A little over 7 months ago, Robinson Cano decided that Scott Boras wasn’t the right fit for him heading into free agency. He ditched Boras and signed on with the then newly created Roc Nation Sports firm headed up by Jay-Z. Last night, Boras got a 7-year/$153 million contract for one of his other clients, Jacoby Ellsbury, and he got it from the Yankees. It’s the 3rd highest contract ever given to a free agent outfielder and it comes with an option for an 8th year that could bring the total value to $169 million.
To be honest, I still don’t know how I feel about the Ellsbury signing. At first glance I’m not a fan of the years or the dollars but I’m smart enough to recognize how great he’s been when he’s been healthy. I need a few more hours awake today to really put all my thoughts together on how this fits from a baseball perspective. The one thing that does keep rattling around in my head right now is what the Ellsbury signing means for Cano. It certainly doesn’t him off the table for the Yanks. They still have plenty of money to spend right now, as shown by Mike E. last night, and I still firmly believe Cano will re-sign with them. If you’ll allow me to put on my Jim Garrison hat for a few minutes, here’s my quick little theory on how this move to sign Ellsbury could actually be a part of the Yankees’ strategy with Cano.
While the Ellsbury story was breaking last night and all the details on the dollars were coming out, Robbie was still sitting on the offseason sidelines, 1 offer in hand and an asking price that was still well outside the realm of what teams are willing to pay for him. There was some stirring when the ESPN report on the Mariners possible involvement came out earlier yesterday, but as of right now that report hasn’t turned into any actual offer from the Mariners. New York’s 7 years/$160-170 mil remains the only real offer Robbie’s received and the Yankees have stated that they won’t go to $200 mil to get a deal done.
Their approach with Robbie from the start has been to make what they believe is a fair offer and push him to sign early before other teams can get involved. That’s why they said they weren’t going to wait around for him, it’s why they pushed to sign Brian McCann so quickly to prove they weren’t waiting around and also to prove they were serious about improving the team, it’s why they put a time limit on their latest offer, and to a certain degree it’s why they went big for Ellsbury, the top non-Cano position player free agent on the market and a Scott Boras Guy.
Think about it, what better way to put more pressure on Robbie to see the light and sign a deal than to show him what kind of money he could have made had he stuck with Boras? Boras was never going to get him $310 mil any more than Jay-Z and his team are going to, but he damn sure could have gotten him $170 million. That deal would be the biggest ever for a second baseman and would make Robbie the 3rd highest paid player in the game. Boras said back in September that Ellsbury was a better player than Carl Crawford and as his agent he went out and got him a contract bigger than Crawford’s with the biggest team in baseball.
Meanwhile Robbie is still waiting for other offers to come in while starting to lower his asking price that never came close to being met. His new agents have not only not drummed up any interest from other teams, they haven’t even gotten the Yankees to increase their original offer. Dudes are getting paid left and right and Robbie is just watching it all happen and waiting for something serious to start. You can see how the wheels might start turning in his head if he has any concern at all about how slow his market has been to develop. If he truly wants to remain a Yankee and not disappear into Bolivian out in Seattle, that offer from the Yankees has to be looking better this morning than it did yesterday.
Boras needed a win this offseason after losing his top client. He knows from years of experience that the best way to get a win is to get the Bronx Bombers involved in talks and he knew they were already interested in Ellsbury. The Yankees knew they needed an upgrade in their outfield and they went with the youngest, fastest, best defensive option who also happens to be represented by Robbie Cano’s former agent, a convenient benefit that allows them another opportunity to put pressure on Robbie to sign their deal. Yes I’m presuming a lot with this theory and presuming more by trying to get inside Cano’s head, but the pieces are there to make this possible based on how the Yankees have already gone about negotiating with Cano.
Some time later today I’ll get all my thoughts organized on the Ellsbury deal itself and how I think he’ll fit in next year. For now, with more money to spend and the rest of the stove starting to heat up around Robbie, I can’t stop focusing on how this deal impacts his eventual one. If this move does speed up that process and gets Cano to eventually sign for what the Yankees are offering, I think that has to make this offseason a smashing success regardless of how the rotation shakes out.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)