Robinson Cano Rumors

Mariners Notes: Zduriencik, Cano, Hultzen, Rays

As expected, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker both won't be ready for Opening Day, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters (including MLB.com's Greg Johns) yesterday.  Iwakuma is dealing with a strained tendon on his right middle finger and will be sidelined until mid-to-late April, while Walker has been shut down for a week with shoulder inflammation.  With Seattle's rotation thinned, it will only increase speculation that the M's could increase their interest in Ervin Santana.  Here's some more from the M's…

  • While the Mariners could still use a pitcher and a right-handed bat, two sources tell CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that the team has "little or no loot left to spend," which GM Jack Zudriencik wouldn't confirm.  A lack of payroll space could explain why the Mariners haven't extended offers to Santana or Kendrys Morales, and didn't make an offer to Nelson Cruz (before he signed with the Orioles) despite interest in all three players.
  • Missing Iwakuma and Walker early in the season could particularly hurt the Mariners since they play the A's 10 times before May 7.  "If Walker and Iwakuma miss the month of April, with our schedule that month it could get ugly," a Mariners source tells Heyman.  Robinson Cano and at least one other M's player expressed the opinion that Santana would be a great fit, while Cano would also like to see the switch-hitting Morales brought back.  "I'm not going to lie. We need an extra bat, especially a right-handed bat," Cano said. "We have many left-handed hitters. We need at least one more righty. You don't want to face a lefty pitcher with a lineup of seven left-handed hitters."
  • The Mariners have sent scouts to watch young Rays pitchers, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.  The two clubs recently came close on a trade that would've sent Nick Franklin to Tampa, though Topkin believes that the M's can find a better fit elsewhere for the young infielder.
  • Danny Hultzen will miss the entire 2014 season as he recovers from major left shoulder surgery, but the highly-regarded prospect tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that he's optimistic about his recovery and resuming his pro career.

Mariners Sign Robinson Cano

After seeing their attendance totals essentially cut in half from 2001 to 2013, the Mariners have made a the biggest move in club history. On Thursday, Seattle officially announced the franchise-altering signing of Robinson Cano. The contract is reportedly a ten-year, $240MM contract that will pay Cano $24MM annually with no deferrals. Negotiated by CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen and Jay-Z of Roc Nation Sports, Cano's contract ties Albert Pujols for the third-largest deal in Major League history. Cano will also receive a full no-trade clause as part of the deal.

Cano-Robinson

Shortly before the agreement was reached, reports indicated that the talks had crumbled after Jay-Z upped his request to ten years and $252MM when the Mariners were prepared to offer nine years and $225MM. The two sides appear to have reached a middle ground, with Cano's camp dropping by $12MM 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 eventually, leading to a larger contract than appears likely at the onset of the offseason.

Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes was the first to report that the Mariners and Cano had a ten-year, $240MM agreement in place (Spanish link). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first tweeted that the two sides were nearing a deal. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio first reported the full no-trade clause and the annual $24MM salary (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Yankees Agree To Sign Jacoby Ellsbury

SATURDAY, 4:17pm: The Yankees confirmed the signing via press release.  The seven-year contract takes the outfielder through 2020 with a club option for 2021.

WEDNESDAY: Ellsbury is guaranteed $148MM over the first seven years of the contract, and there is a $21MM option for an eighth year that comes with a $5MM buyout, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (on Twitter).  Meanwhile, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears that an option year has not yet been agreed upon.

TUESDAY, 11:45pm: Ellsbury's deal includes a no-trade clause, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

8:00pm: The deal includes an eighth-year option that could boost the total value to $169MM, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (on Twitter).

7:41pm: Ellsbury's deal is worth $153MM over seven years, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).  That tops Carl Crawford's deal by $11MM.  

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted that Ellsbury would get a seven-year, $150MM deal in his free agent profile earlier this offseason.

7:31pm: The Yankees have agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).  Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that the two sides were closing in on a seven-year pact.  It is believed the deal will top Carl Crawford's $142MM, seven-year deal with one estimate pegging the deal at about $150MM, according to Heyman.

Ellsbury

The Yankees have been in simultaneous talks with Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, and many other top free agents, including their own Robinson Cano.  Things have stalled somewhat with Cano, however, as the Yanks don't want to go far beyond $170MM over seven years and Cano's team looking for about $260MM.  Heyman spoke with sources who didn't rule out the Yankees continuing their purusit of Choo or Beltran, but it would seem unlikely at this point.  One source told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) that a deal with Ellsbury or another top outfielder won't preclude the Yanks from re-signing their star second baseman.

ESPN's Jayson Stark reported on Monday that talks were moving faster than expected for the Scott Boras client.  Boras is notorious for waiting out the market to find the right deal as he did with Prince Fielder (signed in late January) and Michael Bourn (February).

Ellsbury offers more pop than the typical center fielder, with a career slugging percentage of .439 and isolated power of .141.  While his power is more of the doubles and triples variety, which is aided by his speed, he did hit 32 home runs in his stellar 2011 campaign.  In that year, Ellsbury led all of baseball with 9.1 wins above replacement, finished second in the AL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove, and made the All-Star team.  However, the left-handed batter wasn't much of a threat against southpaws this year, posting a .246/.323/.318 line in 237 plate appearances.

The 30-year-old has also consistently posted above average UZR and DRS numbers in center field.  While he has come back to earth somewhat since '11, he checked in with 5.8 wins above replacement in 2013, which is second only to Robinson Cano among free agents. 

Of course, much of Ellsbury's game is predicated on speed.  Now, the Yankees have to hope that Ellsbury can stay fleet-footed for some time and will be able to adjust when his motor eventually wears down.

The Yankees have been vocal about their desire to get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold this winter, but it remains to be seen where they'll stand after the Ellsbury deal and Brian McCann's five-year, $85MM pact.  Now more than ever, one has to imagine that the Yankees are rooting for MLB's side in the Alex Rodriguez saga.

The market for Ellsbury has been somewhat cloudy, but the Mariners and Giants were both believed to have interest.

Yankees people envision Ellsbury in center with Brett Gardner moving to left, Heyman writes.  The 30-year-old was ranked No. 2 on Tim Dierkes' Top 50 Free Agent Power Rankings.  With Ellsbury and McCann in the fold, the Yankees have now forfeited their first and second round picks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Reaction & Analysis To Robinson Cano’s Signing

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.

Mariners Close To Deal With Robinson Cano

The Mariners are closing in on a deal with Robinson Cano, acccording to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman adds that Cano's deal with the Mariners would be worth "at least" $225MM.

Cano's negotiations with the Mariners have turned into somewhat of a soap opera. Reports earlier this morning indicated that a last-minute hike in demands from agent Jay-Z enraged Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln and caused talks to fall apart. Recently, reports surfaced that talks were still alive. The Yankees, reportedly, are unwilling to offer more than $200MM.


Mariners Talks With Cano Still Alive After Hitting Snag

9:18am: Talks between the Mariners and Cano are still alive, according to Ken Rosenthal on FOX Sports (on Twitter).

7:43am: The Mariners talks with Robinson Cano have broken down after Seattle made an offer of nine years and $225MM, two sources told Mark Feinsand, Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News. The Mariners are no longer in the mix to sign Cano, reports Feinsand.

According to the New York Daily News team, Cano and his representatives from CAA and Roc Nation Sports arrived in Seattle with an eight-year, $200MM offer in hand from the Mariners and eventually received assurances that the Mariners would go to nine years and $225MM. However, a late change by agent Jay-Z in which he once again demanded $252MM over 10 years caused Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln to "explode," prompting the meeting to end.

Seattle's offer of $225MM over nine years topped the Yankees' best offer by two years and $50MM, Feinsand notes. However, the Yankees appear to be Cano's lone serious suitor once again. The Yankees reportedly have never been willing to exceed the $200MM barrier for Cano.


West Notes: Cano, Angels, Rockies, Hudson

Robinson Cano signing with the Mariners would be "dumb" for both player and team, argues FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. The Mariners need more than just one more player to become a contender, and "store-bought teams often prove to be disasters," as recent iterations of the Blue Jays and Marlins suggest. The Yankees, meanwhile, won't go past $170MM or so, even though they just agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury for $153MM. For Cano, signing with Seattle would be an "inexplicable money grab." It wouldn't make sense for Cano, the Mariners, or the Yankees if Cano went west. Speaking of which, here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Bronson Arroyo and Bartolo Colon currently aren't high priorities for the Angels, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes. Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman remain possibilities (Twitter links). Earlier this week, a report indicated that the Angels were interested in Arroyo.
  • After dealing Dexter Fowler to the Astros and working out a two-year deal with first baseman Justin Morneau, the Rockies aren't through making moves, assistant GM Bill Geivett tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. "I think we are still in the marker for a starting pitcher, another bat, and as I’ve said before, our bullpen is not closed," says Geivett, who also says that history will not be remembered as a "salary dump." 
  • Pitcher Daniel Hudson is "optimistic" he'll re-sign with the Diamondbacks, reports Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. Arizona non-tendered him on Monday after he missed most of the last two seasons due to injury. "I don't really want to go anywhere else," Hudson says. "Obviously if something doesn't work out then we'll have to figure something else out, but as long as we're cordial and we're talking and everything, I really want to make sure I stay working out with those guys."

Mariners Could Offer Cano $225MM

6:45pm: The Mariners are "about to offer" Cano a nine-year, $225MM deal, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Heyman indicates that Seattle is bidding $225MM to stay $50MM ahead of the Yankees, whose don't want to top $175MM.

5:15pm: Cano asked the Mariners for a ten-year, $240MM deal, but the Mariners' offer did not exceed $200MM, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets.

3:21pm: Robinson Cano flew to Seattle to meet with the Mariners in person today, and the team has informed him that they are willing to pay as much as $230-240MM on a ten-year contract, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (Spanish link).

It was reported yesterday that the Mariners may have topped the Yankees' offer of roughly $170MM, but if true, the reported $230-240MM offer would shatter the Yankees' highest bid. The Mariners met with Cano's representatives on Tuesday, according to multiple reports, but this appears to be the first instance of Cano traveling to Seattle to meet with club officials.

Cano and agents Jay-Z of Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA are said to be seeking something in the neighborhood of $252MM. The Yankees reportedly will not offer Cano more than $200MM, and in the wake of that news, the offense-starved Mariners appear to have emerged as major players in the Cano sweepstakes. Last month, MLBTR's Steve Adams predicted that Cano would receive a nine-year, $234MM deal.


Mariners May Have Topped Yankees’ Offer To Cano

3:07pm: The Mariners may have topped the Yankees' offer to Cano, a source tells Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. That same source indicated to McCarron that the Mariners are pursuing Cano "guns-a-blazing," and making the pitch to Cano that he can either be a Yankee legend or be a baseball legend by helping the Mariners win their first World Series.

1:39pm: The Mariners met with Robinson Cano's representatives yesterday, according to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. Kernan's source told him that the meeting "went very well."

Seattle has recently emerged as a major player in the Cano sweepstakes according to recent reports, and Kernan notes the club's long history of finishing as the runner-up to coveted big-name free agents. The Mariners "want to do everything in their power to come up a winner this time around," writes Kernan.

Cano's asking price has reportedly come down into the $250-260MM range, but an enormous gap still remains between that figure and the Yankees' reported offer of $160-175MM. Kernan adds that Cano will likely have to choose between millions of extra dollars to venture to a new team like the Mariners or the familiarity of returning to the Yankees in what should be an elite lineup. The Yankees have already signed Brian McCann and last night agreed to a seven-year pact with Jacoby Ellsbury.

Earlier today, Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger heard that the Yankees are still not interested in going beyond $200MM or seven years to retain Cano (Twitter link).


Mariners Have Emerged As Major Players For Robinson Cano

The Mariners have emerged as a major player in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes, several sources told Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.  With the Yankees not wanting to go to seven years or as much as $200MM, an industry source with knowledge of the negotiations termed the Yankees chances of retaining Cano at “less than 50-50.”

That source said that the chances of the five-time All-Star second baseman staying in the Bronx “don’t look too good right now.”  For what it’s worth, Mariners GM Jack Zduiencik wouldn’t confirm to ESPNNewYork’s Andrew Marchand that he has met with Cano.  Sources familiar with the negotiations between the Bombers and Cano say that the Yankees believe Seattle is willing to give him an eight-year, $200MM deal.

The Yankees reportedly came to Cano with a seven-year, $160MM offer.  An insider said the club might be willing to increase their offer, but not by a ton.  New York could go to $175MM over seven years, good for an average salary of $25MM.  According to a source who was briefed on their last meeting, the Yankees have rejected the idea of any deal longer than seven years for Cano based on their own history of bad deals, including Alex Rodriguez‘s ten-year, $275MM pact, and the deals given to Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Ryan Howard.  Meanwhile, Cano’s side painted him as not only “the best player on the board,” but also as the best player in baseball and someone who is “indispensable” to the Yankees, the source said.

One baseball insider said that it now comes down to whether Cano wants to be a Yankee or wants to get paid.  The Yankees believe they got that answer when Cano’s party allegedly asked for a ten-year, $310MM deal from the club during the season.  Cano has since denied making such a request.