Mariners Show Cano What Yanks Wouldn’t
December 9, 2013 by Jeff Kallman • Print Story •
There was a little is-he-is-or-is-he-ain't talk early but that dissipated soon enough to affirm. Robinson Cano is going to Seattle. If nothing else, Washington state's lack of an income tax makes his 10 years and $240 million an even nicer payday than it would have been if the Yankees had been willing to go above and beyond their $170 million to keep the second baseman.
Not that the Yankees were necessarily worried. Lose Cano, gain Jacoby Ellsbury. Lose Curtis Granderson, gain Carlos Beltran. Just days after showing Ellsbury the dollars, they showed them to the erstwhile Cardinals and (in case you've forgotten that these things matter to the Yankees) Mets right fielder. They've just given Beltran three years at $45 million. The Mets have just given Granderson four years and $60 million, hoping Citi Field won't damage Granderson's left handed power swing and enable him to put some punch into an outfield without any to speak of.
Their willingness to let Cano go rather than give in to his initial or even secondary demands enabled the Yankees to think about Brian McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran in the first place, and there's something oddly ennobling about the Yankees sticking to their $189 million budget guns. Ennobling and, on another level, disturbing.
For one thing, the Yankees need to find a reasonable way to solve a monetarily glittering outfield logjam. They have six outfielders worth approximately $90 million in current or next season's salary terms. Four of them will be on the far side of 35 come Opening Day: Beltran, Vernon Wells (35), Alfonso Soriano (37), and Ichiro Suzuki (40).
We'll know soon enough whether the Jay-Z factor was that powerful, notwithstanding the talk that the rapper/agent dropped a demand or three on the Mariners at one point that left their management reaching for the still. For every one who thinks the man who lured Cano out of Scott Boras's stables is looking smart, there's another thinking other agents are telling their clients it isn't always a bright idea to be represented by someone who's represented himself.
But this isn't even close to saying the Yankees are the good guys here. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated took special pains to remind one and all that this was, in several senses, Albert Pujols Mk.2: The Angels out-bid the Cardinals by $44 million — "not counting the $30 million in deferred money in St. Louis's offer and before the Cardinals cut a 10-year offer in half. Pujols later would say he was 'bitter' about the way the St. Louis front office made him look 'like the bad guy.'
"This departure has a similar smell," Verducci continues. "This time the Mariners offered Cano as much as $70 million more than New York. Real money. And Cano can look back at the New York front office the way Pujols did his former employers." Exactly why the Yankees played that kind of hardball with Cano only to settle for talented but lesser players in the interim may not be known for a good while.
To the Yankees, it seems barely to have crossed Cano's mind that he just might have yanked in the equivalent of $240 million in ten years if he'd taken the Yankees' lesser contract offer but kept the thing he can't have in Seattle no matter how much television money the Mariners now have to play with: his extracurricular marketability. To the Mariners and to maybe everyone else in baseball, it seems barely to have crossed the Yankees' minds that in losing Cano they lost a free agent that in their hearts of hearts they really wanted to keep.
We'll know soon enough to what extent the Cano signing improves the Mariners' American League West prospects. The Yankees would have looked remarkable if they'd retained Cano; the Mariners won't look terrible for having signed him. But Cano won't solve the Marines' backline problems.
He might make the Mariners relevant, but he might discover the hard way what Alex Rodriguez once discovered a decade and gazillions wouldn't buy in Texas: even he can't yank a so-so team into instant contention, never mind championship. Then the Rangers thought they could solve a horror of a team ERA by handing the moon and several planets to a shortstop. Are the Mariners really thinking they can solve a .237 offense with one second baseman?
Unless the Mariners have cards to play that they've kept hidden in a mayonnaise jar somewhere — the trade theories continue to abound around them — don't be shocked if they listen when someone else offers to take Cano off their hands in three years, maybe four, either. But they're praying that their first ever championship comes before Cano becomes their albatross.
How the Yankees and the Mets make out with their new toys is anyone's guess, too. Remember that nobody predicted Albert Pujols would need a little over a month to horse himself with the Angels or that his foot would become his and their nightmare in his second Angels season. And both Beltran and Granderson have injury histories, even if they've usually played up to their salaries when healthy.
Beltran comes fresh from a team whose Series loss wasn't even close to his fault. (He was batting with a 1-1 count in the ninth in Game 4 when Koji Uehara whipped that shazam! throw to first—hoping only to hold Kolten Wong to the pad — and picked Wong off to end the game.) But Beltran is four years older than Granderson, whose 2013 was lost mostly to a broken forearm and a fractured pinkie. The switch-hitting Beltran just might find Yankee Stadium's right field porch a delight; the left-handed Granderson will have 16 feet further to reach hitting in Citi Field.
Meanwhile, don't fret about the Red Sox. They're dancing with the ones that brung them their third World Series rings in 10 seasons: the lower-priced spreads with the higher flavor yields. They've re-upped Mike Napoli for two years and $32 million. They've signed erstwhile Cardinals closer Edward Mujica (37 saves for the Cardinals in 2013, before a shoulder strain and late slump bumped him in favor of Trevor Rosenthal) for two years and as-yet-undisclosed terms, just in case Uehara (on the threshold of 39-years-old) doesn't have another superseason in him.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said in a radio interview earlier in the week that they would do everything they could to keep Napoli, who proved a big key to their World Series winner, and who made it clear he wanted to stay in Boston despite the Rangers trying to romance him back while he tested his market. He's getting a nice raise after settling for a single-year deal when his hip condition became known to the Red Sox last winter.
Farrell also said the Red Sox would do likewise to keep Stephen Drew, whose modest bat is usually offset by his solid shortstop defense.
Yet again, the Yankees and the Red Sox have different ways of doing business with all the dollars they have to play with. The Yankees think they can afford to lose franchise players and top guns not named Derek Jeter; the Red Sox think losing a near-superstar means they'd better lock down their most useful lessers and, while they're at it, pick up a few more lessers who fit their current culture. Lose Ellsbury (and Jarrod Saltalamacchia), secure Napoli and gain Mujica and A.J. Pierzynski.
Without any logjam to break or backline problems yet to solve.