On December 16, 2013, Robinson Cano agreed to a monster contract with the Seattle Mariners. It was a 10-year, $240 million contract that included a no-trade clause.
The deal was ridiculed by many. Cano was a perennial all-star, but he was 31 years old. The deal would run into his 40s, when there is little chance he would still be a player worth $24 million dollars per year.
Cano proved people wrong in his first season with the Mariners. He was everything the Mariners wanted him to be. He hit .314, drove in 82 runs and played gold-glove caliber defense at second base. Although he hit only 14 home runs, his presence helped the Mariners to their best season in seven years, falling just one game short of a playoff berth.
This year has been a different story for Cano. While the stellar defense is still there, his performance at the plate has left much to be desired for one of baseball’s highest-paid players.
In 39 games played, Cano is behind in every category. He is batting only .258, a far cry from his career .308 average. In the RBI department, he is struggling with just 11 on the season. To make matters worse, his home run totals are at an all-time low. He has hit only one in 2015.
The Mariners have invested their entire future in Cano. Even fans of the deal, like myself, admitted this would not look good in the last few years. The Mariners would end up terribly overpaying for a player years removed from his prime.
However, this is way too early for that. Seattle was supposed to get at least five years of Cano’s prime. If Cano is already slipping from that prime in just the second year of his mega deal, the future of the Mariners could be even worse.
The Mariners’ bats have mostly gone silent and there is nobody to pick up the slack, except for Nelson Cruz, who is in the midst of a career year. He leads the majors in home runs, batting average, RBI and slugging.
Besides Cruz, the Mariners’ batters are struggling. Moreover, Mariners’ pitching has also been weaker than expected.
Robinson Cano has to be a superstar for the Mariners to succeed. Taijuan Walker was supposed to break out, but he currently sports a 7.47 ERA and a 1-4 record. Paxton was in a similar boat with expectations, but has also disappointed. He has been better in recent weeks, but still has a 3.59 ERA and a 2-2 record.
Don’t even get me started on the bullpen. The Fernando Rodney experience continues to frustrate fans. Danny Farquhar, a staple of last year’s bullpen, has been unreliable at best. His 5.48 ERA and 0-2 record isn’t inspiring anybody.
The point is that Cano has to be a superstar for the Mariners to make any kind of run this season. The Houston Astros are currently running away with the American League West at 27-14. The Mariners are eight games back at 18-21.
The season is still young. There is more than enough time to make up the deficit and get back within striking distance of the AL West title. But unless Cano can somehow get himself out of this slump, Seattle will have no chance to break the 13-year playoff drought.