For the Seattle Mariners, Robinson Cano is Worth Every Penny

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24: Jose Ramirez
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24: Jose Ramirez /

It was a cold Seattle night back in December of 2013 but the Hot Stove had never been hotter for the Mariners than that night. Robinson Cano was reportedly flying out to the Emerald City to discuss signing with the M’s.

As the night dragged on, the anticipation grew. I remember staying up until 3 A.M. just in case I could catch some late night breaking news. I woke up the next morning to news that Cano would be flying out of Seattle without a deal. While I was disappointed, I wasn’t necessarily surprised. The M’s have always had trouble enticing big name Free Agents to play here.

I was in my first period Culinary Arts class when news broke that the previous reports were false. “Mariners Sign Robinson Cano” is what I read on a notification from MLBTradeRumors. I was ecstatic. My teacher, also a Mariners fan, let me continue looking for updates as long as I promised to let her know everything I found out. And thus, the Cano era began.

The early details were astounding. A 10-year, $240M contract was a new Mariners record. First and foremost, the signing of a superstar player made it seem as if Seattle was turning a new leaf. Finally a big name player wanted to come play for the Mariners. It meant a lot to Mariners fans, to have a player of his caliber willingly play on a team that had not experienced much success. It was even sweeter that he turned down an offer from the New York Yankees to do it.

While the excitement levels in Seattle were through the roof, the addition of Cano added more than just a few wins. You know the numbers. A career .305/.354/.494 hitter with 301 career home runs and 65.7 Career WAR. A future Hall of Fame second baseman. An 8 time All Star over a 13 year career.

2017 was an interesting year for Cano. His numbers dipped a bit from 2016 when the lefty hit 39 home runs. Posting a 3.4 WAR in 2017, Cano hit for a .280 Avg, his lowest mark since 2008. While there are reasons for concern, the 34 year hasn’t shown many signs of a sharp drop off in productivity. Steamer projections have Cano with roughly the same numbers in 2018, hitting .282/.339/.469 with 25 home runs.

Much can be said about Robbie’s numbers from last year. Whether his dipping average can be attributed to his eventual decline, only time will tell. However, Cano did have one stat that stood out amongst the rest that could be to blame. A career .282 hitter against left-handed pitching, Cano hit a mere .208 in 2017. If Cano can consistently hit against lefties in 2018, it’s easy to imagine a return to form for the former Yankee.

While statistics are nice, sometimes what Cano brings to the table is not quantifiable. No matter what you hear from the Sabermatricians of the world, team chemistry is real. Cano makes every playing around him better. Pitchers may be more likely to pitch to Jean Segura because they know a future Hall of Famer waits on deck. Being able to plug-in an offensive force at what is often an offensive black hole on teams is nothing to gripe at as well.

It’s easy to imagine that a Mariners team without Robinson Cano becomes a Mariners team without Nelson Cruz. It’s easy to see how, without Robbie, we never get to watch Jean Segura in a Mariners uniform. Cano created a new culture in Seattle that hadn’t been seen before.

As he is a veteran presence, Cano also acts as a mentor to younger players. Within his first season with the M’s, Cano was out before games with former first baseman Justin Smoak working on his net drill. (For those of you that haven’t heard of this drill, Cano would set up a net across the middle of the plate, perpendicular to the pitcher. Someone would then soft toss to him and Cano would be forced to keep his hands inside the ball and use his legs more to drive it to the outfield.)

Former Shortstop Ketel Marte noted that Robbie was his biggest mentor and idol. The same goes for current shortstop Jean Segura who credits Cano with turning his career around. After the death of his son, Segura reinvented his swing with Robbie’s help and then proceeded to the National League batting title. Jean even had Cano’s name written on the patch that players wore on Players Weekend in 2017.

Next: Projecting Robinson Cano's 2018

Cano is entering the 5th year of his 10 year contract in 2018. Sure, maybe one day he will be moved to first base. Maybe his consistency will fall off. Who knows? But in no way has Cano been overpaid. There have been plenty of albatross contracts in recent years. We are looking at you Albert Pujols. But Cano’s is not one of them. As long as he is a Mariner, Seattle will been in good hands.