NEW YORK -- The dinner took place Monday night in Manhattan. At a posh hotel, Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, general manager Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco sat down with representatives for free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano, including the rapper Jay-Z.
Essentially, Alderson said, he was just being polite.
Though the Mets -- like any team -- have plenty of interest in signing the five-time All-Star second baseman, they agreed to the meeting understanding that Cano is almost certainly well beyond their free-agent price range. The Mets simply did not want to refuse a meeting with Jay-Z, a novice agent, and his partners.
"I had said last week that I didn't foresee contracts in the $100 million range for the Mets this offseason," Alderson said. "I think that statement still pertains. On the other hand, we are committed to improving the team, and we will explore whatever possibilities arise -- however remote the eventual outcome."
Consider this one remote. Monday's meeting took place less than a week after Alderson said he would "probably not" sign any players to nine-figure contracts this winter, and a month after Dodgers ownership partner Magic Johnson said his own team had little interest in Cano, who is seeking a deal worth more than $300 million. For those reasons, Alderson presumed the meeting was designed to generate industry-wide interest for Cano -- which is why the GM was not surprised when the New York Post leaked details of the dinner "within minutes of dessert."
"It was a well-prepared presentation designed to sell us and presumably other teams on Cano's value," Alderson said, adding that Jay-Z actively took part in the conversation alongside two of his partners from the Creative Artists Agency, Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez. "We certainly have a high regard for Robinson Cano as a player. So in that sense, the presentation was a little bit overdone.
"I think you have to go into these situations with the understanding that, at some point, they will become public. But at the same time, we felt it would be useful enough for us to meet Jay-Z and Brodie, whether it's in connection with Robinson Cano or some future client that they may have. So I'm not surprised it became public. And that certainly factored into our decision to have the meeting, but didn't deter us."
Cano, whose initial asking price from the Yankees clocked in at 10 years and $310 million, is a sure bet to sign the richest contract of any free agent this winter -- well beyond the range of what Alderson is willing to offer. Over his first three offseasons as Mets GM, Alderson has not given out a free-agent contract larger than Frank Francisco's recently-expired two-year, $12 million pact.
Cano, 31, hit .314 with 27 home runs this season for the Yankees, his fifth consecutive year with at least a .300 batting average and 25 homers. He recently signed on with Jay-Z's new Roc Nation sports agency, which is partnered with CAA.
"It was a very preliminary meeting," Alderson said. "They're having, or hope to have, preliminary meetings with a number of different teams."
The Mets GM added that the two sides never discussed financial figures at the dinner, stressing the unlikelihood of a match despite not ruling out future meetings. Piggybacking off that sentiment, Yankees president Randy Levine said Tuesday that the Mets' meeting with Cano has "zero impact" on his team's attempts to re-sign its star infielder.
"We understand the process," Levine said. "[Cano] and Jay-Z and Brodie are well within their purview to try and create a market and do whatever they can. That kind of stuff has zero impact on us. We know what we're prepared to do, and whatever anybody else does really is irrelevant."
Daniel Murphy, the Mets' incumbent second baseman, hit .286 with 13 home runs this season. Murphy is arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter, and he should receive a contract of around $5 million.