With the Robinson Cano free-agency tour off to a slow start, Jay Z and Creative Artists Agency took their sales pitch across New York City on Monday night. According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, Robinson Cano's representatives, led by the famous rap mogul, held court with the front office of the New York Mets.
Outside of the ridiculous notion of Cano actually bolting the Bronx for Queens, the meeting with Mets representatives is a sign that Jay Z is desperate for suitors and lacking any substantial offer outside of the Yankees' willingness to re-sign the star second baseman to a long-term contract.
This secret meeting took place just hours after CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that Cano and the Yankees are still $150 million apart in contract negotiations. Yet, just last week, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson expressed an unwillingness to give away a contract in excess of $100 million to any player on the free-agent market, per ESPN New York. Furthermore, the Colorado Rockies "blew away" the Mets by offering a $2.5 million contract to free-agent reliever LaTroy Hawkins, per the New York Daily News.
If Cano's camp is soliciting interest, or practicing their sales pitch, on the New York Mets, there's little reason to believe multiple teams are lining up to offer Cano a contract in excess of $200 million. While the best player on the market is justified in seeking a record-setting deal, the Yankees should not be worried about another team jumping in right now.
On Monday night, MLB Network insiders Jon Heyman, Tom Verducci and Ken Rosenthal bantered about which teams could possibly enter the Cano fray. Naturally, the Mets weren't mentioned. Even if the Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers or Washington Nationals make a bid for the best second baseman in baseball, the Yankees have the means to go above and beyond anyone else.
Thus far, the negotiating tactics make sense from the Yankees point of view. General manager Brian Cashman is willing to go to great lengths to retain his best player, but bidding against himself is foolish. Until a suitor willing to cut a legitimate check emerges, Cano's camp looks lost.
Years ago, a secret meeting with the Mets would have caused a ripple effect in New York, but those days are long gone. It's widely understood that the Mets don't have the resources or the willingness to sign a free agent of Cano's caliber. Even if Mets ownership and management put on the full court press, Cano would have to sacrifice millions in order to be in range of a contract with the crosstown rivals.
Instead, the idea of Jay Z and Brodie Van Wagenen, Cano's agents, sharing a meal with Mets brass won't cause anything but back page headlines and delusions of grandeur in New York. Despite representing the best available player, Cano's agents haven't yet drummed up the support needed to make the Yankees worry. Until they do, dinner with the Mets will remain nothing but a punch line.
In spite of Tim Lincecum's $35 million deal and Ruben Amaro's stubbornness in Philadelphia, the lack of suitors lining up for Robinson Cano has been the most surprising subplot of the hot stove season. With each franchise receiving $25 million more in revenue, due to Major League Baseball's media deal, the chance to acquire the best second baseman in baseball was expected to appeal to at least a few big-market owners.
With Thanksgiving still over a week away, that may still be the case. If it is, the Yankees will have to eventually sweat out a real contract squabble to retain their star. If it's not, Cano will be forced to negotiate a contract based on his brand, not his bat. Ironically, that "brand" is being compared to one of the best athletes in history. According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, Cano is being sold as baseball's Michael Jordan. Per Feinsand's reporting:
“They’re selling him as Michael Jordan, not as a baseball player,” said a major-league official familiar with Cano’s situation. “As a guy that’s going to be a big rock star and bring all these fans in. Last year, that wasn’t the case."
If the first step in that process is dinner with the Mets, don't expect the Steinbrenner family to write anything close to a $300 million contract this winter.
Over the next few weeks, the Cano-Mets angle will splinter in one of two directions: A non-story in the long, arduous path for Cano back to the Bronx or the first sign that Cano's agency misread the market, scared off potential big-market suitors and gave the Yankees an easy path to re-signing a star they desperately need.
If it's the latter, Jay Z's first foray into Major League Baseball free agency will qualify as a marketing disaster and Robinson Cano's next contract will be a boon for the New York Yankees. As of right now, the Cano camp looks very, very desperate.
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