Why the Yankees should let Robinson Cano walk in free agency

Scott Halleran

Robinson Cano reportedly asked for a 10-year, $305 million contract from the Yankees. He'll be turning 31 later this month, and there's simply no way he's worth that type of money at this stage in his career.

In life, there's nothing wrong with making mistakes. Everyone makes plenty, and everyone will continue to make plenty more of them. The problem, however, arises when one does not learn from those mistakes, and repeatedly makes the same mistake over and over. The same is true in sports.

In 2007, the New York Yankees signed third-baseman Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $275-million contract. Rodriguez was coming off of an MVP-season in which he hit 54 home runs and drove in 156 runs, so it seemed like a contract that was warranted. But the Yankees didn't take into account the fact that he was 32 years old and probably didn't have many seasons--if any--left in the prime of his career. From there, you know what happened; Rodriguez never again eclipsed the 35-home run mark in a single season and really started to break down during the 2011 season when he played just 99 games. He just hasn't been the same. So, clearly, the Yankees made a mistake by signing him to that deal. That's fine. It happens.

My message to the Yankees' front office: Don't let it happen again. I am, of course, referring to Robinson Cano, the free agent second-baseman who recently requested a 10-year, $305-million contract – a contract even more lucrative than the one A-Rod received. Like Alex in 2007, Cano is coming off of one of his best seasons to date. Without virtually any protection in the lineup, he managed to bat .314, hit 27 home runs, and drive in 103 runs while almost single-handedly carrying New York to the postseason. Cano's 2013 season was quite the show, and he has every right to want to get paid. The problem is that he will be turning 31 in less than two weeks. Sound familiar? It's more than likely that 2013 was either his last or his second to last great season before his ability begins to quickly deteriorate. It's just what past evidence says is going to happen. Nobody has ever defied Father Time, and nobody ever will.

In essence, the Yankees don't want to be the Los Angeles Angels. In 2011, the Angels signed the then-31-year-old Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240-million deal. In 2012, he had the worst season of his career and looked like a man well past his prime. Apparently, the Angels either ignored or just didn't think much of his poor season, because they turned right around in the 2012 offseason and signed the then-31-year-old Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract. In 2013, his home run total was cut in half from 2012 and he drove in 49 fewer runs. The five-year deal isn't as lousy as a 10-year commitment, but you can bet the Angels wish they could reverse time and not sign Hamilton. They made the same mistake twice, and that's something the Yankees just can't afford to let happen.

Even if the Yankees were to go a route similar to the one the Angels took with Hamilton and give Cano a five or six-year contract worth around $150 million instead of the 10-year deal he requested, how would that help them? It wouldn't. It's not as if they are gearing up for a possible 2014 World Series run that he could contribute to. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retired, Derek Jeter doesn't look like he should ever play baseball again, Mark Teixeira missed nearly all of 2013, Hiroki Kuroda might not be back, and A-Rod could miss the entirety of the season due to a suspension. It isn't exactly a championship-contending team. Could re-signing Cano help produce another 80 or 85 win season? Sure, but what's the point in that? There are few things that suck more than mediocrity in sports.

As weird as it may sound, the Yankees need to get younger. They lost their identity in 2013. The 2013 Yankees were injury-plagued, and the guys who did play were a bunch of misfit veterans that somehow managed to win way more games than they should have. They aren't suddenly going to get better in 2014, with or without Cano.

Obviously, since these still are the New York Yankees, there will always be hope to build through free agency, but are we even sure that this franchise is a free agent hotspot anymore? When's the last time a big-name free agent decided to come wear the pinstripes? Among those who have said "thanks but no thanks" to New York over the past three offseasons were Cliff Lee, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, and Josh Hamilton. Instead, the Yankees managed to sign the likes of Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Lyle Overbay, Freddy Garcia, and others during that timespan. Really? That's the Yankees?

Simply put: This is an average team, and hoping to sign Cano and other free agents to bring back the contender status just isn't realistic. It's time to move on from Cano and move on from the entire 2009-2012 era of Yankees baseball. Most of the players that made those teams so enjoyable and successful just can't give the same production anymore. Cano isn't right for the Yankees at this point, and frankly, the Yankees aren't the right place for him. Perhaps what's best for Cano would be to sign with a contender (*cough* DODGERS *cough*) so he can chase another championship ring.

And just for those who believe that the Yankees can make a serious run next season, here's my final argument against signing Cano: his playoff track record. In 51 career postseason games, Cano has a batting average of .222 and an on base percentage of .267. During the 2012 playoffs, the Yankees' most recent trip to the postseason, he hit an atrocious .075, recording just three hits in 40 at-bats. Is that worth $300-million over 10 years, or even $150-million over five? Not to me, it isn't.

Don't get me wrong, I love Cano. He's the best regular-season second-baseman in the sport, and he's the most talented player the Yankees have had in the past five years. With that being said, the time has come for the organization to go in a different direction. Let him walk, Hal Steinbrenner.

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