Scott Weber, manager over at Lookout Landing, was nice enough to answer a few questions I had about Robinson Cano and his contract with the Mariners in order to get the perspective from the other side of things.
When you first heard of the deal, what was your initial reaction?
You know that scene in Arrested Development when Tobias suggests him and Lindsay undergo a trial separation?
Lindsay: Well, did it work for those people?
Tobias: No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but ... But it might work for us.
That's pretty much it. It's a ridiculous amount of money and it's almost certainly not going to look good in the second half (or sooner) but this city has been so starved to change the perception here that we all knew it had to happen at some point. Seattle is a city that everybody loves visiting, but I've had players tell me there's just a stigma about it, whether it's the travel, the ballpark, or just the uncertainty. Nobody knows what they're getting into with Seattle, but now they know that one of the best came here. I don't think it'll end up being a wise financial decision, but in terms of changing this team's image, it may go a long way.
Now that you have had time to take it all in, how has your opinion changed?
It's only gotten more favorable as the team continues to improve. It'll sour if this is all the team does, sitting back and waiting for young talent to break through. The team needs to get better right away, and they have to do it in this three to four-year window where Cano is still a superstar. That means spending even more money, and that means making moves that win now. A lot of things have to go right for the Mariners to pass the A's and Rangers right away, so if this front office can continue making moves that close that potential gap, I will continue to feel better. This has been a good off-season so far.
What is your opinion about a 10-year contract?
Crazy, irresponsible, and destined to hurt the franchise in the second half. Also a necessary evil for an undesirable destination such as Seattle.
How do you feel about Cano's reputation for being a lazy player?
It's not really a consideration for me. The numbers don't lie, and we know exactly what Cano is at this point. I'm sure there will be some moments where fans will get frustrated, but the good outweighs the bad by so much that I believe everyone is willing to accept it. I haven't seen anybody talk about it as a potential concern, at least not yet. I bet it'll come up quite a bit in five years though.
How do you feel the Mariners fan base will react to Cano? How have they taken it already?
It's been overwhelmingly positive, for the most part. He'll be a superstar here, and one that they can see every single day, unlike Felix. Even though Ichiro was wildly popular in his day, now that he's gone, fans talk about Cano being the first superstar since Griffey left. It's a giddy feeling if you put all of the future impact aside.
People are concerned about the length of the deal, and rightfully so, but a team like the Mariners never gets a chance to land a superstar without gutting their organization to do so. For the most part, people are taking the "it's not my money" approach, and while that's always been an overly simplistic view of franchise spending, it does make more sense now than it does before. The team's owner died this year, and Chuck Armstrong, the team president, is retiring next month. Howard Lincoln is even older than Armstrong, and most people think he's not too far behind. Nintendo now owns the Mariners, but given how much change there's been at the top recently, there's a decent amount of speculation that the team could be sold in the near future. So what does this kind of money mean in 5, 6 years? Perhaps a new ownership group and front office is more willing to spend to compensate for their mistakes going forward, much like Arte Moreno has done in Anaheim.
How much do you think the Mariners have improved from 2013-2014?
I'm very happy with their off-season so far. We lobbied hard for Corey Hart, and while this team still has a lot of work to do, they're a couple of big moves from being in that Kansas City Royals 86-win territory for 2013, where if a few things break just right, they might contend. At this point, that's a welcome sight for a lot of us. But they'll need big steps forward from their young talent in order to really put them over the top. As long as those players get a chance to bust loose instead of being traded to somebody else, we'll be entering a season full of more hope than the last several years. Of course, the last time the Mariners gave us all hope was when they traded for Cliff Lee and signed Chone Figgins, so. Yeah.
What pieces do they still need to add?
Starting pitcher and outfielder. They've got to use their surplus at second base to make some trades, and while they can fill their pitching hole on the free agent market, it is completely dry for outfielders. I can't see them ponying up the money for Choo, and this lineup is already very lefty-heavy. They want Nelson Cruz, but I pray they stay away. Already in his decline phase, bad defense, coming off PEDs, major home/away splits, hasn't been more than a 1.5 WAR player since 2010 - he has the potential to be a disaster. Ideally, they can find a right-handed outfielder in exchange for Nick Franklin and James Paxton. Matt Kemp would have been an extremely risky, but high upside acquisition that fits the model of what they're trying to do. I go back and forth on whether he's a good idea or not, but given how everything has transpired, he makes a lot of sense for the Mariners if the Dodgers decide to put him back on the block and eat some of his contract.
Now that second base is secure for the next 10 year, what would you like the Mariners to do with Dustin Ackley and/or Nick Franklin?
They don't have to trade either, but it would be a waste to keep them both around. Franklin can be stashed in AAA or he can learn a corner outfield spot, and Ackley showed he can play the outfield at least semi-competent in 2013. Like I said before though, it seems like trading Franklin for a good outfielder is the best option.
If they were to trade either, what kind of package would you expect them to get?
It really depends on who's packaged with them. I think in order to get the kind of impact player the Mariners really want, they'll have to add in James Paxton in order to get something big. By himself, Franklin could net something nice - I suggested moving him to the White Sox for Jose Quintana - but I'm always wary of my own estimations of trade returns, because I have no idea what teams are asking.
Thanks, Scott, good luck next year. Enjoy Robbie :(
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