Robinson Cano will take his time

NEW YORK -- The biggest question facing the New York Yankees this offseason -- will they hold on to second baseman standout Robinson Cano or lose him to free agency -- is unlikely to be answered quickly after the end of the season.

Cano, the Yankees' best hitter and a five-time All-Star, said he will not rush into anything, meaning the Yankees probably won't be able to take advantage of the exclusive negotiating window a club has with its own free agents, which expires six days after the end of the World Series.

"If we don't make it to the playoffs, I want to take my time, go on vacation and relax," Cano said. "Then I want to sit down with my family and decide what we gonna do."

Cano spoke before Wednesday night's Tampa Bay Rays game at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees lost but were actually mathematically eliminated from the race earlier when the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago White Sox.

Cano, 30, a career .309 hitter who has averaged 28 home runs and 102 RBIs for the past five seasons, is expected to attract the most lucrative contract ever given to a second baseman. Currently, Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers is the highest-paid second baseman, having signed a five-year, $75 million contract before this season. The Boston Red Sox also this season gave second baseman Dustin Pedroia an extension that makes his total package $110 million over eight years. Cano is expected to be seeking upward of $20 million per season for between seven and 10 years.

"I haven't decided anything yet," said Cano, who leads the Yankees with 27 homers, 105 RBIs and a .314 batting average. "But don't get me wrong. I love this team, you know?"

Cano, who was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent out of San Macoris, Dominican Republic, as an 18-year-old in 2001, has never played for any other team and admitted it would be difficult to think of himself in a different uniform.

"Man, that would be hard," he said. "But at the same time, I understand it's a business. They have to decide what is the best for them, and I have to decide what is best for me and my family. I'm just waiting for the day."

Cano acknowledged it was a struggle at times to hit in a Yankees lineup minus Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, all of whom were lost for much or all of the season due to injury.

But Cano said that despite the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte after the season and the looming suspension of Rodriguez, he is not concerned that the Yankees are headed into a prolonged period of decline.

"This is a team that has always had a lot of superstars, future Hall of Famers. Guys like Jeter and A-Rod," Cano said. "They always find a way to get guys to get this team to win. We got CC [Sabathia], Tex and A.J. [Burnett] in 2009, and we won a championship. They know what it takes and they always get the right pieces to make this team win."

Cano would not say whether he would seek assurances from the Yankees that they will be active in the free-agent market this winter before committing to signing another contract with them.

"I haven't sat down to ask what's going to happen here, what's not going to happen here, because I just want to wait for the time to come and think about it," he said. "Like I said, I have to talk to my family and see what they think, too. Because I want to get advice from my mom and my dad, they always want the best for you, so that's a reason to wait."

But he did acknowledge that Thursday night's home finale against the Rays could be his final game at Yankee Stadium, at least as a member of the home team.

"Oh, yeah, who knows? Who knows what's going to happen," he said. "I'm just enjoying being here and I'm going to enjoy the last day, being here with all these guys. Nobody said I'm leaving; nobody said I'm staying. I haven't decided anything yet. Let's see what happens after the World Series."