The Seattle Mariners are off to a hot start this spring, the first in quite a while.
New second baseman Robinson Cano, who signed arguably the most important contract of the off season (a 10-year, $240 million contract), is looking good and the rest of the squad has been helping to put together winning performances.
“I think the price Seattle paid for Cano was a bit extreme,” said freshman Maya Normandi. “But they’re playing well so far this spring. We’ll see if Cano is worth the money, but if he helps them win, I’m all for it.”
According to the Seattle Mariners website, the team is 9-3 in Cactus League play, the team’s best spring training start since 1994. Most recently, ace Felix Hernandez made a strong debut with two scoreless innings thrown against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I’m not real happy, but I think I threw pretty good,” said Hernandez, in an interview with MLB.com. “But my change up wasn’t working. I threw it a lot of times and it was garbage.”
Despite the self-criticism, Hernandez looked pretty sharp in his two-shutout innings. However, he did allow a double to Yasiel Puig and a single to Juan Uribe.
Still, the Mariners still aren’t done prepping for the regular season.
“I’m not going to lie. We need an extra bat, especially a right-handed bat,” Cano told CBSSports.com. “We have many left-handed hitters. We need at least one more righty. You don’t want to face a lefty pitcher with a lineup of seven left-handed hitters.”
This couldn’t be truer. The Mariners made strides in the off season to bolster their offensive production in the 2014 season, however they are looking a bit lefty-heavy. In addition to signing Cano—a left-handed hitter—Seattle also added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to their lineup. In combination with the rest of their lineup, the Mariners are projected to start at least six lefties on opening day. Among them are Cano, Morrison, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders and Brad Miller.
Cano suggested re-signing slugger Kendrys Morales. Morales, who if signed would not cost the Mariners a draft pick, logged 23 home runs and a .449 slugging percentage.
While the team is still looking to sign a free agent or two, both time and money are running out. Signing Cano took a sizable chunk of money out of the front office’s pocket, and other premier players wound up costing too much for the Mariners to compete with other teams. Among the players who lost to opposing offers were outfielder Nelson Cruz and pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Both Cruz and Jimenez joined the Baltimore Orioles after remaining unsigned through most of the winter.
“If it was up to me, we’d have Santana, Cruz and Ubaldo, too,” Cano told CBSSports.com. “That’s really more for the front office.”
It does seem as if Cano has been taking some liberties in suggesting moves to the front office. Most of the time, players avoid this sort of commentary, however the hugely expensive Cano may be in a unique position to make such comments to a front office that, in the opinion of some, has needed some criticism after a legacy of losing seasons.
That doesn’t mean everyone has welcomed his comments. The New York Daily News reported, “What is interesting is Cano’s sudden discovery that the team he chose to cast his lot with is not very good… ‘Why is Cano complaining about the Seattle lineup now?’ a baseball official asked the other day. ‘Did he just wake up and realize he signed with a (crappy) team?’”
Blunt though it may be, it does speak to the strangeness of Cano’s comments. He seems to have overlooked the fact that the team dropped over a third of its entire payroll just to sign him. Seattle is not New York and the money it takes to put together a quality team may not exist at this point.
Still, player and team development spring training has continued to come along nicely. The team recently finished beating up on the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, completing a pair of split-squad sweeps.
Hopefully, the team can put together a season over .500, though it will be difficult given the greatly improved nature of the league. Time will tell if King Felix’s arm and addition of Cano’s bat will prove to be a winning combination.