Friday, December 13, 2013

Looking Back at the Robinson Cano Contract Situation

Photo Courtesy @Mariners
Robinson Cano was introduced as the newest member of the Seattle Mariners at a press conference yesterday at Safeco Field and made me think of a few things. First off, as I say with any player who signs a big contract, I never begrudge anyone making their money. We all work hard to make as much as we can to improve our individual situations. If he found a team willing to give him a 10-year $240-million contract then why shouldn't he try and get top dollar. Already you hear the complaints of some fans who are calling Cano "greedy". As if many of those fans wouldn't uproot their lives and their families for doubling or tripling of their yearly salaries. Granted the sums we are talking about in Cano's case are vastly different from ours but the same idea behind it applies. But I digress. Cano made the following statement during his press conference yesterday as reported by Tim Booth in the article 2B Robinson Cano, Mariners finalize huge contract dated December 13, 2013 from the Seattle PI website:
"I was looking for a contract where I would just be able to play and focus on the game and wouldn't wonder when I'm 37, 38 would I have a job one day. Would I be able to play?" Cano said. "The one thing in Seattle is I get the chance. Am I going to keep working hard? Yes. Even harder? Yes. I'm going to do my best and play the same way I was playing in New York and go out there and do my business and win games."
Perhaps the image of Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain, (who became a free agent in 2010 after signing a 10-year deal in 2000) being told by Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman to find a better deal on the free agent market left a mark on Cano. If Derek Jeter could be treated with such disrespect, than anyone could. Right? Speaking of disrespect. Cano also said the following:
Asked if he ever thought he'd leave New York, Cano said, "Honestly, no." Later, Cano said he never felt the Yankees wanted him back.

"I didn't feel respect. I didn't get respect from them and I didn't see any effort," Cano said.
Randy Levine going public with criticism of Cano and his contract demands as being "unrealistic" was disrespectful. I agree with him on this. The discussions and negotiations should have been kept private. Levine needs to learn to keep his big mouth shut. But I hardly believe that a 7-year $175-million dollar offer is disrespectful. Sure, I guess compared to his initial demand of 10-year $301-million dollars or even the $10-year $240-million dollar contract he eventually signed with the Mariners that contract pales in comparison and can be seen as a slight towards Cano by the Yankees. This gets magnified with the signing of a believed lesser player in Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7-year $153-million dollar contract by the Yankees. In the end, the per year average by the Yankees offer was $25 million while the per year average given by Seattle was $24 million. So in that regard, I don't believe that the Yankees disrespected Cano. The Yankees said they were not interested in a 10-year deal and they stuck to their stance.

With the exception of Derek Jeter, the 10-year deal in Baseball has been as maligned as the 7-year $126-million dollar contract in Baseball (Jason Werth, Barry Zito, Vernon Wells among others). I've said all along that Cano and the Yankees would have benefited from a five to six year deal in the $25-$30 million range. If he was still producing after that contract, he would be in line to cash in on another potential windfall. If he wasn't producing, then he wouldn't be stuck in a contract that would lead to bad feelings among both parties. As stated above, Cano didn't want to go through another contract negotiation in his late 30's so this was not an option. And this is easy for me to say since I am not in their situations, but these athletes need to look at more than multiple years and money. Look at the situation of Tim Lincecum.

Since the end of the 2011 season, Lincecum has signed two one-year deals and the recent two-year $35-million dollar deal this offseason. I think this is the ideal way to go. Keep your situation fresh, flexible in terms of contract years AND get paid in doing so. Sure Cano and his representatives are selling themselves based on his current performance. At age 31 he's been quite the consistent and productive player. Cano has played in 159 games or more per season since 2007 and is a career .309 hitter who averages 24 homers and 97 RBIs per season AND makes it look easy in the field. But time has a way of turning on an athlete quickly. Who's to say that the player Cano is today in 2013 will be the same productive player in 2016, let alone 2020. Again, its easy for me to say since I'm not the one offered that massive deal that Seattle signed Cano for. How do I feel about his moving on.

To be honest, I'm not that upset about it. I'm more upset in the direction that the Yankees organization is going in. I've been hopelessly pining for a rebuilding of the team through youth. I went as far to suggest in my two posts The Yankees Should Trade Robinson Cano If... and UPDATE: The Yankees Should Trade Robinson Cano If... that the Yankees should have traded both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson if they were out of contention to aid the rebuilding. As I felt back then (as I do now) that I don't make my statements through a veneer of dislike for Cano. On the contrary, I've always been a fan of his. I just thought that logically, if they wouldn't resign him they should have cashed in on him for the future of the organization. Now I don't know how realistic the offers were (if there were any) for Cano before the trade deadline last season. Maybe the team thought that they would be able to sign him this offseason.

It just seems to me (and others such as my friend Christopher Mac) that if they weren't going to resign him and knew that they weren't going to do so, why not trade him and get some more pieces for him than just the compensatory pick that they will end up getting from Seattle. In the end, the Yankees are on the losing end in terms of compensation picks since they will get one from Seattle and one from the Mets for Curtis Granderson but will end up losing three for their signing of Beltran, Ellsbury and McCann.

Will the team miss Cano? Absolutely. This will be felt in the next two or three seasons. Heck, they are feeling it right now with that big hole at second, a starting first baseman and a starting shortstop coming back from serious injuries and a starting third baseman who is in limbo due to a potential suspension. I do feel that in the long-term the team made the right decision to not sign Cano to a 10-year deal. I guess the Steinbrenners learned from their resigning of Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year $275-Million dollar deal after the 2007 season.

Here's a little speculation on my part. Perhaps Cano took to heart how the Yankees fan base seemed to turn on Rodriguez and criticize him on every strikeout, pop up and ground out by voicing out "This is what 10-year $275-million buys you" even after Rodriguez had his best postseason performance in the championship season of 2009. Granted, Rodriguez's situation is unique for many reasons, but who knows if Cano truly wanted to feel the same wrath that some Yankees fans heaved on his good friend Rodriguez.

Here's another tangent of speculation. Maybe, just maybe, Cano just didn't want the pressure of being the main man on the New York Yankees. Perhaps the laid back pace of Seattle was something that he was looking for all along. I would think that playing under the lights in Seattle does not match up to the glaring lights of scrutiny in New York. Maybe in Seattle Cano won't be called out for not running hard down the line as he was often while on the Yankees. For the record, I was one who did so. I always thought that Cano's lack of hustle at times was his biggest...I'll use the word weakness for a lack of a better term. Who truly knows.

For now Cano will be all smiles in his new #22 Seattle Mariners jersey (future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. wore #24 for the Mariners). How long that smile will stay on his face remains to be seen. Can Cano survive in Seattle with a potential 10 seasons of not making the postseason? Will he be content to remain in Seattle, especially if the Yankees return to the postseason and even win a few championships in those 10-seasons? Only time will tell. I wish him the best of luck in Seattle. As a Yankees fan I hold no ill will towards him. I want him to succeed. I want him to be the player to break the 10-year contract "curse".

Again, only time will tell if he can.

Sisco Kid