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(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Just seven months before hitting the open market as (by far) the best free agent available, Robinson Cano has fired agent Scott Boras. He is now represented by CAA Sports and Jay-Z’s new Roc Nation Sports. Cano will be Roc Nation’s first client and they will handle his marketing. Buster Olney, Mark Feinsand, Ken Rosenthal, and Dan Barbarisi all had a hand in breaking the news.

“At this point in my career, I am ready to take a more active role in my endeavors both on and off the field,” said Cano in a statement released on Roc Nation’s site.  “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.  I am making this important decision now so I can keep my focus on helping the Yankees succeed in 2013, while minimizing any distractions for me and my teammates.”

Darren Rovell notes that Jay-Z hopes to become a certified agent in baseball, football, and basketball. Roc Nation’s initial launch is with CAA Sports, but it will be its own stand-along company. Given his new affiliation with Jay-Z, it is very hard to see Cano leaving New York. I doubt he has his eyes on joining the Mets either.

Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA will handle the bulk of Cano’s contract talks. He represents Ryan Zimmerman, Carlos Quentin, Ryan Howard, and Drew Storen, among others. CAA itself has a long client list, including stars like Ryan Braun, Buster Posey, Matt Cain, and Roy Halladay. Current Yankees Phil Hughes and Boone Logan are both CAA clients.

“Robinson Cano is an extraordinary all-around talent who has established himself as one of the game’s best and most consistent players,” said Van Wagenen in a statement. “Our mandate is to minimize his distractions while helping him achieve his goals on and off the field in both the short- and the long-term. His immediate concern is continuing to show respect for the New York Yankees organization, his teammates and fans.”

As for the Yankees, Cano cutting ties with Boras is pretty much the best case scenario as far as contract extension talks go. They’ve already made their franchise cornerstone a “significant offer,” though apparently there hadn’t been much progress in recent weeks. With a few notable exceptions, Boras has always taken his biggest clients out onto the open market and created a bidding war. Teams like the Tigers, Nationals, Angels, and especially the Dodgers figure to be in the mix for Cano after the season. Nearly every star CAA client has signed an extension in advance of free agency.

Does the agency switch means it will be easier for the Yankees to sign Cano long-term? Maybe, but I’m not sure easier is the best way to put it. I do think it improves their chances of signing him to a more affordable contract — not a ton because I doubt Jay-Z wants his first baseball contract to be a sweetheart deal — though Robbie is getting paid either way. He’ll clear nine figures easily and could double Chase Utley’s second base record of $85 million guaranteed. Perhaps he’ll sign a shorter (six years?) deal instead of seeking a massive eight- or ten-year agreement. That would be awesome.

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Ladies and gentlemen, after weeks of position battles and scrap heap pickups, here are your 2013 New York Yankees…

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
Frankie Cervelli Robinson Cano Brennan Boesch CC Sabathia Mariano Rivera
Chris Stewart Lyle Overbay Ben Francisco Hiroki Kuroda David Robertson
Jayson Nix Brett Gardner Andy Pettitte Boone Logan
Designated Hitter  Eduardo Nunez Ichiro Suzuki Ivan Nova Joba Chamberlain
Travis Hafner Kevin Youkilis Vernon Wells David Phelps Shawn Kelley
Cody Eppley
Disabled List (* denotes 60-day DL)
Adam Warren
Cesar Cabral* Phil Hughes Alex Rodriguez*
Curtis Granderson Derek Jeter  Mark Teixeira
Michael Pineda*

The pitching staff, specifically the front of the rotation and the back of the bullpen, is the clear strength of the club right now. Cano is the focal point of the offense and he won’t get a damn thing to hit with men on-base or the late innings of close games. It will be up to Youkilis, Hafner, and Wells to make the other club pay in those spots, and it’ll also be up to Robbie to not get himself out by chasing pitcher’s pitches off the plate. He did that quite a bit in the postseason last year.

Wells takes over as the everyday left fielder while Overbay will start at first base against righties — Youkilis will slide over to first with Nix playing third against southpaws. Francisco could replace Hafner, Ichiro, or Gardner against lefties. Boesch … I’m not quite sure what the plan is there, but he figures to get some work as a left-handed bat off the bench, particularly as a pinch-hitter for the Stewvelli catching tandem against tough righties late in close games. Eppley and Warren are just keeping the bullpen seats warm until Hughes (mid-April?) returns.

Thankfully, the Yankees are not married to this roster all season. It’s just the Opening Day roster. Jeter, Granderson, and Teixeira are all expected back at some point in the first half and are better than their replacements, even if their performances suffer a bit as the result of the injuries. Pineda, Cabral, and A-Rod are all second half players, if anything. I think it’s very safe to call this a patchwork roster in need of major in-season reinforcements, either by players returning from injury or through trades.

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Forbes released its annual MLB valuations yesterday, and for the umpteenth consecutive year (actually 16th), the Yankees rank as the sport’s most valuable franchise. Their $2.3 billion valuation is a) higher than any other club in U.S. sports, b) $700M higher than the second most valuable club (Dodgers), and c) more than double the fourth most valuable club (Cubs). It’s also up considerably from 2012 ($1.85B), especially with regards to 2011 ($1.6B) and 2010 ($1.5B). You can thank the YES Network and the new Yankee Stadium for that.

“The Yankees sold some of their interest in the YES Network as part of Fox’s purchase of 49% of the regional sport network in late 2012 and as part of the deal the team’s rights fee from YES will increase from $85 million this season to $350 million in 2042,” wrote the publication, meaning the team’s value is going nowhere but up. Forbes estimates the Yankees’ revenue at $471M and their operating income at just $1.4M, but Yankee Global Enterprises is far more profitable due to its other holdings. The team technically operated at a loss for about a decade before the new Stadium opened.

The Athletics, up 46% from 2012, saw their value increase more than any other club in the last year. At $450M, the Rays are the least valuable franchise in the sport while the Cubs ($32.1M) and Angels ($-12.9M) had the largest and smallest operating incomes, respectively. Revenue sharing throws a big wrench into those calculations, however. Baseball will be getting a big financial boost in 2014 when its new agreements with FOX and TBS kick in, doubling the money each team receives from national television broadcast.

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Say your prayers... (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Say your prayers… (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Barring a complete surprise, Mariano Rivera will announce his retirement from baseball following the 2013 season during a press conference in Tampa this morning. The 43-year-old has been hinting at retirement for two years now, so the announcement will be no surprise. The show starts at 10am ET and can be seen on YES. I’ll liveblog the particulars below.

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Walkin' away. (Star-Ledger)

Walkin’ away. (Star-Ledger)

An era is ending in the Bronx. Joel Sherman reports Mariano Rivera will hold a press conference on Saturday morning to announce his retirement from baseball following the 2013 season. He could always change his mind between now and then, but I wouldn’t count on it. The press conference is scheduled for 10am ET at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Rivera, 43, said he made up his mind about his future when camp opened, but he wasn’t ready to tell anyone anything yet. News of Saturday’s announcement is no surprise, as I think most of us expected Mo to retire following last season. The season-ending knee injury in early-May changed those plans. In fact, Rivera said himself there was a “good chance” he would have retired in the offseason had the knee gotten healthy in time to allow him to pitch in the playoffs.

The Yankees signed Rivera for just $2,000 as a 20-year-old out of Panama back in February 1990. He spent the early part of his career as a starter, gradually working his way to the big leagues and making his debut on May 23rd, 1995 against the California Angels. They clobbered him, hanging five runs on eight hits and three walks against Rivera in 3.1 innings. He remained in the rotation for another three starts and resurfaced later that season, most notably striking out eleven White Sox in eight two-hit, shutout innings on Independence Day. It was, by far, the best of his ten career starts.

(AP Photo/John Dunn)

(AP Photo/John Dunn)

The club moved Rivera to the bullpen to open the 1996 season and the rest, as they say, is history. He pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 107.2 relief innings that year, serving as a super-setup man to closer John Wetteland. Rivera allowed one run in 14.1 postseason innings that fall to help the Yankees to their first World Championship in almost 20 years. All of that happened before Mo learned his trademark cutter.

As the story goes, Rivera was playing catch with fellow Panamanian Ramiro Mendoza in 1997 when the ball just started cutting. That was it, he didn’t alter his grip or anything. Rivera rode that pitch to become the most dominant reliever in baseball history. He took over as closer for Wetteland in 1997 and hasn’t looked back, pitching in that same capacity for the last 17 years now. Mo has helped the Yankees to five World Championships and 18 postseason berths during his 19 seasons.

Along the way, Rivera has become baseball’s all-time leader in saves (608), games finished (892), and ERA+ (206). His postseason record in beyond belief, with a 0.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in 141 total innings. That is ridiculous. Rivera has never won a major award but he owns five top-five finishes in the AL Cy Young voting and has received AL MVP votes in nine different years. He will also be the final player in baseball history to wear #42. Mo is a 12-time All-Star and one of the greatest Yankees to ever live. An icon.

Off the field, Rivera is well-known as a kind and caring person who is a true class act. He’s everything anyone could ever want in a baseball player and person. Mo has been my favorite Yankee for a long time and this is a bittersweet day. I’m sad he’s leaving and I’m glad he’ll leave under his own terms. Getting carted off the field following a pregame accident in Kansas City is no way to go out. Teams will give Rivera a grand Chipper Jones-esque send-off this summer and it will be glorious.

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Tuesday: According to Neil Best, Yankees Ticket Exchange will have price floors of some sort. “Right now, we’re experimenting,” said Yankees COO Lonn Trost. “We’ll use this year to make a determination. Certain games may have it; certain games may not. Certain sections may have it; certain sections may not.”

Apparently StubHub is looking to open an office close to the Stadium that will allow fans to pick-up their tickets on-site, but the Yankees will try to prevent that. The team seems to be going to great lengths to make purchasing tickets a pain in the ass just for the sake of resale value.

Monday: Back in December we heard that the Yankees were opting out of MLB’s agreement with StubHub in favor of a partnership with Ticketmaster, a partnership that is now in place. Darren Rovell says the two sides have formed Yankees Ticket Exchange, which allows fans to safely and easily sell their tickets — with no price floor — to others who can then download them immediately.

“The Yankees Ticket Exchange will be a safe, convenient, reliable and expedient way to purchase and sell guaranteed authentic Yankees tickets … It is unfortunate that unscrupulous resellers utilize deceptive practices and tactics and employ unofficial websites, all of which give rise to counterfeit tickets,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement/shot at StubHub. Yankees Ticket Exchange may be convenient, but it will be expensive thanks to all sorts of handling fees and per ticket service charges. You’ll still be able to purchase tickets on StubHub, but you won’t be able to download them instantly. What a pain.

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Via Tyler Kepner: The fake-to-third, throw-to-first move is now officially a balk. That was one of three rule changes — along with coaches being allowed to bring an interpreter to the mound and teams being allowed to have a seventh coach in uniform in the dugout — approved by the owners earlier this month that had to be run by the players’ union. I’m guessing the other two rule changes were given the okay as well, but I haven’t seen any confirmation of that. Minor stuff, but at least the rules will be implemented correctly. The fake-to-third, throw-to-first move was always a balk because it was attempting to deceive, it was just never enforced by umpires.

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I had a feeling a report like this would surface eventually, but I thought it would take until next offseason. Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees’ plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold might not be as lucrative as the team originally anticipated due to various goings-on around the league. I’ll let him explain…

Under the labor agreement, the 15 clubs in the largest markets will forfeit an increasing percentage of their revenue-sharing proceeds starting in 2013, and become ineligible for any such money by ’16.

The revenue-sharing funds that would have gone to those clubs then would be redistributed to payors such as the Yankees. The idea is to motivate certain big-market clubs — the Toronto Blue Jays, for example — to increase their revenues, knowing that they no longer would qualify for revenue-sharing money.

From that perspective, the plan appears to be working — the Blue Jays, Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are among the big-market clubs that anticipate higher revenues next season, according to major league sources.

Such developments would reduce the size of the market-disqualification pot — and in turn reduce the percentage of that pot the Yankees would receive.

In English, that means there were top 15 market size teams that were not among the top 15 revenue generators, like the Nationals and Blue Jays. Those teams received revenue sharing payments but are now disqualified under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the money they would have been received goes back to the clubs that paid out. Since they’re generating more revenue though, they would have received a smaller piece of a revenue sharing pie and thus the Yankees won’t get back as much. Got it?

Rosenthal cites a Joel Sherman report I don’t remember seeing that says the Yankees anticipated $10M in revenue sharing savings by getting under the luxury tax threshold in 2014. That then jumps up to $40M (annually, I assume) if they continue to stay under in subsequent years, something Hal Steinbrenner has confirmed they will do. All of that is on top of the money saved by not paying the luxury tax, which is a decent chunk of change. Just based on the team’s revenue sharing number ($10M) plus the luxury tax (~$12M) plus the general payroll reduction (~$20M), the Yankees are looking at something like $42M in savings in 2014.

None of this is a guarantee, of course. If teams like the Blue Jays and Nationals don’t generate as much revenue as expected — or if (when, really) a revenue sharing payor like the Astros turns into a payee due to a revenue drop — the Yankees will get a larger rebate on their revenue sharing payment. We also have no idea how exactly they calculated their potential savings either, but I’m guessing the club evaluated several scenarios before deciding to scale back payroll. And yeah, I’m willing to bet at least one of those scenarios involves missing the postseason and losing out on millions in playoff revenue.

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Geez, that wasn’t even a good move Brett.

Three notable rule changes were approved at last week’s owners’ meetings, and they must now being given the okay by the players’ union before they can be officially implemented this coming season. That isn’t expected to be much of an issue. Here’s the skinny on the changes, courtesy of Jayson Stark

  • The Jeff Nelson move, as Michael Kay calls it, will now be considered a balk. That’s the ol’ fake-to-third, throw-to-first move. A handful of players fall for it each year. MLB can actually implement this without the union’s approval, but they’ll run it by the players for the sake of labor relations peace.
  • Coaches and managers will now be allowed to bring interpreters to the mound. That’s a pretty big deal and not just for the Hiroki Kuroda‘s and Hyun-Jin Ryu’s of the pitching world. There’s an awful lot of young Latin American-born pitchers who have yet to fully grasp the English language out there. Heck, I still haven’t grasped it.
  • Teams can now have a seventh coach in uniform and in the dugout during games. They had been limited to six before. A number of teams are carrying second hitting coaches these days — the Yankees haven’t added one yet — and this accommodates them.
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(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

MLB’s quarterly owners’ meetings are taking place right now, and Ken Davidoff managed to catch up with Hal Steinbrenner for a few minutes today. The team’s owner confirmed they have not had any serious talks about an extension for Robinson Cano (not new information) and acknowledged the club still needs a bat, but that’s not all. There’s more…

First thing that comes to mind: lol.

Second thing that comes to mind: The Yankees have a natural edge over the rest of the league because of their market and it’s immense money-making capabilities. Scaling back payroll even for one year is, frankly, a disservice to the fans. Doing it for multiple years is pretty close to a slap in the face. The Yankees aren’t hurting for money. They just built a new stadium and will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from their YES Network deal with News Corp., not to mention all the extra cash they’ll receive from MLB’s new national broadcast agreements. Hal’s dangerously close to saying “I know you know we make all this money, but not only are we not going to reinvest it in the team, we’re going to rub it in your face too.”

Whether they realize it or not — they don’t based on Hal’s comments — the Yankees are losing the PR war right now. The record-low ratings in our Fan Confidence Poll are not an accident. Fans are angry because they’ve done nothing to improve the team this offseason and plan to cut back on spending next winter. We’re not splitting atoms here, it’s pretty obvious why people aren’t happy with the team. If ownership and front office are truly oblivious to that, then things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Brian Costa has a full recap of Steinbrenner’s quotes, just in case you want to slam your head against the table a little more.

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