It's not quite Brian Cashman telling Derek Jeter to go out and find a better offer like he did in 2010, but the Yankees' approach with Robinson Cano this offseason continues to be one of tough love and smart business. They've said all along that they want him back, they've made what they consider a fair offer, they've clearly stated what amount of time and money they aren't willing to go to, and they've spent time engaging backup plans should Cano and his team decide they aren't willing to work with the Yankees' numbers.
It certainly appears as if the Yankees are determined not to repeat their past mistakes of bidding against themselves and overpaying for their own free agents, and if that's the case then it's a lesson I think we're all glad they've finally learned. The latest chapter in the story, courtesy of Andrew Marchand, had the Yankee brass meeting with Cano's agents yesterday to essentially put a time limit on the offer they've already extended. According to Marchand's source, "the Yankees feel they only have so much wiggle room" above their initial contract offer and they are willing to pull it off the table to prevent the stalled talks with Cano from delaying the rest of their offseason plans.
Based on those plans including the recent signing of Brian McCann and the reportedly ramped up pursuit of Carlos Beltran, the team's stated goal of building a contender while staying under the $189 million luxury tax threshold appears alive and well. The Yankees' best chance to do that is to lock up their primary free agent targets before the Winter Meetings and before other clubs can get into a bidding war, so it's to their benefit to put the pressure on Cano and his team to come down from their $310 mil asking price.
With no market for Cano coming together outside of their initial 7-year/$161 million offer, this rough deadline set by the Yankees is actually a pretty shrewd negotiating tactic. They know there aren't any other teams in the mix right now and they're well aware that Cano's agents are well aware of that fact. They wouldn't have gone slinking to the Mets last week to try to drum up some competition otherwise. If the Yankees can speed up the process and get Cano to re-sign for their price now before the market has a chance to develop, that's one more position they've got covered and one more dollar value accounted for in next year's budget.
As for the budget, the legitimacy of that wiggle room ceiling can be brought into question. Assuming A-Rod's suspension is upheld, the Yankees will have over $72 million to work with. Their version of Project 189 already includes $17 million for McCann and if they added Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka, their next 2 biggest non-Cano targets, for $15 million and $10 million AAV respectively, that still leaves them with $30 million to spend. They could easily offer more money to Cano, but why do that when you don't have to and why do it when it hinders your ability to address the rest of the roster holes?
We should find out later this week what came as a result of yesterday's meeting, possibly as early as today. What happens from there is anybody's guess but the Yankees are still very much in the driver's seat of these negotiations. They've made an offer that they're comfortable with, it's the best and still the only offer Cano has received, and now they've put the ball fully in his court to make the decision on what's next. If Cano and his team hold their ground and wait for another team to get involved and the Yankees stick to their word and pull the offer and move on, it'll be the surest sign yet that they are committed to the luxury tax avoidance goal. It'll also be a sure sign that they've truly learned their lesson from the A-Rod deal. Cano or no Cano, that might be the most important thing for the team's future.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)