Elated Cano feels at home in Seattle
Mariners' new star credits Felix, Zduriencik for creating family feel
SEATTLE -- The easy joke is that Robinson Cano has 240 million reasons to love the Mariners, and clearly his whopping 10-year contract is the overriding reason he was at Safeco Field on Thursday for an introductory news conference with his new team.
But the former Yankees star had one more reason to add to that equation, a point Mariners ace Felix Hernandez pounded home when the two spoke by phone prior to Cano's agreement on a contract that will pay him $24 million a year through 2023.
"He told me what was great about this organization," Cano said. "He said they're going to make you feel like family. They'll take care of you. And that played a big role in my situation. You always want to be with people that treat you right.
"I can't explain how happy I am right now," he said. "Not because of the contract, but just the way I've been embraced here by the Mariners organization."
Cano was all smiles during his unveiling, but he grew stern afterward when asked if he felt the Yankees had really wanted him back.
"I'd have to say no," said the five-time Yankees All-Star. "I didn't feel respect. We never got that close commitment about anything."
Cano clearly wanted the Yankees to push further than they did with a seven-year, $175 million offer. The Mariners sensed a longer-team deal could win the day, and they brought it full force with a financial package that is tied for the third-largest in Major League history.
The Mariners wooed Cano with more than money. They greeted him and his contingent of agents, including hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, with open arms as well as an open pocketbook.
"I say this sincerely. This whole process from our standpoint was really professional and a lot of fun," said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. "When they came in a week ago, we had a birthday cake for Jay-Z, we spent time together in the locker room and on the field, we had jerseys made up for his whole group.
"I sat there as a GM watching this guy walk around the ballpark with a degree of excitement and I sensed that. I said, 'Hey, we've got a real chance here.'"
The Mariners chances were emboldened, obviously, by their willingness to go the extra mile -- and a few more years -- on Cano's contract offer than the Yankees.
"I think length was very important," Zduriencik acknowledged. "You could have stopped at a seventh year and probably wouldn't have got it done. You could have gone to eight and probably wouldn't have got it done. The fact the ownership allowed us to go to 10 years was a big, big factor."
And also a big, big risk. But the Mariners feel it's a risk worth taking at this point in their development, with Zduriencik talking about how "it's time to add a star" to the position-player mix in order to help take the next step.
How will Cano fare at the end of his contract, which runs until age 40? The Mariners note that Cano has missed only 14 out of a possible 1,134 games over the past seven seasons and has been remarkably consistent as well, being the first player in MLB history with five straight years with 40 or more doubles and 25 or more home runs.
"I do think he'll age well," Zduriencik said. "And if you look at his numbers, as a second baseman, he's putting up All-Star first-base numbers. So even through the course of this contract, should it tail off a little, it'll still be pretty good. He could probably play third base, probably play first base, we have DH in this league so maybe you can preserve him a little more as you go through his career."
The Mariners had to sell Cano on Seattle as a place to play and live for the next decade, not to mention competing with the Yankees' winning tradition. Cano said he's eager to help lead the young group of players on the field and embrace a new area of the country at the same time. And he vows the money won't change his approach.
"Am I going to keep working hard? Yes," he said. "Even harder? Yes. I'm going to do my best. I'll play the same way I played in New York. I'll play hard and do my best to help win games."
One of Cano's agents, Brodie Van Wagenen, said his group flew to Seattle four times over the last two weeks of negotiations as the contending teams whittled ultimately down to three clubs. And the more Cano learned about the Mariners' situation, the more intrigued he grew.
"Players have always viewed Seattle as a great destination, a great city, a great ballpark," Van Wagenen said. "The team naturally has experienced some struggles the last few years. When this process began, Robinson set out to learn as much as he could about all the teams that were interested.
"As he went through that, it became clear that this team was serious about winning, this team was serious about its commitment to Robinson and very clear about their respect and admiration for him as a player and person. And that commitment level resonated with him."
And now? Cano said he can't wait to get to Spring Training and begin playing with his first new team since signing with the Yankees in 2001 as a 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic.
"It's like you have a new house," Cano said. "You can't wait to get in and see it. I can't wait to experience the organization and see what we can do."