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Robinson Cano's 'respect' comments confuse, surprise Yankees executives

Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners speaks to

Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners speaks to the media during his introductory press conference at Safeco Field. (Dec. 12, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Yankees executives were a bit surprised by Robinson Cano's comments Thursday when he said he felt disrespected by the club.

But they weren't angry.

And one even seemed to feel sorry for the second baseman.

"I feel bad for him because I think he's disappointed he's not a Yankee,'' team president Randy Levine said Friday. "But I respect him and he's free to say whatever he wants to say. We still respect him and he's always going to be fondly remembered as a Yankee.''

During his introductory news conference in Seattle on Thursday, Cano -- who joined the Mariners for 10 years and $240 million after being offered seven years and $175 million by the Yankees, for whom he played his first nine seasons -- said he didn't feel respected by his former club during negotiations.

Said Cano, "I didn't get any respect from them and I didn't see any effort; it was just like, 'You know what, it's this and that and that's it.' ''

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, speaking after his club officially introduced centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury on Friday, said he didn't take Cano's digs personally.

"There was nothing disrespectful about the last offer that was on the table,'' Steinbrenner said. "Not quite sure why he feels that way, but it is what it is. If I had to pick a word, I guess I would be a little bit surprised . . . Bottom line for us was we never got close [in talks].''

General manager Brian Cashman said that early in the free-agency process, he had the sense that Cano might go elsewhere. People in the know have said the Yankees prepared for that long before the offseason began, with some discussing privately the breakup of the Cardinals and superstar Albert Pujols in 2011. After making a good-faith offer to Pujols, the Cardinals suffered little public backlash when he bolted to the Angels for 10 years and $240 million.

Regardless, Cashman said that when it became apparent that Cano might leave, he put on full-bore pursuits of catcher Brian McCann, secured for $85 million over five years, and Ellsbury, brought in for $153 million over seven years, to cushion the blow.

Cano's representatives, led by Jay Z, never dramatically came down from their initial asking price of $310 million over 10 years. Cashman added that even after the Mariners made their offer, Cano's agency, Roc Nation Sports, said the Yankees could have Cano back for $235 million over 10 years.

That still was much more than the Yankees were willing to commit to the 31-year-old.

"Our policy is, for players over 30 years old, we don't believe in 10-year contracts. They have just not worked out for us, they have not worked out for the industry,'' Levine said, a reference, at least with his team, to the megadeal given to Alex Rodriguez when he opted out in 2007. "When we signed Derek Jeter to a 10-year contract, I believe he was 26. In that context, I believe, it makes sense.''

Levine smiled. "If Mike Trout was here, I would recommend a 10-year contract,'' he said of the 22-year-old Angels star. "But for people over 30, I don't believe it makes sense . . . We told all of his agents that. This is the greatest sports franchise and organization in the world. But he made the decision, I believe -- which you cannot blame him for, it's a lot, a lot of money -- to go to Seattle for the money.''

Cashman said if respect is to be equated with dollars, then yes, the Mariners were more respectful. "We made an offer that we were comfortable making and it fell far short, obviously, of where Seattle was,'' he said, "so in terms of respect, they showed a lot more respect financially than we did.''

As he has all offseason, Cashman called Cano a "Hall of Fame-caliber player.'' He added, "Bouquets, bouquets, bouquets, I'll throw him bouquets all he wants. But I couldn't throw him 235 million dollars.''

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