The biggest test to whether the New York Yankees are serious about paring down their payroll will come in negotiations with second baseman Robinson Cano.
Set to be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season, the 30-year-old Dominican Republic native could command one of the richest deals in baseball history, and Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner only discussed the team’s willingness to keep Cano, according to MLB.com.
"There's been a conversation or two," Steinbrenner said at the Yankees Spring Training facility in Tampa on Friday. "We'll get into that, and we'll talk about that at a later date. He's been a great Yankee, and we hope he's here his entire career."
Strangely enough, New York hasn’t publicly discussed contract negotiations in the past, and has been reluctant to sign extensions until the existing contract has run its course.
During the winter, the Yankees kept contracts short and sweet, and are already dealing with the pitfalls that a long-term and lucractive contract can have with Alex Rodriguez. The third baseman is dealing with yet another controversy regarding performance enhancing drugs, and the Yankees were reportedly exploring options to void the rest of the $114 million owed to Rodriguez.
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A-Rod’s drama aside, according to a report from the New York Daily News in December, Cano wants to be paid like the best player on the team, and could bolt if he’s not compensated that way.
“I don’t think he’ll be with the Yankees beyond next season,” a source told the Daily News. “He’s not giving them a hometown discount, and they seem to be more interested in keeping their payroll down than winning.”
Cano has spent his entire eight-year career with the Yankees, making four All-Star teams to go along with two Gold Gloves and a career .308 average. He’s garnered AL MVP votes the past four seasons, and has hit below .300 just twice in his career.
With A-Rod’s contract perceived as immovable, and Cano commanding a possiby historic deal for a second baseman, New York faces a huge dilemma for its future.
It is no secret the Yankees hope to stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, as evidenced by the one-year pacts with starters Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, and closer Mariano Rivera.
New York picked up Cano's $15 million option for 2013, and his consistency at the plate comes with an added power bonus. Cano has hit no less than 25 home runs over the past four seasons, which only adds to his price tag. In April, the Texas Rangers signed Ian Kinsler to a five-year $75 million extension, but Cano and agent Scott Boras could double that deal as a starting point.
There are also fewer options at second base in 2014’s free agent class, further complicating possible negotiations for New York. Only one of the top names will be under the age of 30. Alexi Casilla of the Minnesota Twins will be 29-years-old and his offensive numbers do not come close to Cano's.