BOSTON - David Ortiz thinks Robinson Cano is lowballing himself.
"I would give him 500 million," the Red Sox slugger said with a smile Thursday of the rumored $300 million-plus the Yankees second baseman is seeking. "He deserves it."
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Ortiz, a friend of Cano's, was joking.
Make no mistake, the Boston designated hitter believes Cano, who will turn 31 Oct. 22, should cash in big on the free-agent market.
"Good players deserve to get paid," Ortiz said after his team's workout at Fenway Park. "He's one of the top three players in the game, so somebody's going to have to."
Asked if he can picture Cano in a different uniform, Ortiz said "it might happen," but he believes the Yankees will pony up.
"Every team needs a player like him," Ortiz said. "I definitely believe the Yankees are going to come through. You don't let players like that go. That's a keeper. But you never know. The game is crazy. There's a lot of teams out there with money chasing players like that."
Cano is believed to be looking for a contract of eight to 10 years. The Yankees, already saddled with long-term deals for Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, want to avoid that kind of length.
Ortiz said Cano is worth both the money and the years.
"At the end of the day, can you expect production from Cano for the next 10 years?" Ortiz said. "Yes."
He added: "Cano makes the game look too easy. I hit the ball so hard toward him this year, and it was like he was expecting it. He anticipates the way you are going to hit, he knows the hitter's swings. He is an extremely smart player. I have never seen a ground ball go by him . . .
"I watched Robbie Alomar play second base for a long time, and I thought he was the best I was ever going to see. But Cano, the way he turns double plays is just a part of his nature. He is a very special player."
Ortiz's teammate, Dustin Pedroia, signed an eight-year, $110-million extension in July, the kind of deal the Yankees would do with Cano in a second. Pedroia and Cano are widely considered to be the top second basemen in the American League, but Cano is looking for far more money.
"Those are two different players," said Ortiz, who declined to speculate how Pedroia's contract might impact Cano's. "I don't think you can compare them [to each other]. They're good at what they do individually."
Cano is the better power hitter, and power is at a premium. "You don't have that many power hitters in today's game," Ortiz acknowledged.
Cano hit .314 with 27 homers and 107 RBIs with a .383 OBP and .899 OPS in 160 games. He hit .329 against righthanders and .291 against lefthanders.
Ortiz thought those numbers were fairly remarkable considering that Cano spent much of the season surrounded by weak hitters because of injuries to Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Rodriguez and Teixeira.
"I wouldn't be surprised if next year if the whole Yankee lineup is healthy, he ends up being the batting title champ," Ortiz said. "It wouldn't surprise me because that's him, he can hit against anybody. Lefty, righty, he has no weakness."