NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees are growing increasingly resigned to the likelihood of a future without Robinson Cano, amid reports the Seattle Mariners either have offered him, or are about to offer him, a contract in excess of $200 million.
And according to the Seattle Times, quoting an unnamed Mariners front-office source, Cano was aboard a private jet bound for Seattle Thursday night, setting the stage for the most highly-prized free agent on this year’s market to relocate to the opposite side of the country.
In the event Cano leaves, the Yankees are preparing to move forward on several other free agents, while considering the possibility of opening the 2014 season with journeyman Kelly Johnson as their starting second baseman.
According to sources familiar with the Yankees' thinking who spoke to ESPNNewYork.com on condition of anonymity, the Yankees believed the Mariners were about to offer Cano a nine-year, $225 million contract -- well below Cano’s reported demand of $310 million over 10 years but significantly higher than the Yankees offer of $170 million over seven years.
“If that’s what the [Mariners] offer is, he’s gone," said the source, who added he believed Cano would go to the highest bidder, and that the Yankees were determined not to go higher than seven years or $175 million for the five-time All-Star, who led the team in batting (.314), home runs (27) and RBIs (107) in 2013.
In the event the Yankees lose Cano to free agency, the source said the Yankees would renew their efforts to sign either Shin-Soo Choo or Carlos Beltran, both power-hitting outfielders, and delve into the free agent market for a starting pitcher.
Asked what the Yankees would do at second base, the source said, “That’s why they signed Kelly Johnson."
The Johnson signing has not been officially announced yet, but it is expected that the Yankees will soon announce a deal with the 31-year-old, who hit 16 home runs last season for the Tampa Bay Rays. A left-handed hitter, the Yankees believe Johnson’s swing will play well in Yankee Stadium.
A source in Cano’s camp declined comment on the ongoing negotiations.
“Let’s just say I’ll be on alert from here on in," he said.
Earlier Thursday, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner had said he hoped the Cano camp would give the Yankees a chance to match any offer from the Mariners before signing a deal.
"I would hope that would be the case," Steinbrenner said at a news conference to officially announce the signing of free-agent catcher Brian McCann. "I would hope given the history, given that he came up through this organization that would be the case. These are good guys that he's got. I would think so and hope so."
But Yankees GM Brian Cashman said there was no guarantee that Cano would do that.
“There’s no understanding that they’ll come back again in the end," Cashman said. “There’s been nothing like that. We’ve been on the phone. We’ve done all the conversations on both ends. But at the end of the day it usually comes down to the financials. And at some point, based on all the information he receives, he’ll make decisions for himself and his family. Hopefully it’s us, but I can’t guarantee it."
The source, who is familiar with the Cano negotiations and the Yankees' position on this year’s free-agent crop, downplayed the possibility that the club would make an offer to Omar Infante, the veteran second baseman who played for the Detroit Tigers the past two seasons.
“More likely, it means Choo and Beltran are back in play, along with some starting pitchers," the source said.
Earlier in the week, it was learned that the Yankees have come to an agreement with former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for seven years and $153 million, although the deal has yet to be finalized, pending a physical. And the Yankees are known to be interested in bidding on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, if and when Major League Baseball comes to an agreement with the Nippon Baseball League for a new posting system.
“We’re not waiting for Robbie, and Robbie’s not waiting for us," Cashman said. “We’re out there trying to sign players. We have a lot of needs, and obviously McCann would love to have Robbie as a teammate and we would love to have Robbie back as a Yankee. But at the same time, there’s a lot of needs we have to fill. So we’re aggressively pursuing a number of players and we have offers to a number of players."
Said Hal Steinbrenner: “We're still talking. Nobody is giving up. We are a decent distance apart. We are just going to have to wait and see. Day by day. That's all I can do."