Ten years made all the difference for the Yankees and Robinson Cano.
In trying to write for tomorrow’s newspaper about how a powerhouse organization could let its best player walk away, that specific period of time popped up time and again, always directly related to the cautionary tale of Alex Rodriguez. It’s not only the length of the contract the Yankees current regret and refused to give again, it’s also the length of time the Yankees spent truly discovering the unpredictability of a decade.
• It was 10 years ago that the Yankees traded for Rodriguez. At the time, he was arguably the best all-around player in the game. He’d been healthy and productive and consistent. He was a Hall of Famer in his prime. In the course of that decade, Rodriguez’s numbers plummeted, his health faded, and his reputation was ripped to shreds. He was an MVP, and then he was an embarrassment, all in the span of a decade.
• It was also 10 years ago that Cano entered his final full season in the minors. He was a good prospect, but not a great one. Baseball America never ranked him in its Top 100 and never put him at the top of their Yankees organizational list. Cano had been a pro for three years and had never hit close to .300 or slugged any better than .437. He was nearly a part of that Rodriguez trade, but Texas didn’t want him. Ten years later, he was the best free agent on the market and the best second baseman in the game.
• It was a 10-year contract that Rodriguez signed in December of 2007, when he was 32 — one year older than Cano is now — and coming off his third MVP award in five seasons. It was and still is the largest contract in baseball history, but six years later, its length is referenced as often as its value. How do the Yankees still have four years of this before the deal comes to a merciful end?
• It was also a 10-year contract that Cano wanted and finally received in Seattle. There’s been so much talk about the Yankees and the luxury tax, but the Yankees were actually willing to top the average annual value of Cano’s massive contract. They just didn’t want to commit for so many years. It was the decade more than the money that stirred concerns.
Obviously seven years with Jacoby Ellsbury is a risky investment. Even five years with Brian McCann is far from a sure thing. But 10 years doesn’t seem to be an entirely arbitrary cutoff point in the case of Cano. It’s a fairly specific amount of time that seems to carry specific meaning in terms of lessons learned and standards set.
For better and for worse, forecasting 10 years into the future is tricky business. The Yankees couldn’t do it, and they’re stuck with A-Rod. The Rangers couldn’t do it, and they were left with Joaquin Arias.
For better and for worse, the Mariners are stuck with Cano.
And the Yankees are stuck without him.
Associated Press photo