At his introductory press conference, Robinson Cano claimed the Yankees made no effort to retain him and that they disrespected him. A lot of people will complain, seeing just another self-indulgent athlete, and say that they would love to be disrespected with $175 million, but this misses two key points.
First, you are not Robinson Cano. You are not the best second baseman in baseball and on a Hall of Fame trajectory. You work at a desk, or maybe standing, just not standing at second base for a major league baseball team. $175 million to you would be a gross overpayment relative the economic value you produce in return. That is not the case with Cano.
Which brings us to the second point. $175 million, in baseball, is not a lot of money. It sounds like a lot of money to everybody else, partly because wages have stagnated in this country since the '70s and partly because it is $175 million. But within the framework of baseball economics, it is not a lot of money for a player of Cano's caliber, especially when players like Ellsbury are getting $153 million and players like Hughes are getting contracts at all.
The teams have a lot of cash right now, cash generated by the players. Cano is one of the best players in the game, and so he deserves to be paid like it. In an era where salaries are continuing to rise, his deal is not that gargantuan. Believe me, in the next five years, more than one player will surpass it.
Offering Cano $175 million is at best willfully ignorant of the value he generates for the team. Some will say people didn't come out to watch Cano last year when he was the main attraction, but I think that's unfair. The Yanks were losing in a town used to seeing them win at least 94 games a year. Add completely irrational Yankee Stadium ticket prices to the mix and there was bound to be a drop in interest. I went to a few games last season, and watched many on television, and the only players I really cared about were Cano and later Soriano.
But back to the issue at hand, the $175 million offer. It was an insult. It was a thorough undervaluation for the only durable and productive player that has performed consistently for the Yankees for quite sometime. Cano and his agents negotiate on behalf of Cano's business and financial interests. Cano was going to get a contract starting with a '2', which means the Yankees were at least trying to get a 12.5% discount. Considering he ended up with $240 million, the Yankees' offer meant a 27% undervaluation. Sure, the market hadn't produced the $240 million figure yet, and many would say that offer itself is an overvaluation, but in this league, with its current economic state, the Yankees were basically asking Cano to play for them, a team willing to devalue him to his face, for a discount.
Cano is a baseball player, not Wal-Mart. He doesn't do rollback sales. He gets paid to play baseball. The team he had played for was busy painting him as a greedy person who only cared about money as they tried to hold onto as much of theirs as they could. Why would he give them an almost 30% discount? Or even 12.5%?
We can pretend that we prefer the Pedroia's of the world, players who take less money to stay with one franchise, but the Pedroia deal has to look completely idiotic at this point. Think about it, Dustin Pedroia has a worse contract than Jacoby Ellsbury. By choice. And why? So he can be associated with the same corporate entity (the Boston Red Sox) for his entire career. That's completely stupid.
Cano was not stupid, and the Yankees were disrespectful in their approach to him. They frankly wasted his time and should have simply said we're moving in a different direction because we've decided we don't want to spend what it is likely going to cost to retain you. Instead they tried to bully him and diminish his value through the press by blaming him for their declining ticket sales. Disrespectful.