Robinson Cano's reported 10-year, $240MM deal with the Mariners is the most expensive and surprising transaction of the offseason thus far, and there has already been a great deal of reaction to Seattle's major signing. Here are some of the thoughts on how Cano's contract will impact several parties around baseball...
- Cano was the one player the Yankees were unwilling to break the bank on, despite spending freely to acquire Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. Cano's Mariners contract, however, is "a Pyrrhic victory" for the second baseman, as he'll now go from a perennial contender to a club with a short postseason history.
- An NL official describes Cano's contract as "a lose-lose-lose deal" for Cano, the Mariners and the Yankees, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. "The contract is ridiculous and a desperate move from a desperate front office that seriously borders on moral hazard," the executive said.
- Despite calling the Cano deal "probably worse than you think," Jeff Sullivan of the USS Mariner blog is still excited by the signing as a transformative event for the Mariners. Even if the M's are going for it, however, Sullivan cautions that they should try to upgrade via signings and spending rather than trading their top prospects.
- Since the Mariners are already looking to make more moves, USA Today's Bob Nightengale (via Twitter) calls Cano "a $240MM recruitment tool" that proves Seattle is a serious player.
- "For everyone, respect trumped better judgment," Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes about the deal, arguing that Cano was turned off by the Yankees' contractual hardball when the team had already given Ellsbury a similar-sized contract. Passan also thinks the Mariners were desperate to regain some respect and stature within MLB, and while the contract will eventually be a burden for the M's, the team needs to do "everything possible to win the next five years" while Cano is still in his prime.
- Cano's representatives approached the Yankees earlier this week and lowered their demands to $235MM over the club's choice of eight, nine or 10 seasons, Joel Sherman reports. The Yankees countered with a seven-year, $175MM offer that they claimed was "their breaking point."
- Sherman chronicles the history of the Cano/Yankees negotiations and notes that the two sides never seemed particularly close to reaching an agreement. “This is a not a surprise to us,” a Yankees official told Sherman. “This is what the dialogue had been the whole time. There was never a warm, fuzzy we are getting close momentum. There was no traction. This is why we have been trying to cushion the blow with alternatives [Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, so far]."
- Writing for Grantland, Jonah Keri covers a number of topics about the signing, such as Cano's projected production over the next 10 seasons or how the signing is the best example yet of how MLB's national TV deal has been a windfall for mid-to-small market teams.
- Jay Z delivered a near-record contract to his first baseball client, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes, and it could help the rap mogul's Roc Nation Sports in attracting more big-name clients. That said, Crasnick notes that some in the industry believe that Jay Z was just a "figurehead" for a Cano management team that also included CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen. "If the only priority is to get paid, there's always a sucker -- and Seattle was the sucker," an agent tells Crasnick. "For everybody to say this is an A-plus for Jay Z, I just don't buy it. That would have been getting New York to pay $240MM. Getting Seattle to pay $240MM wasn't some masterstroke."
- Cano's departure will hurt the Yankees in the short term but it's "a victory for the organization," The New York Times' Tyler Kepner opines, since the team has learned to avoid handing out potential albatross contracts.
- The Mariners still need some other upgrades for 2014 and beyond, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron writes, making the Cano signing particularly risky since he isn't a final move to put the M's over the top as contenders. For Cameron, the signing reminds him of the Royals' acquisition of James Shields last offseason, an "all-in" kind of move that improved the Royals but didn't get them into the playoffs, leaving them just one more year of team control over Shields.
Here's the latest from Fenway Park...
- Edward Mujica will receive a $125K bonus for finishing 20 games, WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports. Mujica will receive the same bonus for every additional five games he finishes, up to 55, leaving the reliever eligible for $2MM in bonus money in each of his two seasons in Boston. Mujica took his physical today and his signing should be officially announced within the next few days.
- Also from Speier, he breaks down how the recent signings of Mujica, Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski affect the Red Sox payroll. The Sox payroll currently projects as roughly $187.95MM for 2014, leaving them just under the $189MM luxury tax threshold. While Speier argues that the club could go over the threshold, any further moves might have to come via trades, most likely from the team's excess of starting pitching.
- The Red Sox "would love to bring back" Stephen Drew but re-signing the shortstop could be difficult due to the aforementioned budget issues, Speier writes.
- The Sox are still looking for a left-handed bat for the left side of the infield as well as a right-handed hitting outfielder, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets. Drew, of course, would fit the bill as that infield bat.
Robinson Cano's blockbuster contract with the Mariners has generated the most headlines, but on another wild day of free agency, there's plenty of more news to go around. Here are some stray items about three of Friday's other major signings --- Curtis Granderson's four-year deal with the Mets, Carlos Beltran's three-year deal with the Yankees and Mike Napoli re-signing with the Red Sox for two years.
- The fourth year seemed to be the sticking point between Granderson and the Mets, but GM Sandy Alderson made the decision on Thursday night to offer the extra year and received approval from ownership, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (all Twitter links).
- Granderson gives the Mets a much-needed outfield bat, ESPN's Keith Law writes, though with Granderson already showing signs of decline, Law figures the Mets are only really counting on him to produce in the first two years of his deal. 2015 could be the key year, as it appears the Mets are looking to contend once Matt Harvey is back from Tommy John surgery.
- Also from Law, he thinks Beltran improves the Yankees lineup but it's a risky three-year commitment to a player entering his age-37 season. An ESPN Insider subscription is required to read Law's pieces.
- The Royals were rumored to have been the mystery team who made Beltran a three-year, $48MM offer earlier this week but a source tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that those rumors were "not accurate." Kansas City's trade for Norichika Aoki on Thursday seemed to be a sign that they had moved on from the Beltran sweepstakes.
- That larger offer could have come from the Diamondbacks, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the D'Backs offered Beltran a three-year deal worth more than the $45MM he received from New York. The signing would have boosted Arizona's payroll, and Piecoro wonders if the Snakes are willing to surpass the $100MM-payroll threshold to fill their needs this winter, or if they were just focused on Beltran in particular.
- Several members of the Red Sox roster urged the front office to up its offer to Napoli from two years/$30MM, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports. The players were responding to a rumor that the Rangers had made an offer "too good for Napoli to refuse," and the Sox indeed upped their offer to $32MM. The raise and the support from his teammates was enough to sway Napoli, who was already preferring to stay in Boston anyway.
- The Rangers actually never made a formal offer to Napoli, one source told Bradford.
10:31pm: The contract doesn't contain an opt-out clause, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets.
12:34pm: For what it's worth, the Mariners have released the following statement: “We are not able to confirm any news regarding Robinson Cano at this time. If and when an agreement is completed and finalized, we will announce.”
11:15am: Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that Cano receives a full no-trade clause as part of his deal.
9:57am: The Mariners and Robinson Cano are in agreement on a 10-year, $240MM contract, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (Spanish link). The contract, negotiated by CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen and Jay-Z of Roc Nation Sports, will tie Albert Pujols for the third-largest deal in Major League history. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) first reported that the two sides were nearing agreement.
Reports from earlier today indicated that talks between Cano and the Mariners had crumbled after Jay-Z suddenly upped his demands back to $252MM when the Mariners were prepared to offer $225MM over nine years. The two sides appear to have reached a middle ground, with Cano's camp dropping by $12MM or so and the Mariners agreeing to add a tenth season at $15MM. Seattle's first-round draft pick is protected, meaning that GM Jack Zduriencik will only have to forfeit his second-round pick in order to bring Cano to the Emerald City.
Cano, who turned 31 in October, batted .314/.383/.516 with 27 home runs in 2013 and has averaged a batting line of .314/.369/.530 and 28 home runs over the previous five seasons. Paired with plus defense at second base, Cano has been worth an average of 6.8 (Baseball-Reference) or 5.8 (Fangraphs) wins above replacement. He's also one of baseball's most durable players, having missed just 14 games over the past seven seasons.
By joining the Mariners, Cano likely displaces one of Brad Miller or Nick Franklin. Miller impressed by batting .265/.318/.418 with eight homers in 335 plate apperances and playing solid defense at shortstop as a 24-year-old rookie in 2013. Though Franklin entered the season with more prospect hype, he wilted down the stretch and finished with just a .225/.303/.382 batting line. The 22-year-old Franklin spent nearly all of his time at second base this season (he played just 20 innings at shortstop), so it would seem that he is more likely to be the one who is displaced by Seattle's blockbuster addition.
MLBTR's Jeff Todd recently examined the future payroll obligations of all 30 Major League teams -- a study that showed the Mariners to be one of the best-equipped teams to accommodate a mega-deal of this nature. The only other players that the Mariners have signed beyond the 2014 season are ace Felix Hernandez and utility man Willie Bloomquist, who is a free agent following a 2015 campaign in which he earns $3MM. Despite the historic nature of this deal, the M's still have an annual commitment of roughly $50MM in the 2016-19 seasons -- the years in which the Cano and Hernandez contracts overlap. That should leave some room for further long-term additions this winter.
For the Yankees, the departure of Cano leaves a gaping hole at second base. They've added a bit of insurance in the form of Kelly Johnson but will almost certainly require a further upgrade. Omar Infante is the top free agent option, but the trade market presents additional options. Howie Kendrick and Brandon Phillips are said to be available, and the somewhat ironic scenario of a Franklin-to-New York trade at least seems conceivable. Cano's enormous sum is just $2MM more than the combined $238MM that the Yankees paid to sign Brian McCann (five years, $85MM) and Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153MM). I noted the similarity in that $238MM spend and the rumored $240MM figure for Cano on Twitter yesterday, and Jeff Todd chimed, in noting that the Yankees have diversified their risk and committed fewer years for the same amount of money.
In my free agent profile for Cano, I projected a nine-year, $234MM contract. Cano, Jay-Z and Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports deserve tremendous praise for securing a contract that ties for the third-largest of all-time and topping most pundits' expectations. Cano's deal serves as a reminder that even when a top free agent appears to have few suitors, the market will typically materialize for that free agent eventually, leading to a larger contract than appears likely at the onset of the offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league...
- Eric Thames will play for the NC Dinos of the Korean Professional Baseball League in 2014, his agent tells Venezuelan reporter Ormuz Sojo (hat tip to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle). Thames posted a .799 OPS in 420 minor league PA in 2013, mostly at the Triple-A level for the Mariners' and Orioles' top affiliates, and was claimed off waivers by the Astros in September. Thames hit .250/.296/.431 with 21 homers in 684 PA with Toronto and Seattle in 2011-12.
- The White Sox have outrighted outfielder Blake Tekotte and infielder Mike McDade, reducing their 40-man roster to 37, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). The 26-year-old Tekotte hit .226/.306/.355 with one homer (his first in the Majors) in 36 PAs for the Sox in 2013. He hit .236/.319/.389 in 338 Triple-A PAs. McDade, 24, batted .250/.313/.371 in 428 PAs between the Triple-A affiliates for the Indians and ChiSox in 2013.
The Red Sox have agreed to terms with Mike Napoli, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports (Twitter link). The contract is a two-year deal worth $32MM, according to CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam (via Twitter). The slugger confirmed his return on his own Twitter feed, saying "The beard is coming back to Boston!!!" Napoli is represented by Brian Grieper.
Napoli's contact falls short of the three-year, $42MM deal that MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted he would receive this winter, though obviously Napoli's clear desire to remain with the World Series champions impacted his decision. Counting his $13MM salary from 2013 (in both base salary and incentives), Napoli will end up receiving $45MM between 2013-15 --- well above the $39MM he was originally set to earn from Boston before he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both of his hips, which caused the Sox to pull their multiyear offer and extend just the one-year pact.
The 32-year-old silenced all questions about his health by hitting .259/.360/.482 with 23 homers in 578 PA for the Sox last season, also posting big numbers in the ALCS during Boston's championship run. Napoli turned down a one-year, $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Red Sox earlier this winter and thus would've netted the club a compensation draft pick had he signed elsewhere, but now the club will have its starting first baseman back in the fold after already losing Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in free agency this offseason.
Earlier today, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that Napoli had received an offer from another club but his preference was to remain in Boston. The Marlins, Rangers, and Mariners were all rumored to be interested in Napoli's services. Texas was believed to have made Napoli a larger offer, Bradford and Alex Speier report, though sources later told them that the Rangers never made a formal offer. Napoli also turned down at least one three-year offer, according to Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith, but Napoli preferred to remain with the Sox and accepted their smaller deal.
Photo courtesy of Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports Images
December 6th has been a notable day in Indians transaction history. The Tribe acquired Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Chris James from the Padres in exchange for Joe Carter on this day in 1989, and on 12/06/2002, the Indians picked up Travis Hafner (and righty Aaron Myette) from the Rangers in exchange for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese. Going all the way back to 1959, the Indians swung a seven-player deal with the White Sox that involved such notables as Minnie Minoso (to Chicago) and Norm Cash (to Cleveland).
Here are some notes about the modern-day Indians...
- Right-hander Matt Albers has already received at least one two-year contract offer from an interested team, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Albers has received interest from several clubs, and Hoynes reports that one of those teams is from the AL Central, possibly the Tigers or White Sox. The Indians have discussed a one-year deal with Albers and Hoynes speculates that the righty could take the shorter contract in order to help his value for next winter, provided he gets the right price.
- The Indians are close to re-signing Matt Carson after non-tendering the outfielder earlier this week, Hoynes reports (Twitter link). The contract would be a minor league deal and Carson would be invited to the Major League Spring Training camp. The Tribe non-tendered Carson earlier this week. Carson, 31, hit .252/.322/.394 with 14 homers in 490 PA with Triple-A Columbus last season, and he also received 13 PA in 20 games at the Major League level in 2013.
- The Indians' offseason "focus right now is pitching," GM Chris Antonetti told reporters (including Hoynes) today. "We’re still focused on trying to improve our pitching alternatives. We have come into the offseason in a much better position than we have in prior offseasons with the quality and quantity of our pitching alternatives on our roster and within the organization. That being said, we’re going to continue to try and find a way to improve it.” Antonetti noted that the team would keep its options open for position players, though adding David Murphy already addressed one of the Tribe's big needs.
- The team has "outstanding offers...on trades and free agents. We could go either direction or both," Antonetti said.
- With the 2013-14 offseason shaping up as an extremely costly one for free agent contracts, Antonetti is looking prescient for predicting this winter's spending explosion and instead adding key pieces last winter, MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes. It looks like a much more low-key offseason for the Tribe this year, and Castrovince thinks Murphy's two-year, $12MM deal could end up being Cleveland's biggest expenditure.
The Orioles have been connected to some of the offseason's major free agent names but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun isn't sure that the O's will be players for Shin-Soo Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez or Nelson Cruz. Choo will be too costly and Jimenez will demand too many years, while Connolly has "not found anyone in the organization that endorses Cruz as a viable option" and lists several reasons why Cruz isn't a fit in Baltimore. Here's some more from Camden Yards...
- Jim Johnson asked the Orioles for a four-year contract worth $45MM-$50MM in extension talks earlier this winter, sources tell MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. An extension would've been one way for the O's to keep Johnson at a lower price rather than pay him a projected $10.8MM in arbitration, though obviously Johnson didn't have a bargain in mind with his demands. The Orioles traded Johnson to the Athletics for Jemile Weeks on Tuesday.
- The Orioles didn't attend Randy Wolf's workout and don't appear to have any interest in the veteran southpaw, Kubatko reports. Wolf pitched in five games for Baltimore at the end of the 2012 season and then underwent Tommy John surgery that October, sidelining him for all of 2013.
- Scott Feldman told Dan Connolly that he was "about 90 percent sure" the Orioles didn't make him a former offer. “It’s really hard to get disappointed with the situation I am in, but I was at least expecting a little bit of interest from them. But it’s not like I’m mad or anything,” Feldman said in the wake of his three-year, $30MM deal with the Astros. That third guaranteed year was likely the breaking point for the Orioles, as they had been rumored to only be interested in giving Feldman two years and an option, at most. MLBTR's Steve Adams has more from Feldman's conference call.
- The Orioles have considered making Bud Norris their closer to replace Johnson, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. This move would only be a "fallback option," Encina notes. While the O's may yet add a starter and need to make room in their rotation, shifting an innings-eater like Norris to the bullpen would be a curious move, in my opinion. Also from Encina's piece, Brian Matusz will be stretched out and given an opportunity to win a rotation job during Spring Training.
- Adam Jones' six-year, $85.5MM extension signed in May 2012 looks like a better bargain in the wake of Jacoby Ellsbury's deal with the Yankees, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com opines.
- In Baltimore news from earlier today, the Orioles signed outfielder Francisco Peguero and right-hander Ryan Webb.
6:02pm: McLouth's club option for 2016 is worth $6.5MM, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports.
3:58pm: The Nationals and McLouth agreed to a two-year, $10.75MM contract with a third-year option, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link).
Rosenthal goes on to note that while McLouth will technically be the Nats' fourth outfielder behind Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth, but he will get "significant" at-bats. McLouth will serve as insurance for all three outfield positions, but he could also see a more regular role if recent rumors that Span could be available prove to be true.
The 32-year-old McLouth batted .258/.329/.399 with 12 homers and a career-best 30 stolen bases for the Orioles last season. Curiously, McLouth swiped 24 bases in 28 attempts in the season's first half but only attempted nine steals in the entire second half. He's significantly better against right-handed pitching, as he batted just .209/.283/.357 against fellow lefties in 2013.
McLouth's career looked to be on a downward trajectory after he struggled in Atlanta and was released midseason upon his return to the Pirates organization. However, he latched on with the Orioles, and over a span of 201 games with Baltimore, he slashed .261/.333/.409. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes correctly pegged that McLouth would sign a two-year deal this offseason in his free agent profile, pegging him for a $10MM guarantee.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
5:35pm: The Red Sox and Brewers are two of the teams who have checked in on Morrison, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link).
12:13pm: The Marlins will listen to offers for first baseman and former top prospect Logan Morrison next week, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Marlins could look to move Morrison in order to acqure a third baseman -- a need that remains a high priority for the team. Jackson adds that the Fish are so open to trading Morrison that they've already had "serious discussions" with Garrett Jones, who was recently non-tendered by the Pirates.
Morrison, 26, has batted just .236/.321/.387 with 17 home runs in 178 games over the past two seasons after hitting .259/.351/.460 with 25 long balls in his first 185 big league games. Morrison's tenure with the Marlins has been rocky to this point. He's come under fire for his prolific and sometimes controversial Twitter presence and filed a grievance against the Marlins in 2011 after he was sent to the minor leagues in controversial fashion. The Marlins cited Morrison's batting average as their reasoning, despite the fact that he ranked second on the team in homers and third in OPS at the time. More telling was that Morrison had recently elected not to attend a meet-and-greet with season ticketholders after veteran teammate Wes Helms told him he was not required to attend. Shortly after, Morrison was demoted and Helms was released.
Morrison is still young, and though his production has fallen off recently in the cavernous Marlins Park, his road numbers have remained solid. Interest in Morrison would figure to be high, though his trade value has certainly taken a hit in recent years due to the diminished production. He can be controlled through the 2016 season before he hits free agency.
Jones, 32, was designated for assignment by the Pirates before being officially non-tendered on December 2nd. The veteran owns a career .254/.316/.458 slash line across six big league seasons. The first baseman/outfielder had a down year in 2013, however, hitting .233/.289/.419 in 440 plate appearances. Jones was due $5.3MM in arbitration this winter, according to MLBTR's Matt Swartz, making him a non-tender candidate. Still, Jones has cleared 20 homers in three of his five seasons with the Bucs and can offer solid power as a platoon bat.
Zach Links contributed to this post.