Robinson Cano Isn't Worth $300 Million Dollars

Published: Nov 17, 2013 17:05pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Nov 17, 2013 @ 05:05pm EST


As former New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano continues his quest to become the highest paid player in baseball history, it’s important to take note of the largest contracts in MLB history. More specifically, we need to look at the type of long-term contract Cano is expecting and compare his reported demands to the performance of the players who actually received three of the largest contracts in MLB history.

Through 2013, Cano’s age 30 season, he has accumulated a career batting line of .309/.355/.504 with 204 home runs, 1,649 hits, and 37.1 WAR per Fangraphs. He is reportedly seeking a 10-year contract worth upwards of $300MM, which would make him the highest paid player in baseball history as it pertains to average annual value and total contractual value.

Currently the three largest contracts on record are the ones signed by Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.

Rodriguez initially signed a $252MM contract over 10-years back in 2001 before negotiating an extension with the Yankees for $275MM over 10 years that took effect in 2008. His original 10-year contract was signed with the Texas Rangers, but they ended up trading him to the Yankees just before the 2004 season began.

Through Rodriguez’s age-30 season he had already accumulated 81.2 WAR, won two MVP awards, and had a batting line of .305/.390/.573 with 464 home runs. Production that is vastly greater than anything Cano has done through his age-30 season, which he wrapped up this year, unless you count hitting for a slightly better career average up to this point as something worth far more than what Rodriguez was signed for.

Albert Pujols is the man with the largest contract in baseball history behind Rodriguez and he had produced 75.6 WAR through his age-30 season. He also won three MVP awards and hit .331/.445/.624 with 408 home runs. He ultimately signed for $240MM over 10 years with the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 at the age of 32.

Whether Pujols and Rodriguez were both rewarded with contracts of the length and overall value they signed for was based on what they had previously done, or even what they were expected to continue to do going forward you can clearly see that the two players with the top two contracts in MLB history far outperformed Cano through their age 30 seasons.

Has the value of free agents on the open market become inflated due to an influx of new revenue from television and other media contracts?


Have those revenues gone up to the point of mindlessly giving a player who has produced barely half as much value as the player signed to the third richest contract in baseball history the, new, richest contract in baseball history?

Maybe, but it wouldn’t be a very good business decision to do so.

The Boston Red Sox recently signed their own second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, to a six-year contract extension for $85MM which takes him through the 2021 season when he will be 37 years old. Adding that on top of his existing contract, and previous extension signed in 2009, the Red Sox will pay Pedroia approximately $109MM from 2014 through 2021 not including any bonuses.

Pedroia could have certainly gotten a larger contract on the open market had he decided against an extension so early with the Red Sox, and the fact that he’s arguably one of the best – if not the best – second baseman in baseball. He was also the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year, an MVP award winner, has won three Gold Glove awards, he has a career batting line of .302/.370/.454, and has also produced 34.4 WAR over his first eight years in the majors.

The Boston Red Sox and Dustin Pedroia saw eye-to-eye on the aforementioned contract extension which was a bit on the team friendly side. Even still, that is the richest contract signed by a second baseman in MLB history, although Ian Kinsler holds the current record for average annual salary for a second baseman at $15MM per year.

While it’s difficult to imagine what Pedroia could have gotten on the open market at a premium position up the middle such as second base, it certainly wouldn’t be anything remotely close to $300MM.

I fully expect Robinson Cano to sign a contract that exceeds the total value of Pedroia’s and to also have a higher average annual salary than Kinsler. Whether he’s actually worth what he signs for is up to the signing team to make the decision on, but most free agents who sign long-term contracts after wrapping up their age 30 season typically don’t make good on the long-term contracts that take them well past their age 36 seasons.

A $300MM contract is unprecedented in baseball and only Albert Pujols has ever come close to matching what Alex Rodriguez got in 2001, his first record breaking contract. There are just two other players with $200+MM contracts in baseball, Joey Votto (10 years/$225MM) of the Cincinnati Reds and Prince Fielder (9 years/$214MM) of the Detroit Tigers.

If we’re being realistic about Cano’s value, and how much of any contract he could live up to, then the contract extension Votto signed for seems to be more in line with what Cano is actually worth and should reasonably sign for if teams don’t lose their minds.


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