Yesterday, Felix Hernandez received the biggest guaranteed contract ever given to a pitcher. The Seattle Mariners scraped together $175 million for the right-hander over the next seven years. Although he was already under contract for the next two years for $39.5 million, the Mariners extended him an additional 5 years for $135.5 million. At 27 years old next season, Hernandez is still young, and the Mariners will have him under contract through only his age 33 season. The Yankees have their own star player who could be looking at a possible extension or re-sign. Robinson Cano will become a free agent this off season, and losing such a highly valuable player in their prime would be a major hit to the team. Depending on how you value defense, Cano was arguably the second best player in the American League last season, and his agent Scott Boras knows this. A gifted second baseman that hits for power and average is a rare commodity, and Boras and Cano will likely look for top dollar if they hit free agency. Teams like the Dodgers and Cardinals could be huge players. To top this off, the Yankees will be searching for a $189 million budget in that same year.
So here's my question to you, would you give Cano a 7 year $175 million extension? Since Cano already has $15 million under his current 2013 contract, he would technically be receiving $26.7 million a year from 2014-2019, and he'd be playing with the Yankees until his was 36 years old. Outside of the money, Cano would stay with his current team and likely spend his career in pinstripes. The best part of this extension is that Cano wouldn't have to worry about possible regression in 2013 hurting his free agency in the offseason. The second baseman is coming off arguably his best season, and he'd be signing a contract while his value is likely at it's height.
For the Yankees, the team would lock up a franchise player, and their best player at that. Assuming Cano repeats his 2012 in 2013, a 7 year extension now would probably take a year or two off the highest bidder in the 2013 offseason. They'd save years and possibly dollars, but at the risk of regression. The Yankees rarely extend players because of their ability to pay top dollar in the free agent market. If a player regresses in a contract year, than they've dodged a bullet, but if they don't, they can always outbid teams. With a budget in their future and plenty of money locked up in other players, the Yankees no longer look like the annual top bidders.
Most important to the Yankees is that extending Cano now would bring his average annual value down to $25 million a year until he's 36 years old, leaving them with around $25 million of salary to spend next season. Although it's not cheap, the bidding could easily get much higher next fall, assuming he continues to be the same player. It's a risk, but this team will needs to take risks if they want to lower their budget and win.