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How Robinson Cano Can Take Mariners To New Heights

Saturday, February 21, 2015

 

Robinson Cano with the Mariners in 2014 via Wikimedia CC.

Last offseason, Robinson Cano stunned the baseball world by choosing to sign with the Seattle Mariners over re-signing with the New York Yankees. In doing so, he left the hallowed Yankees scrambling for the franchise's new face following Derek Jeter's impending farewell season and changed coasts relishing in the chance to bring the Mariners their first World Series title. Before giving him an exorbitant 10-year contract that lasts into his 40s, Seattle made that potential accomplishment part of their pitch, and now, coming off a season that saw a 16-win improvement and another aggressive offseason, they are making his landing spot look like a very smart move. 

As the Mariners narrowly missed out of the postseason last year, General Manager Jack Zduriencik knew an upgrade or two might very well take his team over the top. And he wasted little time doing so. He had tried to sign slugger Nelson Cruz last offseason to couple with Cano, to no avail, and Cruz went on to hit the most home runs in baseball while with the Baltimore Orioles. This year, he was successful in his pursuit, signing Cruz to a four-year contract just a month after the playoffs concluded.

As can be imagined, Zduriencik is thrilled about getting a yes out of him this time around and what his signing means to the offense. 

“I don’t think it’s a secret that for the last few years we’ve been looking for offense," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “I think when you look at the addition of Robinson Cano last year and Nelson Cruz this year, it certainly addresses some of the needs that we talked about.

“Our main goal this offseason was to try to add a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, and we’ve accomplished that with Nelson Cruz. We’re tickled pink that he’s here.”

Inking him to such a long-term contract when he is turning 35 on July 1st is certainly a risk, but so was giving Cano $240 million through age 41 and third baseman Kyle Seager a seven-year, $100 million extension. Throwing these millions their way all qualify as overpays, but what they represent is clear: Zduriencik is in it to not only win it all now but maintain such success for years to come. 

There are certainly question marks in the Mariners lineup, without much pop outside of Cano and Cruz, and with a leadoff hitter in Austin Jackson whose late-season struggles upon being acquired from Detroit make his grasp on the spot far from firm, a light-hitting outfield and not a whole lot of proven depth. What they do have is a supporting cast that is gritty, that may not put up outstanding statistics but as a group delivers. Jackson, part of that far from powerful outfield, is strikeout prone and therefore not necessarily what you want from a guy setting the tone, but if he bounces back after a rough beginning in Seattle and compliments the production of presumptive second-place hitter Dustin Ackley, Cano and Cruz will consistently have men on base to drive in. 

In turn, the dangerous potential of Cano and Cruz as the lineup's 3-4 duo will undoubtedly help out a pitching staff headlined by ace and Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. Hernandez's formidable presence had to be among the reasons Cano and Cruz are calling Seattle home, and how could he not. He was masterful last season, which is nothing new, posting the second best ERA in all of baseball. His rotation mates and the bullpen were similarly dominant, as the pitching staff in all mirrored Hernandez's standing in terms of ERA. Satisfied with the talent exhibited from the mixture of veteran leadership and young, fresh arms on the mound, it is no wonder Zduriencik focused once more on bolstering the lineup. 

As a result of his efforts, the Mariners look like the team to beat in their division, though the Oakland Athletics, rebuilt how only GM Billy Beane can, might have something to say once summer turns to fall. One game was all that separated these two teams last year, with Seattle ultimately on the outside looking in. Now, the Mariners have the looks of a team that can not only flip the switch but do a lot more. Cano's trading in the storied pinstripes for Seattle's comparatively obscure dark green and blue may have seemed perplexing at the time, but after leaps the franchise made in his first year and Zduriencik's continued aggression what he envisioned may not be too far off. 

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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