What’s the Move: The Best Option to Replace Cano
By Tyler Wicke
On Sunday afternoon, the Mariners lost twice. Not only did they drop their first road series of the year in a 5-4 loss against Detroit, their franchise player fractured his fifth metacarpal, as Robinson Cano took an 88 MPH fastball to the hand in the third inning of the ballgame.
The Mariners are off to a strong start at 22-17 so far this season. But the loss of Robinson Cano could drastically affect how Seattle continues their winning ways. While there has been no confirmed timeline for Cano’s return to the field, similar injuries require 4-8 weeks on the disabled list.
So who replaces the cornerstone of our ball club? Simply put, no player can completely match the production of the future Hall-of-Famer. Cano has been strong offensively, batting .287 this season. However, what has been most impressive is his defense, where he has yet to record a fielding error.
The first potential option for Seattle is to play Andrew Romine in lieu of Cano for the handful of weeks he will miss. After Cano exited Sunday’s game in the third inning, Romine replaced him as a pinch-runner and covered second base for the rest of the game. He went on to go 1 for 3 in the game with a fifth-inning single.
Romine would be a fairly simple switch. He is a true utility player, with the ability to play several positions defensively. He is relatively quick and could be valuable as a base-runner as well.
However, Romine’s bat has been weak throughout the 2018 season. He is batting a mediocre .185 in just 27 at-bats, with an on-base percentage of .290. Romine would have to greatly improve both of these numbers if he wants to come close to matching Cano’s production over the next several weeks.
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The Mariners will pair Romine with veteran Gordon Beckham, who has spent his 2018 season with the AAA Tacoma Rainiers. Unlike Romine, Beckham has proven himself in the majors, having nine seasons of playing 100+ games.
Beckham has lit up the Pacific Coast League this season, batting .300 with four home runs for the Tacoma Rainiers. While experience could be the deciding factor for choosing Beckham as Cano’s replacement, he is well past his prime.
Beckham’s best season was 2012. He hit .234 for the White Sox and played 151 games. His best batting average for a season was in 2013 when he batted .267 in 103 games for the Sox.
It is unclear whether Beckham could near his career-high batting average in the majors, but it would fail to match Cano’s production. Robinson Cano has never batted below .271 for a season in his illustrious 14-year career.
Another option would be the transition of former Gold Glove second baseman Dee Gordon back to his natural position. Dee has been playing center field this season with Cano in the infield, but could Dee serve as a viable short-term replacement.
Gordon has a proven track record as an infielder. The fact that he won a Gold Glove as a second baseman should convince anyone of this. But as he begins to learn a new position in the outfield, moving him back may not be the best decision long-term. Manager Scott Servais said Sunday in an interview that moving Gordon back to second is not a current option for Seattle.
But moving Gordon back to the infield would likely provide the Mariners with 2 defensive upgrades. Gordon is at least as good of a defender as Cano. He might even be better. More importantly, they remove Dee from CF, where he has posted an abysmal -7 DRS (defensive runs saved). Remember zero is average. Yikes.
Guillermo Heredia is about a league average CF, which means Seattle could actually upgrade their outfield defense while losing little at second. The offense will likely take a hit, meaning their run prevention will be all the more important.
While Cano’s injury is early in the season, he will return in plenty of time for the Mariners to make a playoff push throughout the summer. However, Seattle is approaching their toughest month of the schedule in June, as they will play the Yankees in the Bronx and the Red Sox in two separate series.
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Seattle has made a decision on who will replace Robinson Cano as they travel to Minneapolis on Monday to play a one-game series and begin a homestand Tuesday. The front office finds themselves with multiple options, but the question remains: what’s the better move?