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Can Yankees help themselves from signing Robinson Cano to a huge, long-term deal?

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

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Robinson Cano, left, and Jay Z are looking for a monster deal for the All-Star second baseman. (Getty Images)

Robinson Cano, the notable hardball free agent, surely has some time to get this right. If he doubts that, Cano must only confirm with the watch Jay Z bought him. For $34,000, you'd assume it would come accessorized with not just a union investigation, but a day/date function as well. That said, Cano should be wary.

Remember the New York Yankees once became terribly impatient with Alex Rodriguez, a strategy so clever they low-balled Rodriguez all the way to $305 million. You don't want to mess around with these people.

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Cano and the Yankees weren't going to watch the last out of the World Series together and then fall wearily into each other's arms. It's not how it works. First had to come the leaks of insane money desired. Then the reaction to those desires, this time courtesy Randy Levine. Then the comedic aside (Thank you, Mets). And, of course, the handwringing over what sort of market could develop for a player of Cano's age, skills and various other values. For instance, in a season the Yankees weren't very good and very rarely had other superstars on the field, they led the American League in attendance. So – just trying to do Jay Z a solid here – now that Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are gone, and when one day soon Derek Jeter is gone, Cano clearly will pay for himself. Whether that's true or not, or worth $310 million to find out, or even $200 million, will be left to the Yankees.

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Will Robinson Cano be back with the Yankees? (AP Photo)

Cano, we might assume, will be an exceptionally productive player for at least several more years. Based on his past seven seasons, he'll play about 160/162nds of the next season and the one after that. He'll finish in the top 10 of MVP balloting. And he'll do it with a smile in New York, which ain't easy. He'll run hard sometimes, too.

If there's a problem here, it's that the Yankees are addicted to long, heavy contracts that look terrible in the end, and they know it. They also know they're the Yankees, and they're expected to spend, and win more than 85 games, and even win more than one World Series championship in 13 years. Cano is in his prime, seemingly a rarity in the Bronx. Then, they're sort of committed-ish to restarting their luxury tax clock, and maybe Jay Z has one of those lying around too.

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All of that got us to Tuesday, and the news Cano's people, including Jay Z, dined with Mets' general manager Sandy Alderson's posse. The Mets can't do $310 million, probably. Or $210 million. Or maybe $110 million. But, you're asked to dinner, you go. Like when the car salesman casually walks you over to the top-end rides, and you run your hand over the leather and sigh, then drift back to the used Camry aisle.

The Yankees are believed to have offered Cano a contract in the neighborhood of $160 million over seven years, which spawned a great deal of conversation that the Yankees and Cano were about $150 million apart, which seems like a lot. But that might not be the case. Yes, it appears, there was a time when the cost of signing Cano was bigger than A-Rod. But, that was during the season, and that was to buy Cano out of free agency. Now he's in free agency, and the market will bear what it will bear, and just because a Cano operative in mid-summer lobbed $310 million over 10 years does not necessarily make that the end game today. He won't get that.

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Yankees president Randy Levine says the team has no interest in paying Robinson Cano $300 million. (Getty Imag …

But just in case, Levine, the Yankees' president, made that clear on Tuesday to several New York outlets.

"We want Robbie Cano back," he told the New York Daily News. "We think the offer we made him is very competitive and it shows that we want him to be a Yankee for a long time and be the face of the franchise. But until they come down from the $300 million, there's really nothing to talk about."

Cano's market is somewhat vague. In this era of huge revenues, including massive television deals, plenty of teams can afford the player. The Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers and Chicago Cubs come to mind. Yet, "can" and "want to" would seem the bridge CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen and Roc Nation's Jay Z must cross – repeatedly – if the Yankees are to bid against someone other than themselves. The Dodgers, for one, do not intend to make an offer, because they have other plans for their money (Clayton Kershaw, for one; Hanley Ramirez, for another) and just signed a second baseman (Cuba's Alexander Guerrero).

Cano is perhaps not as fixated on the Yankees as some presume, though they would seem to be his first choice. And the Yankees have more motivation than most to sign Cano, particularly because this is a rather weak winter for free agents. They will talk to Carlos Beltran, to Brian McCann, to Jhonny Peralta, and might even sign one. That certainly won't preclude them from re-signing Cano. In any case, there's plenty left to be debated, more posturing to come, more mystery and intrigue. And more time.

But, hey, as Cano surely understands, he's got nothing but time.

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