Robinson Cano Rumors

West Notes: Cruz, Mariners, Hellickson, Rangers

The Mariners make sense as a suitor for Nelson Cruz, but their organizational philosophy regarding players who have been suspended for PED could be an issue, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. There are conflicting details regarding whether the Mariners might have a policy in place preventing them from signing PED players and whether Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln refused to approve a deal for Cruz last winter. If they team does have such a policy, however, it could have a significant impact on their offseason, given that both Cruz and Melky Cabrera, who play positions the Mariners could try to upgrade, have PED suspensions in their pasts. A source within the Mariners tells Morosi that the team does not have a policy against PED players, and, further, that the team has spoken to Cruz and his agent this offseason. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano fractured his toe while playing in Japan Saturday and will miss the rest of the Japan series, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. Cano will only be out three to four weeks, however, and should easily be ready for spring training.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart is a big fan of new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona writes. “He is going to be outstanding here,” says Stewart. “He is going to pitch well. This is one guy I believe is really going to help our rotation.” The Hellickson deal, which sent two prospects to Tampa, became official last night. The Diamondbacks will continue to search for starting pitching, Magruder adds, with Kenta Maeda or Chad Billingsley (a former client of Stewart’s when he was an agent) as possibilities.
  • The Rangers‘ recent extensions for GM Jon Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine help provide continuity and stability throughout the organization, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. “We want to build from within and keep the group together,” says Daniels. “Thad and I are the ones mentioned in the press release, but [ownership] has allowed us to do good things for others.” Daniels adds that Levine is likely to one day be a GM, perhaps in Texas.

New York Notes: Sabathia, A-Rod, Myers

C.C. Sabathia received a stem cell injection in his right knee last week and will be out of action until at least July, Yankees GM Brian Cashman tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  Cashman said he has checked in with teams about trade possibilities and while “nothing has materialized,” Cashman “will keep an eye out to see if something does.”  Three-fifths of the Bombers’ regular rotation is currently injured, with Ivan Nova out for the season and Michael Pineda on the DL until mid-June at the earliest.

Here’s the latest from the Yankees and Mets in this roundup of Big Apple baseball news…

  • Alex Rodriguez told advisers last summer that he was considering retirement rather than go through a lengthy battle with Major League Baseball over his record PED suspension, reports Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, Michael O’Keeffe, Christian Red and Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News.  A-Rod was convinced to fight his suspension, however, after consulting with Desiree Perez, a New York nightclub manager affiliated with Jay Z and who also played a role in Robinson Cano signing with the Mariners.  Rodriguez may have been motivated to listen to Perez in part because, as the article states, he would like to become a player agent, possibly with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency.
  • Back when Wil Myers was still a Royals prospect, Kansas City offered him to the Mets for a trade package of Jonathan Niese and Zack Wheeler, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets.  Myers, of course, ended up being the centerpiece of the five-player package the Royals sent to the Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis.  It’s an interesting what-if to ponder for both the Mets and Royals; Myers would’ve given the Amazins a cornerstone player in the outfield, but at the cost of two quality young arms.  For K.C., Shields was the better win-now move, though he had only two years of team control and Davis has become a relief pitcher.  Wheeler is controllable through the 2019 season while Niese’s five-year contract has club options that could’ve extended the deal through 2018.
  • Also from Martino, he looks at some trade possibilities for the Yankees and Mets this summer.  The Mets looked at LaTroy Hawkins, Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour over the winter and could explore trading for veteran closer help, plus shortstop could still be a position the Mets are looking to upgrade.  As for the Yankees, they could also use shortstop help but acquiring a big name could be awkward given the awkwardness of benching Derek Jeter during his final season.  A move for Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius makes sense for both New York clubs.
  • Particularly in the wake of the Sabathia news, the Yankees also need starting pitching.  Martino writes that while the Yankees may not have the prospect depth to attract a major trade chip, their financial resources could help them take big contracts off the hands of losing teams.  Possible trade candidates in this vein could be the Diamondbacks’ Bronson Arroyo or the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle or R.A. Dickey (if Toronto falls out of the race, that is).
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Paul Swydan criticizes both the Mets front office and manager Terry Collins for some transactions and personnel moves that Swydan feels “have left the Mets in an all-too-familiar middling position.”

AL Notes: Rays, Cano, Johnson

Tonight, the Rays play their 1,000th game since changing their name from the Devil Rays, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain notes. Their name change was not, obviously, the cause of their change in fortunes, but the name switch came just as they emerged as an AL East powerhouse. They played ten seasons as the Devil Rays, never winning more than 70 games in a season. Their first season as the Rays was 2008, which was also their first winning season, playoff appearance and World Series appearance. Since then, they’ve had five more winning seasons in a row, also going to the playoffs in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • Upon his return to New York, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano expressed contentment about his choice to leave the Yankees for Seattle, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “Being in Seattle, I can’t tell you that much about Seattle. We’ve had two homestands there,” Cano says. “I could tell you, through the year, what’s different, but right now, I can tell you one thing: I’m happy there, the way they’ve embraced me — the fans, the organization and my teammates.” Cano is off to a .301/.353/.387 start in the first year of a ten-year deal with his new team.
  • Kris Johnson will be the 26th man and start the second game of the Twins‘ Thursday doubleheader against the Dodgers, the Twins have announced. The start will mark Johnson’s regular-season debut with the Twins. Johnson was a first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2006, but they released him 2011 after he struggled in Triple-A. The Pirates signed him for the 2012 season, and he emerged as a very good minor-league starter who’s reasonably well suited to spot-starting in the big leagues. The Twins, after struggling through 2013 with a very weak rotation, acquired Johnson in a minor deal for reliever Duke Welker, and now Johnson is in position to help out, if only for a day.


New York Notes: Mets, Harvey, Yankees, Cano

Here's the latest from both Queens and the Bronx…

  • The Mets' financial situation is examined by Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson of the New York Times, as offseason spending on the likes of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon basically just amounted to a reinvestment of the payroll that was coming off the team's books from 2013.
  • Matt Harvey is under the Mets' control through the 2018 season, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks ahead to whether the Mets can address their payroll issues in time to sign Harvey to an extension.  If not, Harvey would be a prime free agent target for the Yankees, especially since Harvey grew up a Bombers fan and loves pitching in New York.  Scott Boras, Harvey's agent, feels the Mets have the resources to keep the righty in the fold: “They have David Wright signed [long-term], and in four years the idea is they can have another iconic New York player signed [long-term].  This is New York. It is about having iconic players.The bigger issue is the Mets have all the benefits of their market to keep an iconic player — the City, a relatively new stadium, a TV network. That fits the mold of good business in New York.”
  • It’s like growing up playing in your backyard. You never want to leave that place, those guys,” Robinson Cano tells GQ's Daniel Riley about his time with the Yankees. “The three high points as a Yankee for me: when [Derek] Jeter got 3,000 hits, Andy [Pettitte]’s last game, and Mariano [Rivera]’s final ceremony. Those are the things that stick in your mind, in your heart.”  The new Mariners second baseman also discusses his hiring of CAA and Roc Nation Sports as his new agents, and his life growing up in San Pedro de Macoris.
  • If Michael Pineda is healthy and pitches well in 2014, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Yankees to explore trading the young right-hander for an everyday player, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues writes as part of a reader mailbag post.  Pineda's history of shoulder problems could make it hard for the Yankees to rely on Pineda in the long term, so selling high for infield help could make some sense.

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.