PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. On Dec. 12, 2013, Robinson Cano put pen to paper and signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners, a long commitment to a much different city on the other coast, leaving the Yankees behind after his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, landed him the third-largest free-agent contract in the history of baseball, topped only by Alex Rodriguezs pair of 10-year deals.
Halfway through that pact, Cano has made it back to New York, courtesy of Van Wagenen, who, in his first major move as Mets general manager, traded for the second baseman and closer Edwin Diaz.
And still, Canos contract is a momentous mark. No free agent has received more money since (though Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera signed more expensive extensions). That includes Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, superstar free agents whose continued unemployment is a surprise to many, Cano included.
Oh, yeah. For sure. Im surprised, Cano said Sunday, his first day in Mets camp. Guys like Harper, Machado, those are young guys that theyre in this league, put up numbers. Machado played in the World Series last year, Harper won an MVP before [in 2015 at age 22]. I thought by this time, they would be already signed.
At the outset of the offseason, the conventional thinking was that Harper and Machado would blow past Canos $240 million, perhaps even surpass Stantons $325 million, split up over 13 years. Harper and Machado are 26, after all, whereas Cano was 31 when he became a free agent. And as Van Wagenen contended at the time of the Cano trade, the Mariners received good value for Canos average annual salary of $24 million, even including his 80-game PED suspension last year.
But now, with the open market lagging for a second winter in a row and spring training underway, how much Harper and Machado will sign for or when or with whom is anybodys guess.
Its hard when you, as a player, you go out and put in the effort in the offseason, during the season, and be able to put [up] those numbers and are just waiting to be able to get a deal and not only getting one, you deserve a deal, Cano said. Because you put the numbers [up] and youre young, you have the talent. To not be able to get a deal, that tells you baseball is going to a different direction now, because theres a lot of guys that dont have a job.
Cano already has his money, though, so his focus is on acclimating to and leading his new team in his old city. That began with his arrival at First Data Field on Sunday, a day before the Mets first full-squad workout.
Cano already has given advice to Diaz, the Mets 24-year-old All-Star closer I just told him to go out and not let the big city get into your head, Cano said and the Mets think there is more where that came from. In addition to being the most accomplished and experienced player on the roster, Cano is critical to the Mets on-field success this year and beyond.
Hes going to [be a leader]. Thats just who he is, manager Mickey Callaway said. The way he talks about baseball is unbelievable. You sit there and hes kind of holding court and everybody knows, wow, this is some special stuff coming out of his mouth.
Despite that status, Cano said he will treat this spring training the same as all the ones before it, that he wants to go out and grind and feel like Im competing for a job.
I feel like Im 25, said Cano, 36. I always feel like that. Its like how you feel mentally and never feel like Im 30.
As for leaving New York for Seattle to begin with?
I have no regrets. I had a great five years there, Cano said. Coming back here, Im looking forward to being back in the playoffs.