We interrupt this NFL season to bring you some news from the diamond. We’re just two weeks away from Baseball’s Winter Meetings, and things are starting to heat up. Not familiar with the phenomenon that is the Winter Meetings? It’s the one time a year where GMs and Execs from all 30 teams get together to discuss current issues in baseball (why no one under 50 watches), potential rule changes (expanded instant replay), and free agents. There’s more excitement in the Winter Meetings than the first half of the baseball season. There’s also more bullshit than a Congressional hearing on Obamacare, especially when it comes to free agents.
In the weeks leading up to the Winter Meetings, teams and shameless agents will try to pimp create buzz for their players, in the hopes of striking it rich at the Winter Meetings, or planting the seeds to strike it rich. And there’s no better example than this than with Robinson Cano.
Cano is the prize jewel of this years’ free agency class. He’s played his entire 9 year career with the Yankees, and is now looking to ca$h in on free agency. Sure, he’s a great player that will add value to any lineup. But is he a player you build your team around? Is he a franchise player? Well, if you believe his agents, he’s that and much, much more.
Yes, Cano’s sports agent, led by Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports, are playing crazy hardball trying to drive up the price. First, they are pushing for a 10 year, $310 million dollar contract. The Yankees have offered 7 years, $160 million. $310 million would easily make Cano the highest paid player in baseball, but that’s not even the craziest thing. No, the crazy part is Team Cano is comparing him to Michael Jordan. Wait, what? You don’t throw out an MJ comparison unless you can be damn sure to back it up. As a general rule, we loathe when people make MJ comparisons…only Kobe comes close. And in Cano’s case, it’s not even close.
Before we get to the MJ thing, let’s look at some other factors, like stats. Here’s Cano’s numbers compared to A-Rod’s first 9 full years in the league.
Cano’s numbers are good, really good, but they’re not A-Rod numbers, and Cano’s looking to crush A-Rod’s 10 year, $275 million contract. Despite all the hype from Hova, there’s no way he should even come close to getting A-Rod money, and, unless something crazy happens, he won’t. Here’s why.
This is what’s most infuriating with the MJ comparison. Quick: when you think of current Yankees, who comes to mind? How long did it take you to get to Cano? Be honest. Jeter, A-Rod, Mo, then maybe Cano (arguably CC, Tex, and Grandy could go before Cano). It’s not even close when you consider past Yankees. Ok, now when you think of the Chicago Bulls, past, present or future, how long does it take you to get to Jordan? Shit, when you think of the word Chicago or basketball, how long does it take you to get to Jordan? Exactly.
Cano is not an iconic, face of the franchise/league player like MJ. As the Daily News points out, Cano has the 5th highest selling jersey for NY players (Christ he’s behind two Mets) and doesn’t even have the highest selling jersey for second basemen, trailing Dustin Pedroia. Jordan trails nobody, and since the NBA started tracking jersey sales in 1998, Jordan still reigns supreme.
Numbers don’t lie, and Cano’s on the wrong side of 30. He’s 31, and seeking a 10 year contract. Do you think the recent horrible long-term contracts given to star players in their 30’s…like A-Rod and Pujols, are fresh in the minds of baseball execs? Indeed. Cano’s got about 5 more consistently productive years left, and then it drops off. The Machine thinks the best he’ll do is a 7 year deal with a player option for 8, and club option for 9.
No other suitors
Despite being the biggest talent, there’s no market for Cano, because everyone knows his demands are ridiculous. It’s just the Yankees. Perhaps the Mets step up as a bidder…they certainly have a strong track record of making horrible baseball decisions. Quick trivia question: who’s the highest paid outfielder on the Mets? Answer: Bobby Bonilla. Yes, even though Bobby hasn’t played a game in over 12 years, the Mets pay him over $1 million a year until 2035. Holy shit. So, I guess you can’t count the Mets out, but so far it’s only the Yankees, who are wise to sit back and not move from their 7 year $160 million offer.
Jay Z as agent
Jay Z has stepped into the sports agency business, forming Roc Nation Sports. He’s been acquiring a decent amount of talent, including Victor Cruz, Geno Smith, Kevin Durant, and now Robinson Cano. Roc Nation Sports seems to not only want to maximize their clients’ sports earning potential, but also their marketing potential as well. It’s not a novel concept—to maximize the total earning potential of a player—but it’s novel in the sense that marketing and sponsorship opportunities are at the forefront on contract negotiations. The bad part of that is it narrows your market to only major market cities (it’s no surprise that 3 out of the 4 clients are in NYC). Side note: If Jay Z brings Durant to the Knicks, all will be forgiven. Do you think Jay Z’s going to listen to offer from the Brewers or the Astros? H to the Hell no. Being a Jay Z client means you’re limited to NYC, LA, and maybe Chicago.
Also, Jay Z is currently being investigated by MLB for giving an improper gift to Cano. You got to think that the NFL, NBA, and MLB are weary about this new cross-over venture, which has the potential to take an athlete’s focus (gasp!) off of playing sports. If the MLB comes down hard on Jay Z, that could
So, we get that there’s an element of puffery that always occurs with contract negotiations. But come on, there still has to be an element of good faith and reasonableness, and comparing Cano to MJ defies logic. It’s completely transparent, and a piss poor attempt to elevate a person to a level where they have no business being. But Hova’s backed himself into a corner where he has to get close to what they’re asking. If reality sets in and Cano ultimately accepts a reasonable deal (somewhere around 7-8 years, $160-200 million) Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports are going to look like fools, and this will set the tone with all clubs for future negotiations. But that’s what you get when you pull the MJ card. That, and a teabag.
Enjoy your teabag.