‘You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’
Last week, Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners agreed to a 10-year, $240 million contract. Seattle and Cano agreed on the fourth largest contract in MLB history, trailing only A-Rod (x2) and Albert Pujols. To most Yankees fans, Cano’s departure came as a shock. The Yankees lost a home grown, marquee player in the prime of his career to another team in free agency. Cano, 31, will take his 1,649 career hits and .309/.355/.504 slash to the Pacific Northwest. The Yankees made a valiant effort to retain the talented second baseman, offering him $25 million/year over the course of seven seasons. The mystique and aura of pinstripes captivates many players, but in free agency, dollars talk and Cano was more than willing to listen.
Cano’s departure creates a massive hole in the middle of the Yankee infield. The Yankees signed Kelly Johnson as a utility infielder, but expect the team to sign a free agent or make a trade. Regardless of their decision, the hole left by Cano is not replaceable by a single player. On the surface, the additions of Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury should help offset Cano’s departure, but Cano proved he could perform in New York. Despite accusations about his lack of hustle, Cano routinely played 162 games and his production was consistent on a year-to-year basis.
For the first time in his career, Cano will have to deal with the pressures of being his team’s centerpiece. Cano will not have A-Rod or Derek Jeter to hide behind. Instead, Cano must lead and inspire a relatively young team. Cano’s lineup protection will center around Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero instead of A-Rod and Mark Teixeira. Cano will probably have to handle playing on a team that does not have annual playoff aspirations. Cano had the opportunity to go down as a Yankee great, but he chose a large payday over his legacy in New York. You can’t fault Robbie for taking Seattle’s big payday nor blame the Yankees for not matching it. Two years ago, I wrote a piece against the Yankees mimicking the Reds handling of Joey Votto and handing Cano a huge extension before free agency.
When the 2014 season starts, both Cano and the Yankees will have to move on without each other. Both sides may not truly realize what they had until the first pitch is thrown. Like they always say, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.