At the end of last season – during which the Seattle Mariners went 71-91 and finished fourth in the AL West – the front office knew it was going to spend some money in the offseason.
They just didn’t know how much.
“Well, we always knew we were going to have dollars coming off,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said on The Morning Show. “It was just a matter of (figuring out) what our new budget would be and what was freed up from the previous year on players you did not re-sign. We talked about every free agent out there. We went guns loaded, if you will, to have many discussions and see where it would end up at. As we speak, this is where we are.”
Where they are is owning the best second basemen – and one of the best all-around players – in baseball. In December, Zduriencik and the Mariners inked Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal, which was made possible, in part, by Cano’s agent, Jay-Z.
“He was (really involved); he really was,” Zduriencik said of Jay-Z. “We had a couple sessions with the group that basically worked on the baseball side, and then the third meeting we had was when Jay-Z came in with several people from Roc Nation and Robinson himself, and we had a really good day.
“They came here about 6 o’clock,” Zduriencik recalled. “We had a birthday cake for Jay-Z (because) it was his birthday the day before, we had the stadium lit up for welcoming all of them to Seattle, we had all the highlight films of Robby and his career (with) Jay-Z’s music in background, (we) gave them a tour of the club house and had jerseys for them. We went all out to make them feel as comfortable as they could.”
It worked. The meeting lasted three hours, during which Jay-Z was “low-key,” but often chimed in with good questions.
“We were able to get the deal done that evening,” Zduriencik said.
Now, all Cano, 31, has to do is buck the trend of players in their early 30s struggling after switching teams and signing long-term contracts.
As Zduriencik pointed out, though, Cano was going to sign a massive contract this year regardless of which team he played for. Perhaps he would have been a little more comfortable in New York, where he started his career, but he also won’t have to contend with the same level of media scrutiny on a daily basis.
And yet, the issues of hustle – which hasn’t exactly been a staple of Cano’s game – remains.
“I think the other side to that is he plays 160 games a year,” Zduriencik countered. “There are so many players in sports (who) hustle, and it’s great and it’s exciting (for the fans), (but) sometimes it’s false hustle. Robinson’s very gifted. Things come easy for him in terms of the game, and I know at the end of the day, we’d love to have Robinson play 160 games for us.
“To have a player maybe back off a little bit at certain times, sometimes (that’s good). I hope he does conserve his energy. I also hope that he gives us the efforts – and I think he will when he has to. I think that’s all we’re asking him to do – be the player he was in New York, bring that here and help us in Seattle.”