Until the Derek Jeter negotiations a couple of years ago, the Yankees had never been big on showing spine when it came to contract talks with their key players.
Bernie Williams, CC Sabathia and, of course, Alex Rodriguez all wound up squeezing more years and money than the Yankees were initially willing to give them when they became free agents because the team couldn't stand the thought of losing them. Will that be the case with Robinson Cano as well?
The second baseman is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season and the first official talk about a new deal came from Hal Steinbrenner on Tuesday. It wasn't particularly enlightening, but it did set the stage for what should be a year-long campaign waged by the Yankees and Cano's agent Scott Boras.
"We expressed to Scott how much we liked Robbie and what a great Yankee he's been and we hope he continues his career here for a long time to come," Steinbrenner said. "We just indicated to him, on a very preliminary basis, that we were willing to consider a significant long-term contract, and left it at that. There's nothing really to report since then."
Boras' history has been that his clients hit free agency in order to ensure the widest possible collection of bidders and the biggest possible contract. With plenty of teams flush with cash thanks to booming revenues and new cable TV deals, there are several teams that could make things hard for the Yankees if things play out that way.
After the disaster that A-Rod's contract has turned out to be, you have to wonder if the Yankees will be willing to go 10 years on a deal for Cano if that's what it winds up taking. Cano would be 41 years old by the time that contract ends and we've seen what the ravages of age can do to even the best players in baseball who aren't named Jeter or Rivera.
Steinbrenner has given Brian Cashman marching orders to keep the payroll in line, something that matters even if that philosophy probably doesn't apply to Cano the same way it did Nick Swisher or Russell Martin. The team was willing to play rough with Jeter, which suggests they'd do the same with Cano if they thought it would land them a deal that's to their liking.
There is also the question of keeping the franchise's less tangible assets in place. The Yankees will soon find themselves without the remaining links to more glorious times and Cano is the only homegrown star they can build around in their absence.
Is that something they'll pay a premium for or is that going to fall by the wayside as the team works to set up a more responsible financial operating system? It's not all up to the Yankees, of course.
The Yankees know they'll have to pay Cano handsomely, but we don't know what Cano's goal will be in the negotiations. Does he prioritize money or staying with the Yankees?
These answers aren't likely to come soon. This process is set to play out slowly and deliberately on both sides and there are going to be a lot of reports that push the needle in different directions on the way to a resolution.
It will be tiresome to watch and listen to it all play out, but you're going to have to do it anyway because the Cano contract chatter will be unavoidable this summer.