Cano’s Empire State of Mind should keep him with Yankees
In recent months, we saw uberagent Scott Boras pull a rabbit out of his hat time after time, magically producing multiyear deals for Michael Bourn, Rafael Soriano and Kyle Lohse even when it appeared that the free agent market had closed. As impressive a feat as that may have been, he won’t carry an undefeated streak into the season.
On Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Buster Olney broke the news that Robinson Cano had fired Boras and will now be represented by a new agency started up by rapper Jay-Z and connected to Creative Artists Agency, which according to its website represents more than 800 top athletes. Cano is the first client of the new spinoff, called Roc Nation. It’s a significant move that should have Yankee fans breathing more easily, because it points toward the 30-year-old second baseman remaining in pinstripes beyond this season — something the Yankees desperately need given their depleted lineup, the graying of marquee stars such as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and the failure of their farm system to produce impact-level hitters.
For starters, Boras is known for his hardline strategy of taking his clients to free agency, demanding top dollar and getting it. It’s exceedingly rare that one of his clients agrees to a new deal before hitting the open market; Jered Weaver, who signed a five-year, $85 million extension with the Angels in August 2011 instead of waiting until after the 2012 season, is a rare exception. Boras estimated that Weaver may have left $60 million on the table in re-signing with the Angels, a figure that tracks reasonably well with Zack Greinke’s free agent deal and the recent extensions granted to Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander.
So where it once appeared Cano would head into free agency after the 2013 season, the switch from Boras to Roc Nation may signal his willingness to come to terms during the season. As the New York Post‘s Joel Sherman noted, CAA clients such as Ryan Braun, Andre Ethier, Roy Halladay, Adam Jones and Buster Posey are among the stars who chose to work out lucrative extensions rather than testing free agency; many of those deals emerged in-season. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal‘s Dan Barbarisi pointed out that CAA’s Brock Van Wagenen “will handle the bull of the baseball talks.” Van Wagenen’s other clients include Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman, two more players who signed big extensions with their current teams.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Brooklyn-native Jay-Z is about as New York-centric as they come, so it would seem to be an odd choice for Cano to choose representation that may not have the same feel for another market. As the Yankees made their run to their most recent world championship in 2009, Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind” emerged as their anthem. The rapper, who boasted, “I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can” in his lyrics, played the song live before Game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. With the Mets in dire financial straits, there’s only one New York team with the resources to sign the second baseman.
Those signs suggest that Cano and the Yankees will work out a new deal sometime over the next six or seven months. That would be a break from the team’s policy, but in light of the its new-found desire to rein in spending in order to keep its payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014, the House of Steinbrenner has signaled a willingness to adjust its old ways. With the industry trend clearly pointing toward teams keeping a grip on their own players — the driving force behind the recent Verlander and Posey extensions, as well as so many more — the Yankees appear more likely to fall in line rather than to cross it.
It’s unclear whether Cano’s move suggests a willingness for the second baseman to accept a deal shorter than 10 years, as had been floated before. But with a chance for the team to save some money by working out an extension now rather than later, and for the player to eliminate an ongoing distraction, that may be less of an issue. In all probability, Cano will sign a deal that sets him up as the Yankees’ centerpiece into the next decade.