On Friday, the Seattle Mariners made Robinson Cano the third-richest player in MLB history.
I’d call it a statement signing, but that doesn’t really quite cut it. This was, put simply, a coup; a player just left the NEW YORK YANKEES for a team that lost 91 games last year. The largest contract for a player leaving the Yankees before Cano’s $240 million? Nick Swisher’s 4-year, $54 million contact with the Indians.
There’s really just no precedent here, and it’s created a fascinating number of storylines for the American League next season.
For starters, what does this make Seattle? The offseason is far from over, and the Mariners are clearly not finished, having been most notably linked to David Price, but right now, I’m having a hard time discerning whether this team is a contender or not.
Even with Cano, the batting lineup is rough. The only position player to finish with more than 1.7 WAR was Kyle Seager, who finished at 3.7 with a .260/.338/.427 slash line. The outfield is a particular bloodbath, as only Michael Saunders played a significant number of games, and he came away with very little to show for it. Cano is a fantastic player, but can he do it alone? I doubt it.
Prospects are much brighter in the rotation, and not just because of Felix Hernandez.
Hisashi Iwakuma is coming off a 4.2 WAR season, and the not-so-dynamic duo of Joe Saunders and Aaron Harang are gone, making room for exciting rookies Taijuan Walker and James Paxton…
…provided, of course, that they’re still around by the beginning of the season. As I mentioned before, Seattle has been making plenty of calls, and it would seem likely that Walker or Paxton would have to be included in any huge trades. The Rays, in particular, are said to be interested in Walker – as well they should be – and it’s possible Seattle’s new “all-in” approach could lead to his being shipped out of town.
Is this the right course for the Mariners? I’m not convinced. Contracts like Cano’s have a nasty tendency to become crippling, and Cano is signed through the age of 42. He’s a great player, no doubt, but I have my skepticism about Cano’s ability to deliver on a 10-year, $240 million deal.
It’s happened, though, and the next few weeks will give us a better idea of how the Mariners intend to complement Cano. We know they’ll be busy, that much is for sure.
As for the Yankees, passing on a Cano mega-deal was the right call, and in a vacuum, they’ve used the money saved to replace him effectively with Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. On a deeper level, though, I’m not sold on the Yankees’ new offseason direction, which has seen them return to their big-spending ways. There’s a reason many teams wouldn’t give Beltran that third year he was asking for: he’s 36 years old.
I’m not saying the Yankees need to blow it up and retool around the farm system, by any means, but getting older doesn’t seem to be a solution either. We’re looking at a team that is going to start Brian McCann, Mark Texeira, Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, and Alfonso Soriano, with Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki possibly playing large bench roles. In 2014. This team is old.
I understand they can afford to spend this money (especially with A-Rod’s contract likely coming off the books), but I’m not so sure this team will actually play well enough – or stay healthy enough – to be a legitimate contender.
This is the Yankees we’re talking about; there’s no way they’re done yet, either. Both of these teams will likely look different by the end of this offseason, and while we can’t divine how these teams will perform just yet, last week’s events provided a fascinating insight into two teams in two different stages of development. We’ll see how it turns out for them.