NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano has been reluctant to talk about his contract situation for most of the year, but when he takes his position at second base on Thursday, the Yankees star acknowledges that it could be for the last time in pinstripes.
Heading into an offseason that will see him standing as the top available free agent, Cano said that it would be difficult to think about suiting up in another uniform, but he also could not rule out the possibility that Yankee Stadium might not be his home in 2014.
"Who knows what's going to happen?" Cano said. "But I always play this game like it's the last day. This year, I just enjoyed to be here and I'm going to enjoy the last day, being here with all these guys.
"Nobody says that I'm leaving, nobody says that I'm staying. I haven't decided anything yet. Let's see what happens after the World Series."
Cano later added, "Don't get me wrong, I love this team."
|"Nobody says that I'm leaving, nobody says that I'm staying. I haven't decided anything yet."|
|-- Robinson Cano|
It is the only organization that the sweet-swinging infielder has known, having advanced through the Minor League system to become the most dangerous hitter in the lineup.
But Cano said that it was difficult not having his usual level of protection around him in the lineup this year, and he recognizes that he will need to be a team leader with the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, plus the advancing age of veterans like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
"This is a team that always had a lot of superstars, future Hall of Famers," Cano said. "Jeter, A-Rod, they had like three, four years left. Now Mariano's leaving, and Pettitte."
There is confidence on Cano's part that ownership will dig deep to rebuild the Yankees into a postseason contender. The last time the Yanks missed the playoffs, they spent $423.5 million to bring CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira to town.
"They always find a way to get guys to get this team to win," Cano said. "We got CC, Tex, A.J. in '09, and we won a championship. They know what it takes and they always get the right pieces to make this team win."
Maybe this will be Cano's turn to dip into the deep part of the Yankees' vault. He turns 31 in October, is a five-time All-Star and -- having been the first star to land with Jay-Z's new Roc Nation Sports venture -- may now be seeking the largest contract in baseball history.
ESPN.com reported on Thursday that Cano is seeking a 10-year deal worth $305 million, a stunning figure that appears after general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged last spring that the club had already made Cano a "significant" offer -- reportedly, seven years and $161 million.
With such a large gap between the sides, the Yankees and Cano agreed to table contract discussions until after the season.
Cano has not talked about dollar figures, saying that he wants to wait to discuss the matter with his family. That is an important part of the equation, and Cano's father Jose said in July that he is "confident that the Yankees are going to come up with something good in the end."
"That's a decision that I would say that I want to decide and make with my family," Cano said. "We decided to wait until the season's over. There's a lot of time to sit down as a family. We've got to wait and see what's going to happen, what's not going to happen, and we'll go from there."
There is no blank checkbook; the Yankees are operating with budgetary constraints, or at least toying with the idea of doing so. Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has stated often that it is his goal to reduce payroll below $189 million in 2014.
It is conceivable that the Yanks could re-sign Cano and still get under $189 million, but they will also have other needs to spend money on this winter. As team president Randy Levine said recently, "Nobody is a re-sign at all costs, but we want [Cano] back."
Cano entered play on Thursday batting .315 with 27 home runs and 106 RBIs, giving him his third season of at least 25 homers and 100 RBIs.
Only two other second basemen have achieved that: Rogers Hornsby (four times) and Jeff Kent (six times); even more impressive when you consider that Cano had little backup before Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod re-appeared.
"You look at his numbers, they're pretty darn good," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Cano said that it would be "hard" for him to sign elsewhere, adding, "At the same time, I understand it's a business. They have to decide and make a decision what is the best for them, and I have to decide what is best for me and my family."
Even though the forecast calls for turnover in the Bronx, Cano believes that the Yanks will still have a core in place to make this an appealing place to play.
"You've got Tex, you've got Alex, you've got Jeter," Cano said. "You still got a lot of guys that can still play this game. You've got superstars; you've got Ichiro, you've got Soriano.
"I mean, it's not that you got two guys leaving and there's not going to be somebody here. ... I just want to wait for the time to come and to think about it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.