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SAN FRANCISCO – Our offseason “pros and cons” series continues with a look at the game’s best offensive second baseman, the premier offensive free agent on the market and Jay-Z’s best buddy, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees.
Should the Giants target Cano? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:
As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan pointed out, 13 players hit 30-plus home runs this past season. Not one of them is on the free-agent market. That only makes Cano’s offensive brilliance shine the brighter, especially when you consider that his overall offensive value ranks him among the game’s elite. His 25.5 WAR over the past three seasons is the second highest in the majors, behind only Miguel Cabrera. He is a five-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove award winner and he finished fifth in the most recent AL MVP balloting – the fourth consecutive season he’s ranked among the top six.
Cano can spare no expense on that trophy case to house his hardware, because he’s going to get P-A-I-D. The Yankees reportedly offered him seven years and $165 million back at the All-Star break. He came back with $305 million over 10 years. Okay, so that isn’t happening. But you might be able to buy your own small-market franchise with the cash it’d take to sign Cano. It’s hard to see the Giants getting involved, and not just because it’d blow up the payroll for 2014. They have more future money committed than any club except the Dodgers and Angels. Adding another massive contract would give them very little future financial flexibility, and maybe, eventually, push them into luxury-tax land.
Cano has hit at least 25 homers in each of the past five seasons and never posted an OPS lower than .870 over that span. He’s not a streaky hitter, either. He’s a consistent contributor and he’s also one of the game’s most durable players, having played at least 159 games in each of the last seven years. Only Prince Fielder has played in more. Bruce Bochy could pre-print his lineup cards so he won’t have to write in Cano and Hunter Pence every day. Players like those guys are a manager’s dream. If you’re going to make a massive splash on a player, it might as well be a guy you know will stay on the field.
Cano is 31, which is not old unless you’re talking about giving him a 10-year contract. Then you’ll be paying a truckload to a 41-year-old second baseman – and who thinks that sounds like a good idea? (Especially after watching what happened to Marco Scutaro this past season…) Besides, although he’s improved in this area, Cano has always been a free swinger whose OBP is dependent on getting hits. So whenever his production drops off, it could happen suddenly. See Tejada, Miguel. Also, apply your standard caveats when it comes to left-handed power not translating well to AT&T Park.
Cano is so good, it might not matter that the second half of his contract could be a disaster. Isn’t that the case with almost any high profile free agent? Besides, Cano is not a DH type like Albert Pujols. He still grades out as a solid defender at second base, although day-to-day observers might be a little less impressed. He should offer many more seasons of offensive impact along with solid all-around skills as a defender and baserunner.
It was a no-brainer to offer Cano a qualifying offer, so he’d cost the Giants the 14th overall pick in the draft. You know that Cano won’t be available on the cheap in February, either, because the Yankees want him back. If the Giants were to get involved, they’d probably just be used to get the Yankees to raise their offer.
It’s amazing to think that the Texas Rangers, when they traded Alex Rodriguez, chose Joaquin Arias off a list of minor leaguers when they could have taken Cano. Don’t expect the Giants to sign Cano and take Arias’ roster spot.
Negotiations stall into January, but Cano returns to the Yankees for eight years and $200 million. He’d probably get more if the Dodgers became serious bidders, but they already signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero, much to Jay-Z’s chagrin.