Now that the Seattle Mariners‘ Corey Hart has hit the disabled list and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with his hamstring ailment, it would be a great time for 2B Robinson Cano to start earning his paychecks. Hart, previously acting as the primary cleanup and designated hitter in the lineup, was not performing out of this world to begin with, but the Mariners are paying Cano much more money. The kind of money that by default would suggest he needs to be the best second baseman in the American League, if not all of MLB at $24 million annually.
There’s not too much to gripe about right now with regards to Cano, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies. He certainly is not near the bust 1B Prince Fielder or OF Bryce Harper have been, two players both under performing even before their lengthy stints on the disabled list only further frustrated fans and fantasy baseball managers alike. But still, there is something here to be uneasy about in Cano’s game. He is hitting a very respectable .322, good for third best in the AL this year. However, at this time last year, Cano already had 11 home runs and 22 total extra base hits. He was also slugging .563. Comparatively, Cano currently sits at two home runs, has 14 extra base hits and is slugging .428. Yes, Safeco Field is more spacious that Yankee Stadium, and yes he has less protection in the Mariners’ lineup. But these drop-offs are quite unexpected and for the most part probably not welcomed by many Mariners fans.
A good way to gauge a player’s worth is by his Wins Above Replacement number. One’s WAR value is defined as “reflecting the number of additional wins their team has amassed relative to the number of expected team wins if that player was substituted by a replacement player.” In 2013 with the New York Yankees, Cano’s WAR was 7.6. This season, it is a rather solemn 1.2. Sabremetrics regard any number greater than eight to be MVP quality contribution and 5-7.9 being All-Star quality play. 0-2 has the dubious distinction of being considered a reserve or platoon player. And it shows, because last year at season’s end, Cano was universally the top ranked second baseman in all of fantasy baseball. This year he is ranked seventh, and the Mariners are certainly not paying him to be the seventh best at his position in the league.
Cano’s modest power numbers but strong average put him in a category with the likes of Ian Kinsler and Jose Altuve at his position right now. The difference being, Kinsler and Altuve have a combined annual salary of $17.25 million in 2014, a combined fielding percentage of .998 and 22 stolen bases between the two of them (Cano has three SBs and a FPCT of .989). It gets worse, because the diminutive Altuve, who is listed at 5-foot-6, also has gone deep twice this year. But since 2011, he has never hit more than seven HRs in an entire season.
Hart’s injury will hurt the team, and Lloyd McClendon is doing his best tweaking the X’s and O’s of the lineup. Nick Franklin is hitting .200 since returning to the big league club. But really, when push comes to shove, the Mariners just need Cano to start hitting for power. He needs to be accountable. There really is no way to justify any other alternatives. For him to have the same amount of home runs as OF Stefen Romero in twice the number of at bats is pathetic and right now equates to an intensely overpaid utility infielder given his WAR.