12/7/2013 12:24 P.M. ET
Mariners were primed to go hard after Cano
Club has few other big-money commitments and needs for pop in middle of order
By Tracy Ringolsby / MLB.com
The Seattle Mariners shook up the baseball world.
They took on the New York Yankees in a battle of bank rolls and won.
Robinson Cano has agreed to a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners, pending a physical.
Is there anything sane about the salary structure of baseball anymore?
Bottom line is the Mariners knew they needed to make an impact, and after coming up short in bidding battles with the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder two winters ago, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Josh Hamilton last winter, Seattle decided to make that extra effort this time.
Here are five reasons the Mariners were primed to sign Cano:
• Seattle has only five other players with guarantees of $1 million or more: Felix Hernandez, who is signed through 2019 and will make $22 million in '14; Hisashi Iwakuma, who is in his final guaranteed year at $6.5 million; Willie Bloomquist, who recently signed to a two-year, $5.8 million deal; Dustin Ackley ($1.7 million); and Danny Hultzen, who will earn $1.7 million each of the next two seasons.
• There are only two arbitration-eligible players on the roster -- Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders, both of whom will be eligible for the first time.
• The Mariners' top two offensive players from a year ago -- Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales -- filed for free agency, leaving a major void for a veteran presence in the middle of the lineup.
• Cano, a five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, has shown an ability to perform at Safeco Field. Ichiro Suzuki (.320) and Derek Jeter (.316) are the only active American League players with higher batting averages at Safeco Field than Cano's .309 in 40 games. His average at Safeco is only three points lower than his career average at the current Yankee Stadium.
• The Mariners have been left out of the postseason for 12 consecutive seasons, and they have had a winning record in only two of the past 10 seasons. The attendance has fallen from a franchise-record 3,542,938 in 2002 to 1,761,546 last year -- the lowest for the franchise since 1995.
Cano's contract matches the deal Albert Pujols signed with the Angels two winters ago for the third-largest contract in Major League history. The only longer deals belong to Alex Rodriguez, who signed a 10-year, $252 million deal with Texas for 2001-10, but exercised an opt-out clause during the '07 World Series, and re-signed with the Yankees for 10 years at $275 million for '08-17.
Todd Helton had the longest guarantee in Major League history with the 11-year, $151.5 million commitment he received from Colorado that expired at the end of the 2013 season.
There have been 11 deals of 10 years, including the two for Rodriguez, Cano's new agreement and the contract Pujols received from the Halos.
Other current 10-year deals belong to Joey Votto (Cincinnati, $225 million, 2014-23), Troy Tulowitzki, (Colorado, $157.75 million, '11-20), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee, $145.5 million, '11-20) and Elvis Andrus ( Texas, $131.275 million, '13-22).
Jeter's 10-year, $189 million deal with the Yanks expired after the 2010 season. And then there were the trendsetters: Wayne Garland, who signed a 10-year, $2.3 million deal with Cleveland in '77, and Richie Zisk, who was signed for 10 years and $3 million by Texas in '78.
The Mariners know it's a gamble to sign a player to a 10-year deal. Cano is 31. However, he's not a player whose game depends on speed. Cano is a middle-of-the-lineup bat who has been a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
The Mariners feel Cano has several prime years left at second base, but he can eventually move to first base and then finish his career as a designated hitter. Seattle, of all teams, knows the DH can extend a career. The Mariners enjoyed the efforts of Hall of Fame candidate Edgar Martinez, who broke in as a third baseman but suffered injuries that left him as a DH for the bulk of his career.
One key for the Mariners is they added Cano and did not have to give up any prospects, which puts them in position to still make an impact trade. They are very much involved in efforts to acquire David Price from Tampa Bay. The key will be for the Mariners to decide if they will trade Taijuan Walker. Seattle also has had discussion with Kansas City regarding All-Star DH Billy Butler.
The Mariners also are still checking out impact free agents, having shown interest in outfielder Nelson Cruz and pitchers Bartolo Colon, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.
In the past
History hasn't been too kind to the Mariners in their pursuit of Major League free agents. John Olerud may have been the most successful, joining Seattle for the 2000 season. He missed only 24 games his first four seasons with the Mariners, winning three Gold Glove Awards and earning an All-Star selection.
Released in July 2004, Olerud finished his Seattle career hitting .285 with 72 home runs and 405 RBIs in 702 games.
Zisk played only the first three years of his contract in Texas. He was part of an 11-player trade between the Rangers and Seattle at the 1980 Winter Meetings. Zisk played three years with the Mariners, but worn out knees brought an early end to his career. He hit .286 with 49 home runs in 315 games with Seattle.
In addition to Zisk, the Mariners acquired shortstop Rick Auerbach, left-handed pitcher Jerry Don Gleaton and right-handed pitchers Ken Clay, Brian Allard and Steve Finch from the Rangers for left-handed pitcher Rick Honeycutt, shortstop Mario Mendoza, catcher Larry Cox, outfielder Leon Roberts and DH Willie Horton.
That was one of two 11-player trades made at the 1980 Winter Meetings in Dallas. Earlier, San Diego sent closer Rollie Fingers, left-handed pitcher Bob Shirley, and catchers Gene Tenace and Bob Geren to St. Louis for catchers Terry Kennedy and Steve Swisher, infielder Mike Phillips, right-handed pitchers John Littlefield and John Urea, and left-handed pitchers Kim Seamon and Al Olmsted.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.