Ultimately, the Mariners emerged with the decade-long commitment that Cano could not get from the Yankees, and it was too great to turn down. Cano reportedly agreed to a 10-year, $240 million contract with Seattle on Friday, confirming a departure that officially flips the script of the Yankees' winter.
Unaware at the time that Cano had received an offer exceeding the Yankees' best proposal by $65 million, general manager Brian Cashman noted early on Friday morning that his club could swiftly move on to its backup plans if Cano decided to go elsewhere.
"Everybody is replaceable," Cashman said on a rooftop in Stamford, Conn., preparing for his annual rappel as part of the city's 'Heights and Lights' festival. "That's a team concept. Some people are harder to replace than others, no doubt about it.
"I don't think anybody would have the attitude that anybody is going to make or break your future, but you certainly can invest for good reason into players that can try to make your future brighter. That's what we're trying to do with Robbie, amongst others."
Up until Friday morning, the Yankees still hoped that they would be able to convince Cano to stay in New York, outlining him as a key part of a winter plan that would have centered around catcher Brian McCann, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and Cano.
The Yanks had increased their offer to a seven-year deal worth $175 million after beginning negotiations during the season with a package that hovered around $160 million. The organization believed it was in play; in fact, Cashman said he spoke twice on Thursday with representatives Brodie Van Wagenen and Jay-Z, with no indication that a deal was imminent.
Cashman said that he was unaware that Cano and Van Wagenen were on their way to Seattle, where the Mariners apparently unveiled their mammoth offer.
"If it's not to be, it's not to be," Cashman said early on Friday. "And we'll continue to do business as we have and try to collect as many great players as we can."
Cano's deal ties Albert Pujols' Angels contract for the third-largest pact given to a free agent; only Alex Rodriguez's mega-deals with the Rangers (10 years, $252 million) and Yankees (10 years, $275 million) were bigger. The Bombers wanted Cano back, but they held the line at seven years.
"As I've said, he's a great player," Cashman said. "We will, and have, made extensive efforts to show him that we'd like to keep him. I certainly can't control what other people's decision-making process is and the lengths that they would go to."
Cano's departure gives the Yankees a great deal more flexibility to fill their many needs while staying under their goal of a $189 million payroll.
On Friday night, the Yankees reportedly agreed to a three-year contract with free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran. The former Met spent the past two seasons with the Cardinals.
They have touched base with free-agent second baseman Omar Infante, who posted a .318/.345/.450 split line last year with the Tigers and figures to be at the top of their target list to replace Cano.
The Yankees also may explore a trade for the Reds' Brandon Phillips, but Cashman said on Friday that his sense is that New York's farm system currently lacks the elite chips to entice other clubs. An offense-minded free-agent class might be the best place to dig in.
They have been patiently monitoring the Masahiro Tanaka posting situation, and some of the money Cano left on the table would prove helpful there.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said on Thursday that he wants the Yankees to add one or two bats to pump up the club's run production. The Yanks were not involved in serious talks to retain Curtis Granderson, who reportedly agreed Friday to a four-year, $60 million contract with the Mets.
But outfielder Shin-Soo Choo could be back in play, a week after agent Scott Boras sold New York on a seven-year, $153 million deal for Ellsbury. If Choo appeared in the Bronx, the Yankees could shift Alfonso Soriano to a full-time designated hitter.
As the Yankees scramble to put together a championship-caliber club in the wake of Cano's departure, it would be dangerous to rule out anything in the weeks to come.
"We're just engaged with a lot of players," Cashman said. "We've signed some. We're on the one-yard line with some, and some we're still engaged with and it's a very fluid situation. Something could happen quick; something might not happen at all. We're just working through it all."