Cano, not Ellsbury, is talk of town

NEW YORK -- For different players, respect comes with a different price tag.

The Yankees offered Robinson Cano $170 million over seven years and he took it as a slap in the face.

The Yankees offered Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million over the same seven years, and he just took it. Gladly.

This is not to say that Cano and Ellsbury are comparable ballplayers. Hardly.

But it illustrates how an offer that looks like an insult to one player can appear to be a godsend to another.

The Yankees were absolutely right not to match the Seattle Mariners' offer of $240 million for a decade of Robbie Cano considering their experiences, past, present and future, with long-term deals that bind them to a player into his last 30s.

Ellsbury was absolutely right to scoop up the Yankees' deal without, apparently, trying to see if the defending World champion Red Sox, the only team he had ever played for, would even come close to matching it.

And Cano was right to walk away from the Yankees and sign with the Mariners, because for all the silly talk from fans about how they would be glad to play for the Yankees for nothing, $65 million is a lot of cabbage and anyone would be an idiot to leave it rotting in the garden.

You can also argue that Cano had a point when he said, regarding the Yankees' stance in his negotiations: "I didn't feel respect. I didn't get respect from them, and I didn't see any effort."

After all, the statement the Yankees made this week goes as follows: Yeah, we love Robbie Cano. He's a great player. But we think Jacoby Ellsbury is worth almost as much.

And everyone, even the Yankees, knows that is a lot of hogwash.

Broken down to its AAV -- that's Average Annual Value to you non-numbers geeks -- the Yankees believed Cano, a potential Hall of Famer, to be worth just $3 million more per season than Ellsbury, an excellent player who has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries.

Those of us working for a lot less than the price of a private jet might have trouble grasping the concept, but that is something of an insult to Cano, who is in the lineup virtually every day, leads his team in virtually every offensive category and plays an effortless second base. In 2013, he was the only Yankee opposing managers were afraid might beat them. The only one who was sure to be pitched around.

Still, he batted .314, hit 27 home runs, knocked in 107 runs and posted an .899 OPS.

It had to feel like a bit of a snub when he saw the Yankees romancing Ellsbury -- and Brian McCann, for that matter -- while dropping a virtual take-it-or-leave-it offer on his desk and essentially bowing out when Seattle came up with its 10-year deal.

As Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, "The business of baseball can create some hard emotions."

The emotions this negotiation created in Ellsbury were all good, as they were at last week's carbon-copy news conference to introduce McCann, the new Yankees catcher.

Like McCann, Ellsbury spoke of the excitement of playing in New York, putting on the pinstripes, treading the hallowed ground and getting to know Derek Jeter, yada, yada, yada.

And unlike Cano, who felt snubbed, Ellsbury felt only loved and wanted by his new employers. It's called a honeymoon period, and it doesn't last forever. Sometimes, it doesn't even last very long.

In fact, for all the excitement the Yankees tried to drum up about Ellsbury on Friday, the bulk of the questions centered on two themes: 1) Cano and 2) What are you going to do next?

Because the truth is, the acquisitions of Ellsbury, McCann and Carlos Beltran -- the next Yankee who will receive the red-carpet-rollout treatment, having agreed to a three-year deal last week -- will make very little difference to the 2014 Yankees if Cashman doesn't find a way to plug the holes in his pitching staff. He still needs two starters, a closer and some middle relief help now that Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan have signed elsewhere.

Perhaps more important, all the new acquisitions will look like mere window dressing if Cano has a great year in Seattle and begins to lead the Mariners to a resurgence.

That is why Yankees fans seemed more outraged over the sights and sounds coming out of Seattle on Thursday than they were excited over what was presented to them in the Bronx on Friday.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran are fine ballplayers, but they are just parts in a machine that still needs a lot of maintenance.

Robinson Cano was more like a foundation, a rock upon which to build a team. Now, he has a chance to do it with a new club on the other side of the continent.

And the Yankees, either smart businessmen or disrespectful cheapskates depending upon where you sit, can only hope they don't wind up paying a higher price later for saving a few bucks now.