New York Yankees' Hardball with Robinson Cano Backfires

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New York Yankees' Hardball with Robinson Cano Backfires
USA TODAY Sports
The Yankees played hardball with Robinson Cano.

The New York Yankees dared Robinson Cano to leave and he finally decided to go. ESPN's Enrique Rojas was the first to report Cano had left New York to sign with the Seattle Mariners for a 10-year deal worth $240 million. 

The Yankees decided to play hardball with their star second baseman and potential future face of the team by showing far more interest in players from other teams instead of their own future Hall of Fame candidate. 

The Yankees made the decision to pay Jacoby Ellsbury and not their own homegrown star Cano. No matter how the Yankees try to sell it, New York didn't value their own player enough. They signed Ellsbury. They signed Brian McCann, in a deal first reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. They moved quickly to sign Carlos Beltran in the aftermath of Cano moving to Seattle, a deal that was reported here by the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand.

Before anyone says the Yankees would have been foolish to pay Cano $240 million, realize that New York could have settled on a deal with Cano that would have payed him potentially far less in money than the deal he signed with Seattle. Cano told Pedro Gomez of ESPN that the length of the contract was most important to him, not money.

New York never seemed willing to go the extra mile to Cano, something that still comes as a surprise. Maybe Cano sensed that from New York.

The Mariners know they overpaid and they were going to have to do it by such a large margin that Cano and Jay-Z couldn't have overlooked it. If the money was close, Cano was going back to New York. New York should have been much more aggressive in trying to lock up Cano at the beginning of free agency to preempt this type of deal happening.

The Yankees might be a better team today, but they have lost their identity. The player that was supposed to transition the Yankees from the old guard of Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter to the new guard, now finds himself 3,000 miles away from New York, away from the AL East.

New York seemed to determine very early that if Cano was going to stay with the Yankees, it was going to be on their terms. Cano's initial outrageous demands of $300 million only seemed to strengthen their resolve to not extend themselves to the levels Cano wanted.

But while acting fiscally responsible towards Cano, the Yankees seemingly were manipulated by agent Scott Boras into signing Ellsbury to a seven-year deal worth $153 million, first reported by New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand. Boras has a special interest here due to the fact he used to be Cano's agent until he was fired and replaced by Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports agency.

It would be naive to think Boras didn't take some level of pleasure in getting Ellsbury into pinstripes so quickly, allowing the Yankees to call Cano's bluff at the same time. Boras knew if Jay-Z and Cano were going to be able to save face, they were going to have to take the highest bid, even if that was with the lowly Mariners.

So even when Boras gets fired, he wins the war. When was the last time the Yankees lost a star they wanted to keep?

Now Cano will find himself toiling in Seattle, hoping the Mariners fulfill their promise to add players around him and build a contender in a great market. But, as Jeter plays out his final games with the Yankees, who will the Bombers point to as their leader? Beltran, a player who has bounced around the league? Ellsbury, a former Red Sox player?

Cano's deal with the Mariners signals the start of the decline for the Yankees, a team that will to continue to outspend other teams in order to be competitive. By making such a big play in free agency, New York continues to indirectly impact its already poor farm system by taking away draft picks. The reason the Yankees have to go out and spend $300 million in free agency is because they have nothing coming from the minor leagues.

The spending will likely continue as the Yankees need to address the holes left by Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Rivera by signing free agents to fill those holes. In the past, the Yankees had a core of veteran leaders to keep the team together while the team was going through transition. Now, the Yankees are a rudderless team, lost in the cycle of spending and aging.

The Yankees dared their best player to leave, a decision that backfired for everyone involved in Cano's negotiations. 

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