If the Seattle Mariners can part ways with Robinson Cano, they will.
But just how eager are they to move their 36-year-old infielder? And to what lengths are they willing to go to do it?
Over the past week there have been reports that Seattle has been talking to multiple teams about a trade involving Cano.
Andy Martino of SNY reported that the New York Mets and Mariners were both “aggressive” in Cano trade talks and that the Mariners discussed paying about $10 million annually of Cano’s remaining contract, which would lower his salary to about $14 million per year for the Mets.
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But to make a deal like this, would the Mariners have to include closer Edwin Diaz or outfielder Mitch Haniger just to move Cano?
Just don’t believe it. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has been adamant about his desire to build around Diaz, Haniger and left-hander Marco Gonzales. Trading those players would have to bring something back to the Mariners of exceptional value as in players or salary relief on Cano’s giant contract.
“We’re going to be open-minded to anything we’re doing through this offseason and as we move forward,” Dipoto said last week on 710-ESPN radio. “That being said, we would absolutely have to be blown away to move players like Edwin Diaz, Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzales. These are the (type of) players we are trying to acquire.”
Trading Cano might be the most difficult deal Dipoto will ever orchestrate for the Mariners, but it shouldn’t have to be his most desperate deal.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported that the Mariners had not yet approached Cano about a trade, whether he’d waive his no-trade clause or the teams he would approve. But he also reported that the Mariners are fully expected to find a way to move Cano this offseason.
And Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported this past week that the Mariners and Yankees previously discussed a deal that would have sent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to Seattle. Ellsbury is owed $47.2 million over the next two years, but the talks apparently broke down because the Mariners weren’t willing to take on more of Cano’s salary.
The only way they’re pairing Diaz or Haniger with Cano is if the Mets or Yankees – the two most reported teams the Mariners have negotiated with about Cano – are willing to take on a majority of what’s owed to Cano and Seattle gets some talent in return.
A huge takeaway from these reports is how complicated it is going to be to trade Cano.
There are issues here besides the remaining $120 million he’s owed over the next five seasons. He just turned 36, and he’s coming off that 80-game drug suspension.
Yet there are reasons why teams might want to add a player of Cano’s still formidable abilities. Consider what he’s done since becoming a Mariner.
In five seasons in Seattle, he’s batted .296/.353/.472. The only other players in baseball with a slash line that good are Jose Altuve, Charlie Blackmon, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman.
Sure Cano is older than any of those other players. But when the Mariners’ offense slumped over the final two months this season, Cano hit .317/.363/.497 in 41 games after returning from his suspension – all while juggling new positions at first and third base.
And even if Cano’s production dips with age regression (although, now-free agent Nelson Cruz is 38 and he’s doing just fine), it’s hard to imagine Cano couldn’t still be a valuable piece for a playoff contender.
Future payroll flexibility matters, but the Mariners haven’t been an organization starved for cash and they saved about $12 million on Cano’s contract, anyway, this past season because of his unpaid suspension.
This isn’t like trying to dump pitcher Carlos Silva’s contract like they did to get Milton Bradley in 2009, nor would it be like finding someone to take Felix Hernandez’s $27 million for next season. For all those who scoffed at the exorbitance of Cano’s contract when he signed, his production says so far he’s earned it
Most of the reports so far fall into the Hot Stove category of GMs just talking. And no GM likes trading like Dipoto does; he’s made 82 deals since taking over the Mariners after the 2015 season.
Former Colorado Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd went on MLB Network to discuss his own trade proposal between the Mariners and Mets, which would send Cano, Diaz and recently acquired outfielder Mallex Smith to New York for for outfielder Jay Bruce and three prospects. But to believe the Mariners would pull the trigger on that and include Diaz – it just doesn’t fit with Dipoto’s intentions.
Maybe there’s other reasons not made public that could lend to extra motivation for the Mariners to trade Cano. After all, Cano did say after the season that he fully intends to be back at second base next season, while Dipoto hasn’t seemed to agree.
Yes, the Mariners would like to part with Cano’s contract. And yes, it would probably be the most difficult of all Dipoto’s deals.
Just don’t expect a deal to be made simply out of desperation. The ball is in the Mariners’ court, but they’re not backed into a corner.