The Robinson Cano Deal and Going All In


Mariners Commitment to Robinson Cano is Admirable

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard all about how the Seattle Mariners and Robinson Cano have come to an agreement on a 10-year $240-million deal. You’ve probably heard all about how this is a terrible, future crippling deal for the Mariners that makes little to no sense. And you’ve probably also heard about how Robinson Cano is a greedy bastard and the Yankees are all of a sudden a bunch of cheapskates.

It’s hard to argue with any of that. From the standpoint of what we know about baseball in the year 2013 and how these mega deals for older players have gone horribly, terribly wrong, we all know this is a potential disaster waiting to happen. I know it. You know it. The Mariners probably even know it. It’s a bad deal with potentially disastrous consequences.

Sep 11, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (24) hits the go-ahead solo home run in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Yankees defeated the Orioles 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

But then again, maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong. Maybe to understand why the Mariners, or any team for that matter would take part in such an arrangement we need to look at it less from the standpoint of cash conscious sabermetricians. Maybe we need to look at the deal from a different perspective. That being, of a team and a fan base that hasn’t had a relevant moment in nearly a decade.

Nothing about that previous statement is an exaggeration. Take one look at the Mariners seasons. With the exception of a surprise second place finish in 2007, they haven’t smelled the playoffs since the 2003 season when they won 93 games. Think of the frustration we endured as fans of the Indians in the five years between playoff appearances. Now double that and tell me that the sense of desperation wouldn’t be excruciating to the nth degree.

Here’s another thing to take into consideration. The Mariners possess one of, if not the best pitcher in all of baseball in Felix Hernandez. While he has been the face of the franchise, made numerous all-star appearances, and even won the Cy Young award, he has yet to experience the playoffs or experience even the slightest bit of success as a team. The fact that they were able to get King Felix to agree to a seven year extension is in and of itself a miracle of sorts. But, at 27 years of age and with over 1800 innings pitched under his belt, how much longer can he sustain the level of performance we have grown accustomed to seeing?

That is probably what drove the Mariners to make the decision they did in regards to Robinson Cano. It’s probably also why they are being rumored as having interest in acquiring David Price via trade, and the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz, and Carlos Beltran via free agency. The Mariners have been trying for years through the draft, smart trades, and top prospect route to no avail. How many more Jesus Montero‘s and Dustin Akley’s do they have to watch before saying enough is enough. Apparently the 2013 season was that breaking point.

Imagine for a second that Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, or any of the other Indians who have risen from the ranks of prospects to make solid contributions to a title contender had fallen on their faces. Imagine bust after bust for upwards of a decade while the best pitcher in baseball languishes in mediocrity. Then and only then can you begin to understand the mindset of the Mariners.

Simply put, the time to go all in for the Mariners is now. Not three to four years from now when the next batch of prospects is ready to give it a go, Hernandez has wasted another 800-900 innings that he will never get back, and is demanding a trade to a contender. With not a single player committed to beyond 2014, with the exception of Hernandez, it makes sense for the Mariners to want to invest the mountains of cash they will be generating from a new TV deal back into the players on the field. And while the deals they are handing out with this new cash flow may become burdensome in 3, 4, or even 5 years, clearly the immediate concern is the immediate future.

For a team like the Mariners, or even the Indians for that matter, who have experienced fleeting success in between years of continued mediocrity, sometimes you need to make a 180. In the case of the Mariners that meant making a bold and possibly stupid move after failing with years of smart, conservative, new school moves. Again, maybe it will work and maybe it won’t, but what is clear from the acquisition of Robinson Cano for 10 years and $240-million is a clear change of direction for a team that had grown tired of the path they were on… a path to nowhere.

As a fan of the Indians, a team that I have watched nickel and dime their way to winning seasons every few years for the past decade, I can appreciate the bold risk being made by the Mariners. Had it been the Indians going all in I might be as excited as Mariner fans are sure to be when Robinson Cano takes the field on opening day.

Aug 23, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (24) points against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports