Cano’s contract and MLB’s changing economics

Dec 13, 2013, 11:34 AM | Updated: 11:40 am

By Shannon Drayer

The Mariners went the distance to lock up Robinson Cano. Ten years and $240 million. While it would be ridiculous to say that the dollars didn’t have a lot to do with getting Cano into a No. 22 Mariners jersey, the years Seattle was willing to offer played a very large role as well.

There has been criticism by some in baseball for what is perceived to be an outrageous deal. We will find out how outrageous or how close the player’s value is to what he is actually paid as the contract is played out. General manager Jack Zduriencik pointed out that in the short term, the contract could be team friendly.

Robinson Cano’s 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners is tied for the fourth-largest in MLB history. (AP)

“You can make an argument that the first part of the contract we’re going to get a bargain,” he said Thursday at Cano’s introductory press conference.

In making such a deal, projections of the player’s value are made by both his representatives and the team. While there are many ways to forecast what that player will be worth, it is more difficult to forecast what the market will be 10 years from now. Baseball is thriving financially with national and local television revenues pouring into the pockets of teams.

How do you assess what salaries could be a decade from now?

“I think there are a couple of truths in baseball,” said Cano’s representative, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Baseball. “Revenues have continued to go up. Salaries have continued to go up and the cost to acquire premium talent has continued to go up.”

His message to the Mariners? The top players in baseball are not going to get any cheaper.

“In our discussion with the Mariners, they had the opportunity to sign a player in the current market with the current evaluation of dollars and effectively flat-line that over a course of a long period of time,” he said. “They would be able to reap some of the benefits as the game continued to escalate in salary. I think that ultimately it is one of the reasons why they were able to get comfortable with a contract of such a long duration.”

It was apparent early this offseason that the market – perhaps fueled by the new television deals – was spiking.

“All of a sudden you are starting to see the market going where you saw it going with a lot of players out there signing contracts where you go, ‘Whoa,’ and then you begin to put this one into context and you begin to see how the WAR value is going to continue to go up or it looks like that is going to happen,” Van Wagenen said. “So if we can lock this player into a contract now, that’s part of the process.”

The next part of the process was getting Cano to Seattle. What would entice him to leave the Yankees?

“I think length was very, very important,” Zduriencik said. “I think what you have to say at the end is you could have stopped at a seven-year deal and you probably wouldn’t get it done. Gone to an eight-year deal? Probably wouldn’t have gotten it done. The fact that the support between [team president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln] and the ownership group allowed us to go to 10 years I think was a big, big factor.”

According to Van Wagenen, it was.

“For Robinson, from the beginning it was important for him to be able to have this next contract be the last contract he ever signed,” he said. “Ten years was an important mark for him because he has personal goals of playing until he is 40, 41 years old. He has goals of being able to go into the Hall of Fame and accomplish some statistics. He wants to be able to help a team win over a long period of time. For him, signing a contract of seven or eight years didn’t make sense because he would have to go through this process again at 38, 39 years old, and that is not ultimately what he wanted to do.”

Robinson Cano talked about joining the Mariners, taking on a leadership role in Seattle and more when he joined “Bob and Groz” on Thursday. Read the story

Audio: Cano on “Bob and Groz”
Photos: Mariners introduce Cano
Yanks say they showed Cano respect

Probably not. Not for the reasons listed by the agent and for the obvious reason that $24 million a year is a heck of a salary. He could have received more on an annual basis from another team, however, according to Van Wagenen.

“I think every team had a different desire of how many years they were comfortable going to,” he said. “Some teams were willing to go shorter with a much, much higher AAV (average annual value), an AAV that effectively would have reset the salary structure of MLB. The 10 years was something that really mattered to him.”

At $24 million per year, Cano is tied with three others for the 10th-highest AAV in baseball history. Cano had other options. Van Wagenen said it came down to three teams, the Yankees, the Mariners and a mystery team.

The Yankees were reported to have offered seven years and $175 million, an average of $25 million per year. There is no telling what the mystery team offered but it is probably safe to say the Mariners topped it by a good margin. This is the fourth-largest deal in the history of the game. There is no denying a large amount of risk is involved, but Zduriencik was willing to take that risk with a player who has missed just 14 games over the past seven years.

“I do think the player will age well,” he said. “I think if you look at his numbers as a second baseman, he’s putting up numbers as an All-Star first baseman. Numbers through the course of this contract should he tail off a little bit, it still should be pretty good. Can he play third base? Probably so. Can he play first? Probably so. He can DH in this league, so maybe you can preserve him a little more as we go through with his career.”

“All of these things were factors,” Zduriencik concluded. “I think we made a good presentation on this young group of guys that we have, and the fact that it is time to add a star, quite frankly let’s not get sold short on this one. Let’s get him. And we did. We were very aggressive and we did what we did.”

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Cano’s contract and MLB’s changing economics