David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Give the Mariners credit. In a little more than a week, Jack Zduriencik and Co. were able to make themselves feel more like a family to Robinson Cano than the Yankees did in nine years.
That's what free agency is really about, right? Finding a family-type atmosphere, even if you have to travel to the most remote corner of the Pacific Northwest to get it?
Cano thinks so. Well, that's what he said during Thursday's introduction at Safeco Field. And wouldn't you know it, Felix Hernandez told him the Mariners would be like that -- the same guy who just got $175 million himself from Papa Z.
"They showed me love," Cano said, "and they showed they wanted me from Day One."
Makes sense. We all want to be loved. But in this case, those warm and fuzzy feelings aren't worth a broken bat if they don't come attached to a 10-year contract worth $240 million.
Evidently, the Yankees liked Cano only as a friend because in his mind, their seven-year, $175-million offer -- with a greater average annual value of $25 million -- was practically an insult. Based on those failed negotiations, Cano believed the Yankees never wanted him back.
"Honestly, I would say no," Cano said. "I didn't feel respect. I didn't get any respect from them and I didn't see any effort."
It takes some effort to come up with a $175-million contract. No effort, to use a recent example, is what the Mets did two years ago with Jose Reyes in letting their homegrown star and franchise shortstop walk without even making an offer.
Love, respect, family. When it comes to free agency, these are all words that everybody uses to fill the time between slipping on a new uniform top and the post-conference group photos.
Because what can you say about a gigantic contract? Go through a list of things you're going to buy first? Cano didn't need to spell it out for us. We knew why he was standing at the podium Thursday -- and with a beard.
What Cano discovered during his first and last go-round in free agency was simple economics. The Mariners wanted to pay Cano more money, and that usually seems like a good reason to switch uniforms.
Despite all the statistics and scouting, ultimately it's the market that truly reveals how much a player is worth. The Yankees insist they are done handing out A-Rod contracts, and for Cano, they cut back even further, refusing to guarantee more than seven years. Cano wasn't happy about that and became more upset once the Yankees, with surprising speed, gave Jacoby Ellsbury his own seven-year, $153-million deal.
We see how Cano could feel disrespected by that. But as he repeated Thursday, this is a business, and the Yankees did what they believe is best for the franchise. Getting burned by A-Rod surely led them to that place, but the Mariners had no such reservations about a player who turned 31 in October.
"He's being paid handsomely," Zduriencik said. "But quite frankly, you can make an argument that the first part of the contract, we're going to get a bargain. The second part of the contract, he's a guy that we think is going to age well."
Bottom line: The contract got them Cano, and the Mariners looked pretty happy about that. We listened to their stories about surprising Jay Z with a birthday cake and giving the agents personalized jerseys and hosting a tour of Safeco Field. The usual drill.
That's something the Yankees couldn't offer. Cano already had spent nine years in the Bronx, so there was no wooing to be done, as team officials did to impress Brian McCann on his recruiting visit.
For Cano, it was a big stack of money -- take it or leave it.