Mariners History: Checking in on the Robinson Cano Deal Ten Years Later

It's been ten years since the Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a massive deal. How have things changed since then for the Mariners in Free Agency... and how have they stayed the same?
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Abbie Parr/GettyImages

The Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a 10 yr/$240,000,000 deal ten years ago back in the 2013 off-season. At the time of Cano's acquisition, most of the baseball world was shocked the Mariners were able to pry the Yankee's prized second baseman away from them. The Mariners who had consistently whiffed in free agency during the Jack Z era, finally struck gold. Seattle was in the midst of a rebuild and Cano's signing was a signal the Mariners were ready to start contending.

Since the signing of Robinson Cano, the Mariners have never committed as much money, or time to one player in free agency. The only other position player the Mariners have signed of note since was Nelson Cruz in 2015 who the Mariners signed to a 4yr/$57,000,000 contract. Interestingly, both Cano and Cruz were both signed during the Jack Z era. Jerry Dipoto has not appeared to have targeted big name free agent hitters in free agency.

Dipoto did however, sign free agent starting pitcher Robbie Ray to a 5yr/$115,000,000 in 2021. Dipoto's inability to sign free agent hitters has been puzzling though. The fact that he spent money on Ray means ownership is capable of spending money to improve the team. However, Dipoto needs to find a way to acquire free agent hitters to prove to fans John Stanton and the Mariners want to be World Series contenders.

Ever since Nintendo of America sold their majority stake in the franchise back in 2016, there has yet to be a big signing of a free agent hitter. Which begs the question will the Mariners ever commit to a free agent like second baseman Robinson Cano? Cano locked down the second base position for only half of the contract the Mariners paid him for from 2014-2018. He gave the Mariners solid production for five years batting .296, with an .826 OPS, 107 HR, and 411 RBI. Cano also had three All-Star game appearances, but the Mariners never made the playoffs during his time in Seattle.

Following a year in which Cano was suspended during the 2018 season, the Mariners decided to trade Cano to the New York Mets along with closer Edwin Diaz. Jarred Kelenic and cash considerations were the big return in the Cano deal. Financially, the move was made in 2018 to save the Mariners money to spend once the roster was rebuilt for contention. Ultimately, the Mariners only had to pay $20,000,000 of the $120,000,000 owed to Cano over the next five years. 2023 was the last year of Cano's contract in which the Mariners paid him $3,750,000, even though he never played an inning of baseball in 2023.

Robinson Cano has yet to formally retire from baseball, however, his MLB career appears to be over. After being traded to the Mets, Cano only played 168 games in his three seasons with them hitting just .269, with a .765 OPS, 24 HR and 72 RBI. He was suspended for the entire 2021 season after he tested positive for PEDs in 2020. Cano was released by the Mets in 2022 after hitting only .195 with a .501 OPS. He then played with the Padres for 12 games that season. He was then released again until he signed for one final career stint with the Braves for nine games 2022.

Given what happened with Robinson Cano, perhaps new majority owner John Stanton and the Mariners are leery of another long expensive free agent contract. Considering Cano only played out five years of his 10-year contract with the Mariners, ownership may have decided they do not want to commit to free agents like Cano again. Whatever the reason for not signing good free agent hitters, the lack of commitment to paying any price for these hitters, is going to make acquiring complimentary free agent hitters difficult going forward.