Jay Z’s Big Score

Why the rap icon-turned-sports agent is the big winner in Robinson Cano's 10-year, $240-million contract with the Seattle Mariners

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Johnny Nunez / WireImage

Cano and Jay Z attend a fundraiser at The 40/40 Club on June 24 in New York City.

Well that was fast. In a few short hours on Friday morning, Jay Z managed to go from the world’s worst sports agent to one of baseball’s best, securing a 10-year, $240 million deal for 31-year-old second baseman Robinson Cano with the Seattle Mariners.

This week, Seattle emerged as the unlikely lead contender for the five-time all-star, who had spent his entire nine-year major league career with the New York Yankees. Though re-signing Cano reportedly remained a top priority for the Yankees this off-season, large contracts for free agents Brian McCann (5 years,  $85 million) and Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) in the last two weeks made clear that he was not the organization’s sole focus. Seattle, on the other hand, has plenty of cash to spend, with just $31.6 million committed in player salaries for 2014 and $27.5 in 2015. 

(MORE: Jacoby Ellsbury Leaving Boston Red Sox for New York Yankees)

But just because Seattle had the money to spend doesn’t make the signing any less surprising. Though he’s coming off the best two seasons of his career, Cano is already 31 — the same age that Albert Pujols was when he signed an identical 10-year, $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (don’t ask them how that one has been working out). The Cano signing won’t immediately turn the Mariners — who finished 25 games out of first place in 2013 and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2001 — into a contender, but could be an indication that the franchise would like to bring more top talent to the Pacific Northwest. 

Though it’s unclear whether the deal will prove a wise one for Seattle, it’s unquestionably a coup for Jay Z. Yes, Cano is forfeiting a chance to become the face of baseball’s most storied franchise after Derek Jeter’s retirement and the endorsement deals that accompany that honor, but it’s unlikely the Yankees were willing to offer Cano a comparable contract. McCann, two years Cano’s junior at 29, received a five-year deal. Ellsbury, 30, got seven years. Ten years at $24 million annually is an impressive haul in the wake of widespread criticism for the Pujols and Josh Hamilton (five years, $125 million) deals.

(MORECano Joins Jay-Z: Does Scott Boras Have A Yankees Problem?)

The deal itself is big news, but it also provides insight into how Jay Z will be treated and covered as a sports agent. It’s rare for the details of a free agency negotiation to be leaked in baseball, and all-but unheard-of for an agent to be singled out in reports. But that’s exactly what happened on Friday morning, when both the New York Daily News and CBS Sports reported that Mariners executives were unhappy with demands coming from Robinson’s camp — with the former singling out Jay-Z as the source of those demands. The reports and accompanying outrage, however, proved overblown a few short hours later. It’s too early to say whether Jay Z will be a successful sports agent, but it’s clear that he’ll be treated with a different set of rules.

So far, so good.


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