The Seattle Mariners went beyond their usual means to net a player whose production rates among the best in the game, agreeing to a 10-year, $240 million deal with free agent second baseman Robinson Cano.
The Mariners have not won more than 75 games in any of the last four seasons but seem determined to try to change that with an approach that will center around this deal and this player.
Cano’s contract is tied for the third-largest ever given to a free agent in terms of total value, trailing only the two deals signed by Alex Rodriguez (for $275 million with the Yankees and $252 million with the Rangers).
Notable Free-Agent Contracts
It far surpasses any deal given to a second baseman, free agent or otherwise. In terms of average value, Cano will be making $24 million, or $9 million more than the second baseman with the next largest contract (Ian Kinsler, $15 million per year through 2017).
It is also considerably more than the Mariners have ever given a free agent, surpassing the previous mark of $64 million for Adrian Beltre in the 2004-05 offseason.
In fact, in the last eight offseasons, the Mariners have signed free agents to contracts worth approximately $239 million, or about a million dollars less than the amount for which Cano signed.
This is only the third time that a player left the Yankees to sign a free agent contract worth at least $50 million. The other two were Denny Neagle bolting for a five-year, $51 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in the 2000-2001 offseason and Nick Swisher leaving for a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cleveland Indians last offseason.
What Cano brings
Cano has arguably been baseball’s most valuable position player over the last five seasons, totaling a major-league best 34.2 Wins Above Replacement in that span. He finished in the top six of the AL MVP voting in each of the last four seasons.
Cano has three seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. Only two second basemen have had more- Jeff Kent (6) and Rogers Hornsby (4).
He’s also one of 19 players to record at least 600 extra-base hits in the first nine seasons of his career. The other active players to do that are Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera and Matt Holliday.
The Mariners have been looking for a hitter to get the team back to its winning ways and boost their attendance. From 2001 to 2003, they won a major-league best 302 games and led the majors averaging more than 42,000 fans per game. From 2010 to 2013, they’ve averaged slightly more than 23,000 fans per game, which rates 26th among the 30 teams.
The Mariners still have holes to fill within their lineup. Their left-handed hitters ranked in the top three in the AL last season in slugging percentage and OPS. Their right-handed hitters ranked last in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Safeco Field has been a reasonably friendly park, statistically speaking, for left-handed hitters, though that hasn't necessarily been so for Cano. Cano has four home runs in 152 at-bats there (all against Mariners pitching).