Hal Steinbrenner says Yankees might bend policy for Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano looks on during batting practice before

Robinson Cano looks on during batting practice before Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 10, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez's contract is Exhibit A as the kind of long-term, big- money deal the Yankees are determined to avoid in the future.

But with Robinson Cano a season away from free agency, that stance will be tested.

As will another: managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner's fairly concrete policy of letting contracts expire and not doing extensions.

Indeed, Steinbrenner disclosed Friday that there might be some wiggle room in both cases.

"There's been a conversation or two," he said of working something out with the second baseman before next offseason. "We'll get into that and we'll talk about that at a later day. But he's obviously been a great Yankee and I hope he's here his entire career."

The Yankees picked up Cano's $15-million club option earlier this offseason, marking the last time the 30-year-old second baseman will work inexpensively (relatively speaking) for them.

Cano's agent, Scott Boras, doesn't give hometown discounts and Cano, despite saying he'd like to stay with the Yankees, won't be hesitant to explore the market.

And the way other teams (the Dodgers and Angels, to name two) have been spreading money around the last couple of years, it's probably more pragmatic than not for Cano to bet on himself for this season, then see what the open market will bear.

Cano can only increase his value with a standout 2013, a year Steinbrenner -- criticisms of his roster aside -- sees as one in which the Yankees will field another championship-caliber team.

Yes, the team is aging, but Steinbrenner said that's a negative assessment he's heard several years running.

"It happens every year, and last year we had the best record in the American League [95 victories], if I recall, and hope to do the same this year," he said. "Every year it comes up and every year we have a pretty good season, so we'll see."

As for the $189-million payroll threshold fans have heard about for well more than a year, Steinbrenner reiterated what he said last month at the owners' meetings and what Newsday reported Oct. 19: There is some flexibility in hitting that number.

In other words, if it comes down to a choice between putting a title-contending team on the field and avoiding steep luxury-tax penalties by reaching $189 million, the former will take priority.

"All I can assure the fans is we are always going to field a championship-caliber team, every single year," Steinbrenner said. "Is that [$189 million] our goal next year? Yes, to be at that number is our goal, but as I've said, it depends on some of our young players stepping up and getting the job done. It has to happen or it's going to be difficult."

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