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Rounding Third: Yanks in a tough spot with Cano

By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer that the New York Yankees would sign star second baseman Robinson Cano to a long-term extension.

He's the team's best player. He's homegrown. And these are the Yankees. When is the last time they didn't re-sign one of their guys? This Yankees regime doesn't make a lot of personnel mistakes when it comes to their own. Show me the player in the last 20 years they let get away that's come back to burn them.

The list is short.

So what's the debate here?

Typically, for whatever reason, the Yankees tend to play hardball with their own. Not often do they sign their stars before they have to. They let Bernie Williams test the market and even avoided talking contract extensions with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera until they absolutely had to.

Then, there's the fact Cano switched agents last year, replacing Bobby Barad with superagent Scott Boras, who will undoubtedly try to bleed every last dollar from the Yankees.

"It's not about the money, but I don't want to go into details right now," Cano said. "I'm just focused on playing the game and helping the team win another championship."

Whenever someone says it's not about the money, it's always about the money.

It's hard to blame Cano for switching agents; Boras is the best one out there. More often than not, he gets his men paid. But Boras guys also tend to test the free agent market, they don't usually sign before their current deal is up.

It all adds up to what could become the ultimate game of chicken. For both sides.

The Yankees fired the first salvo in this negotiation on Tuesday when owner Hal Steinbrenner stated the Yankees were willing to make a "significant long- term contract" offer to retain Cano.

The Yankees have seemingly become cash aware and are doing everything they can to get to the $189 million threshold in 2014. A long-term deal for Cano may hinder that, especially when they may be paying $26 million-plus a year in dead money for Alex Rodriguez the next five years.

There's also some in the Yankees organization who don't want to make Cano the face of the franchise. At times the knock on the four-time All-Star is that he tends to get lazy. He doesn't always bust it out of the batter's box and the next time he dives for a ground ball will be his first.

That, unfortunately is an all too common occurrence in today's major leagues, and Cano's nonchalance will absolutely rub people the wrong way, especially when he could be making $20 million or so a year.

Cano, though, had perhaps his best regular season in the majors last season, as he hit .313 with a career-high 33 home runs and 94 RBIs. However, his postseason was epically bad, as he endured an 0-for-29 clip en route to a 3-for-41 showing in the playoffs.

"I think you always worry a little bit about guys during contract years," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes it really works out to your advantage, too. That's one of those things, but you don't want guys to put too much pressure on themselves.

"If they have bad weeks, you've had bad weeks before, and you fought out of that. Don't let it snowball. Robbie's a pretty even-keeled guy who brings a smile every day, and I think you'll still see that."

There is also a giant elephant in the room. That, of course, being the possibility that Cano may be a product of performance-enhancing drugs. Now, Cano has never tested positive for anything, nor has he been linked to any type of PED other than a false report from a North Carolina news station last season that stated he had tested positive for a banned substance.

But, the questions are there. Cano knows it since he has to answer them on an almost daily basis. His only links to PEDs seem to be that he is Dominican and two of his closest friends are Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera, both big-time losers in the PED game.

So, guilt by association is really the only dirt on Cano. As we've recently learned, sometimes that's enough in the court of public opinion. See Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.

It's hard for any team to hand out the type of money and years for a player who may come back and burn them with a PED allegation.

Still, Cano is one of the top-10 players in baseball. And as we stated, the Yankees don't usually miss on their own guys. Take a look at the Yankees roster and find the player in the lineup besides Cano who is going to hit .300?

That, coupled with the fact that they are the oldest team in the majors, makes it hard to believe the Yankees would let Cano walk at the end of the season.

But, it will be on their terms. They won't be held hostage by Boras, and Boras knows that.

Sometime between now and November, a deal will get done. It likely won't be in the 10-year variety like the ones Albert Pujols or Joey Votto received, but maybe more money per year than those pacts in a shorter six- or seven-year deal.

"I still have one year and just got to go out there and just perform," Cano said. "I've got another year and my focus now is to help the team, be with my teammates and have fun, and at the end of the season, just end it up with the (World Series) trophy."

02/20 10:47:46 ET