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Robinson Cano Rumors
The Yankees will not offer star free agent second baseman Robinson Cano a deal for over $200MM, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. With a current offer of seven years and $160MM already on the table, the club plans to stand on that figure and does not foresee wiggle room of greater than about $15MM, says Passan.
As Passan goes on to explain, the major question hanging over negotiations is whether any other clubs will jump in at or above the current Yankee offer. He mentions the Nationals and Mariners as the two teams most likely to jump in as serious bidders for Cano.
New York could be exerting pressure on Cano by beginning its spending and pursuing other free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. Ultimately, says Passan, "unless something drastic happens" the club will not sign Cano for anything approaching his current demands.
11:00pm: Cano asked for a nine-year deal at $28MM per year, reports ESPN's Buster Olney, a $252MM total that would match Alex Rodriguez's first free agent contract. He also wants a tenth year vesting option at $29MM. Olney says the Yankees are in the $170MM range, leaving a gap of around $80MM.
8:18pm: Robinson Cano requested a nine-year deal in the $250-$260MM range in his most recent offer to the Yankees, a source tells Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The offer came in a meeting last week.
The Yankees have reportedly offered Cano a deal in the range of seven years and $168MM, which Davidoff notes would still make the second baseman among the highest-paid players in baseball. In addition, a second source says the much-discussed 10-year, $310MM offer floated by Cano's camp hasn't been in play since Cano became a free agent. Nevertheless, the two sides presently appear to be approximately $100MM apart. The Yankees are scheduled to meet again with Cano, who is represented by Jay-Z and CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen, on Monday.
Davidoff writes that the Yankees maintain they won't wait for Cano as they hold discussions with free agents such as Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew. The team also remains interested in Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. If the Yankees hit their budget limit without signing Cano, club officials say, they'll either move on or force Cano to agree to a much smaller deal than what's now under discussion.
Other potential destinations include the Tigers, the Mariners, the Rangers and the Nationals, and the Mets have met with Cano's representatives, Davidoff writes. However, he adds that no teams have publicly indicated significant interest in the infielder.
Robinson Cano denied asking the Yankees for a $300MM deal back in the summer, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but just because Cano didn't utter the words himself does not mean that his representatives did not float that number. That was just the "midseason request," however, Martino explains. Now that the star second baseman has reached the open market, his camp has re-set its asking price and is scheduled to meet with the Bronx brass again on Monday. Here's more from the American League East:
- The Orioles are quietly waiting for the free agent starting pitching market to fall into place, writes Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. We've heard before that the club is quite interested in returning Scott Feldman, who was acquired in mid-year from the Cubs, and Encina guesses he'll take two years and $16-18MM to land. In his detailed breakdown of Feldman, MLBTR's Steve Adams projected his value at two years and $17MM, plus a vesting option. Other arms that might draw attention from Baltimore, according to Encina, are Bronson Arroyo and even A.J. Burnett, if he decides to look around the market.
- Shortstop Stephen Drew is still a great fit for a Red Sox infield that currently features Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks on the left side, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald. If Drew can't get a club to give up a pick to sign him to a multi-year deal, Boston could swoop back into the mix and try to land him on another one-year contract, perhaps with an implicit promise not to extend another qualifying offer, Tomase suggests.
What better to go with your Thanksgiving apple crisp than some baseball news from the Big Apple? Here's the latest from the Mets and Yankees…
- Citi Field's reputation as a pitchers' park has generated concerns amongst some of the Mets' free agent targets, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. Though Citi Field's fences were brought in before the 2012 season, the club's pitcher-friendly history is “something that is still in the (players’) heads out there, that it’s a tough park to hit in,” one agent said. "They see what David Wright went through there and it makes them a little nervous I think." As Ackert notes, Citi Field allowed an average of 1.2 home runs per game in 2013, the tenth-most of any stadium in the majors.
- The Mets have an interest in signing right-hander Armando Galarraga and southpaw Victor Garate, Rafael Tejera reports (via Twitter). Both pitchers have also been offered contracts by teams in Asia. As ESPN New York's Adam Rubin notes, the Mets would "undoubtedly" only be interested in the two hurlers on minor league deals.
- The Yankees were set on Brian McCann as their top catching target and had only passing interest in Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports. The Bombers made no "serious overtures" to Ruiz and had slightly more substantive talks with Saltalamacchia, though one industry source described Salty only as the Yankees' "Plan B" if McCann signed elsewhere.
- "There’s no imaginable, alternate usage of the Yankees’ resources that will give them a roster superior to one featuring [Robinson] Cano," Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. Cano will "get paid" by someone, however, as all elite free agents do, and Davidoff expects the Yankees to pay at least $200MM to retain the second baseman. If another team goes substantially beyond a projected eight-year/$200MM offer, then Davidoff says the Yankees "would have an intellectual right" to let Cano leave.
- Earlier today, we learned that Yankees free agent hurler Phil Hughes should be able to find a multiyear on the open market, which puts the Mets out of the running for the right-hander's services.
It's offically Thanksgiving day on the east coast, so let's take a look at a few notes from the eastern seaboard:
- The stage is set for the market to pick up after the Thanksgiving holiday, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, even if it isn't celebrated in the same time or manner by our neighbors to the north. While things have been relatively quiet for many clubs, including the Blue Jays, that could change with Monday's non-tender deadline and movement in top-of-the-market situations around the league (including the Japanese posting system and its implications for Masahiro Tanaka, increasing activity on the Robinson Cano front, and the Yankees' apparent decision to begin spending).
- Could a problem with Red Sox free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia's medicals be the cause of a seemingly slow market for the backstop's services? In an appearance on WEEI's Mut & Merloni (writeup via WEEI.com), ESPN's Buster Olney suggested that possibility, while acknowledging that he has no specific knowledge of Salty's file. But Jim Munsey, the 28-year-old backstop's agent, flatly denied that speculation in comments to WEEI.com's Alex Speier, saying "there are no medical issues hindering [Saltalamacchia's] market."
- Interestingly, Munsey did note that the Cubs — the team that Olney mentioned by name with respect to Saltalamacchia — had decided not to pursue the backstop in part because they "don't believe they could compete for what is believed to be Salty's market." More generally, he expressed that things were going just fine for his client: "Some agents prefer to perform their responsibilities outside of the media spotlight. Just because you're not hearing it doesn't mean it's not happening."
- Another player who has yet to see a full slate of bidders, according to Olney, is another Boston free agent: shortstop Stephen Drew. Olney says that he believes Drew's decision to reject the club's $14.1MM qualifying offer was a mistake. He reasons that it is looking worse by the day, with the Cardinals now out of the market and the Mets seemingly hesitant to give up a pick to sign him at that level of value.
- As for the aforementioned Cano, Olney says (in an Insider piece) that the big question facing the star second baseman and the Yankees is what other teams might get seriously involved. While there is no obvious alternative suitor at this point, Olney's trip around the league leaves him with a list of the teams that are most likely to have the financial and roster flexibility to make a real run.
- Atop Olney's list of theoretically viable Cano landing spots, along with the Tigers and Rangers, is the Nationals. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore recently laid out the case for the club to chase Cano. While he says the club lacks a pressing need to tinker with its infield, and GM Mike Rizzo has not shown a particular desire to do so, the fact remains that Cano is unquestionably the best player on the market and the Nats have the pockets to bring him in. Though Anthony Rendon has plenty of upside and cheap team control, he is young enough to serve in a reserve capacity or could be cashed in with a corresponding win-now move.
- Meanwhile, the recent signings of Javier Lopez and Manny Parra have taken away two major possible left-handed relief targets from the Nats, Kilgore writes. Other targets certainly remain, with Kilgore saying the team is continuing to talk with Boone Logan and noting others like J.P. Howell, Eric O'Flaherty, Scott Downs, Matt Thornton, and Michael Gonzalez. Of course, even after parting with Fernando Abad, the club could still rely on remaining internal options like Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno, and could move starters like Ross Detwiler and Sammy Solis to the pen.
- From my perspective, it is worth noting Rizzo's recent history with southpaw relievers. Over the last three years, the club has received its greatest contributions from hurlers like Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, Zach Duke, and the previously noted Abad, Cedeno, and Krol. Each of these players was either picked up as a minor league free agent or in a relatively minor trade (or, for Krol, as the last piece of a somewhat significant trade). After letting Burnett walk for a seemingly reasonable price last year and declining to outbid the early market on Lopez and Parra, Rizzo may still prefer to avoid utilizing significant resources to add lefties.
WEDNESDAY: Feinsand reports that the two sides spoke again today, though they didn't have a face-to-face meeting this time. According to Feinsand, the $310MM asking price was still in place until yesterday, though Cano's camp lowered that number "very slightly." The two sides remain very far apart and will resume talks after Thanksgiving weekend (Twitter links).
TUESDAY: The Yankees met with Robinson Cano's camp earlier today, and the financial gap between the two sides is still "substantial," a source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
The most recent reports have indicated the Yankees' initial offer to be in the seven-year, $168MM range. There's no word on whether the Yankees have upped their offer recently, but team president Randy Levine has gone on record as saying the team will not wait for Cano to pursue other free agents. That point was made perfectly clear when the Yankees agreed to terms on a five-year, $85MM contract with Brian McCann that includes a vesting option for a sixth year at $15MM.
Cano's asking price is believed to be lower than the $300MM+ figure he was asking for to keep him off the free agent market, but it seems fair to speculate that he's likely still seeking a sum well north of $200MM.
For his latest Rumblings & Grumblings piece, ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with several executives about the ultimate destination of Robinson Cano. One NL executive said: "I keep hearing there's no interest. I don't believe it." Stark agrees and hypothesizes that the lack of a market for Cano has been well-crafted by the Yankees leaking their own seven-year, $168MM offer in reaction to Cano's $310MM demand. One AL exec told Stark: "If you had a situation where everyone remained objective and everyone played it smart and you had teams that thought they could sign Robinson Cano for $120 million, you'd probably have five or six teams in on it. Then you'd set $120 million as the starting point and start the bidding, and see how much higher it gets." Stark feels that by starting the bar high, the Yankees have set the early market to a market of one. The same NL exec who didn't buy the lack of interest said that eventually teams who are chasing Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann will say, "Wait a second. Cano's a much better player than those guys," and change direction. Stark runs down some possible late-emerging suitors. Here's more from his excellent piece…
- Stark reports an unknown wrinkle in the David Price trade saga. Price signed a one-year, $10.1125MM contract to avoid arbitration last January, but $5MM of that sum comes in the form of a signing bonus that is deferred to next year. While it was presented as a tax-related issue at the time, Stark notes that the Rays can use it as leverage in a trade, agreeing to take a slightly lesser package if the acquiring team pays that additional $5MM.
- The Phillies upped the ante and guaranteed Carlos Ruiz a third year because they were convinced that he would sign with the Red Sox if they didn't. The Phils looked hard at alternatives but were highly uncomfortable with the prices on other targets. For that reason, other teams haven't been as critical of the deal, though they've all offered high praise to Ruiz's agent, Marc Kligman.
- The Ruiz contract helps both McCann and particularly Jarrod Saltalamacchia, agents and an AL executive told Stark. Stark has heard that one reason the Red Sox were so interested in Ruiz was that they don't want to commit more than two years to a catcher, suggesting that Saltalamacchia is a goner in Boston.
- The Tigers' search for a closer has begun to lean more in favor of Brian Wilson than Joe Nathan, but Wilson's agent, Dan Lozano, may want to wait out the market, which isn't GM Dave Dombrowski's style, Stark points out.
- Bartolo Colon and agent Adam Katz aren't rushing into one-year contracts as they wait to see if someone will tack on a second guaranteed year in the wake of Tim Hudson's two-year, $23MM deal.
Reports have indicated that Robinson Cano is willing to wait until January to get the deal that he's looking for, but don't expect the Yankees to exercise similar patience. Yankees president Randy Levine told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that the team is interested in five or six free agents and doesn't plan on waiting for resolution on the Cano front before making offers:
"We're not waiting around," Levine said. "If guys start to come off the board, we're going to sign them, which will affect the amount of money we have left for other players including [Cano]."
The Yankees have been connected to Jhonny Peralta, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Stephen Drew recently, and Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger quotes Levine as saying that the team is engaged in talks with some of its own free agents as well. Presumably, that would include the likes of Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson.
McCullough points to an MLB Network Radio appearance by agent Brodie Van Wagenen over the weekend in which Van Wagenen pointed out the "additional business value that comes with an association with a player of that magnitude" and called Cano a "transformative" player. However, according to McCullough, the Yankees don't feel that Cano has the same level of marketability that stalwarts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have brought to the table.
McCullough adds that the Yankees are also skeptical that much of a market exists for Cano at this time, given his asking price. Indeed, Cano's camp couldn't have been thrilled to lose a suitor when the Dodgers inked Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28MM contract. While some have speculated that they could still enter the fray, Yahoo's Tim Brown tweeted earlier today that the Dodgers are still not involved in the Cano market.
The Mets had a meeting with Van Wagenen and Jay-Z last night, but reports have indicated that they won't be serious players for his services. Asked by Feinsand if the Mets could sign Cano away from the Yankees, Levine replied: "Yes. For $300MM they can … We want Robbie Cano back. We think the offer we made him is very competitive and it shows that we want him to be a Yankee for a long time and be the face of the franchise. But until they come down from the $300 million, there's really nothing to talk about."
10:04am: The Mets told Cano's camp prior to the meeting that the chances of a deal were very slim, but they didn't want to say "no" off the bat, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. ESPN's Adam Rubin tweets that the Mets took the meeting primarily as a means of getting to know a new agent, Jay-Z.
7:43am: The agents for free agent second baseman Robinson Cano called a meeting with the Mets to discuss the player's free agency Monday night at a Manhattan hotel, according to Ken Davidoff and Dan Martin of the New York Post. Jay Z, Brodie Van Wagenen, and Juan and Desiree Perez were on hand to represent Cano, while Jeff Wilpon, Sandy Alderson and John Ricco attended for the Mets.
The two sides did not talk numbers, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. According to Martino, the meeting contained a "Boras-like" presentation, in that it relied on multiple printed reports, visual elements and other tools.
Last week at the GM Meetings, Alderson told reporters the Mets are unlikely to be in the mix for an additional $100MM+ player, to avoid concentrating a large portion of the payroll in a small number of players. The Mets don't seem to have the payroll flexibility to add Cano, especially with their need for multiple outfielders, possibly a shortstop, and some relief help.
Regardless of the Mets' ability (or inability) to sign Cano, it makes sense for his camp to explore all options and meet with as many teams as possible. Cano is facing a limited market, so it's imperative that Van Wagenen and Jay-Z drum up some competitors for the Yankees, who are currently looking more in the $190-210MM price range.
Robinson Cano made headlines early in the regular season by leaving super-agent Scott Boras to become the first client to be represented by rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z's startup sports agency — Roc Nation Sports. Jay-Z is partnering with CAA in the Roc Nation Sports effort, and CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen will be handling much of the negotiation process this offseason, though Jay-Z himself is now officially an MLBPA-certified player representative as well. While his agency news may have gotten the headlines in April, now that we're into the offseason, it'll be his historic contract that garners attention.
Cano is one of the game's best all-around players, plain and simple. He led all free agent position players in wins above replacement (6.9 fWAR, 7.6 rWAR) due to his combination of offense and strong defensive contributions at a premium, up-the-middle position.
Cano batted .314/.383/.516 this season, earning his fourth consecutive All-Star bid and fourth consecutive Silver Slugger award. His fifth-place finish in the AL MVP voting marked his fifth consecutive season receiving votes for the award and fourth straight season of finishing sixth or better.
Cano's 142 wRC+ dating back to 2010 is the fourth-highest in Major League Baseball, and his 25.4 fWAR in that time trails only Miguel Cabrera. In terms of more traditional numbers, he's averaged 107 RBIs and 98 runs scored per season over that same time. He hits for power, averaging 28 homers per season since 2009, and has hit below .300 just twice in his Major League career (including a .297 effort in his rookie season).
Cano's defense slipped a bit in 2013, but his glove is generally regarded as a positive. UZR/150 pegged him for +1.3 runs above average this season, while The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved metric pegged him at +6. Those are solid numbers, but consider that he was at +10.7 (UZR/150) and +15 (DRS) in 2012. DRS, in particular, raves about Cano, crediting him for +38 runs dating back to 2010.
One of the biggest concerns over the course of a mega-contract like the one Cano figures to sign is health, but that hasn't been an issue for the Bronx Bombers' keystone man. Cano hasn't been on the disabled list since missing six weeks with a hamstring strain all the way back in 2006, and since that time he's averaged a whopping 160 games per season.
Cano is better against right-handed pitchers than lefties, but his .290/.340/.450 career line against southpaws shows that he's more than capable of handling his own against same-handed pitching. Those who think he's a product of Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch need only look at his .862 career OPS on the road alongside his .858 mark at home to realize that Cano can hit anywhere.
Cano will play next season at age 31, making him just one year younger than Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton were when each signed their massive contracts that have all quickly become albatrosses. Cano figures to sign for much closer to the 10 years that Rodriguez and Pujols received than the five years that Hamilton received. His contract will be a colossal risk, and there's little hope that he'll still be playing anywhere close to his current level by the time it completes.
If there's one element of Cano's game that's lacking, it's probably his speed. He's never stolen more than eight bases in a season, has an ugly 57.6 percent success rate in his career and has added significant value on the basepaths just twice in his nine-year career. It's an underrated part of the game that many fans don't look at, but Fangraphs pegged Cano's baserunning at -2 runs this season. That only figures to get worse as he ages.
In 2013, Cano posted his lowest isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) since 2009. His mark of .202 is still excellent for any hitter, let alone a second baseman, but if it's a portent for the decline of his power as he exits his prime years, his value would take a hit going forward. The very fact that a .202 ISO is listed in the "Weaknesses/Cons" section of this post speaks to the elite level of Cano's game.
In one of the least-surprising decisions in recent history, the Yankees made a qualifying offer to Cano, and he promptly rejected it. He'd come at the cost of a draft pick for a new team.
Cano's father, Jose, was signed by the Yankees in 1980 and briefly pitched in the Majors with the Astros in 1989. Cano's parents named him Robinson after the legendary Jackie Robinson, and he wears No. 24 (Jackie's No. 42 flipped) to this day as a means of honoring that namesake. The Yankees' media guide has nearly a full page dedicated to Cano's philanthropic efforts both in New York and his native Dominican Republic. Cano and his parents established the RC24 Foundation in 2011 — a charity intended to provide hope to sick and underprivileged children in New York and the Dominican Republic. He has also donated nine ambulances and four school buses to his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris. The ambulances were donated in memory of a close friend who died after he was unable to receive immediate medical attention following a motorcycle accident.
Cano was famously benched for a lack of hustle in 2008, but those problems are a thing of the past, hitting coach Kevin Long told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News earlier this year. Long praised Cano's work ethic and offseason training regimen to Feinsand, who also spoke with Cano's World Baseball Classic GM, Moises Alou: "Robby, what a guy. He’s a five, six-tool player. I mean, I knew he was good, but he made my job so easy, with his performance and leadership."
Cano's market could be more limited than any other free agent this season due to his contract demands. In early October, it was reported that Cano and Roc Nation were targeting $305-310MM in guaranteed money, in order to top the maximum value that A-Rod could reach were he to hit all of his incentives. Let me start by stating that I see zero chance of Cano signing the largest contract in history. Those comments were almost certainly a pure negotiation ploy; coming out and saying, "We want $200MM" would have started the discussion far too low.
So what teams could possibly afford Cano? A return to the Yankees still seems the most probable outcome, but in order to extract maximum dollars, Roc Nation/CAA will have to drum up some competition. The Dodgers were a natural landing spot, but they said prior to season's end that they weren't going to pursue Cano, and their four-year, $28MM contract with Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero seems indicative that they plan on sticking to that mentality.
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has spent liberally in the past, proclaiming that he wants to see his team win a World Series in his lifetime. The Tigers have Omar Infante hitting free agency and have issued $200MM guarantees to Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander already. However, with Miguel Cabrera needing an extension in a few seasons, would they risk another annual salary north of $20MM?
The Nationals could be on the periphery, as could the Angels, though their days of dabbling in mega-contracts are likely over for the time being with Pujols and Hamilton on the books. Could the Mets shock the baseball world by using their newfound cash to force a jersey change but keep Cano in New York? They took one meeting with him already, but most media outlets have downplayed them as a serious suitor even in light of that news.
The Rangers are always aggressive spenders, but they already have a logjam of middle infielders with Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar. Still, a trade of Andrus or Profar plus a move to first base or left field for Kinsler to open second base is at least conceivable. Could Jack Zduriencik be so desperate to bring some offense to Seattle that he breaks the $200MM threshold for Cano? The Cubs have the deep pockets and no clear solution at second base, but they've stated that they're not planning on pursuing big fish this winter. The Blue Jays have a need at second base and are clearly in win-now mode. Another big offseason splash would likely rejuvenate their fanbase after a disappointing 2013, but signing Cano would be counterintuitive to GM Alex Anthopoulos' free agent philosophy.
In addition to other free agents, teams in need of help at second base could look to acquire Brandon Phillips as an alternative. Phillips appears to have fallen out of favor in Cincinnati, and while the four years and $50MM remaining on his contract are sizable, that seems like a pittance in comparison to Cano's eventual contract.
There's little doubt that Cano will sign the richest contract of the offseason, and it seems likely that his representation will set out seeking 10 years. If Cano's price tag were to drop to seven years, I imagine that numerous suitors would emerge. More realistically, the middle ground between teams' comfort levels and Van Wagenen/Jay-Z's demands will probably be met in the form of eight or nine years.
Cano finds himself in a similar situation to that of Prince Fielder heading into the 2012 season — everyone expects a historic contract, but there appears to be a lack of logical suitors. Ultimately, the market came to Fielder and Scott Boras, and Fielder was able to land a nine-year, $214MM contract.
I expect Fielder's contract to be the floor for the Cano camp. Cano figures to shatter the records for longest contract, largest guarantee and largest average annual value for a second baseman. How much will he sign for though? Dating back to 2007, the mean AAV for hitter contracts of at least eight years is $24.44MM. That grouping includes a select quartet of then-elite bats: Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Fielder and Mark Teixeira.
That mean AAV would come out to an even $220MM over the course of a nine-year contract or $244.4MM over the course of 10 years. It makes sense to try to top that AAV, and I believe they'll do just that, though not over the course of a 10-year deal. However, a nine-year, $234MM contract would give Cano's camp a nice round number ($26MM annually) and blow Fielder's contract out of the water. It would also top the mean AAV for baseball's most recent mega-deals and establish the second-highest AAV of any such deal as well. As such, that's my prediction for Cano's eventual contract, even if the market has yet to seriously take shape.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.