For the past few years, the Seattle Mariners had been considered by many executives to be a sleeping giant in free agency.
The Mariners have some nice young pitching, which is all they seem to be capable of developing. Unfortunately, it is the positional side of things where Seattle has struggled. Dustin Ackley, who is already switching positions at age 25, has disappointed as a highly-touted prospect for the most part. Justin Smoak, perceived as the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade, did set a career high in home runs in 2013, but sports a career .230 batting average in Seattle.
Needless to say, adding offense has been a top priority for Seattle for the past few seasons. So, they went out and acquired Kendrys Morales from the Los Angeles Angels for Jason Vargas, and acquired Michael Morse from the Washington Nationals for prospects. Morales worked out pretty well, as he hit .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs and 80 RBIs in 156 games, his highest total since 2009.
Morse … not so much. He only played 76 games with the Mariners, and hit .226/.283/.410 with 13 home runs for Seattle before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, where he hit even less.
Aside from making deals for offensive players, the Mariners have been connected to many of the major offensive free agents, and have been spurned each time, first by Prince Fielder and more recently by Josh Hamilton. With Safeco Field being such a big ballpark and all of the team’s failures on the offensive side of the ball, many believed that Seattle is where hitters go to die.
So, the Mariners decided to move the fences in at Safeco for the 2013 season. It worked — sort of. In 2012, Seattle ranked dead last in the league with a .234 team batting average, a .296 on-base percentage and a .369 slugging percentage. Seattle did rank 19th in the league with 149 home runs and 27th with 584 RBIs.
So, when Seattle moved the fences in 2013, things would improve for the Mariners, right? Well, kind of, as Seattle moved up two spots from last to 28th in batting average, 26th in on-base percentage, and 20th in slugging percentage. The M’s actually moved all the way up from 19th to second in home runs with 188 and from 27th to 21st with 597 RBIs.
So, the fences did allow for more home runs for the Mariners. In 2013, Safeco Field allowed 170 home runs total, or 2.10 per game, which is up pretty drastically from 2012, where it allowed 116, or 1.43 per game. With those stats in hand, could it help Seattle attract more free agents?
Well, it certainly may have, or it could have been the money they have to spend, since their only long-term contract commitment is Felix Hernandez, who is signed through 2020. That is, until the Mariners went out and signed former New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal.
Cano, at 31, was offered no higher than seven-years and $175 million by the Yankees, so it was a no-brainer for Cano monetarily, who was obviously going to highest bidder; and in today’s free agency, who can blame him? Was this a massive overpay for Seattle? Of course it was, but there was no chance they would reel in a player like Cano for a reasonable deal. He would just go to some other team willing to give him an enormous deal.
When a team is bad consistently, they must overpay — there is no getting around it. Of course, nobody seems to understand this. Money talks and everything else walks. Aside from the overpay, however, this deal make a lot more sense than people will give it credit for.
First off, signing Cano shows the Mariners are a player for any free agent, and have money they are willing to spend to improve their franchise. Players will be calling Seattle now for meetings. Second, they have two young arms in Danny Hultzen (2.82 ERA in 32 minor league starts) and Taijuan Walker (3.60 ERA in three MLB starts) who could turn their rotation, led by King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma, into a very strong foursome.
Heck, they could even turn Walker and others into David Price, though that deal would only make sense with a major free agent signing, which Seattle has.
Seattle still needs a closer, bullpen arms and another bat, but their search just got 240 million times easier because Cano took their money. I would say the Mariners’ brass will be sleepless in Seattle.