As I’m sure you all have heard by now, another AL West rival has added another superstar player to their roster. In keeping with the traditions of teams the Oakland Athletics play most frequently, the Seattle Mariners have come to terms with second baseman Robinson Cano on a gargantuan 10-year, $240 million contract that that will undoubtedly change the entire face of the franchise. The knee-jerk reaction to this signing is to declare the Mariners instant contenders, and boast that Cano will carry the team back to the former greatness they enjoyed when Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, and some guy named A-Rod plied their trade in the Kingdome once upon a time. Problem is, Cano does not equal those former Mariners greats.
The Athletics clearly run their organization in a vastly different manner than most others, they don’t throw money at their problems. The signing of Scott Kazmir for 2-years and $22 million was a rather big deal. It pales in comparison to the amounts of money taken on by the Mariners, or what the Rangers absorbed with their acquisition of Prince Fielder last month. This signing though harkens back to two years ago when the Los Angeles Angels swooped in and stole Albert Pujols out from under the St. Louis Cardinals with a monster, decade-long contract, worth $254 million. That didn’t work, and the heavily favored Angels disappointed everyone. They threw more money at the problem, inking Josh Hamilton for a relatively meager $125 million over 5 years. That didn’t work either, the Angels were worse than the previous season, Hamilton struggled mightily, and Pujols missed a large chunk of the season with a foot injury.
The Mariners appear to be travelling down the same road. Robinson Cano is 31 years old, just like Pujols was when he joined the Angels. Chances are his absolute best years are already behind him, and while the Mariners may get the benefit of the tail end of his prime years, they will get a whole lot more of a Robinson Cano who is a shell of his former self. The Mariners may be in panic mode, after years of irrelevance, and this is their way of putting themselves back on the map. The belief is that they are not done yet, they may target former Cy Young Award winner David Price, or Mike Napoli, or a number of other prime offseason targets, but that may not be enough to solve their problems.
A rotation fronted by Felix Hernandez and David Price would be impressive, with Hisashi Iwakuma backing them as well. Beyond that, the rotation gets a little thin though, with the likes of Joe Saunders, Brandon Maurer, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and whoever else they can come up with rounding out the rotation. If Price is there, chances are that stud prospect Taijuan Walker would be in Tampa Bay, so in this case he wouldn’t be a factor any longer.
The bullpen is also a major issue for the M’s. Tom Wilhelmson appeared to be emerging as a good closer for now and the future, but regressed in 2013 and may be nothing more than a middle reliever ultimately. Carter Capps has electric stuff, but he’s still very raw and won’t be an effective reliever until he can harness his power. There are many other such cases in the bullpen, and ultimately that may be the team’s downfall.
Robinson Cano will undoubtedly improve the Mariners, unless of course leaving the close confines of Yankee Stadium sends his numbers into a free fall. The Mariners need to look at their division rivals who have gone down this same road before, and realize that one player cannot transform a team’s fortunes like in other sports. The Mariners need to build a team around Cano if they wish to succeed, he can’t do it himself.