Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why Cano and Swisher's Defection to Scott Boras is Trouble for Yankees

Robinson Cano, the Yankees star second baseman and Nick Swisher, the personable media star and valuable outfielder have both signed Scott Boras as their agent. Cano was represented by Bobby Barrett and Swisher by Joe Bick. This development is not a coincidence as both are free agents after the 2011 season unless the Yankees sign those players to long-term extensions. The Yankees do not negotiate during the season as we all learned with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and even Joe Girardi. With Boras as their new agent, those two players almost certainly will be on the open market once this coming season is over.

Robinson Cano is the most important part of this discussion. His young age and stardom at a premium position stands to make him a lot of money in free agency. Swisher will be 31 in 2011 and will have to hope for someone to give him a Werth kind of deal, which will not be likely. But Boras finds a way to get his clients the money. And that's what is so troubling about this development.

The Yankees would probably let Swisher walk. They have enjoyed his contribution which has been far over the value of his current contract. But a right fielder is easier to replace and less important in the grand scheme of things than a premier second baseman. However, Swisher is more than just a valuable player. He has become a fan favorite, a twitter darling and a madcap kind of presence in the Yankee locker room that in the past was a bit stodgy. Many credit such characters as Swisher and A. J. Burnett with loosening up the stiff atmosphere around the club and many say that contributed to their 2009 championship after so many disappointments. While that is impossible to measure and discounted by analysts (it's about the performance, Baby), Swisher has also provided pop in the line up and on base opportunities.

But Robinson Cano is a whole other kettle of fish. If you use just one hand to count the best second basemen in baseball, Cano would certainly occupy one of those fingers. He made only three errors in the field in 2010. He's become a power threat with two seasons in a row over 24 homers. He's accumulated 1,075 hits in his six seasons and he has learned how to earn a walk. His 57 walks in 2010 were a career high. If he continues improving his walk performance combined with a low strikeout total, add in his defense and doubles totals and you have a superstar. Cano is not an Alphonso Soriano who only adds a few weapons for a team. Cano is the real superstar. And he will be playing the 2011 season at the age of 28.

His relative youth and elite class at his position will make Cano a pile of dough on the open market. If the Yankees do not get some sort of extension done in the next couple of weeks, added to their stance of not negotiating during the season, Boras will almost certainly make Cano his blue chip of the 2012 free agent season. The Yankees, who suddenly seem to have a budget, will have to outbid everyone else to keep their star second baseman. That will be really expensive. With Boras, you can forget a home town discount.

And say the Yankees do outbid everyone to keep Cano and sign him long-term, then they will have an infield signed for years and years to current superstars that in a few years grow older and older and older together. To be sure, few will shed any tears if the Yankees are stuck in such a position four or five years from now (though Jeter will be off the books by then). Even so, of all their players, Robinson Cano seems to have the highest future upside. They almost have to make that deal.

Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners had to collectively groan when the news was announced of the Boras hiring for two of their star players entering their final season in Yankee control. It will force their hand to have to aggressively shop Swisher who is a valuable cog in the Yankee line up and won't be as easy to replace as they might think. And it means they will have to open their wallets for Robinson Cano if they are to keep one of the best players at his position for a long time. The aggressiveness of the Red Sox this off season further complicates their decision making. Good luck with all of that.

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