The big question, now that second baseman Robinson Cano has hired CAA and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports as his new agents, was whether the switch means that the New York Yankees stand a better chance of signing him.
Brodie Van Wagenen, who will be Cano’s primary baseball agent for CAA, didn’t answer that question directly in an interview with FOXSports.com on Tuesday night. But Van Wagenen made the obvious clear:
Cano, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, enjoys playing for the Yankees and is open to staying with the club.
“New York and Yankees fans have been great for Robbie,” Van Wagenen said. “He has flourished in pinstripes and loved his time in the city. His primary focus is continuing to represent that brand and help his team win games.
“Is there an opening for him to explore a contract? You know us. We’re not going to talk publicly about that. We certain will continue to work diligently to help him achieve his goals both on and off the field.”
CAA, however, has a long history of negotiating extensions for star players rather than waiting until free agency. Cano’s previous agent, Scott Boras, generally takes the opposite approach, preferring his clients to determine their values on the open market — though Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez and Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus are two recent exceptions.
Boras, in an interview Tuesday night, said that Cano had signed a representation agreement with him on March 20 in San Francisco, the day after the second baseman led the Dominican Republic to the World Baseball Classic championship.
Cano is free to hire another agent; he originally went to Boras after leaving another agent, Bobby Barad, in early 2011. Barad received the commissions on Cano's salaries for the four-year, $30 million contract he negotiated for the player in February 2008 and also Cano's option years for 2012 and '13.
Boras, however, could make a claim that he deserves part of Cano's next contract — the one he will sign with his new agents. The Yankees publicly acknowledged that they offered Cano a new contract in spring training, while Boras was still his representative.
In any case, Boras said he was blindsided by Cano’s decision.
“We never heard from him regarding anything but his approval of the process that we discussed way back in October,” Boras said. “We had three communications with him after he signed the representation agreement. We never heard anything from him to suggest that anything was other than he desired.”
As for Cano’s next step, the Yankees generally do not negotiate extensions while a player is still under contract. However, they adjusted their policy and made Cano an offer in spring training, and sources say they are willing to make a further adjustment and reopen talks during the season.
“Unlike some players, (Cano) doesn’t have that burning desire to leave his current team,” Van Wagenen said. “If he can continue the relationship, he’s certainly open to exploring that. But whether that comes now or in free agency remains to be seen.”
Cano’s decision to align with Roc Nation Sports, a newly formed, full-service sports management company, is a seeming indication that he would prefer to remain in a major market. Roc Nation Sports’ umbrella company, Roc Nation, was founded by Jay-Z.
“Robbie was searching for new representation,” Van Wagenen said. “As he was going through that process, I am sure that having competent contract agents in combination with a full-service 360-degree company to help him accomplish his off-the-field goals had to be appealing.
“Add to the fact that he had a previous relationship with Jay-Z and a tremendous amount of respect of Jay-Z, I’m sure it was exciting and potentially influenced his decision. Absolutely we feel there are unique opportunities both on and off the field, given this partnership.”
Boras, however, said that his agency did not handle Cano’s marketing; Cano could have retained him as an agent and still aligned with Jay-Z.
“We know it’s not about marketing,” Boras said. “Robbie had previous relationships with marketing arms. His marketing interests are taken care of by others.”
— Ken Rosenthal