Seattle Mariners to Sign Robinson Cano for $240 Million
In an extremely surprising turn, Robinson Cano is reportedly (although the Mariners have yet to confirm it) going to Seattle on a ten-year deal worth $240 million. It’s probably the first time that anyone can remember when the Yankees didn’t get the best available player they really wanted. Times have certainly changed in the Bronx.
Of course, the contract is too much money given Cano’s age (he just turned 31) and the fact that his offensive numbers will drop somewhat playing half his games in Seattle, the American League’s worst hitters’ park. Even so, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci thinks its a good move, given the Mariners’ new TV contract and a steady increase in MLB’s revenues Verducci projects going forward.
I’m not so sure. The Mariners are not a big market team, and one player, even one as good as Cano, isn’t going to make a play-off team out of a club that lost 91 games last year. There’s plenty of talk that the Mariners will go after a front-line starter such as David Price, but we’ll have to wait and see what they actually do and what they have to give up to get said front-line starter.
At least, they have a couple of young middle infielders to trade in Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, at least one of whom is now expendable with Cano coming on board. mlbtraderumors.com speculates that the M’s could offer a package including Franklin and top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker for Price, which would certainly make sense for the Rays, since Price has only two seasons left before free agency and the Rays are always in the market for cheap, controllable talent. Such a move would mean, however, that the M’s need to go deep into the post-season in one of the next two years, no small feat.
Meanwhile, Cano signing with the Mariners looks like a big loss for the Yankees. Coming off an unsuccessful season (any season the Yankees don’t make the post-season is a failure for that organization), they did indeed hold the line on enormous contracts, but I can’t see Yankees’ fans looking at the start of the 2014 season with the same enthusiasm as if the Yankees had retained Cano.
There’s definitely a bad smell in the air after giving the often-injured Jacoby Ellsbury a seven-year $153 million free agent contract, while refusing to offer a Yankees’ icon more than seven years and $175 million. It sends a message to players throughout the organization that past performance for the ballclub isn’t highly appreciated.
Perhaps the Yankees’ new management team has decided it will no longer give anyone more than a seven-year deal. If so, such a move might well pay off in the long run. However, it also means that the Yankees will no longer be signing the very best free agents, as they have in the past.
Actually, the Yankees’ biggest mistake of the past was granting (or trading into) contracts which allowed Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia to opt out of their initial enormous deals when, unsurprisingly, they played well in the early years of their respective deals. These re-negotiations made contracts that were already going to burdensome in their final years into millstones even the Yankees find difficult to carry.
At the end of the day, however, I think the Boss’ sons will eventually see Papa George’s wisdom, i.e., that signing the best free agents available, costs be damned, justifies a few wasted contract years and big luxury taxes so long as the Yankees win and get the revenues that come with being champions in New York City.
The Yankees can talk all they want about rebuilding their farm system. However, as long as they continue to sign free agents tied to draft pick compensation (they’ve already signed two such free agents this off-season), rebuilding their farm system is going to be awfully difficult, particularly since there are now caps on the bonus pools that can be given to amateur players.