Wow. Early this morning, the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a ten-year contract worth $240 million. We now live in a bizarro world where the Seattle Mariners outbid the New York Yankees for the premiere free agent of the offseason. Let me reiterate that. The Seattle Mariners have given Robinson Cano the third largest contract in baseball history. My rational mind tells me this is a contract that will devastate this team when Cano enters his late 30’s and early 40’s. We’re committing to paying him $24 million when he’s 41! My irrational fan heart tells me this is going to be a lot of fun.
Reports started coming out on Tuesday that the Mariners were emerging as a major player in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes. Then on Wednesday, a text message from a baseball insider claimed that the Mariners were on the verge of making a “panic move.” Almost everyone thought that meant the Mariners were going to trade Taijuan Walker and others for David Price. On Thursday, reports started coming in about Cano and Jay Z, his agent, on their way to Seattle to meet with the Mariners’ ownership and Jack Zduriencik. It was quite the emotional roller coaster for Mariner fans, from a hesitant anticipation on Tuesday to a combination of excitement and absolute frustration this morning.
Dave Cameron from Fan Graphs and Scott Weber from Lookout Landing have already given their two cents on this contract. I’ve come down somewhere on the other side of these two opinions. Yes, this contract will likely become an albatross in Cano’s late 30’s and early 40’s. But will it be a gross overpay over the lifetime of the contract? Probably not. Dan Szymborski, creator of the ZiPS projection system, tweeted this earlier today:
Yearly WAR breakdown of Cano projection – 5.5, 5.2, 5.0, 4.6, 4.0, 3.3, 2.8, 2.2, 1.6, 1.1
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 6, 2013
That’s 35 WAR over 10 years or roughly $6.9 million per win. That’s almost exactly in line with the average price of a win in the market this year. And if we account for the inflation of player salaries and the infusion of billions of dollars in TV money into team revenue streams over the next 10 years, you could make the argument that this might turn out to be a reasonable contract.
You have to wonder how much the success of the Seahawks and the Sounders has influenced the decision-making process of the Mariners front office. Seeing a Seahawks team on the verge of making a deep run into the playoffs and the Sounders give out the largest contract in MLS history to the premiere American born soccer player has to weigh heavily on a Mariners team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 and hasn’t been to playoffs since 2001. The Mariners were on the verge of obscurity in this town. Whether or not Jack Zduriencik and the ownership were consciously considering the Seahawks and Sounders when developing this offseason plan, the Mariners have firmly positioned themselves as major players this winter.
This is where things get really exciting. The Mariners aren’t finished. On the books for 2014 are exactly two major contracts, Felix ($22 million) and Iwakuma ($6.5 million). 2015? Just Felix. In the few hours since the Cano deal was confirmed, there have been reports linking the Mariners to Shin-Soo Choo, Mike Napoli, Carlos Beltran, Bartolo Colon and continuing to move forward with a trade for David Price. The deal for Cano didn’t happen in a vacuum. We have to believe that it’s all part of a larger plan, the Mariners aren’t finished shopping yet. While the addition of Cano to this team as it stands does not push them over the hump into contention, especially with the strong offseason Oakland has had, it gets the Mariners closer. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. The Mariners are all in. Boy, is that exciting!