- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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Well, they did it. The Seattle Mariners have reportedly agreed to a 10-year, $240 million deal with Robinson Cano, the first big-time free agent the Mariners have signed since snagging Adrian Beltre after his 48-homer season in 2004. (Sorry. Chone Figgins and Carlos Silva don't count.)
I'll write this as a Mariners fan, albeit one who hasn't lived in Seattle since 1999. I've suffered through these miserable seasons of late only via television and depressing emails with friends.
The Mariners needed talent. They had to spend to get it. They likely overspent to acquire one of the best players in the game. Yes, we all know the history of these types of contracts -- I'm pretty sure Angels fans were pumped when their team signed Albert Pujols. Yes, Cano may only have two or three years left at his peak ability, and the final years of the contract could be a financial disaster. But talent. Talent is a precious thing to have.
You can argue the Mariners would have been wiser to spend that money on three players rather than one. But there also was no guarantee the Mariners would be able to convince Shin-Soo Choo or Ubaldo Jimenez or whomever to come to Seattle, anyway. At some point, you have to strike, and the Mariners did it in the biggest way possible.
So I'm pumped about having a legit middle-of-the-order bat in the lineup for the first time since ... well, Cano posted an .899 OPS last year and has averaged a .906 OPS over the past four seasons and the last Mariners hitter to post an .899 OPS was Richie Sexson way back in 2005. So, since Richie Sexson. And Mariners fans hated that guy. That was in a different offensive era as well, making Cano even more impressive compared to league average totals. So he becomes the best Mariners hitter since Bret Boone and Edgar Martinez on the 2001 club that won 116 games. Or that other guy we won't name.
It's just one piece, of course. Mariners fans have to hope more moves will follow because Cano alone won't turn a 71-win team into anything close to a playoff contender. It does make a potential David Price trade more likely, although most Mariners fans I heard from on Twitter are hoping and praying that top prospect Taijuan Walker wouldn't be included in such a deal. Last offseason, the Rays acquired a top-10 overall prospect in Wil Myers for James Shields from the Royals, and Price is better than Shields, so everyone seems to think the Rays can do that again; but the Myers-Shields trade (which included other parts) was arguably an aberration. Just because the Royals paid a hefty price for two years of Shields doesn't mean another team will pay that to acquire Price.
Still, with Cano on board, that makes second-year second baseman Nick Franklin available. You could certainly see general manager Jack Zduriencik dealing Walker and Franklin for Price, although trading 12 years of team control for those two players for two years of Price has the potential to morph into an Adam Jones-Erik Bedard deal (or Choo for Ben Broussard ... or Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez ... or David Ortiz for Dave Hollins ... stop me before I poke my eyes out with a fork).
Like most Mariners fans, I'd prefer them to keep Walker and see if they could do another package for Price. (Good luck with that, however.) Better yet, just spend more money. Maybe signing Cano will convince Choo and Jimenez that Seattle is the place to be. Really, signing those two on top of Cano wouldn't even break the payroll considering only Felix Hernandez is also signed long-term.
Sign those two and you could roll out this lineup:
LF Shin-Soo Choo
SS Brad Miller
2B Robinson Cano
3B Kyle Seager
1B Justin Smoak
It's too left-handed (the top four guys all bat lefty), so you would want to sign a right-handed outfielder/DH or trade Franklin for somebody to fill one of those slots. (Franklin to the Royals for Billy Butler, so the Royals can sign Carlos Beltran to DH?)
The rotation would look like this:
That's two rookies, but two rookies with big upside. Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer are around to provide depth. The bullpen would need to improve.
With Russell Wilson and the Seahawks sapping up all the sports interest in Seattle, and with the Sounders hugely popular, the Mariners needed to do something to stir up interest in the club. The Mariners led the majors in attendance in 2001 and 2002 but fell to 25th last year. That's what happens after years of losing, boring baseball.
For the first time since the club made the big Cliff Lee trade, it feels good to be a Mariners fan. Cano is not a fix or a solution all by himself; we realize that. Hopefully he's the first move of several more.
Seattle fans are dying for a winning baseball team. Build one and the fans will return.