Robinson Cano headed to the Seattle Mariners for about $240 million over the next 10 seasons, exiting New York after the Yankees declined to boost their contract offer of seven years and approximately $170 million.
The Yankees in the past week pledged $238 million in multi-year contracts to former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and ex-Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann.
Yet the failure to bid up for Cano, a five-time All-Star second baseman who hit at least 25 home runs each of the past five seasons, might be a signal the Yankees are intent on trying to keep their player payroll below Major League Baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold next year.
The 27-time World Series champions would have to pay 50 percent on every dollar they’re over that threshold, and this past season had a record tax bill of $29.1 million, according to CBS Sports.
“The Yankees are finally showing some fiscal restraint,” said Wayne McDonnell, an assistant professor of sports management at New York University.
The Yankees also have been burned on 10-year deals before - - 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez has $86 million and four years left on his contract -- and have other pressing needs to address, such as bolstering their starting pitching rotation and strengthening their bullpen after the retirement of future Hall of Fame reliever Mariano Rivera.
Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner told reporters yesterday outside the team’s spring training complex in Tampa, Florida, that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda “is coming back.” He did not provide details about a deal with the free-agent pitcher.
The New York Daily News reported last night that the Yankees reached agreement on a three-year, $45 million deal with free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.
“I think they learned their lesson with the Alex Rodriguez contract,” said McDonnell, who created the “Business of Baseball” course at NYU. “The Yankees have a sound business plan. They know exactly how much they’re going to give ballplayers, they’re going to allocate their resources in a very prudent manner and they’ve done that so far.”
After nine seasons in New York, Cano opted to leave when his new agency, Jay Z’s Roc Nation, got the Mariners to agree on a contract that’s worth about $240 million over 10 years, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The person was granted anonymity because the agreement hasn’t been announced. Cano’s contract would be tied as the third richest in MLB history in total value, ESPN said.
Albert Pujols also received $240 million over 10 years from the Los Angeles Angels in 2011, while Rodriguez got a $275 million contract from the Yankees that replaced his previous 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and Steinbrenner have said they would like the Yankees’ payroll, which was $236.2 million at the end of 2013 according to CBS Sports, to be below $189 million next year. The Yankees, who have paid luxury taxes of more than $250 million since the system began in 2003, would have their tax rate drop to 17.5 percent from 50 percent if they’re under the threshold next season.
Former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson yesterday agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract with the New York Mets, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo didn’t return a message seeking comment.
The Mariners, who had a player payroll of about $75 million while going 71-91 last season, said yesterday they couldn’t yet confirm any news regarding Cano, who batted .314 with 27 home runs and 107 runs batted in last season.
“If and when an agreement is completed and finalized, we will announce,” the Mariners said. Cano’s representatives at Roc Nation Sports said in a statement they don’t comment on ongoing negotiations.
The 31-year-old Cano, who was the offseason’s top-rated free-agent position player according to CBS Sports, would get $24 million at the age of 41 in the final year of the contract he’s agreed to with the Mariners.
“They have money to spend, period,” ESPN MLB analyst Curt Schilling said. “But this doesn’t make them contenders. I have yet to see a deal like this pay itself out or even be worth it four of five years into it.”
The Boston Red Sox in July gave second baseman Dustin Pedroia, a four-time All-Star and the 2008 American League Most Valuable Player, an eight-year contract the Boston Globe said is worth $110 million.
“Many can argue that Pedroia and Cano are arguably 1 and 1A the best second basemen in the game,” McDonnell said in a telephone interview. “The Yankees were going to pay Cano $60 million above Pedroia. So what they offered was overtly generous. I think the Mariners probably in about five years are going to regret giving him a decade-long deal.”
Cano’s exit from New York leaves the Yankees without a player who averaged 99 runs scored and 103 RBIs the past five years. New York in 2013 had its lowest run total in 23 seasons as it missed the playoffs for the second time in 19 years.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Cano has missed two or fewer games in each of his last seven seasons, winning Gold Glove awards as the American League’s best defensive second baseman in 2010 and 2012.