Robinson Cano, and how he fits into my belief system

Editor’s note: Now that Cano officially signed, see what Matthias had to say about it.

Shortly after the New York Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury, the Mariners were rumored to be heavily interested in Robinson Cano. The team has dug their heels in, and Thursday evening Cano made his pilgrimage, his second or third depending on what source you believe, to Seattle to talk to the Mariners front office about becoming a Mariner.

I don’t know how that meeting went. None of us do. To even speculate would be crazy and uninformed. That won’t stop everyone, and the skeptics have been out in full force on some fronts.

That said, here are some bullet points that I think are important to remember about Cano, which will remain valid until something changes, which could have literally happened as I was writing this.

  • Robinson Cano is a better player than Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder. Neither Fielder or Hamilton were particularly good defenders. While Hamilton’s 2013 collapse seemed shocking, anyone viewing his advanced metrics at the end of 2012 could have seen this coming (we did). Cano is an above average fielder and a very good hitter. Cano is entering his age 31 season, and while his fielding is almost certain to decline, Cano played some third base and shortstop in the minors. If his arm is good enough to play third base when his range makes it hard for him to play second base well, a switch may be available to the team.
  • In the past three years Cano has a 142 wRC+. That’s good for 13th best in baseball, barely lower than Prince Fielder’s, and as discussed in the previous paragraph, Fielder was a bad defender at a position that is easy to play relative to other positions. Cano plays a middle infield spot and has comparable offensive production to Fielder.
  • The financial landscape of baseball is changing, and with the acquisition of a controlling interest of ROOT Sports, we can’t definitively say that the Mariners don’t have enough money to add Cano and multiple other pieces. Baseball Reference has the Mariners at an estimated $47.1 million without Willie Bloomquist‘s $2.9 million salary. With Bloomquist the Mariners are at an even $50 million, and with Cano, if we assume his annual average is his annual salary, they’d be at no more than $74 million – depending on what reports you buy into relative to the contract Cano is looking for and what the Mariners may have offered him. With a $90 million payroll the team would have enough money to add a quality starter and a couple of decent roll players. If they continue to up the payroll, of which we have no idea what kind of likelihood there is, the team could continue to add quality pieces well into the offseason.
  • Robinson Cano is no savior. He’s a really good player that has averaged 6.4 WAR in the past four seasons. He’s a player that fills a role presently held by the disappointing Dustin Ackley, and the recently disappointing Nick Franklin.
  • The $4.5-5 million price per win estimate that we presently work under is likely to change with the infusion of major television revenue. While it’s a near-certainty that Cano is less productive, and thus worth less later in his contract, there’s also an almost near-certainty that the cost of production will increase considerably between now and the end of the contract. Will Cano be worth ~2.0 WAR in eight or ten years? I don’t know, but I also don’t know if a marginal win will cost $5 million in free agency, or if it may cost something around $10 million. There are a lot of moving parts, even in a potential-albatross contract.
  • The Mariners shouldn’t sign Cano just to do something to excite the fans. Fans who are copping out because the team isn’t spending money aren’t really mad because the team isn’t spending money. They’re mad because the team isn’t good. The Mariners shouldn’t be trying to put a marginally entertaining product on the field every year, just to make you or your idiot girlfriend that just wants to talk about some gossipy nonsense at games happy. They should be aiming to win a championship eventually. You’ll come back, even if the team is made of cheap dullards, if they’re good again.
  • Of course, I’m not talking about you. You don’t make it this far into the blogosphere, reading about a bad team, if you’re not miserable. I share in your misery. We’re brothers (or sisters)(I’m not a sister) in misery.
  • Henri Moreau

    Hey guys, I look forward to every new post. Thanks for your time and analysis of everything Mariners.

    • Casey McLain

      Thanks for stopping by Henri! I am glad you like it and appreciate you continuing to come back.

  • Josh Gibbs

    Good call, Casey. I agree with you on the front that people are upset that the Mariners aren’t winning, not that they’re not spending money. People just see other teams (that are good) spending money and figure that spending money = wins and championships. It does not. I’m currently not sure how I feel about the Mariners potentially signing Cano, and I believe that I won’t find out until 5 or so years into the contract. Obviously it makes me uneasy to see the M’s spending 25 Milliion/year on one guy, but with the payroll stats you just pointed out, it doesn’t seem so bad. Cano coupled with Felix would make up well over half of the M’s payroll, assuming no more large signings.

  • maqman

    They can do Cano and more easily with the new money from the national and regional media income. Signing him will not cripple the team, even if he goes into albatross mode half way through his contract. Their loss on him is a cost of doing business, they are paying to restore faith in their tarnished brand. Imagine if the Angels only had $40M in payroll obligations when they signed Pujols. Then signing him and later Hamilton would have bumped their payroll to $90M. Cano will bump the M’s payroll to less than $70M, even with Willie Ballgame. This team can carry a $150M payroll with their new income stream. The much hated front office made this possible with their financial acumen. They are far from dumb in that area. Junior, Raul and Willie B, not so much. Dare to believe the M’s are entering a new phase of their existence.

    Currently one WAR is worth $6.2M based on future projection figures or $7M based on actual past performance.costs.

    • Casey McLain

      They just have to stop paying players with defunct currency from former Soviet nations.

      • maqman

        Hey they are a getting defunct player from a once was team.

  • dmm1047

    He’ll die a slow death in that place.

    • Casey McLain

      We’re all slowly dying.