Robinson Cano’s suspension ends in less than a month. Now the Mariners have a really good problem to deal with.
When Robinson Cano suffered his hand injury and was suspended, it seemed that the Mariners’ season had ended just like that. With that said, the news that Cano’s suspension would disqualify him from playing in the playoffs was thought to be irrelevant and the least of Seattle’s concerns.
Instead, the M’s have become one of the best teams in the MLB and are currently three games ahead of Oakland for a playoff spot.
A major part of their success has been Dee Gordon’s re-conversion to second base. Simply put, Dee is better suited for second base than he ever was or will be, for centerfield. Dee gives the Mariners their best chance to win if he’s playing second base.
Despite our constant barking to move Dee out of the leadoff spot, he’s someone that must be in the lineup almost every day. Dee Gordon is not a bench player. Therefore, he must stay at second base even when Cano returns.
So where does Cano fit then? The answer is more simple than you may initially think.
The Mariners have always planned to move Cano to first base at some point in his career. While the idea was leaning more into the second half of his ten-year contract, the Mariners’ easiest solution is to speed up that process.
Cano himself is aware of this predicament, recently stating that he’s willing to play at any position the Mariners require:
"“This is not about myself, this is about us as a team. We are playing for the city of Seattle — all of us, the city, my teammates and myself. I’m focused on bringing a title to Seattle so I would do whatever it takes to help this team to win. I understand I’m not going to be able to play in the playoffs so you got to give a chance to Dee to go out and play because when we get to the playoffs he’s going to have to come back and play second base.”"
Cano’s willingness makes things a lot easier on the Mariners moving forward. I think it’s safe to say that Robinson Cano will primarily be a first baseman from now on.
Well, there are still a couple moving pieces that complicate the process. The biggest one being Ryon Healy.
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The concern with Healy isn’t about what to do with him in August. That seems pretty simple, in my mind. Over the last two months, Healy is slashing an abysmal .223/.253/.391 line with a 23.6% strikeout rate. A couple weeks in Tacoma before the rosters expand in September would do him some good.
The problem is, do you think Ryon Healy can perform in the playoffs? When it comes to the postseason, you can’t rely on a player figuring things out. As of now, Healy hasn’t done enough to earn himself a spot on a potential Mariners playoff roster.
That leads us to the other moving piece: the trade deadline. If the Mariners were to hypothetically acquire Mike Moustakas or Nick Castellanos, most of their defensive playing time would likely be at first base.
See, while acquiring such a player creates a logjam throughout the roster, that logjam will no longer be there once the playoffs begin. The Mariners really have to think about whether Ryon Healy is their man or not.
If the answer is no, then they’ll have to be creative at the deadline. Of course, Jerry Dipoto is the perfect man for the job.
It’s also not unreasonable to at least consider including Ryon Healy in a trade. While Healy is struggling this year, his ability to hit for power and significant club control is attractive. Teams selling at the deadline could value such a piece entering a rebuild.
Healy also doesn’t seem to have a clear role for the Mariners in 2019. Considering that the M’s will likely re-sign Nelson Cruz in the offseason, and probably go with a full season of Cano at first base, Healy appears to be the outlier.
Despite a slight headache, all this has caused, I’ll say this: Robinson Cano’s suspension is the best thing that could have happened to the Mariners.
Why? It’s a great example of addition by subtraction. It’s created a logjam that forces the Mariners’ hand to step away from Ryon Healy – momentarily, at least – while adding one of the best hitters in the MLB to an already-powerful lineup.
Plus, as I have mentioned, it prepares Cano for what will likely be his role at first base for the remainder of his contract.
That, in turn, gives the Mariners a clearer path for roster construction in the coming years. Instead of building around Cano the second baseman, they’ll be adding to a strong group that includes Cano as a first baseman and eventually, designated hitter.
In fact, Cano’s absence has shown that the Mariners’ window isn’t closing after all. It may be wider than it’s ever been.