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In a break from their customary policy, the New York Yankees have discussed the possibility of a contract extension with second baseman Robinson Cano, who will be a free agent after this season.
"There's been a conversation or two," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said Friday at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. "We'll get into that and we'll talk about that at a later date. But he's been a great Yankee, and [we] hope he's here his entire career."
Steinbrenner did not specify who was involved in the conversations, but a source with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPNNewYork.com that Steinbrenner has spoken with Cano's agent, Scott Boras, about the possibility of avoiding having to bid for Cano on the open market next winter.
"It's very unusual," said the source, who requested anonymity. "Not only is it a departure for the Yankees, but to have an owner comment publicly on how much he wants a player, it's pretty obvious they're going to try hard to hold on to Cano."
As a matter of policy, the Yankees generally refuse to discuss extending existing contracts with players, managers or the general manager. One of the few times they made an exception -- GM Brian Cashman offered to discuss a contract extension with Alex Rodriguez during the 2007 season -- the player rejected the overture. A-Rod opted out of his deal that fall and wound up signing a new 10-year, $275 million contract with another $30 million in incentive bonuses.
The 29-year-old Cano, who will play in 2013 under a team option that will pay him $15 million, is expected to command a deal that could reach $200 million if he enters the free-agent market. Cano shares the honor of being baseball's highest-paid second baseman with Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers, but Boras is expected to seek a deal in line with what the Reds are paying Joey Votto ($225 million over 10 years) or what the Angels are paying Albert Pujols ($240 million for 10 years). On Thursday, the Seattle Mariners reportedly agreed to a contract extension with pitcher Felix Hernandez for five years at $135.5 million, an average of $27.1 million per season.
"From a business standpoint, it would make sense for the Yankees to try to sign Cano now," the source said.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Boras would allow Cano to sign with the Yankees before testing the free-agent market. A four-time All-Star, Cano batted .313 with 33 home runs, 94 RBIs and a team-high .929 OPS in 2012. He is a .308 lifetime hitter who has averaged 28 home runs and 101 RBIs over his past four seasons, and is considered one of the best defensive second basemen in the league.
Neither Boras nor Cashman was available for comment.