Cano, Yankees valuable to one another

07/09/2012 1:17 PM ET
By Jack Curry

Cano is arguably the Yankees' most valuable player and critical to the team's long-term future.(AP)

Robinson Cano cannot become a free agent until after the 2013 season, but, as he continues to evolve as an elite player who is actually getting better, the Yankees have had internal discussions about his future with them. Cano is the best player on the Yankees, a player who they want and need to stay precisely where he is.

When I asked General Manager Brian Cashman if he had entertained the notion of signing Cano to a long-term contract before Cano can test free agency, he said, "Oh, yeah. But we haven't done it yet."

Cano is earning $14 million this season and the Yankees will exercise his $15 million option for next season. For the 2014 season, Cashman has stressed how vital it is for the Yankees to have a payroll under $189 million. If the Yankees succeed in keeping their payroll below $189 million, and team executives insist that goal is paramount, it would result in tremendous financial gains. 

As the Yankees work on reducing their payroll, they will have to figure out what to do about Cano and Curtis Granderson, who can also be a free agent after 2013. Cashman noted that the Yankees signed Cano to a four-year, $30 million deal with two club option years after the 2007 season, which was a departure from their policy of not signing young players to multi-year deals. Still, Cashman didn't say how vigorous he might be in trying to sign the second baseman before free agency arrives, saying, "We have to see how it plays out."

But, a few seconds later, Cashman added, "Of course, we'd like to keep him."

From interviewing Cano over the years and observing him while he played in places like the Dominican Republic and Taiwan, I'm sure Cano's preference is to stay with the Yankees. Cano embraces the idea of being a superstar and understands that being a superstar on the Yankees is different than being a star on almost every other team. Then again, Cano also fired Bobby Barad and switched to Scott Boras as his agent. Boras is known for advising his marquee clients to test free agency because that enables him to negotiate with 30 teams, not just one.

Although Cano will be 32 years old when he is due to be as a free agent, he has also been a very durable player. From the start of the 2007 season until now, Cano has missed 11 out of 895 regular season games. Cano is batting .313 with 20 homers, 51 runs batted in, a .374 on base percentage and a .579 slugging percentage at the All-Star break.

With Cano preparing to compete in the Home Run Derby in Kansas City on Monday night, I flashed back to another derby he participated in. And, actually, I'm not referring to the Home Run Derby he won during last year's All-Star Game. On a Major League Baseball tour of Taiwan after the 2011 season, I watched Cano unleash his sweet swung during a one-man derby.

Jose Cano, Robinson's father, pitched to his son in Taiwan, just as he did at last year's All-Star Game and just as he will on Monday night. It was a windy day and Cano wound up hitting about four or five homers on 10 swings. After the display, Robinson was disappointed. It was clear he wanted to give the fans a more dazzling show

Cano has put on some dazzling shows for the Yankees and will continue to do so. On a team that is crowded with All-Stars and some future Hall of Famers, Cano is now the best player. The Yankees realize how valuable Cano is, which is why Cashman emphasized that they want to keep him. They want to witness those dazzling shows for several more years

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