Yo, Jay Z: Starbucks Ain’t New York Bucks
Uh, I hate to inform Jay Z as he toasts his first major contract as a sports agent, but there’s not as much to celebrate as he thinks. Yes, $240 million is quite a few dead presidents — a reference to his lyric, wink — but the idea behind this rapping magnate representing elite athletes was to maximize their commercial appeal far beyond ballparks and arenas.
When it comes to shoe endorsements, hanging out with the Jay Z crowd and having Rihanna on speed dial, Seattle might as well be Outer Mongolia. And Seattle is where Robinson Cano will make his $240 million for the next 10 years. Last I looked, Seattle doesn’t have a 40-40 Club, but it does have a coffee stand on every corner so people can warm their bones in the rain. Robbie Cano is going to fade away there, with a ballclub that hasn’t been relevant in eons in a town crazy in love — a reference to a Beyonce/Jay Z lyric, wink — with Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
In fact, an entertainment industry source says Scott Boras was spotted in an L.A. recording studio, recording his rap retort after triggering Cano’s departure from New York by coaxing the Yankees to sign his client, Jacoby Ellsbury, to a deal worth a maximum $169 million. Remember when Jay Z fired his salvo at baseball’s most prominent agent — “Scott Boras, you over baby. Robinson Cano, you coming with me,” — in a song called “Crown” last summer? Boras, usually a jazz fan, stepped out and hip-hopped.
“Jay Z, hee hee. New York bucks trumps Starbucks.”
(You realize I am kidding.)
Despite the enormity of the contract, the third-largest in baseball history, this is a lose-lose for Cano and the Yankees. Cano loved New York and wanted to stay, but the Yankees were offended by the initial October demand by Jay Z and partner Creative Artists Agency for Cano — an absurd $305 million — and chose to draw a financial line and hold firm. What complicated matters the other day was the signing of Ellsbury, who could blossom into a superstar in the Bronx but thus far hasn’t approached Cano’s offensive production and consistency. That meant the Yankees weren’t going higher than $170 million for Cano, which would have been a humiliating compromise for Jay Z in his rookie high-stakes foray.
So, he saved face by courting the Mariners, who are desperate to reclaim any sort of niche in the Pacific Northwest, much less Major League Baseball. At 31, Cano is considered too old by smart teams who want no part of long-term albatross contracts after seeing a succession of them fail or look bad: Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder to name five. There was no market for Cano beyond the Yankees and Mariners.
The agent commission will be top dollar, certainly.
But Cano won’t be happy 2,500 miles away. And in the end, I’m guessing, the Mariners will wonder why they did this when he’s 40 years old in 2023 and still drawing his annual $24 million.
The question now is how the Yankees allocate their available resources. They responded quickly with the wise signing of the clutch power hitter, Carlos Beltran, for three years and $45 million. Another strong possibility is outfielder Shin Soo-Choo, who also is 31 and also is represented by Boras. Choo will command well above $100 million himself, meaning the Yankees might be investing around $400 million for Ellsbury, Choo and catcher Brian McCann, none of whom will fill seats at mammoth Yankee Stadium or spike ratings on the YES Network until the team proves it can contend.
In the end, who wins? Cano shrinks to irrelevance. The Yankees have a crater in the lineup. The Mariners risk a headache contract.
As Jay Z pockets another mini-fortune.
Ninety-nine problems, but the bank’s not one of them.