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Friday, October 11, 2013
Spend Hal's Money: Robinson Cano

By Wallace Matthews

Robinson Cano
Would you swing for the fences and spend Hal Steinbrenner's money on Robinson Cano? Let us know.
We all know Hal Steinbrenner has set a goal of cutting the Yankees' payroll to $189 million for 2014. Your duty as a Yankees fan is to make sure he doesn't achieve that goal, and our job at ESPNNewYork.com is to provide you with reasons to make sure he doesn't. Hey, it's Hal's money, not yours. With that in mind, we are going to examine potential free-agent and trade candidates in a new feature we call, appropriately, "Spend Hal's Money."

Today's candidate: Robinson Cano
Position: 2B
Age: 31 on Oct. 22
Height: 6-0
Weight: 210
2013 numbers: .314, 27 HRs, 107 RBIs, .899 OPS

Expected going rate: Cano reportedly is asking for $310 million over 10 years; this week, Steinbrenner said the Yankees aren't doing any more 10-year deals. Cano obviously expects to get somewhere in the $30 million-per-year range. The question is, how many years?

The pros: Cano is unquestionably the best hitter in the Yankees' lineup and arguably the best-hitting second baseman in the game since 2009. He finished in the top five in the AL MVP voting two of the past three seasons and probably will again this year. He's an excellent fielder as well, and although the UZR boys will tell you his range isn't great, any ball that finds its way into his glove is sure death to a hitter. You rarely see him make a throwing error with his effortless sidearm flip. He's remarkably durable: Since 2007, he has missed just 12 of 1,134 games. (Read that again slowly.) His WAR for 2013 was a formidable 6.0. And since 2009, this has been his average season: .314 average-29 homers-103 RBIS. His former agent, Scott Boras, was planning to pitch him as comparable to Rogers Hornsby. He's not -- by age 31, Hornsby had led the league in hitting six times, batted over .400 three times, and had seasons of 42 and 39 home runs -- but in his era, Cano is pretty damn good.

The cons: Cano is a hard worker who gives the appearance of being lackadaisical in the field, especially when he gives up on the way to first on ground balls. It may not be damaging, but it looks bad -- as though he doesn't really care (he does). As great as he has been, there's also the chance that he has already peaked and that we saw the best of him, say, two years ago. Plus there's his supporting cast, which may not offer him much protection in a diminished Yankees lineup. And, of course, his asking price is steep -- not so much the dollars but the years. After being burned by the Alex Rodriguez deal, and likely to be burned to an extent by the CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira deals, do the Yankees really want to be shackled to another infielder into his 40s who will have to be paid well beyond what he is worth for things he did five or even 10 years earlier? It is not even universally agreed that Cano is, indeed, the best all-around second baseman in the game, at least for 2013; the WAR boys gave the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter, three years younger, a 7.0 last season.

THE VERDICT: Give him the money but not the years. Go to $30 million a year if you have to, but no more than seven years. And more like five if you can get it.