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Robinson Cano And Sending A Message

Written By on 6th December, 2013

When news broke this morning that the Seattle Mariners and Robinson Cano had agreed to a ten-year, $240 million deal, it wasn’t just the team signing a big free agent. The Mariners have sent a message to the rest of the league: we’re tired of losing, and we’re going to do what it takes to stop.

For years now, the Mariners have been one of those “other” teams. They’d do OK some seasons, horrible in others, and generally just weren’t much of a consideration outside of the prospect evaluation side of things. Sure, they’d pop up as someone’s “dark horse” after an on-paper impressive offseason every once in awhile (#6org), but they’d inevitably have All Of The Things go wrong and end the season trying desperately to avoid the 100-loss mark.

While the team was once able to attract good talent, the years of losing took a toll on that. Eventually, it became customary for the Mariners to show interest in big names that could really help the team to basically just use them to get more money or more years from another club. Josh Hamilton? Flirted with the M’s for weeks, then went to the Angels. Prince Fielder? ¬†Laughed his way to Detroit. Maybe the worst insult came last offseason, when a trade for Justin Upton was agreed and set to go when he basically said “Seattle? Yeah, no.”

It’s been a tough road for the Mariners to try and get the talent they need to become a good team again. A variety of reasons to explain why have been trotted out over the years: a remote location compared to the rest of the league, little willingness to spend the same money as other teams, players not wanting to hit in Safeco 81 games a year, and a whole train of others have been uttered over and over. The reality, though? Once you’re established as a “loser”, which the Mariners have been, no big players want to come play for you. That, of course, starts a vicious cycle: if you can’t get top talent to play for you, you keep losing, and you continue to not get top talent to play for you.

So how do you break out of that tailspin? Simple. Spend money. Lots and lots of money. With the Cano signing, the Mariners have started to do just that. And you know what? They’re far from done.

The Mariners entered this offseason with guaranteed commitments to just two players: Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Yes, they had a bevy of players who were in arbitration or pre-arbitration years that would get money, but that doesn’t add a ton of payroll. Add to that a huge new TV deal that has flown under the radar, and the Mariners have a LOT of money to play with this offseason. They knew, however, that to be taken seriously they would have to make a big “statement” type of move. Without a ton of premium free agents on the market, though, the risk of a “statement” move becoming a poorly planned “panic” move was a very real possibility, especially with the axe hanging over general manager Jack Zduriencik’s head. that meant that careful consideration had to go in to the first big move to make.

Enter Robinson Cano.

With his negotiations on a new contract with the Yankees dragging on and on with no end in sight, the Mariners saw their opportunity. One of the best second basemen in the league in recent years, Cano was head-and-shoulders the best player on the market. The Mariners found themselves in a position to offer him a lot more money than the Yankees seemed to be willing to, and they decided to go for it. When rumors first broke of their interest in Cano, the general reaction was “yeah, right, and then Cano will sign for the Yankees for more money.” Then, somehow, that Yankees deal never materialized, and the only thing between Cano and a Mariners jersey is a physical.

Is ten years too many for a 31 year old? Probably, though he hasn’t had the concerning signs of injuries and decline that other recent big-money free agents his age have had. Is $24 million a year too much? Probably. But that’s not the point. The Mariners gave him that contract not just to spend a lot of money on a player, but to tell other players “We have money to spend, and we want to make this team as good as we possibly can.” Make no mistake: this deal did not break the bank for the Mariners. Far from it. Heck, this isn’t even the first big contract the team has handed out recently, with them handing Felix Hernandez a $175 million extension last year. With rumors of more free agents and trades in the pipeline, it sounds like that message has already been received.

Does this deal guarantee the Mariners of future success? Hardly. They still need more pieces to put around him, but they’ve unquestionably given themselves a huge upgrade in the middle of the lineup. Now it’s about using their assets, both in cash and players, to craft as good a team as possible. Being able to get a player like Cano is a good sign as to being able to do that. For the first time in a long time, there’s true, legitimate reasons to be optimistic about the Seattle Mariners. Don’t let us down, guys.

Conor Dowley
Conor Dowley
About Conor Dowley

Conor Dowley is the Senior Staff Editor for Bullpen Banter. Living in Washington, he covers minor league baseball and game-wide storylines. He can be reached on Twitter at @c_dowley, or via email at cdowley@bullpenbanter.com

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