Rosenthal: Yankees, Mariners “Briefly Discussed” Ellsbury-Canó Swap

Here’s a trade rumor that feels like it’s straight out of MLB The Show. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported in his latest notes column that Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto reached out to the Yankees (and Mets) about a trade for ex-Yankee Robinson Canó.

From that post:

“A return to New York almost certainly would appeal to Canó, who played for the Yankees from 2005 to ’13 before signing his 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract with the Mariners. Whether Canó would appeal to either New York team — or any team at all, for that matter — is another question entirely, hinging mostly on how much of his deal the Mariners would be willing to absorb.”

Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic

Canó’s albatross contract seems to be the reason that the Yankees opened negotiations by trying to salary-dump Jacoby Ellsbury, who is owed $42.3 million guaranteed over the next two seasons plus a $5 million buyout for the 2021 season. Canó – who hit .303/.374/.471 (136 wRC+) with 10 homers and 50 RBI in a suspension-shortened 80 games – is still owed $120 million across the next five seasons with no buyout.

The sides “briefly discussed” the swap, which would also require both players to waive their respective no-trade clauses. The Yankees wanted the Mariners to both take on the full financial commitment to Ellsbury, and “include significant cash” to pay down the money owed to Canó. The Yankees also view Canó as “a first baseman-DH” type player, despite only having 10 starts at the position. The team also does “not want to tie up their DH spot,” per Rosenthal.

It’s pretty easy to see where things broke down. The Yankees want to simultaneously unload Ellsbury, while not taking on the full brunt of a bad contract like Canó’s. The questions about Canó’s spot on defense and the recent 80-game suspension for a banned diuretic would be enough to scuttle a trade before discussion of the contract even begins. The Yankees have cheaper and younger options to fill in at second base, first base or designated hitter for 2019.

The Yankees and Mariners, of course, did just hook up on a major trade. The Yankees acquired lefty starter James Paxton from Seattle in exchange for top prospect Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams. The teams also discussed a scenario where infielder Jean Segura would have come to New York with Paxton, although that ultimately did not materialize.

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