Back in December when Robinson Cano signed a $240 million contract to leave the New York Yankees for the Seattle Mariners, many criticized him for chasing the money and not being concerned enough about winning. But now as we get ready to begin the second half of the 2014 season, it is the Yankees ironically enough who are doing the chasing, as they try to track down Cano’s Mariners in the standings.
The Mariners currently are 51-44 and have a 2.5 game lead over the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild card spot in the American League. If the season ended today they would make their first playoff appearance since 2001, which to put things in perspective was Ichiro Suzuki’s first year in the majors.
Meanwhile the team Suzuki currently plays for sits at 47-47, which puts them 3.5 games behind the Mariners for the final wild card spot in the AL. They are in danger of missing out on the playoffs for a second consecutive season, something that has not happened since 1992 and ’93.
While the Yankees have struggled to score runs this year, Cano has been leading the way offensively for the surprising Mariners. He has a batting average of .334, an OPS of .855, 30 extra base hits and 57 RBIs. His production has helped Seattle become playoff contenders for the first time in years and may even allow them to be buyers at the trade deadline. FOX Sports reporter Jon Morosi tweeted out yesterday that the Mariners have been participating in ongoing trade talks with the Tampa Bay Rays about acquiring both David Price and Ben Zobrist.
It is hard to deny that right now Cano’s new club is in a much better position to make the playoffs than his old club. And not only do the Mariners seem to be better than the Yankees this season, but they also seem to have a brighter future.
This year the Mariners’ starting rotation has quietly emerged as one of the best in the American League. The team is led by the AL All-Star team’s starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, who is 11-2 this year with a 2.12 ERA. And behind him Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young have also put together strong first halves. Now adding top prospect Taijuan Walker and another top of the line starter like Price to the rotation could make Seattle a competitive team for years to come.
The future of the Yankees’ starting rotation is much less certain as there is a possibility that their ace Masahiro Tanaka may not pitch again till 2016. Injuries have put the futures of starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda in question as well. And the team’s minor league system does not seem ready to provide any help in the near future.
Where the Yankees were supposed to have a major edge over the Mariners this season was their offense, but that has not been the case. The Mariners have gotten solid production out of players like Kyle Seager, James Jones and Michael Saunders, while the Yankees have seen big-name acquisitions like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran struggle mightily so far this season.
Right now the bottom line is that the Mariners are a young team that appears to be on the upswing, while the Yankees are an aging ball club that seems to be on the decline. It is still way too early to say that the Yankees did the wrong thing by not giving their 31-year-old second baseman a 10-year deal. But at this point it seems like the Yankees may have needed Cano a lot more than Cano needs them.