By Brent Stecker
If there's one thing the Mariners can do to change their fortunes, Jim Bowden believes signing Robinson Cano is it.
That's what the ESPN baseball insider and former MLB general manager told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" Thursday, noting that signing the superstar free-agent second baseman would have a major impact on the Mariners' ability to attract other players down the line.
Free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano could command a record-setting contract to sign with the Mariners, but ESPN's Jim Bowden believes it would go a long way in helping bring other stars to Seattle in the future. (AP)
"If you're a team like the Mariners that are trying to compete in this division, to have a middle-of-the-order bat to build around, it would be a tremendous coup," he said. "Cano is the best free agent in this market. Not even close. He's a Gold Golve-caliber second baseman. ... He's a .300 hitter that's gonna hit 25 homers and drive in 100. And he's not gonna run every groundball out and it's gonna irritate you, but he's a good kid and he's got of the best swings in the game. He's a no-brainer."
Cano has been the talk of the hot stove this offseason, not just because he's an MVP-worthy talent, but also for his representation (which includes rapper Jay Z), which is reportedly calling for a contract of at least 10 years for $300-plus million.
His previous team, the Yankees, is unwilling to pay that amount, and it appears the rest of the league is in the same camp. That gives the Mariners an opening, however.
"If they could afford it, you go get Cano. Jay Z's gonna make a point here, and there's nothing he'd like more (than) to get the Seattle Mariners to offer more than the Yankees and put him somewhere else," Bowden said. "For Cano, it's gonna take a surprise team, otherwise he'll be back in the Bronx on a seven- or eight-year deal."
The rest of the market is fairly weak, with injury-prone outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury the second-biggest name, followed by fellow outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, a left-handed slugger that struggles against southpaws. After that, there are proven veterans like Carlos Beltran and Mike Napoli that are unlikely to be swayed to sign with Seattle on short-term deals.
"If you're Seattle, you'd love to do some short-term guys. Carlos Beltran would be a good fit, but he's not coming to Seattle. He's going to a place where he can get to the World Series next year," Bowden said. "The difficult part when you're Seattle and you're in that division with Oakland and Texas, it's hard to get those bats that can win right away that will have to sign short-term deals. It's hard for Seattle to get that player unless they're willing to overpay the market to get them to go there."
Unfortunately for the Mariners, those types of players are exactly what they need to fill out a lineup where the lone offensive standout is third baseman Kyle Seager.
"They need some impact bats in the middle. They need to surround Seager with more Seagers and guys that can bang the ball around," Bowden said.
And if the Mariners want to attract those types of players, it could all start with Cano.
"The problem with the marketplace right now (is) there's not a lot of guys besides Cano. So if I'm Seattle, let's just go put all our money in Cano and have our three-hole hitter to build around," Bowden said. "And once Cano gets there, guess what happens? Then all of the sudden the Beltrans and the Napolis say, 'Yeah, I'll go to Seattle. With the pitching they've got at the top of the rotation, and now that they're starting to hit with Cano and Seager.' It's amazing how quick it can turn, but you've gotta have that big guy in the middle."