It’s real: Robinson Cano to Mariners

Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano put his hand out and Seattle dropped a cool $240 million into it. (Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners made a major statement Friday in an effort to rebuild the value of their franchise with the reported signing of top free-agent Robinson Cano to the third-largest contract in MLB history. The gargantuan deal — 10 years and $240 million – is tied with Albert Pujols’ contract with the Angels and third only to Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees and 10-year, $252 million deal with Texas. While the Mariners have yet to confirm the signing, Cano is scheduled for a physical in Seattle on Monday to finalize the deal.

The possibility of Cano to Seattle was laughed at by baseball “experts” throughout the day on Thursday, but when word got out Cano and agent Jay Z were en route to Seattle last night, the impossible began looking legit. The rumor mill was all over the map regarding terms of a potential deal on Thursday – ranging from less than $200 million to $260 million and from eight to 10 years. But it appears the Mariners’ initial offer was in the eight-year, $200 million range, which was enough to lure team Cano to negotiate in person and iron out the final deal late last night.

Now that the deal is apparently done, several questions come to mind:

Is this a money grab for Robinson Cano?

Yes … and no.

Yes, because if he truly was dedicated to the pinstripes, discussions would have focused on loyalty, legacy and winning in New York instead of money only.

Yes, because the Mariners, as of right now, are nowhere near playoff contenders. Unless the Mariners make several more significant moves – and they most likely will – Seattle will be battling for second or third place in the AL West.

No, because Cano may very well see the long-term picture in Seattle as better than the short-term in New York. If the Yankees spent $175 million on Cano, in addition to the contracts to Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) and Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million), would they have had enough money or trade pieces to sure up a very questionable starting rotation? Maybe not. Therefore, getting an additional $65 million, along with a young team that has a solid foundation for future success, may have made the decision easy.

How will Jay Z turn Robinson Cano into a global brand in the Pacific Northwest?

He won’t. The branding mumbo jumbo was a negotiating ploy all along to seduce the Yankees into a trance about how valuable Robinson Cano is as a marketable commodity, and it didn’t work. As great as Cano is on the field, he doesn’t have the star power of a Derek Jeter. He’s not a poster boy for Major League Baseball, either. If he were, he’d stay in the media capital of the world. Instead, he’s headed to the hipster capital of the world. Today, the jokes are flying about Cano being the poster boy for PBR, flannel shirts, umbrellas and salmon now that he’s the second-biggest star in Seattle behind Russell Wilson.

Was Robinson Cano upset about the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury?

Hell, why not? Cano plays every day, puts up consistent numbers and has proven himself in the media pressure cooker of New York, so it would be no surprise if he thinks the Yankees threw crazy money at Ellsbury, who has yet to consistently prove he’s worth the value of his deal. It could be an ego thing – “If you throw crazy money at Ellsbury, why won’t you throw crazy money at me?”

Are the Yankees a worse team without Robinson Cano?

Not really. Especially if the money they now have available is spent to improve the starting pitching. Kelly Johnson, who the Yankees signed to a one-year, $3 million deal, could put up adequate numbers at Yankee Stadium. He’s no Cano, but surround him with Ellsbury and McCann, and healthy-yet-aging Jeter and Mark Teixeira. And expect the Yankees to be uber-active – both free agents and trades – at the Winter Meetings next week in Orlando.

Are the Mariners contenders with Robinson Cano?

No. They’re a better team as soon as the ink dries on Cano’s contract, but they are a few pieces shy of being even a wild-card contender. Like the Yankees, expect Seattle to be major players in the coming weeks. You don’t make a statement by signing Cano if you don’t intend to compete in the near-term. The Cano window is now, so don’t expect the Mariners to continue waiting for prospects to mature.

Besides Cano, only Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma will make more than $3 million per season in 2014, so there is payroll room. To compete in the near-term, expect the Mariners to go hard after Nelson Cruz and/or Carlos Beltran, as well as put together an enticing prospect package, which could include Nick Franklin and Taijuan Walker, for Tampa Bay ace David Price.

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