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So it finally happened. Not necessarily that Robinson Cano signed, which also finally happened as this rumor has been floating around for a week plus. But the Mariners finally signed a big name, high priced free agent. After two straight winters of the Mariners trying to give gobs of money away to several superstar baseball players, they finally succeeded. They failed last winter to give Josh Hamilton way too much money (thank god) and luckily avoided giving away half of their farm system for Justin Upton in the same offseason. The year before Prince Fielder got way too much money from Detroit. It started to feel like every Mariners rumor would end the same. The beaten down fans would get excited for a couple of weeks only to find that the Mariners were outbid again or the next superstar free agent in line would prefer not to come to the northwest corner of the United States. But it happened guys, it finally fucking happened. But Christ, what does it mean?
I don’t know. I’m still getting over the shock as it only happened a mere 6 hours ago. But I think it means that Seattle is finally trying. Or maybe it means that Jack Zduriencik is panicking and doesn’t want to lose his job. Or maybe this is just to put butts in seats as SAFECO Field has lost fans all but one year since 2007 and more than 20,000 less than the glory years of 2001. Shit, I don’t know. But this, Cano signing, feels different.
I am going to get the obvious out of the way first, Cano probably cost too much money. The 10 years for $240 million deal is a shit ton of years and money for a baseball player. Maybe he deserves it and maybe he will earn it but it does not change the fact that Cano could support my whole family and not even notice. He could probably buy the San Juan Islands for Christ’s sake. Yet, this is the way it had to be for a team and a market like Seattle to get someone as awesome as Cano. Rebuilding in an organic way can take a lifetime, or in the case of the Pirates it can take about 21 years. A lot of fans were probably running out of time and patience to wait that long for a winning season and it seemed that ownership is now starting to feel the same way. Bravo to the Mariners for taking a leap and a risk but desperation may not always be a bad thing. Thing is, I think this only scratches the surface on this offseason.
So in addition to their Cano signing in this offseason, the Mariners also signed…Willie Bloomquist. Ok, so maybe that is not the key that fans were hoping for. But if you dig a little bit deeper, the Mariners are linked to virtually every free agent that exists and even some more folks that are not free agents. The most rumored are outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. Ellsbury has obviously signed with the Yankees, but similar to last season and most other recent seasons, the Mariners are interested in finding impact bats. And all of those rumors would provide that sort of impact. I’ll get into the specifics in a future post but the quick and dirty is that each rumored player has a wRC+ of at least 132, with Choo as the high of 151. The highest wRC+ for Seattle last year, Kendrys Morales with 116. Oh and Cano…wRC+ 142.
In addition to finding impact bats that are sorely needed on this team, Seattle has also been rumored on several pitchers to help improve upon a starting pitching group that was in the middle of the league in FIP. First and most importantly is the recent and widely talked about trade rumor that would bring David Price to Seattle. He would require a hefty price via trade but proves that the Mariners are interested in winning now. To accompany Price in the rumor mill are free agents Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bartolo Colon. Whereas last year it looked as though they were looking for stop gaps, innings eaters and number three starters the Mariners are now looking to add a number two starter to complete a formidable trio with Felix! Hernandez and Hishashi Iwakuma.
All of these rumors are coupled with the fact that the Mariners have not done a terrible job of drafting and growing their own players. Taijaun Walker, Mike Zunino and Brad Miller all look poised to contribute in the coming years and were highly rated prospects. Kyle Seager is a boss and even the shit storm of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders do not look so bad if they are platoon players surrounded by actual major league talent.
This is not new to Mariners fan though, we hear rumors every offseason and very few of them come to fruition. And the ones that do are usually uneventful. But Cano’s reach is longer than a baseball diamond. He was also signed to be a recruiter of sorts. A marketing ploy. So often players will sign with the intent of winning a championship and playing with the best. The Mariners announced to the league that after all these dreadful years, they are ready.
And you know what, maybe this has been the plan all along. The inside fan talk for years has been that 2014 was the year that the Mariners may make the leap and become ready to compete. But we also knew that the farm system has not produced as expected or as quickly. But if the Mariners could convince just one big time free agent to be a Mariner, it might be all it takes for the dominos to start falling. Cano is a pretty damn big domino, as a fan let us hope that the others are not too far off.