“Scott Boras, you over baby. Robinson Cano, you coming with me.” Those are lyrics rapped in Jay Z’s song “Crown” from his album, Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail. Indeed, Jay Z backed his lyrics, signing Robinson Cano as his first major client in 2013.
After the signing, Boras mocked Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports. “When your agent wears a Yankee hat, how seriously are they going to take you?” Boras’ question was answered in the form of a $240 million contract Roc Nation Sports in conjunction with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) secured for Cano with the Seattle Mariners this past off-season.
Cano’s decision to switch agencies came to the astonishment of Boras. Informally, Cano announced his decision through Twitter, stating he was leaving Boras Corporation for Roc Nation Sports. At that time, Roc Nation Sports was in its infancy, but Cano felt persuaded by Jay Z and Juan Perez, president of Roc Nation Sports. Cano explained his reasoning in a recent interview with GQ. “So many agents open with: ‘Oh, I represent Miguel Cabrera,’ or ‘I represent that guy.’” But, that’s not what Cano was looking for in an agent. He simply “wanted someone who would be there after the deal, who’d treat [him] less like a job and more like family.” Cano believed Roc Nation Sports provided that “family” like quality.
The most intriguing part of this story is the fact that Roc Nation Sports used the same hardball negotiating tactics typically employed by Cano’s former agent, Scott Boras. Boras is widely known as a tough negotiator and he regularly advises his clients to enter free agency, instead of signing an extension with their current team, to aggressively obtain the most lucrative deals for his clients on the open market. Boras’ strategy generally works, brokering over $5 billion in MLB contracts. Although, this past off-season that strategy has left two of his clients, Stephen Drew (former SS for the Red Sox) and Kendrys Morales (former 1B for the Mariners), unemployed after he demanded inflated financial terms.
Roc Nation took both a player from Boras and a page from his own book, demanding a 10-year, $300 million contract from the New York Yankees. At the time, Roc Nation Sports was in a tough position (although, many agencies would die to be in its shoes) after signing Kevin Durant, Victor Cruz, and Geno Smith. Its hardball stance with the Yankees was necessary to justify its sales pitch it used to recruit its big name clients. Ultimately, Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports’ has backed up their hype with support from contract advisors at CAA.
In the next few years, it will be interesting to see whether Boras has to alter his treatment towards his clients and whether Roc Nation Sports can continue to lure players away from established agents.
Roc Nation Sports’ future may be uncertain, but the answer to the question, “Are you not entertained?” posed on Jay Z’s track, “What More Can I Say,” is not. The general public and media surely are entertained.