Jay Z might have encountered "99 Problems" during his foray into the baseball representation business, but finding a team willing to spend $240 million on a player who's never finished higher than third in a most valuable player race was not among them.
In the past few weeks, the master rapper and entrepreneur has discovered that baseball can be just as much a circus as the music business. In early November, Jay Z landed on the Major League Baseball Players Association's radar for giving a $34,000 watch to Robinson Cano in apparent violation of MLBPA rules. Lou Merloni, a former major leaguer-turned-Boston talk show host, called Cano an "idiot" for leaving Scott Boras for Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports. And Jay Z might have imperiled the Cano negotiations with Seattle with a late bout of heavy-handedness that reportedly threw club chairman Howard Lincoln into a tizzy, although we'll probably never know how dicey things got down the stretch this week.
In the end, by Friday morning, Roc Nation group and its partners at Creative Artists Agency had landed a 10-year deal for Cano that ties the highest payout ever for a player not named Alex Rodriguez. And Jay Z still had time to get to the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., for the latest stop on his Magna Carta tour Friday night.
The end result might not establish the music industry superstar as a classic "rival" to Boras, who has the mother of all clienteles and a legacy of megadeals. But it puts Jay Z and Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA in a club with Boras and Dan Lozano as the only agents ever to negotiate contracts of $200 million-plus. And it certainly averts the potential nightmare scenario of Cano having to crawl back to the New York Yankees for a tick more than the $153 million they gave Jacoby Ellsbury earlier in the week.
There will be all sorts of spins in the aftermath of Jay Z's first big baseball score. But the true success of the deal can't be gauged for a few more years, when these salient questions are answered:
• Will Cano thrive in Seattle and help lure other players to the Pacific Northwest, or has he just guaranteed himself a lengthy run in the baseball wilderness, where he'll be surrounded by .500 talent and wake up to find himself miserable and irrelevant? Sorry, Seattle fans, but it wouldn't be the first time that's happened. The success of Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik's grand experiment hinges just as much on Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and the other young hitters who've been core parts in a team that's still looking to get over the hump.
• Does the money outweigh what appeared to be Cano's principal objective -- staying in New York, basking in the glow of the big city and finishing out a career as a Yankee? He cashed in at the end, but had to travel 3,000 miles to do it. We talked to three competing agents in the wake of Cano's deal, and they concurred that the Cano-Seattle union has the potential to not end well.
"If the only priority is to get paid, there's always a sucker -- and Seattle was the sucker," an agent said. "Does this deal make them better? Yes. Does it make them formidable? No.