Robinson Cano rocked the sports world this spring when he became the first client of rapper Jay-Z’s fledgling Roc Nation Sports agency company. The debate and criticism was instantaneous, because Cano had fired super agent Scott Boras to align himself with a musician with great marketing prowess, but zero experience in the sports agency game.
Then came the announcement that Cano was looking for a 10-years, $310 million extension from the Yankees. Then came the Yankees holding firm on their refusal to offer anything more than seven years and anywhere near even $200 million for their star second baseman.
As it became less and less likely that Cano would be able to get near what he was asking for, and as it became less and less likely that Cano would return to New York, where his marketability would be at its apex, the criticism lobbied against Jay-Z and Cano’s decision to retain him grew louder and louder.
Until Seattle happened.
Cano and the Mariners have agreed to a 10-year, $240 million contract that will tie the highest payout ever for a player not named Alex Rodriguez. Not too shabby, Mr. Z.
No, Cano didn’t get the $300+ million that Jay-Z and CAA had originally asked for, but I think we all knew that no team was going to shell out that kind of dough on a second baseman, no matter how talented. But $240 million far exceeds the top dollar I thought Robbie would be able to fetch in this free agent market.
Some will accuse the Yankees of not being serious enough in their efforts to resign their All-Star middle infielder.
In spring training, New York made an initial offer to Cano a seven-year, $161 million extension. Cano’s camp countered with that ridiculous 10-year, $310 million demand. At the end of the year, the Yankees upped their offer to seven years at $165 million. Cano’s representation came down to nine years at $252 million. When Cashman and the boys didn’t budge, Cano’s asking price dropped again to $235 million. New York’s best and final offer was for seven years and $175 million, leaving the parties still $60 million apart. It was a gap too far to cross.
As I wrote yesterday, the Yankees remain committed to operating with at least some semblance of fiscal responsibility. Spending more than $200 million on a second baseman would have flown right in the face of that newfound philosophy. In my mind, seven years and $170ish million was the appropriate number for Cano’s position, track record and projected future.
It’s probably pretty safe to say that Cano is extremely happy with the money he’s set to make. But it’s possible he might be a little disappointed that Seattle ultimately was the one team willing to pay him the kind of money he and his representation thought he was worth.
During the beginning of the hot stove season, Jay-Z was hoping to market his prized client as a sort of Michael Jordan type; a player that transcends the game itself; one who is more pop culture figure than athlete. To maximize marketability, he wanted to get Can to a franchise in one of the biggest media markets; a New York; a Los Angeles. Seattle is kind of a forgotten baseball city in the minds of most people not located in the Pacific Northwest, so it will be interesting to see what impact that has on endorsements, promotions and cross-over opportunities for Cano.
Conspiracy theorists will argue that Cano could and should still be wearing pinstripes, and the fact that he won’t be in 2014 is the product of Boras’ revenge.
It’s an interesting hypotheses.
On October 22, the Dodgers agreed to sign infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million deal. The Cuban defector was acquired to play second base, so his signing effectively took the free-spending Dodgers out of the Cano sweepstakes.
Then earlier this week the Yankees signed CF Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract. Spending that much money on Ellsbury meant there was a lot less money that could be attributed solely to Cano, which helped convince the Yankees to stand firm on the types of contract offers they were making to Cano.
And who was the agent representing Guerrero and Ellsbury for those signings? Cue the X-File theme music. . . it was Scott Boras.
Some have claimed that Boras intentionally steered Guerrero to the Dodgers and Ellsbury to the Yankees for the purpose of disrupting the market for Cano, who had fired him for Jay-Z in the spring. If you know me, you know I love a good conspiracy theory. But in this case, it’s time to take off the tin foil hats and come out of those doomsday bunkers.
The truth is Cano and New York simply weren’t much of a free agency match this offseason. Cano wants to be a superstar. Cano wants to be one of the highest paid players in baseball. And the Yankees want to get under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold. It’s a goal they’ve been repeating since last winter. Those two desires, they’re a square peg and a round hole.
Yet in an increasingly drying market, Jay-Z, Roc Nation Sports and their partners at CAA were somehow able to land their man a historic mega-deal; one that has only been matched and beaten by Boras himself. We have to give credit where credit is due and tip our caps in respect to what they’ve accomplished.
And kudos to the Seattle Mariners, who remain dedicated to trying to build a winner up there in the Emerald City. Cano was the biggest prize of the free agent market, and the Mariners went out there and opened up the check book to claim him.
They’re not likely to be done just yet either. Many expect Seattle to be flirting with the idea of trading for Rays starting pitcher David Price, and with acquiring another right-handed hitter to bolster their lineup. The Cano signing, from both a talent and commitment to contending perspective, has to make the team and organization a much more appealing landing spot for other players.
The league has Jay-Z, in part, to thank for that.