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Long Game
Joe Sheehan
March 11, 2013
Will free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano be worth the money after he turns 31 in October?
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March 11, 2013

Long Game

Will free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano be worth the money after he turns 31 in October?

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  Roberto Alomar Rod Carew Ryne Sandberg Chuck Knoblauch
Before .302/.370/.438 in 1,563 games .328/.384/.434 in 1,328 games .287/.342/.452 in 1,389 games .298/.388/.419 in 1,313 games
After .297/.374/.453 in 816 games .327/.403/.424 in 1,141 games .279/.346/.451 in 775 games .251/.335/.350 in 319 games
The Skinny Alomar was a superstar for three more seasons, with two top five MVP finishes, before declining sharply at 34. He was done at 36. Carew played fewer than 20 innings at second after age 31 and spent the rest of his time as a first baseman/DH. He was AL MVP in 1977 and had high BAs and OBPs until he retired at 39. Sandberg continued to play well through age 33, but a poor start to his age-34 season, 1994, prompted him to retire in June. He came back for two seasons at 36 and 37. Knoblauch's career was derailed by problems throwing to first that began when he was 30, pushed him to leftfield at 32 and out of baseball by 34.

The Yankees reportedly made a big offer to second baseman Robinson Cano, who can become a free agent in the fall. Cano is one of baseball's best players, hitting .313/.379/.550 in 2012 with 33 homers. A new deal would kick in when he's 31. What can New York—or any other team—expect for its money?

Here are how Cano's top comps—second basemen with at least 1,000 games played and 30 WAR, and a .290 BA through age 30—performed before and after age 31:

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

BOTTOM LINE

While these players' drop in productivity in their mid-30s underlines the risk in paying Cano $25 million a year when he's 34 or 35, he isn't really like any of these great second basemen: He has more power and less speed and draws fewer walks. Cano's short-term future is that of a perennial MVP candidate, which makes signing him a worthwhile risk. Pay the man, Steinbrenners.

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