Seattle Mariners introduce free agent acquisition Robinson Cano

SEATTLE — Stacked in $100 bills, $240 million weighs about 5,280 pounds.

There are objects of similar heft. Such as the black full-size SUV that brought the biggest signing in Seattle Mariners history to Safeco Field on Thursday.

Bearing this load, and the accompanying pressure, will be 210-pound Robinson Cano, 31, whom the Mariners signed to a 10-year, $240 million deal to play second base. The contract is the largest in the organization’s 36 years. Cano’s introduction was also.

Preceded by his representation, which includes rap mogul and green agent Jay-Z, Cano walked into a stuffy and full interview room with a broad smile Thursday at Safeco Field.

Cano left the manic cross streets outside Yankee Stadium in uptown New York City for a stadium most often driven past by dump trucks and tractor trailers in the yet-to-pop Sodo area of Seattle.

Most believe it was for the money. Cano, who will be the fourth-highest paid player in baseball, says it was not.

The topic repeated as a pivoting point in negotiations was contract length. Cano said he didn’t want to wonder what was next when he turned 37 or 38 years old. He wanted to sign a deal that he would finish his career with. The Mariners gave it to him, knowing if they did not, he could be another free agent that danced with them before leaving with someone else.

“You could have stopped at a seven-year deal and probably wouldn’t have gotten it done,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “You could have gone to an eight-year deal and probably wouldn’t have gotten it done. Support from the ownership group that allowed us to go to 10 years was a big, big factor.”

An apathetic fan base in such a malaise that any move the Mariners make is assumed doomed simply because of those executing it, is skeptical. As are many who cover the game. While most concede Cano projects as one of the superior players in baseball for the next four to five years, the back-end of the contract has provided pause.

Zduriencik and Cano’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, argue that Cano’s play in the first half of the contract will cause it to be viewed as a bargain during those years. At the back end, the benefit of the beginning will even out.

“I think this is a player who will age well,” Zduriencik said.

In October, Cano’s camp came to realize he was going to become a free agent after nine seasons in the Bronx. Talks with around 25 teams began at the general managers’ meetings, as did the process of reducing suitors.

About two weeks prior to signing, Cano was down to five teams. In the final week, there were three teams “actively engaged” with Cano, according to Van Wagenen.

Cano made his first trip to Seattle last week, a three-hour visit to measure his comfort level with the place that is expected to house him for the next 10 seasons. He had previously talked to Mariners ace Felix Hernandez about the organization. Hernandez informed Cano that the Mariners would treat him like family.

As the Mariners hung in during the process, Zduriencik had a creeping feeling that was different than when Seattle went after Prince Fielder two years ago or Josh Hamilton last offseason. It prompted him to tell Mariners team president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln this could work.

“Trust me, I think we have a chance at this one and we did,” Zduriencik said.

Thursday, Cano signed his deal with a pen he borrowed from a Mariners staff member, then asked if he could keep it. It was official. He will wear No. 22 and play second base for Seattle.

Despite Cano’s protests, the money was an obvious influence. When asked about the gap between the Mariners’ offer and that of the runner-up, Van Wagenen smiled.

“I’m not going to get into that,” he said.

What’s also clear is Cano’s ability to hit.

Every offensive metric for Cano is gaudy. Since 2009, he’s averaged 45 doubles and 28 home runs a season while hitting .314. His OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in that stretch is .899.

His prowess was not a byproduct of Yankee Stadium’s shallow right-field wall. The five-time All-Star has 110 home runs in the Bronx and 94 on the road in his nine seasons. His career OPS is higher away from home, .862 to .858.

After explaining he views himself as a line-drive hitter and not a home run hitter, Cano also pointed out another significant fact when informed his new park tends to suppress hitters.

“Not everyone is the same,” he said.

Which is precisely what the Mariners are hoping for following their boldest signing in club history, a decision that will carry great weight.


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