Roc Nation will be partnering with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent professional athletes.
Jay Z is starting a sports rep agency, attached to CAA, and Robinson Cano will be its first client.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 2, 2013
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, Cano expressed an eagerness to expand his brand both on and off the field:
At this point in my career, I am ready to take a more active role in my endeavors on and off the field. I am confident that the pairing of Roc Nation Sports and CAA Sports will be essential in helping me accomplish my short- and long-term goals. I am making this important decision now so I can keep my focus on helping the Yankees succeed in 2013, while minimizing any distractions for me and my teammates.
Cano is the first major client to sign under the Roc Nation brand.
For the Yankees, the news represents a boon to their effort to re-sign Cano to a long-term deal in New York.
CAA Baseball, Cano's new agency, has helped keep Cain & Posey in SF, Braun in Mil, Howard in Phil, Ethier in LA. Bodes well for NYY?— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) April 2, 2013
While the negotiating strategy of Roc Nation is still unknown, Boras was notorious for taking his clients to free agency. Although that strategy has been altered in recent years—think Carlos Gonzalez or Elvis Andrus—taking Cano to free agency would have been an easy choice for Boras due to the free-spending presence of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
New York, despite its persistent effort to move under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold next year, is keen on re-signing Cano. He's currently in his prime and seen as the player most likely to take the leadership and brand recognition crown from Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the years go on.
The lack of other pending MVP-caliber free agents also made the Boras strategy seem prescient for Cano. Matt Holliday, a similarly valuable player to Cano, parlayed a weak 2010 free-agent class into a $120 million deal.
While playing out the season, heading into free agency as the top player available and creating a bidding war between New York, Los Angeles and others seemed like the route Cano would take under Boras' care, it didn't come without flaws.
First, the Yankees have learned their lesson on lucrative, long-term contracts to position players over 30. Alex Rodriguez burned them after the 2007 season due to a disconnect between ownership and front office, a cleverly timed opt-out clause and a brand new MVP trophy in tow.
Using the experience with A-Rod, it's unlikely they would be willing to go to nine or 10 years on Cano's next contract—something at which Los Angeles might not balk.
Second, New York would absolutely post the top qualifying offer on Cano the minute he hit free agency.
While it's unlikely he would become Kyle Lohse 2.0, it's not hard to imagine the Yankees front office using the first-round pick compensation as leverage in their negotiating strategy—especially if a rebuilding team like the Chicago Cubs were to enter the fray.
The idea of surrendering a first-round pick along with a 10-year, $200 million contract might be enough to scare off a suitor or two—which could land Cano back with the Yankees at a more reasonable price for their budget.
It could also have convinced Scott Boras to encourage Cano to take the one-year tender and try free agency again after 2014.
Considering the new Yankees strategy and backlash from the pact to Rodriguez, New York could avoid a public relations nightmare by allowing Cano to return for one more season, squeezing more out of his prime and then watching him walk a year closer to decline.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Jay-Z aspect of the transition.
While he may just be a figurehead at the moment, Jay-Z represents a powerful, New York-centric factor.
As part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, well-known Yankees fan and concert partner with Yankees ownership, Shawn Carter seems like an easier negotiating match for Brian Cashman.
Which team will Robinson Cano suit up for on Opening Day 2014?
That's not to say Cano won't be paid handsomely under his new representation, but it's part of the story.
As is the CAA partnership. Carter wisely joined up with a well-known and sought-after agency. If the recent past is any indication, CAA is a great route to star players re-upping with the original club.
The Cano negotiations will have many layers over the next few weeks and months. From money to years to the second baseman aging curve, it's not easy to predict exactly how valuable Cano will be during his next deal.
He may still get to free agency, where Magic Johnson and Co. await, but Tuesday's announcement should give New York a better chance at retaining its best player at a fair price.