The news broke Tuesday with a vengeance. Trades, free agent signings and even a report out of New York that the Seattle Mariners were legitimate, major players for free agent Robinson Cano. Some have been saying it for weeks, simply because it’s well known that each team has an additional $20-25 million coming to them via the league’s new TV deal, and the Mariners, having just two guaranteed contracts on the books to boot, negotiated a majority control of their regional sports network, improving their annual revenues greatly, starting next year.

Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com reported Tuesday afternoon that the Mariners had emerged as a prime suitor and cited sources that suggested the M’s might be willing to go where the New York Yankees reportedly say they will not — eight years and $200 million.

Let’s break this down, issue by issue.

Legitimate or not?
I have no doubt that the Mariners have the kind of interest in every significant free agent to pay the market rate. With Cano, that likely means $200 million guaranteed, maybe more. I believe the Mariners are willing to pay that. What I don’t believe is that Cano would take it.

Even with the news coming out that Jacoby Ellsbury has agreed to a deal with the Yankees worth $153 million and knowing that Brian McCann is under contract with the Yankees for at least $85 million, it’s difficult to believe that the Yankees would low-ball Cano to the point where Seattle, of all teams and places, is the best fit.

Even if the M’s are the best money, it’s difficult to believe they will be the overwhelming high bid; are the Yankees now only willing to offer Cano, say, $165 million? If so, and if the M’s are willing to go $200 million, is the $35 million enough to sway Cano? I don’t think it is. He can make up that difference in endorsements as the Yankees’ lead superstar, playing in the postseason.

And if the bidding were to remain around or under $200 million — which is $100 million less than what was originally suggested for Cano — might that entice the interest of the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers? It would only take one of those to trump the Mariners.

The Ellsbury factor
I don’t believe the Ellsbury signing is a factor at all. The Yankees, clearly, have given up on the idea of remaining under the luxury tax threshold so they can earn the kickback payment, and it does seem as if they are expecting a ruling in their favor in the Alex Rodriguez case, which would save them $189 million in total.

Yes, the Yankees also need starting pitching, too, but again, this is the Yankees we are talking about, and they clearly mean business this offseason. While there appears to be no reason to believe they will cave and give Cano what he really wants, there’s also no reason to think they won’t spend another $40-50 million on Cano than they did to sign Ellsbury, an inferior player.

Sensible for Seattle?
Then there is the question of whether or not it would even make sense for the Mariners to give Cano eight years and $200 million. The easy answer is yes. Even if you believe such a deal is an overpay, this is the Mariners we are talking about, and Cano is exactly the kind of breakthrough addition the franchise needs.

Remember, the money only hurts a club if they let it bog them down in their attempts at continuing to improve their club every single day of the year. It’s a decision organizations make. It’s not about $200 million payrolls, either. It’s about spending on the right players, maximizing the value of those making the big money and continuing to develop your own talent so huge contracts aren’t regularly necessary.

Adding a player like Cano would do more than just give the club it’s first true No. 3 hitter since Edgar Martinez 10 years ago, his presence adds instant credibility to the Mariners brand. Getting that next free agent wouldn’t be quite as difficult. “Hey, you, free agent shortstop. Come play with Robby Cano and behind Felix Hernandez.” That’s an easier sales job than currently exists.

Forget payrolls and what adding a $25 million per year player would do to a team’s self-imposed salary cap. We have absolutely no idea what the Mariners’ limits are, if there truly are any in such a scenario. As long as their next move is just as aggressive and they keep that ball rolling, the money simply does not matter. It’s not like they have never spent on payroll before — they just didn’t spend wisely.

Cano would be a much wiser spend than Prince Fielder two years ago and Josh Hamilton last year.

Eight years? So What
Cano would be 38 by the end of such a deal, but this is an easy one, people. He’s such a good hitter that once he’s deemed unfit for second base, he can easily move to third, first or designated hitter, and be very valuable. And it’s not like there is any reason to think he’ll have to do so before he’s 36 or 37, anyway.

Next.

 The Matt Kemp factor
The Mariners have been linked to Kemp for weeks now and it’d be a huge statement if they spent on Cano and landed Kemp via trade. Jon Morosi’s report Tuesday night suggests it’s one or the other, however.

The Mariners can certainly fit both into their plans for 2014, though, and adding Kemp, and perhaps a starting pitcher and a veteran closer, may change Cano’s view of the Mariners enough for him to truly consider them.

Kemp is a risk, a discussion for another day, and is earning $21 million per year, through 2019. He’s had one huge year, was solid in 2012 and hurt a lot in 2013. He’s been playing center field, but belongs in right. The keys to such a trade being a success for the Mariners include using Kemp properly on defense, but for me Taijuan Walker is off limits in a deal for Kemp, and the Dodgers must help out a little with the contract burden, especially if they want three or four quality young players in return.

I have no idea what the chances of the Mariners landing Kemp are, but if they want a real shot at Cano, pulling the trigger on other significant deals before the Cano decision is made can only help. It’s worth noting that Kemp does not have a no-trade clause and that Kyle Seager isn’t likely to be involved in a trade with the Dodgers, since it appears they plan to use Hanley Ramirez at third base and signed Alex Guerrero to a 4-year, $28 million deal to be their second baseman as early as 2014.

Closers
I mentioned a veteran closer above, and while the Mariners would love to have Brian Wilson, that doesn’t seem very likely. A cheaper arm such as Joaquin Benoit or Fernando Rodney may be an option. The club does not want to start 2014 without a proven commodity added to their young bullpen, and may be trading Tom Wilhelmsen, anyway.

If the season started today, Danny Farquhar would be the closer. It’d be nice if a veteran were added to the mix, and the club clearly agrees.

In conclusion
No, I do not think Cano ends up signing in Seattle. And chances are, Kemp either stays put or is traded elsewhere, though I do see some matches between the two clubs in terms of talent and dollars. The Dodgers may prefer to get a true, clear-cut shortstop and a young starter, and the M’s don’t have the shortstop to move. I’m not sure any team has both, though, which in my opinion gives the Mariners a real shot, and they certainly appear to be the most intent club on that front.

The M’s have been linked to Carlos Beltran, too, who reportedly was offered a 3-year, $48 million deal this week. Many believe that offer to be from the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees or Kansas City Royals. If it’s the Royals, the domino effect may be that Billy Butler could be shopped, so the club can use the DH spot for some of their regulars, including an aging Beltran. The cost on Butler last offseason was ridiculous, but that has to have changed dramatically and Seattle could be a fit. I’d prefer the M’s pass and re-sign Morales or add Nelson Cruz — not for four years and $15-18 million per, of course — to use at DH.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

13 Comments

  1. Definitely like the idea of Venable as a platoon bat.

  2. I think we’ll know a lot more in a week. I think a possible trade target may be RF Will Venable of the Padres if the M’s acquire a center fielder and a right handed bat or two. They have been linked to him in the past. Just pure speculation on my part.

  3. I’m not that interested in Ethier. Kemp, if healthy, is a much better player.

    I’m definitely warming up to the idea of a spending spree, especially if they can add in a few smart trades and avoid gutting the team.

    If they could acquire Kemp for a reasonable price (more $$$ than prospects), and add Tanaka, Cano, Hart and someone like Chris Perez…..that’s a good core. Then, they could look to deal Franklin, perhaps Ackley, and/or a few arms to get another decent OFer and maybe a catcher.

    It’s a huge risk. But if you’re going to spend, might as well go after elite guys.

  4. Agreed with Gibbo. The team needs to sign a couple of players soon and maybe make a trade for someone decent, and then see if that would help sway Cano to come to Seattle. I think that in addition to offering him a boatload of money, it can’t end there… they need to be able to offer him the promise of playing for a competitive team.

    Maybe make a trade for Ethier, sign someone like Jimenez or Garza, get a Balfour/Mujica type for the pen, and then bring back Morales or sign Napoli? A set of moves like that might cause a player like Cano to raise his eyebrows and think “Hey, they really are serious”. He would see a capable lineup with him in it, and a decent pitching staff, and a situation where the only other guy besides him who would be “top dog” in town when it came to baseball would be Felix.

    The M’s need to do some things to change his mind before he automatically opts for the Yanks. So far all they have done is bring back Willie Bloomquist… and I think that, in and of itself, doesn’t bode well for convincing Cano that the M’s are going to win the AL West any time soon.

  5. I disagree with Ackley being on the block. I think Seattle has committed to making him a centerfielder, so the acquisition of Cano might make Franklin available, but not necessarily Ackley. Especially now that Ellsbury is a Yankee. The acquision of Bloomquist would allow Seattle to resign Guti and at worse, and platoon him with Ackley. That’s the value of having Bloomquist, because being a complete utility guy, you can take on roster spot to hold someone like Guti, if they want.

  6. The Miami Heat showed what signing three big names can do for a team. The M’s problem is they have to have people take their money. And they do have an income stream that will carry a $140 million payroll and more. I agree with Jason on his outlook, except for Kemp, his ankle injury is more serious than seems to be commonly appreciated. It involved micro-fracture surgery on the talus bone inn his left ankle. This is a weight-bearing bone and fixing it can be tricky for an athlete. If the M’s do trade for him I’m sure they will check that out thoroughly but it could be fine and give way again later. Personally I’d rather they buy free agents than trading away our prime prospects but if they do a deal with the Dodgers Ethier would be my preference. They are not giving Joc Peterson away for anything, he’s their future home-grown hope, along with Kyle Seager’s little brother. Landing Choo and/or Tanaka would be a big help, they need a name. If MLB gets its way on the new posting agreement it might help the M’s as they are trying to help small and losing clubs have a shot at Tanaka type talent.

  7. Yes agreed and I think that’s exactly what has to happen… We have money but Z needs to close a deal. plus if we get Cano, both Ackley and Franklin are on the block and likely going away for OF’ers. I still think the Yankees won’t let Cano go. One thing for sure the price of a WAR is heading on up.

  8. in reply to Paul Martin

    If the mariners payroll does indeed reach 140 million, or that’s where the mariners think it could be (highly doubt we would ever go that high), your going to need to sign a lot more players than just Cano, Kemp and 1 pitcher. Think about it, we have roughly 40 million on the books right now, Kemp is paid a little less than 21 million per year, I believe if we signed Cano it would be around 8/234 or 9/245 which is about 28 million per year. so right there you would be adding 49 million. that puts us at 89 million.. Still less than last years payroll. Lets say then the mariners get Ubaldo Jimenez for 4/68 which is 17 million a year. So in theory signing Cano, Kemp (and this is if we get 0 salary relief from Dodgers which is unlikely) and the top pitcher on the market excluding Tanaka.. Our payroll would be at 106 million. Personally id love to see those moves exactly as listed above and then go after Mike Napoli hard. If we got him for 3/51 that would put us at 123 million and if you add in a few million for a nice reliever and/or trade for one we would be at (in my opinion) the ideal 2014 Payroll of 122-132 million. Which is in the middle-to-high end range, which is where we belong. Id also love to see what Brett Anderson costs and make a good run at him.

  9. With the Dodgers trading one of Either or Kemp they will not trade Pederson as well. He’s now their #4 outfielder who will play AAA and be there in case one of the three OF’s on the big league club go down. Plus Pederson and Puig are the future of that OF.

    Regarding the M’s. JZ is in a precarious position this off season, he needs to put a winner on the floor. If he puts another loser out there next year then he most likely will see the door. That weighs on a GM and effects his decisions. I don’t think you will see the JZ waiting the market out. I think you will see JZ being aggressive and trying to dictate the market. That is why we are hearing the reports out of NY about Cano. I do believe the M’s will make him a big 8 year offer, 200-220 million and frankly they should. As Jason said, finally having a bona fide star sign with your club makes a statement and that statement is worth an extra 20+ million dollars in my opinion. It changes the culture around the club. It makes other players around the league take notice and want to sign with the club, or in a player like Upton’s case, not use his no trade clause. It will give JZ more freedom to obtain other players because Seattle becomes more attractive.

    And Cano will be worth it. He is a pure hitter, in the mold of Edgar, he is someone that, like Edgar, will age well in regards to his batting acumen. Eight years, is no problem and unlike Hamilton or Fielder, he will still be able to hit his last couple of years. You add Cano to the stellar rotation that the M’s have/are building and all you would need is another piece or two and you would have a winner.

    If that other piece is Kemp then all of the sudden you are competitive. A 3-5 of Kemp, Cano, FA DH makes the M’s formidable especially with the staff they have. All of the sudden those 2-1, 3-2 games are W’s instead of L’s. When Kemp is healthy he is a dynamite hitter. Take him off of CF where he isn’t plowing into walls anymore and actually save the guys body and there is no reason he can’t regain his form. When he is right physically he is an elite hitter. I can see why JZ his trying to acquire him. I wouldn’t give up the farm but I would get a deal done. As Jason said, if you add Kemp, it makes it easier to sign Cano. If you add Kemp and Cano the dominoes start to fall and you will definitely get the third piece you need to be competitive. Beltran, Morales, someone other complementary piece, you will get him.

    Get the deal done JZ!!

  10. Paul, I think it’s probably right that there is a significant increase in payroll. But the FO needs to drop the tight lip stuff sometimes. Play the game better by letting more info out and the market knows that Seattle is at. Oh and get Seager extended already. 50M for 6 years get it done and lock him up.

  11. I think waiting on Cano is a concern too. They need to pul the trigger on a few moves and if they have the money to do multiple significant deals then great, but if we wait until the end of next week and Cano resigns in NY, Choo goes to Detroit and the Dodgers team up with the O’s or Red Sox for Kemp or Ethier then we start talking about getting Cruz being our guy then that’s just depressing as we are left yet again in the cold.

    I wonder if we could get Kemp and Joc Peterson? Take on most the cash, send them an appropriate package. I could see that being a move for our FO, improve with an instant upgrade in OF (Kemp or Ethier) and gives us a decent close to ready OF prospect too. Ironically if we take on Kemps money LA could probably swoop in on Cano too.

  12. I think the M’s are going to increase their payroll significantly. They didn’t spend all the money they had available last year, they get another 25 Million for the TV contract, and they have stated they would be willing to compete with Texas and the Angels. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were willing to bump payroll to140 million. This would give them the payroll to add Cano, Kemp, and a pitcher. If they signed Cano they could also trade Ackley and or Franklin if the right deal was out there.

    I am worried they are missing out on good players if they continue to flirt with Cano for too long though. They need to give Cano their best offer, and give him 48 hours to take it or leave it, and then just move on if he doesn’t take it.

    Hopefully Jack learned his lesson a couple years ago when he waited on the Fielder market to drop, only to see Detroit swoop in and sign him for crazy money. Cano is too good for Seattle to get him for cheap, give the guy your best offer and then move on.

    Oh, and just say no to Nelsen Cruz unless it is a two year deal…

  13. Arod is probably the biggest factor in the Cano negotiations. If His suspension is upheld, that’s a lot of freed up cash for the Yankees to throw at Cano.

    It’s in Cano’s best interest to wait that out.

    The Yankees only need to be under the luxury tax threshold this year too. In 2015 they can go crazy again and the penalties aren’t nearly as bad.

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