Rosenthal: Strange, stranger or strangest — M’s, Cano or Yankees?

Robinson Cano is giving up New York's bright lights for Seattle.

 

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I can’t wait to hear the rationale.

Whenever a free agent makes an inexplicable money grab, we always hear the most bizarre rationales.

For Alex Rodriguez, it was the Rangers’ farm system. For Mike Hampton, it was the Denver school system. For Robinson Cano, it will be what? The seafood in Seattle?

Cano agreed Friday to a 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract with the Mariners, as confirmed by FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi. The deal ties Cano with Albert Pujols for the third-largest in baseball history.

I can’t call Cano “dumb” for accepting such a contract, as I did Thursday night while the prospect was looming. For heaven’s sake, with no state income tax in Washington, the deal becomes that much more lucrative.

But I’ll put it this way – this is the strangest move by a free agent since Rodriguez signed with the Rangers after the 2000 season.

It also is strange for the Mariners, who – for all their payroll flexibility and new local TV money – are not anywhere close to contention.

And it is strange for the Yankees, who somehow valued free-agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury at $153 million yet were unwilling to go much beyond $170 million for Cano, who is homegrown, more durable than Ellsbury and more powerful as a hitter.

As a free agent, Cano has every right to go for the most money, as Rodriguez did when he signed his record $252 million deal with the Rangers. That marriage supposedly was for 10 years. It lasted three, and then the Rangers traded Rodriguez to the Yankees.

This is nothing against Seattle, a beautiful city. Nothing against Safeco Field, a beautiful park. And certainly nothing against Mariners fans, who deserve better than the shoddy product they’ve witnessed the past several years.

Heck, maybe Cano will be a transformational figure for the Mariners, the way Ivan Rodriguez was for the Tigers when he joined them as a free agent after the 2003 season.

Maybe the M’s can persuade free agents such as Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz to follow Cano. Maybe they would go completely all-in and give up Taijuan Walker in a package for David Price.

At that point, they would be what, an 85-win team?

Listen, I would love to see Cano, Beltran and Choo in the same lineup, Price in the same rotation as Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. But it still might not be enough for the Mariners to compete with the A’s and Rangers in the AL West, not with the rest of the M’s supporting cast.

AROUND THE HORN

I know Hernandez is the only Mariner signed past 2014. I know the team’s new TV deal is worth a reported $2 billion over 17 years starting next season. But I also know that store-bought teams often prove disasters, as the 2012 Marlins and 2013 Blue Jays can attest.

The Mariners are a chaotic, often divided organization. Their new manager, Lloyd McClendon, is their fifth in eight seasons. Their previous manager, Eric Wedge, said he would not have returned if the team had offered him a five-year contract.

This is what Cano wants?

This is why he hired Jay-Z to represent him along with CAA?

Cano is Jay-Z’s first baseball client, and the contract is a coup for the music mogul and for CAA, only the sixth such deal in baseball history. But Cano will lose some of the marketability that he supposedly craves as he goes to a city far from the bright lights of New York.

No doubt the Yankees reminded Cano of that. And no doubt the Yankees will spin the loss of Cano to maximum effect, portraying him as selfish, ungrateful and greedy. But make no mistake – the Yankees merit derision, too, for refusing to budge from their seven-year offer in the $170 million range.

For one thing, the Yankees are not in a great competitive position either, even after signing Ellsbury and catcher Brian McCann for a combined $238 million. They still need at least one starting pitcher after closing in on a deal with free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda on Friday. And they’ve still got holes and potential dead wood all over their roster.

The Yankees have tried to perpetuate the idea that Cano is not a marquee player, pointing to their declining ratings and attendance last season, as if both were Cano’s fault. Well, let’s see how the Yankees look without Cano, who has missed only 14 games the past seven seasons. Let’s see if the latter years of the Ellsbury and McCann contracts prove as damaging as the latter years of CC Sabathia’s and Mark Teixeira’s.

Cano, of course, represented the same type of risk, but he was the best player of the bunch, one who cannot be adequately replaced by Omar Infante or any other second baseman. The Yankees need him a heck of a lot more than they need Ellsbury, and now they will have one without the other.

Cano, the Mariners and Yankees. Strange, stranger, strangest.

Rank ‘em however you want.

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