It is no secret that the New York Yankees are not shy about spending money on the cream of the free agent crop. For the current season, three of the top five salaries in baseball are being paid for by the Yankees, and that does not include the $16.7 million salary captain Derek Jeter received.
But there is absolutely no reason to conform to the 10-year, $305 million contract that star second baseman Robinson Cano requested last week, according to an ESPN report.
The chances of the Yankees agreeing to Cano’s proposed contract are about as slim as their playoff chances — zero — especially because they are still suffering from the economic hangover that is Alex Rodriguez’s contract. This is probably just the first offer in what is destined to be a long negotiation process.
But rewarding Cano, a player who has unquestionable talent but has often been criticized for lackadaisical efforts, with anything more than eight years, $140 million would be reckless and unwise. Even that kind of $17.5 annual salary contract would pose many risks.
Earlier this year, fellow second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox set the standard with an eight year, $110 million contract. Cano may be a better player than Pedroia, who is a former Rookie of the Year and AL MVP, but not by much. And Cano is definitely not better by more than $30 million.
If Cano rejects such an offer by the only team he’s ever known, then the Yankees should let him test the market and see for himself that if the rest of the league is observant and logical, then Cano will not receive an offer greater than Pedroia.
After all, the realities of these exorbitant near decade-long contracts are finally starting to settle in. The Yankees know this first hand and not just with Rodriguez. Former ace C.C. Sabathia still has three years and over $70 million remaining on his contract and is coming off the worst season of his career — 14 wins, 13 losses and a 4.78 ERA. Similarly, the once durable Mark Teixeira has become injury prone, spending nearly the entire season on the disabled list. With a drop in production in recent years, and three years, $67.5 million remaining on his contract, it won’t be long before the Yankees begin to regret that deal, too.
This headache is not unique to the Yankees or to other teams in the MLB. The Los Angeles Angels have already begun to feel the harsh effects of these contracts, and they have only inked them recently. Albert Pujols, a hitter once as feared as any in the league, has also suffered from injuries and a drop in production. But Pujols is signed through 2021 and has $212 million remaining on his contract. The Philadelphia Phillies still have to pay Ryan Howard over $85 million for at least three more seasons. They have a $10 million buyout for the 2017 season, even though it has been four years since he was at his prime.
It should also be noted that none of these teams finished better than third place in their respective divisions. With all this guaranteed money on the books for the next few years and no foreseeable production to match it, this should serve as a warning to any team considering rewarding Cano, or any other player, with such an absurd contract.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 1 print edition. Tony Chau is a senior editor. Email him at [email protected]