the beginning.

Then again, the Yankees did hand out $153 million over seven years to Jacoby Ellsbury just the other day, so it's safe to say they're still learning. And hey, that's still almost a $100 million less than what Cano got.

Now that the Yankees are no longer tethered to Cano, they may, in fact, be scarier, as Curt Schilling pointed out on SportsCenter on Friday afternoon:

In essence, the Yankees now have "extra" money with which to play around, bid up other teams or spend as they see fit. No doubt, their offseason plans were muddled more than a little by Cano's departure. But there's also no doubting they have had backup plans at the ready.

What could that mean? Well, any number of things, really.

To help replace Cano in the lineup, they could go after another big-name bat, like Shin-Soo Choo or Carlos Beltran.

Or they could shift their strategy toward adding starting pitching depth, like Ubaldo Jimenez or Matt Garza, to a rotation that still has a few holes in it, even with the news that Hiroki Kuroda is returning, per Joey Nowak of MLB.com.

Or they could bring aboard another infielder, like Omar Infante, to help cover second base (along with the recently signed Kelly Johnson) and/or handle the left side, where Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are aging, injury-prone and potentially otherwise indisposed.

Then there's the Masahiro Tanaka chase. The 25-year-old Japanese phenom, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, would be the top arm on the market, if he's posted.

Of course, speculation has it that now that the agreement between MLB and NPB has put a cap of $20 million on the amount teams can bid for the right to negotiate with Tanaka, that may not happen, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. But if the Golden Eagles do post their ace, the Yankees will be one of the favorites to get him.

In short, the Yankees can still do any number of things that involve spending a lot of money while also staying under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, which has been a stated goal throughout the past several months.

And while it's not the greatest consolation prize ever, this isn't a bad one either: Now that Cano has agreed to a deal with the Mariners and fellow former Yankee Curtis Granderson has an agreement with the New York Mets, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, the Yankees have gained a pair of compensation picks they can use in next June's draft.

The Yankees might not have expected things to play out this way regarding Cano, their longtime star, and for that, they might be disappointed today. But they also likely will be better off for it tomorrow—to say nothing of a few years from now, when Cano's contract starts to feel heavy—now that they have something they didn't merely hours ago.