The Mariners have been standing next to the pool all offseason, looking for a chance to jump in and start splashing around. By reportedly signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract, Seattle cannon-balled everyone out of the water.
All eyes are now fixated on Seattle in anticipation of its next move. Will the Mariners make a play for other free agents? Will they consider trading for someone like David Price or Matt Kemp? Or will they swim over to the ladder and exit the pool, making us wonder whether their splashing around, while fun, accomplished much of anything?
Options 1 and 2 are the only logical choices. By reportedly signing Cano to a megadeal — and outbidding the Yankees in the process — the Mariners sent the message that they’re not screwing around when it comes to adding premium talent. Yet if they suddenly dry off and take a seat, “screwing around” is exactly what they’re doing.
Cano, while an extremely talented player, isn’t going to waltz into Seattle and change the team’s culture overnight. The idea of him being a rock star is just as stupid now as it was when free agency began. He is the best second baseman in baseball. He is a perennial MVP candidate. And he was hands-down the best player available on the open market this winter. But he is not a global icon, no matter what Jay Z and Co. may tell you.
That being said, the Mariners can still use Cano as a recruiting chip and as a jumping-off point for landing additional talent this offseason. It’s hard to imagine others instantly falling in love with the idea of packing their bags for Seattle just because Cano was handed a juicy contract, but the organization is clearly in a position to build something bigger than years past. It’s a rare position for a franchise that’s long been seen as a somewhat undesirable landing spot, and as such, the Mariners must capitalize to make this whole charade worthwhile. Sitting around with Cano as their only major offseason move would probably lead to continued mediocrity for the Mariners — only with a substantially lighter wallet. After all, one player can only do so much, even if that player is incredibly talented and incredibly rich.
Sure, Cano’s signing is going to generate some initial buzz and maybe sell a few extra tickets this holiday season. But that hoopla will spiral down the drain before long if the Mariners stand pat. The expectation now is for Seattle to continue wheeling and dealing. Failing to make additional moves only creates questions as to whether spending more than a quarter of a billion dollars on one player made sense if the necessary pieces weren’t going to be filled in around him.
When it comes to Cano’s new contract, much will be made of the dollar amount, although we really shouldn’t ogle at contracts anymore. Baseball players make a lot of money. We get it. Let’s move on. But once we get over our self-loathing for not pushing ourselves harder in Little League, we should focus on one solitary question: Can the Mariners contend in 2014? And even with Cano, it’s hard to imagine Seattle making a run, unless it makes additional (substantial) moves.
The Marlins and Blue Jays have shown in recent years that making big (expensive) offseason splashes doesn’t guarantee success. The Mariners are already in the water, though, and there’s no sense in getting out now.