One day into the final year of his contract, Robinson Cano has cut ties with superagent Scott Boras and signed a representation deal with a new agency led by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.
Cano's surprising decision comes as the free-agent-to-be is in line for a massive contract that should easily surpass $150 million.
Agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports will lead the Cano negotiations, the agency said. "At this point in my career, I am ready to take a more active role in my endeavors both on and off the field," Cano said in a statement. "I am confident that the pairing of Roc Nation Sports and CAA Sports will be essential in helping me accomplish my short- and long-term goals.
"I am making this important decision now so I can keep my focus on helping the Yankees succeed in 2013, while minimizing any distractions for me and my teammates."
Cano is expected to take questions before tonight's Yankees-Red Sox game.
The move seems to have raised the odds of Cano re-signing with the Yankees before becoming a free agent, if only because Boras has a track record of almost always testing the free-agent market with his clients before reaching a new deal. Nearly every star CAA client has signed an extension in advance of free agency.
Cano and the Yankees have professed a desire to continue their relationship, but negotiations between the front office and Boras in recent months have led to nothing concrete.
The Yankees made an offer to Cano earlier this year that general manager Brian Cashman described as "significant," and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said at the start of spring training "we hope [Cano] continues his career here for a long time to come."
Cano is entering the final year of a six-year, $57-million contract in which he will be paid $15 million. He switched agents from Bobby Barad to Boras after the 2010 season, a move many saw as a precursor to a staredown between player and team over every last dollar.
Whether the road to locking up Cano potentially just became smoother for the Yankees remains to be seen. Cashman said in an email there was nothing for him to comment on, and Boras did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Meanwhile, Cano's new lead agent, Van Wagenen, described the Yankees second baseman as "one of the game's best and most consistent players" in an email.
"Our mandate is to minimize his distractions while helping him achieve his goals on and off the field in both the short and the long term," Van Wagenen added. "His immediate concern is continuing to show respect for the Yankees organization, his teammates and the fans."
Jay-Z's involvement in the agency could impact his role with the Nets. It is unlikely that Jay-Z would be able to keep his minority stake in the Nets and represent NBA players. But the league has no concern with his involvement with players from other sports. "There is no prohibition on NBA owners having an interest in businesses that represent non-NBA athletes," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
With Neil Best
and Andrew Kahn