Robinson Cano appears ready to test the free-agent market after talks with the Yankees broke down weeks ago over his request for a 10-year contract worth as much as $310-million, sources confirmed Thursday.
Despite efforts to get an extension done midseason, the sides are so far apart on a new deal that Cano could be playing his final games as a Yankee this weekend in Houston.
In April, Cano dumped Scott Boras -- the agent who orchestrated Alex Rodriguez's record-setting 10-year, $275-million deal -- for Jay Z's newly formed Roc-Nation Sports. At the time, many wondered how the switch would affect Cano's future with the Yankees. Now that question has been answered.
Cano, who turns 31 next month, is a five-time All-Star and has placed no lower than sixth in the MVP voting during the past three seasons, including third in 2010 and fourth last year. For much of this season, Cano had been left unprotected in the depleted Yankees' lineup, but he still entered Thursday night batting .315 with 27 home runs and 106 RBIs. His .903 OPS ranked 11th in the majors; Miguel Cabrera had baseball's best at 1.077.
Entering this year, the Yankees seemed willing to lock up Cano early in the process, and general manager Brian Cashman even let it slip in spring training that the team already had made him a "significant" offer. According to people familiar with the discussions, the Yankees' first attempt was an eight-year, $138-million offer modeled after the one given to David Wright by the Mets last November.
When that was rejected, a source said the Yankees returned with a six-year deal in the $145-million range, which pushed the average annual value (AAV) to roughly $24 million. But the counter-offer from Cano's camp of more than $300 million blew that away -- upping it to more than $30 million per season -- and wound up putting the negotiations on hold until he reaches free agency.
Cashman refused Thursday to comment on the negotiations, and Cano wouldn't comment either. Cano's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, responded by issuing a statement.
"Out of respect to both parties, we have agreed all along with the Yankees not to comment publicly on discussions regarding Robinson's contractual future," Van Wagenen said. "I am abiding by that agreement and I will not confirm any discussions or offers or whether there have been offers by either side. As Robinson said [Wednesday], he hasn't made any decisions on his future. Robinson is among the elite talents in the game and in the final few days of his contract, but he and I will continue to respect the process and our promise to not discuss specifics."
When it was suggested that Thursday night's game against Tampa Bay might be Cano's final appearance at the Stadium as a Yankee, manager Joe Girardi did not discount that notion. "Absolutely, no one knows what's going to happen in the offseason, and there are no guarantees who's going to be here next year," Girardi said. "So, it very possibly could. And Robby has been a joy to manage. Just a great player. He does a lot of great things."
The Yankees have made no secret of their desire to get below the $189-million luxury threshold for 2014 and re-signing Cano -- as well as how that contract could be structured -- would obviously have a big impact on those plans. With icons such as Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retiring, along with Derek Jeter's uncertain status at age 39, the Yankees are heading into one of the more turbulent offseasons in recent memory -- especially after failing to qualify for the playoffs for just the second time since 1995.
When asked if Cano is worth the money -- according to reports -- which he is seeking, Girardi declined to comment, other than saying he couldn't be sure the reports are accurate. But the manager disputed any suggestion the Yankees might not pursue Cano in free agency.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense [to ask] if the Yankees will show an interest in Robby Cano," Girardi said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that. But with trades and free agency, it takes two to tango."
With Greg Logan