LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Seattle Mariners can’t publicly announce the signing of Robinson Cano until he passes his physical in the next few days. But the organization’s audacious agreement to sign the all-star second baseman to a 10-year, $240-million contract was still a hot topic of discussion at the first day of the Major League Baseball winter meetings.
Sports radio hosts along radio row could be heard discussing it, scouts were debating it and opposing teams were reacting to the news by looking or signing other players.
“Everybody was stunned,” said former Mariners second baseman and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds. “The first thing you think about is the money they put into that. It’s quite a shocker. It’s the first thing you see. But the other part that everybody is missing is they lured one of top players in baseball away from the Yankees. That’s an achievement we won’t see again in a long time.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington wasn’t stunned. He saw the Mariners go after Josh Hamilton last year and Prince Fielder the year before that.
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“I don’t know if you would call it a surprise,” he said. “The past few years, they’ve been certainly trying to fuel that offense. Give them some credit, they’ve been trying and they’ve got one of the best offensive players in the game in Cano.”
It helps that the Mariners made a massive financial commitment. Only a handful of players have been paid that much to play baseball. Sources within the Yankees have told the New York media it’s an epic overpay.
“What ends up happening, the teams that don’t get the player say he got overpaid, and the team that got him says he’s right for them,” said former Mets general manager Steve Phillips. “That kind of proves that any time in this place, the value for you can be greater than it can be for someone else. I understand with where they are, that they wanted to make a splash with a big deal. In a vacuum, I don’t see Robbie Cano as a $240 million player.”
There could be debate whether any player — even phenom Mike Trout — is worth that much. But the Mariners had to pay to get Cano to come to Seattle.
“The perception around baseball is that because it’s up in the Northwest, the only way to get good players to come there is through a trade or opening up the pocket book quite a bit,” said former Mariners reliever and MLB Network radio analyst Jeff Nelson. “It’s nice to see it happen.”
But did it need to happen?
“The attendance has dropped, the offense hasn’t been good at all, and they were last three out of the last four years. They had to change something,” Nelson said.
There is a thought Cano’s signing, along with additional healthy spending, could attract more players to Seattle.
“Players know your off-days are gone because of travel, the closest city is Oakland, that’s 2½ hours on a plane, so once they make a big splash in getting Cano, maybe it does draw other free agents,” Nelson said. “I’m hoping they aren’t done.”
They can’t be done, some say. Just adding Cano wouldn’t be enough and a poor investment in their huge investment.
“He fits anybody’s lineup, but the question is, what are they going to put around him because that’s not enough,” Phillips said. “What’s next?”
What likely won’t be happening next is a trade of top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker. The hard-throwing right-hander has been coveted and mentioned in almost every trade possibility for the Mariners, particularly a possible deal for Rays’ ace David Price. But general manager Jack Zduriencik quelled some of those rumors.
“I don’t have any intentions of trading Taijuan Walker,” Zduriencik said. “You listen to any opportunities that present themselves and you go into discussions with a lot of people. And his name will come up. Why wouldn’t it? Taijuan is high profile because he’s rated our top prospect. So if I was a club out there, why wouldn’t I ask about Taijuan Walker? That would be a smart thing to do because you never know where it’s going to take you. But I have no intentions of trading him.”
La Russa for president?
Tony La Russa experienced, what for most, is the culmination of a baseball career. Monday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s expansion era committee elected a trio of ultra successful managers, LaRussa, former Braves manager Bobby Cox and former Yankees manager Joe Torre into the Hall of Fame.
La Russa has worked the past two years as an official in MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s office.
While he enjoyed the position, La Russa admitted he’s ready to join a team — most likely in a front-office position.
“I’ve made it no secret to the commissioner,” he said. “I’ve been really pleased with the last two years to stay close to the game. But I miss the winning and losing without missing the dugout. So someday, I will be with a team.”
Might that someday be with the Mariners as team president? The organization is looking to replace Chuck Armstrong, who retires officially Jan. 31.
“Those decisions get made by other people,” La Russa said. “I’d like to be part of the competition again. That place has got great potential.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish