SEATTLE — Even as the Seattle Mariners were remaining silent about a potential deal with free agent second baseman Robinson Cano, the New York Yankees were ready to move on.
“He was a great Yankee. He was a great player. I think everybody tried hard to get the deal done. We just never got close enough obviously. We wish him the best. We hope he has a long, healthy career,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said on Friday. “We’re going to keep going. We’re still looking at all the same guys that we were looking at a week ago or two ago. We’re going to continue to improve. We’re not done spending.”
Goodbye New York. Hello Seattle?
The Mariners weren’t saying much of anything on Friday, only issuing a statement in response to an ESPN report that Cano and the team had reached agreement on a $240 million, 10-year contract pending a physical. It would be tied for the fourth-richest contract in baseball history and a striking blow from a franchise that’s done little to get noticed for the past decade. The reported deal would blow away the Yankees’ last offer of $175 million over seven years.
Only the two deals signed by Alex Rodriguez — first with Texas and then the Yankees — and Joey Votto’s contract with Cincinnati were worth more. Albert Pujols also signed a $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Cano’s representatives and Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik did not return messages seeking comment on Friday.
“We are not able to confirm any news regarding Robinson Cano at this time. If and when an agreement is completed and finalized, we will announce,” the Mariners statement read.
Cano’s reported deal would be one of the largest in baseball history and a coup for a franchise that’s gone a dozen years since making the postseason. It would bring creditability for the Mariners after striking out in the past in their pursuits of big free agents like Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton.
Cano was a five-time All-Star second baseman for the Yankees. Last season, he played in 160 games, hitting .314 with 27 homers and 107 RBIs, while posting a .899 on-base plus slugging percentage. He finished fifth in American League most valuable player voting.
He’s been one of the most durable players in baseball for the past seven seasons, missing only 14 out of 1,120 games since the start of the 2007 season. He’s a career .309 hitter who has averaged 24 homers and 97 RBIs per 162-game season. Cano has hit at least 25 homers and had a slugging percentage above .500 in every season since 2009.
Cano could be the anchor for a lineup that’s lacked consistency at the plate most of the past decade.
Between 2009 and 2012, Seattle’s offense ranked last in baseball in batting average, and was near the bottom in runs scored and homers. The Mariners showed some pop this past season with 188 home runs — second-most in baseball — but 52 of those came from the combo of Kendrys Morales and 41-year-old Raul Ibanez, both free agents.
It’s the second straight offseason Seattle will have made a massive financial commitment after giving a $175 million, seven-year deal to ace Felix Hernandez last winter. Seattle has plenty of financial room to make significant cash commitments because the only major contracts on the books for 2014 are for Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and only Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak are entering arbitration.
Helping provide room to increase the payroll is the Mariners’ investment in a new regional sports network that is expected to net Seattle significant revenue in the coming years and it’s not a surprise the club was able to make such a staggering offer.
But finalizing a deal with Cano won’t solve all of Seattle’s problems. It’s a start, immediately adding a legitimate slugger to the middle of a lineup that finally showed some pop last season after years of floundering with one of the worst offenses in baseball. The Mariners have plenty of other problems to solve, including adding another established starter to their rotation and finding solutions for an outfield filled with questions.
The potential acquisition of Cano could mean a move is made with Nick Franklin or Dustin Ackley. Franklin became Seattle’s starting second baseman for the majority of last season after an early promotion from the minors. He showed flashes at the plate but slumped badly in the later months of the season and his defense was always a concern.
Ackley was Seattle’s second baseman of the future when he was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, but went through his own hitting swoon. Ackley was demoted to the minors to try to find his swing and was moved from second base to playing in the outfield.