The Mariners’ courtship of Robinson Cano continued on Thursday in a more intimate setting. Sources confirmed that the free agent second baseman flew to Seattle, along with his representation led by Brodie Van Wagenen and rapper Jay-Z, to meet with upper-level Mariners management, Thursday evening and into Friday.
While this is a major step in trying to convince Cano to sign a free-agent deal, a face-to-face meeting guarantees little. But having Jay-Z, who formed Roc Nation Sports in partnership with Creative Artists Agency, in the discussions means that talks are beyond preliminary. Cano became the first client for the fledgling sports management company when he left super agent Scott Boras in April.
There seems to be genuine interest from Cano’s side in coming to Seattle. He’s had phone conversations with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez about the organization and the city. Hernandez could also attest to the organization’s willingness to spend money, having signed a seven-year, $175 million contract before last season.
Ideally for the Mariners, a deal would be finalized with Cano while he’s in Seattle and announced by this weekend. But it’s possible there could be some hesitation from the Cano camp if they are waiting from a counter-offer from the New York Yankees.
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Right now, the Mariners seem to have offered the most for Cano. Reports have varied. Initial reports have said the Mariners would offer an eight-year contract for more than $200 million. A report from ESPN Deportes, Thursday morning, said the Mariners had upped their offer to 10 years, $230 to $240 million. And then yet another report — this one from Fox Sports — surfaced later in the afternoon, saying the Mariners had not offered more than $200 million. By Thursday evening, multiple sources reported the deal of nine years, $225 million was on the table.
Even with the varying reports, it’s clear that any offer made by the Mariners is more than the offer made by the Yankees, which is reportedly seven years, $160 to $170 million.
Cano, 31, is a five-time All-Star for the Yankees. Last season, he played in 160 games, hitting .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBI, while posting an .899 on-base plus slugging percentage. He finished fifth in American League MVP voting.
The Mariners have plenty of money to work with. Only Hernandez ($22 million) and Hisashi Iwakuma ($6.5 million) are making significant money next season. Mariners chief executive operating officer Howard Lincoln said recently the Mariners’ payroll budget would likely increase, and definitely not decrease this season. Last season, the team budgeted $95 million for payroll, but spent only around $84 million.
The team could logically add Cano at that large rate and still add more players.
The Mariners have also been reported to be one of many teams putting out trade offers to the Tampa Bay Rays for former Cy Young award winning pitcher David Price. The talented left-hander has two years left on his contract and the Rays would consider moving him this season as a pre-emptive move.
The Rays have shown interest in five Mariners players: pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton and infielders Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin and Brad Miller. A source said the organization is doing advanced research and analysis on all of them. If any deal for Price were to occur, at least one of those players, possibly two would need to be included.
The Mariners announced the signing of backup infielder/utility player Willie Bloomquist on Thursday morning. While the organization doesn’t give out contract details, sources confirm that it is a two-year contract for $5.8 million.
“From my personal standpoint, this has been an exciting week for me and my family,” Bloomquist said in a conference call. “To get an opportunity to go back and play where it all began as a professional, to sign back with organization that believed in me out of high school and out of college and now as a free agent, I couldn’t be more flattered to be coming back.”
The Mariners were looking to acquire a veteran player to come off the bench, who is able to play multiple positions, including shortstop. Bloomquist, 36, fills that role.
The Mariners drafted the Bremerton native and South Kitsap graduate twice. He signed with the Mariners after being taken in the third round of the 1999 draft out. He made his big-league debut on Sept 1, 2002 and played 540 games for the Mariners.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @RyanDivish