At the end of the 2013 season the Yankees will face a dilemma. Should they make a mega contract offer to Robinson Cano or not? On one level, this seems like a no-brainer. Cano is one of the ten best players in baseball since 2009 and the best on the Yankees. He's starting to show Hall of Fame potential as his career progresses. That's a player the Yankees keep.
On the other hand, players at Cano's position don't age well (Roberto Alomar, who dropped off after his age 33 season is a prime example). The Yankees are trying to cut costs. Cano turns 31 this October. Some team is going to offer him at least $120 million. The Yankees may justifiably decide to let that team pay Cano to decline as he enters his mid thirties.
His ghastly post season aside, Robinson Cano currently projects as the heart of the Yankee lineup, the only superstar hitter in his prime that the team still has. Trading him probably isn't something Brian Cashman is giving much weight ... now. But it is important to remember that the Yankees won't bring back the same team that had the best record in the American League the past two seasons. Nick Swisher is gone. Rafael Soriano is gone. Alex Rodriguez isn't coming back anytime soon. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have inserted themselves into an AL East discussion that already includes high ceiling teams in Tampa Bay and Baltimore. If the Yankees don't look like contenders come the trade deadline, don't be surprised if Cano's name is mentioned. Even as a rental he has the potential to bring back high value while helping the Yankees cut costs.
For my part, I would begin contract discussions with Scott Boras (Cano's agent) as soon as possible. A deal may not get done but it would give Cashman a sense of the figures Cano has in mind. If the Yankees could convince him to take a three or four year deal, even at an inflated annual salary, then he's worth keeping. But if Cano is looking at five, six or even seven years he may not be worth the gamble. In that case, the Yankees should weigh trading him. It wouldn't be a popular move, just maybe the right one.