Friday, April 5, 2013

The Empire State of Mind

He once claimed he made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee could; now he is reppin’ them. It was announced on Tuesday that Jay-Z (aka Shawn Carter) has formed his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, in conjunction with Creative Artists Agency. It didn’t take long before Mr. Carter found his first client, Yankee standout, Robinson Cano. Cano who had previously been represented by Scott Boras, seized the opportunity to find himself a new representative after some disagreement in their priorities. For Boras it was money, for Cano it was a chance to stay in New York.  

Roc Nation is Jay-Z’s full-service management consulting, media, and entertainment company and record label that was founded in 2009. The signing of Robinson Cano is a major leap forward for Jay-Z and his endeavors in becoming the ultimate entrepreneur.

Cano’s move to Roc Nation Sports broke through via Twitter as Cano uploaded a picture of himself and Jay-Z finalizing the paperwork confirming Robinson’s allegiance to Roc Nation and severing ties with Boras. Cano’s decision to fire Boras will not deter the baseball super-agent as Mr. Boras still represents many of the league’s biggest stars. However, what this maneuver does mean is that Cano will remain in pinstripes.

With Cano’s contract ending at the end of this season, there was much debate as to whether teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington National would shell out top dollar for Cano, most likely an amount that would be irresistible to turn down. What is the last year of a 6-year, $57 million contract, Cano is set to make $15 million this season. Expect his new contract with Roc Nation Sports to be upwards of $20 million per year; a much deserving price for baseball’s premier second basemen.

Cano’s firing of Scott Boras comes as a big sigh of relief for the Yankees’ front office. Despite Cano’s intent to remain in New York, Boras would have shopped him on the free agency market, causing his price tag to skyrocket. Robinson Cano is not the first Yankee stud to cut ties with Mr. Boras as both Mark Texiera and Alex Rodriguez have done so in the past.

Although this is Jay Z’s first attempt at player representation, it isn’t the first time the self-proclaimed Yankee fan has influenced a big-name athlete to remain in the Bronx. In 2007, after Alex Rodriguez announced he would opt out of his contract with the Yankees, Jay Z talked matters over with A-Rod and persuaded him to stay. A week later, Rodriguez who was then represented by Scott Boras, signed a 10-year, $275 million contract deal. Shortly thereafter, Rodriguez fired Boras after the controversy surrounding his opt-out.

Jay-Z appears to have everything under control as he looks to embark on his newest form of entrepreneurship except for one minor detail: Jay-Z is not certified to be a baseball agent. Although he has been granted a temporary certification by the players’ union, it will be Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports who will deal directly with Cano’s negotiations. Now with Boras is out of the picture, don’t think the Yankees might be able to get Cano on the cheap. Mr. Van Wagenen is no slouch himself. In recent years he has helped negotiate several $100-million-plus deals for Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Buster Posey.

The most important outcome of this change in agents is that Cano is happy with his decision. “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.” Cano has expressed that he is ready to take more control over his endeavors both on and off the field. Cano proceeded to make it clear that although this is a great milestone in his career and one that will surely create new opportunity, it must not distract him or his teammates from their on-field play. You must wonder that if Cano sided with Jay-Z with hopes of limiting distractions, he has done just the opposite. But, surely his partnership with Jay-Z will allow his personal brand to blossom, as after all, Jay-Z is the king of personal branding.

It’s never too early to start worrying about old age. Only 30, Cano who is considered by many to be the best second basemen in the MLB will be pressured to lead the Yankees throughout the later years of his career if he signs an eight to ten year deal. For the time being, Cano’s decision to remain in New York is the only thing Yankee fans have to cheer about after beginning the season with an uncharacteristically weak squad.

Some have argued that this is another ill-fated attempt by a hip-hop artist to demonstrate his sports fanaticism. Could it be? Perhaps. Last time a rapper teamed up with a star athlete was when Master P negotiated Ricky Williams’ contract. That contract has been noted as one of the worst contracts in sports as Williams was only able to claim $3.8 million out of the stated $68.4 million.

Whatever the case may be, Jay-Z has surrounded himself with the right people at CAA Sports to help solidify his most recent business escapade, Roc Nation Sports. In the end, this is just another day of business in the concrete jungle. There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York.

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