No one made a more impressive statement of intent than the Seattle Mariners. The 10-year, $240m contract agreed with Robinson Cano is the joint-third highest in MLB history, matching the contract the Los Angeles Angels agreed with Albert Pujols two offseasons ago and only trailing the Alex Rodriguez contracts of $252m and $275m.
Although theyâ€™ve been down on their luck in recent seasons, the Mariners are not a small market team and so the fact that they believe they can afford such a lucrative contract should not be shocking. The element of surprise came in part through them outbidding the Yankees and in part by the timing. Even adding a great player like Cano leaves them with an underwhelming batting lineup to go alongside an admittedly impressive 1-2 starting pitching punch of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Why invest so much money in Cano if there isnâ€™t the talent around him to win?
Well, the simple answer is that if you want to improve, adding one of the best players in baseball is a good way to start. The Mariners are now being linked with a host of other names â€“ including a potential trade for the Raysâ€™ David Price â€“ and whilst money certainly talks loudest when free agents decide on their new home (and understandably so), players do want to win too and Cano will be a very handy selling point to show that they are serious about being contenders.
The other point to note is that this is a multi-year commitment, not a one-year rental. Of course the Mariners will want to make the playoffs in 2014 and theyâ€™ll attract some criticism if they donâ€™t, but it will be far from disastrous if 2014 sees the Mariners take a positive step forward to then set up an offseason recruitment exercise in a yearâ€™s time to make them genuine contenders.
And finally itâ€™s worth learning a lesson from the recent trade of Prince Fielder to remind us all that nothing is ever as certain as it may seem. The Cano contract is a monumental commitment by the Mariners, but itâ€™s quite possible (maybe even probable) that he will not be a Seattle player for that entire period. If one of the biggest risks is that he wonâ€™t be worth the money in the last few years of the contract â€“ and it is â€“ well, the chances are the Mariners might only be on the hook for a percentage of that salary while he plays for someone else anyway.
The Mariners need some more pieces to give themselves any chance of a playoff push in 2014; however it looks like theyâ€™re trying to add them and, even if they donâ€™t, Seattle fans have every reason to be excited about what the coming years may bring.
A’s add several pieces
The Oakland Aâ€™s are two-time reigning AL West champions but itâ€™s their lot to continue to go under the radar and be overshadowed by their rivals. Whilst they havenâ€™t signed Robinson Cano or traded for Prince Fielder, the Aâ€™s were the most active team of the week and made a series of moves that should all prove beneficial in their quest to make it three division titles in a row.
Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour are set to leave the Aâ€™s as free agents, so General Manager Billy Beane filled those holes with the signing of free agent Scott â€˜comeback kidâ€™ Kazmir and trading for the Baltimore Oriolesâ€™ closer Jim Johnson. Reliever Luke Gregerson (from the Padres) and outfielder Craig Gentry (from the Rangers) were also acquired in trades.
Red Sox rally from Ellsbury departure
In the AL East, the Boston Red Sox are doing a good job of hiding any disappointment they have in losing Jacoby Ellsbury to those damn Yankees. Theyâ€™ve agreed a two-year deal to bring back Mike Napoli, added former Cardinal Edward Mujica to their bullpen and replaced the departed Jarrod Saltalamacchia (whoâ€™s signed for the Marlins) with veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who will be keen to bounce back from a relatively disappointing one-year stay in Texas.
Nathan in, Fister out
The Detroit Tigers, the Red Soxâ€™s 2013 American League Championship Series opponents, have ensured there will be no repeat of the closer confusion of last season as they signed Joe Nathan on a two-year contract. Meanwhile Doug Fister has been traded away to the Washington Nationals, possibly in part to clear some space on the payroll for Nathan.
The Tigers do have Drew Smyly as a ready-made replacement in the rotation, but it’s surprising that they didn’t get more of a return (utility player Steve Lombardozzi being the main player of three acquired) for a solid starter, one that the Nationals will be more than happy to have on their pitching staff in 2014. The Nationals made another move last week too, adding outfielder Nate McLouth.
Brian Wilson was the other main closer candidate being considered by the Tigers. After Detroit opted for Nathan, Wilson decided to return to the L.A. Dodgers in a set-up role behind Kenley Jansen. That’s certainly not going to be the last move made by the Dodgers and much of their offseason plans may revolve around whether the rumours come true and they trade away either Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp.
Grandy stays in New York
Outfielder Curtis Granderson wasn’t in the Yankees’ grand spending plans this offseason but he will stay in New York regardless after signing a four-year deal with the Mets. Former Oakland A Chris Young had previously signed a one-year deal with the Mets as they seek to upgrade their outfield and start the process of getting back into contention in the NL East.
And that’s just for starters!
Last week’s transaction news may just be the first course in a baseball feast. This week the great and good of the baseball world will gather at the annual Winter Meetings, where rumours go into overdrive and, occasionally, major trades and free agent signings are agreed. If we’ve learned anything over the past seven days it’s that we should be prepared for a shock or two.