Do the Rays Wish They Could Sign Robinson Cano?

By Peter M. Gordon

Sep 28, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; New York Yankees second baseman

Robinson Cano

(24) throws to first base during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, they can. So can any team willing to meet his price. Yankees President Randy Levine admitted as much to the New York Daily News. When asked if the Mets would be able to sign Robinson Cano, Levine said, “Yes. For $300 million they can.”

The Yankees reported offered Cano a seven -year deal for $168 million, or a little over $21 million per year. Reportedly Cano and his agents, who include Jay-Z are asking for a 10-year, $310 million deal. Right now both sides are negotiating in the newspapers instead of which each other, and if some team was motivated enough to make a deal happen, they may just have a chance. Let’s just imagine for a second that the Rays were that team. The Rays probably wouldn’t sign any player for $21 million or $30 million, which would be more than half of their 2013 payroll. But let’s assume for a moment that the Rays could afford $25 million per year for Robinson Cano. Should they sign him if they could?

Cano is one of the top ten players in the game today. He’s a second baseman who hits like an outfielder or first baseman and has been remarkably durable. Since 2007 the fewest games he’s played in a season is 159. In 2013 he made the All-Star team, hitting .314 with 41 doubles, 31 homers, and an .899 OPS. He finished fifth in the MVP voting and won the Silver Slugger award at second base for the fourth straight year. To put all of this into one number, his Wins Above Replacement Value in 2013 was 7.6, meaning Cano was worth 7 games over a replacement-level second baseman. That mark was fifth among AL position players and no other second baseman was less than 1.0 WAR away. If the Rays won 7 more games in 2013 they would have won the AL East, and with Cano in the fold, they could have very well won the pennant and World Series.

The question the Rays, or any team must ask, is the money spent providing sufficient value? For the cost of one Robinson Cano, the Rays could almost certainly sign two or even three players who together could equal or surpass the wins Cano would add. For example, the Yankees recently signed catcher Brian McCann, a 29 year-old All-Star catcher, to a five year, $85 million deal. That’s also half of Cano’s asking price. Combine that with some leftover cash for the Rays’ low-risk, high-reward type of deals, and the Rays could get a lot more wins out of $30 million if they didn’t sign Robinson Cano. Even McCann’s contract is worth a lot of money, though. If the Rays had that much they might make a little more of a splash that we’re used to, but they would also spread their resources around to improve their team at as many positions as possible.

Could the Rays sign Robinson Cano? Yes, if they meet his asking price. Should they, even if they could afford him? They cleary should not. If the Rays had $30 million more dollars in payroll to dish out, they would certainly operate differently. However, putting that money into one or two players is not the best idea.