What if Robinson Cano signs with the Dodgers and what it would mean for baseball
It’s becoming panic time for New York baseball fans. And no, I’m not talking about Mets fans for once.
With the Yankees’ playoff hopes slowly slipping away, Derek Jeter’s inability to stay healthy, Mark Texeira already out for the season and Alex Rodriguez embroiled in the Biogenesis fiasco, Yankee fans are already setting their sights towards next season. And what they see isn’t pretty.
For starters, Mariano Rivera will be retired, Jeter will be 40 and making $8M (assuming he doesn’t opt out), Texeira will be 34 and making $22.5M and C.C. Sabathia will be 33 and making $23M. Hiroki Kuroda might return to Japan. Andy Pettite might hang up his cleats as well.
But the scariest part is that their best player might bolt as a free agent.
Second baseman Robinson Cano (a young whipper snapper at 31) is the best player at his position on the planet, and has been for some four years now or so. He has gradually become the heart of the Yankee lineup as Texeira and Rodriguez have faded, batting over .300 and averaging 29 HRs during the past four seasons. He’s also a plus defender, and his zone rating of 5.9 is the highest it has ever been.
That kind of talent will likely get Cano at least a $20M a year deal this offseason. There’s no question that the Yankees can give him that kind of money – it’s a question of whether he wants to take it. He already turned down an initial “significant” extension offer GM Brian Cashman made before the season started. He just signed with Jay-Z’s new firm, and with him being their first marquee client, they likely want to make a splash to prove to other athletes they are legit representation. The splash they could be eyeing is possibly 8-year, $30M a year.
Yikes. Even if Cano is in a position to age well, that’s a lot of money to dish out. Especially given the massive contracts given to players on the wrong side of 30 (e.g. Pujols, Albert and Hamilton, Josh) that are looking disastrous at the moment.
But Cano (and Jay-Z) know that the Yankees need him. Desperately. They also know that there is another team with deep pockets that could use a star 2B.
The Los Angeles Dodgers currently employ Mark Ellis at second base. Ellis is the definition of solid. He’s steady defensively, great to plug in at either the 7 or 8 holes in the lineup and a veteran presence in the locker room. But he will be 36 next year and has an option for $5.75M that to be frank, might be a little too high for what he brings to the table.
Cano on the other hand would make the Dodger lineup even more scary than it already is. Imagine Don Mattingly being able to fill out a card like this everyday:
1. LF Crawford
2. RF Puig
3. 1B Gonzalez
4. 3B Ramirez
5. 2B Cano
6. CF Kemp
7. SS Guerrero
8. C Ellis
9. P Kershaw
He could even flip Cano and Gonzalez, just as long as they stayed in the No. 3 and 5 slots in some combination so that the lineup would alternate L-R-L-R-L-R.
God speed, National League.
I am making a few assumptions with that lineup, and one of them potentially has some direct bearing on whether the Dodgers make a play for Cano. I slotted the recently signed Cuban Alexander Guerrero at No. 7 and put him at SS with Hanley Ramirez sliding over to 3B. Reports are that Guerrero will be with the Dodgers’ big league club by the end of the year and would be primarily used at 2B.
Does that mean the Dodgers should not go after Cano? I don’t think so. They would still have a need at 3B since Juan Uribe’s contract will thankfully be up, and given there are not many great 3B free agent options, they could plug the hole by sliding Ramirez to the position. And I think they can use Guerrero as leverage in potential negotiations with Cano, taking the approach of “Hey dude, we just signed a stud Cuban so we don’t need to sign you for eight years at $30M per. If you want to play for us for five years at $25M per, you’ve got yourself a deal.” The Dodgers would also have the leverage of being a much better team situation for Cano to step into – if he returned to the Yankees, he’d be walking into a wasteland.
There are some who are unsure if the Dodgers have the space to sign Cano with all of the other fat contracts that currently have on their payroll. But take a look at their current situation for next year. They’re almost $100M under what they are spending this year. This doesn’t take into account filling out their bench (since guys like Jerry Hairston and Nick Punto will be free agents) or bullpen (since Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell will need new contracts), not to mention a possible $200M contract extension for Clayton Kershaw. But the Dodgers will get some relief in the form of the dead money of Manny Ramirez(!) and Andruw Jones(!) finally coming off the books, and I anticipate them trying to trade Andre Ethier’s 5-year, $85M albatross in the offseason. That being said, Cano is well within the realm of possibility.
And since it is a possibility, this (finally) brings me to one of the biggest reasons that I think the Dodgers will actually go after Cano: it would be the ultimate statement that they are now the premiere franchise in baseball. For Robinson Cano, a long-time Yankee and someone they will try their hardest to keep, who is represented by Jay-Z, a notorious Yankee fan, to pack his bags for the West Coast would be a clear indication of where the power in the league has shifted. The Dodgers would not only be the team with the deepest pockets, but depending on their outcome of their season this year, also seen as the team with the aura of being able to contend for a championship year in and year out.
It might be a whole new Major League Baseball next year. And it might finally not revolve around the New York Yankees.