Cano reportedly flies to Seattle for meeting with club
Talks said to break down when Jay-Z raises demand, but discussions might be alive
SEATTLE -- Talks between Robinson Cano and the Mariners Robinson Cano's talks with the Mariners broke down Thursday when his agent, Jay-Z, raised the free agent's price during a meeting in Seattle, the New York Daily News reported early Friday.
But Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweeted shortly after that a source told him that the discussions are still alive.
It had been reported that Seattle was making a serious push for the 31-year-old second baseman, who is regarded as the premier free agent on the market and is coming off a season in which he hit .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs in 160 games for the Yankees.
Cano had been said to be seeking a deal in the ballpark of eight years and $200 million, and the Daily News reported that the Mariners had assured Cano and his representatives that they would go as high as nine years and $225 million if he agreed to sign. But then Jay-Z demanded a 10-year deal for $252 million, the same terms that Alex Rodriguez commanded when he left Seattle for Texas in January 2001. Mariners chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln rejected the demand and that ended the meeting, according to the report.
"It doesn't look like we're getting him," a Mariners source told the Daily News.
Only Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have signed Major League contracts larger than $225 million.
MLB.com has not confirmed that the Mariners have talked any specific figures with Cano and the Mariners declined to comment on the ESPN Deportes report, as is their policy with all free-agent negotiations.
What the report didn't say is whether Cano and his agents were truly interested in signing with Seattle or were leaking news of his dalliance with the Mariners as negotiating leverage to drive up the Yankees' offer.
The Yankees have already signed free-agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and catcher Brian McCann (five years, $85 million), but are trying to keep their 2014 payroll under the $189 million annual luxury-tax threshold.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told reporters at an introductory news conference for McCann in New York on Thursday that his team is still talking with Cano and his agents and he hopes the Yankees are given a chance to match any offers.
"Nobody has given up," Steinbrenner said. "We're still talking, but obviously we're a decent distance apart. We're just going to have to see, day by day. That's all we can do."
Cano has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in the Majors since 2009, averaging 28 home runs and 103 RBIs per season over those five years. He's been an American League All-Star and finished in the top six in AL MVP voting each of the past four seasons and just completed a contract that paid him $15 million for 2013.
The Mariners have considerable payroll available this offseason, with only Felix Hernandez ($22 million) and Hisashi Iwakuma ($6.5 million) under any sort of sizable contracts and just two players -- Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak -- entering the arbitration process.
Seattle's only offseason signing so far is a two-year, $5.8 million deal with utility man Willie Bloomquist that finalized Thursday. General manager Jack Zduriencik continues to push for an impact hitter or two and a starting pitcher to bolster a team that went 71-91 last season while finishing the year with seven position starters age 26 or younger.
Zduriencik said on Wednesday that he wouldn't talk about Cano or any other specific free agents, but indicated he had ownership's approval to pursue the right players in the right situations and that the club believes now is the time to "augment" the young core it's been building with the last few seasons.
"I have a lot of support to bring in players we need," Zduriencik said. "It's made an interesting winter, some interesting conversations, and we'll see where it ends."
As for the idea of long-term deals, such as would be required to land any of the top-end free agents?
"I don't think anybody loves them," Zduriencik said. "Any kind of deal you can get on a shorter term, there's less risk. But you've seen the way the market goes and you have to adapt to that market. In some cases, you have to stretch farther than you want. There's nothing you can do about it."
The Mariners signed Hernandez to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension last spring that made him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball until Justin Verlander topped that at $180 million. But Hernandez is the only player under contract beyond 2014 for a Seattle club whose payroll has been in the $90 million range the last few years.