Hal tips his hand; will Cano tip back?

Hal Steinbrenner made a rare revelatory statement in Tampa today when he acknowledged having had "a conversation or two" with Robinson Cano regarding a contract extension before Cano becomes a free agent in 2014.

For one thing, the Yankees never, never, ever offer to extend contracts that are already in force. They wouldn't for Joe Torre or Derek Jeter or Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman or even Mariano Rivera, although they did, in an ill-fated move, offer to extend Alex Rodriguez in 2007 to prevent him from opting out of his deal after the season.

Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano

#24 2B
New York Yankees

2012 STATS

  • GM161
  • HR33

  • RBI94

  • R105

  • OBP.379

  • AVG.313

A-Rod spurned the offer, opted out despite the Yankees' warning that if he did so, they would no longer negotiate with him -- and got himself a raise and a contract the Yankees are now desperate to be rid of.

So for Hal to extend the offer to Cano -- or, more accurately, to Cano's agent, Scott Boras -- it indicated a couple of things. For one, it shows how much the Yankees want Cano back next year, obviously. But it also shows, perhaps, how desperately they want to avoid what is sure to be a bidding war for Cano's services next winter, with a price tag that could climb as high as $200 million.

It could also mean Hal is weakening on his pledge to cut payroll to $189 million by next year, a possibility he had already hinted at last week. It turns out that the financial benefit the Yankees were counting on by avoiding the new luxury tax rate may not be the windfall they had expected, perhaps making it less vital that they stay under the threshold for 2014.

In any event, if there was any doubt the Yankees wanted Cano back next year, Hal removed them with his statements today, and according to a source connected with Cano, the All-Star second baseman would like to remain a Yankee -- if the price and conditions are right.

"Robbie has had a good experience as a Yankee," the source told ESPNNewYork.com. "He likes the city and he likes the team, but still, the economic criteria have to be met."

In other words, just the chance to wear the pinstripes won't be enough to keep him in New York. There's got to be some green to go with it.

"Robbie's a better player than Joey Votto," the source said. "And the Reds are paying him $22 million a year. I would think Robbie's got to get more than that."

There are also concerns, the source said, with what kind of a supporting cast Steinbrenner plans to surround Cano with.

"The Yankees may not be the Yankees anymore," the source said, referring to the planned payroll cutback. "What's the point of being the leader of the New York Yankees if there's no one else in the lineup?"

QUESTION: If you were Robinson Cano, what would you do? Negotiate a contract extension with the Yankees now, or wait to test the free agent market?