BY Art Thiel 02:16PM 03/02/2014

Thiel: Cano as GM: Mariners ‘need another bat’

Cano tells CBSSports.com that he wants Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana as teammates. Nothing irks CEO Howard Lincoln more than being told what to do.

Robinson Cano wants Kendrys Morales as a teammate. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Ken Griffey Jr. and Lou Piniella usually would wait until the baseball season began before complaining that the Mariners needed another bat. But times have changed, and a new tradition has begun. Newcomer Robinson Cano is playing general manager right from spring training, lobbying specifically for the return of DH Kendrys Morales.

“I’m not going to lie. We need an extra bat, especially a right-handed bat,” Cano told CBSSports.com in an interview published Sunday morning. “We have many left-handed hitters. We need at least one more righty. You don’t want to face a lefty pitcher with a lineup of seven left-handed hitters.”

The void is not news to Mariners fans. Even GM Jack Zduriencik is hip.

“We are a little lefthanded, and we know it,” Zduriencik said. “There are still some pieces out there, so who knows? We’re open to talking about anything. We’ll see. You never know. I would never close the door to anything.”

What is news here is that Cano is publicly lobbying management to do something. Already.

Normal protocol requires that players shut up about personnel needs, because their jobs are to hit, throw and catch. But when a team commits $240 million to one player, Cano must figure the club needs a lot of help at all levels. Which is true.

Not only is Cano speaking up nationally nearly a month before the season begins, he is sufficiently emboldened to ask for a pitcher by name too: Free agent Ervin Santana.

“He’s great,” Cano said. “The guy’s always pitching; he never gets hurt.”

If there is one thing CEO Howard Lincoln most dislikes, it’s being told what to do. In that way, he is like the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch (I was eager to be the first writer to put the two in the same paragraph).

Lynch resented the NFL telling him he was contractually obligated to do media interviews; Lincoln resents the media telling him his job. When it’s a player or manager telling Lincoln his job, it’s a little more complicated. But Griffey and Piniella will tell you it shortens the Seattle career.

The reason Lincoln’s name is mentioned is because the CBSSports.com story implies that Zduriencik’s reticence to move on Morales or Santana is budget-related; that the Mariners, whose salary level right now is about $87 million, have maxed out for 2014.

That ceiling is, of course, Lincoln’s call. Which, if true, would be absurd. The Mariners’ acquisition 10 months ago of their own regional sports network has, in their own words, provided them revenues comparable to the big boys.

“The Mariners are in a better position than some of their rivals and competitive with their rivals in their division,” Steve Greenberg of Allen and Co., a New York investment bank who advised the Mariners on the majority purchase of Root, said in April.

Last season Texas had a payroll of $147 million and Anaheim had a payroll of $127 million. It’s highly unlikely the AL West will fall back in 2014 to the Mariners’ current level.

But in fairness, we don’t know if a salary ceiling exists. Zduriencik reasonably could be calling the bluffs of Morales and Santana to drive down the asking prices of the best two free agents remaining on the market. Nothing wrong with that — until, of course, a top hitter or pitcher elsewhere in MLB goes down with a season-ending injury.

Those clubs are more likely to be panicked into offers higher than the suggested retail price from Zduriencik — if he has even offered.

The waiting game has its risks. It was already clear that the Mariners need a right-handed bat, and in this case it belongs to a player they know and like who performed well at Safeco Field a year ago. And with the recent injury news regarding Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, they need a veteran starter now more than ever.

It’s also possible the Mariners are contemplating one or more trades that could fill the voids in a better fashion than Morales and Santana, and are hoping to showcase talents in spring that will fetch a greater return. The problems are that trades cost the club assets beyond money, and Zduriencik’s record on trades is slightly worse than the Native Americans who sold Manhattan Island to white settlers for $24 in shiny objects.

Signing free agents costs only money, of which the Mariners, in their own estimation, have much. No one can testify to that better than Cano. So when, fresh to the Seattle ranch, he asks where his help is, he deserves an answer, sometime soon.

A shrug is not an answer. A “yes” will tell us something we didn’t know. A “no” tells us what we have known far too long.


YourThoughts

  • Matt

    Looking between the lines, it’s obvious that Morales does NOT want to play for the Mariners. He might even be considering more than money here (in baseball, the horror!). It looks like unless the Mariners throw a lot of $$$ at him, he’s happy to wait things out until June when that compensatory draft pick goes away. I guess Cano didn’t do much research beyond the $$$. Faith in Mariners management is light on the ground, especially when it comes to players with experience. Welcome to what is your first of likely many disappointments when it comes to Mariners management Cano.

    • art thiel

      None of us know how the change in managers has impacted players. But I think they believe Wedge’s version of events.

  • RadioGuy

    Matt pretty much said what I was thinking: Robinson, I hope you’re really, REALLY happy with the $240 million you’ll be getting over the next decade because you’ll pay for it by watching pitchers take the bat out of your hands and not throw strikes in order to challenge all the .250 hitters surrounding you in the order. On the plus side, nobody gets upset when a player jogs to first after drawing a walk.

  • jafabian

    Seems to me Cano is looking at the batting order and realizing he needs protection in the lineup and he’s absolutely right. There’s no one in the lineup who would give another team pause in intentionally walking Cano and going after the next batter. At this point Cano could lead the AL in intentional walks but Morales would change that. Cano probably didn’t like the 1 year offer the M’s initially gave him. I don’t think they’ll need to break the bank for him if they offer him a multi-year deal, say, 2 years with an option year.

    Santana has been streaky over his career but he’s the best starting SP out there right now. And at least he’s familiar with the AL West. IIRC, he’s pitched well at Safeco Field. Better to have a streaky pitcher than inexperienced ones and right now the M’s would have two of them in the rotation.

    • art thiel

      Cano knows already that the M’s are in trouble.

  • Edgar Martinez

    If Lincoln is gonna keep playing the same old self-imposed sub 100 million salary cap game even with the new TV deal while continually making it more expensive to attend games, then neither him nor Nintendo care anything about winning baseball or the fans.

    • art thiel

      I see your contradiction radar is on full sensitivity.

      • Edgar Martinez

        Been that way for about ten years with this franchise. Lincoln is famous for it. He treats the fans like idiots sometimes.

        • dinglenuts

          Until the fans don’t act like idiots, he has no reason to do otherwise. Although, they are starting to stay away.

          However, even dwindling attendance is offset by the preposterous TV deal. He cares not. Money flows to the Mariner regional monopoly.

  • Will

    Ha! For the moment Cano still has Yankee competitiveness … but the more he looks at the Mariner’s organization his list of team “needs” is going to get both longer and uglier.

    • art thiel

      Welcome to the club, Robinson.

  • Matt712

    The story here isn’t Cano’s lack of supporting cast (we all knew of that since his signinng); it’s his public demand for one. Before Morales, it was for Nelson Cruz. Normally, I wouldn’t approve of such prima donna antics, but hey, if a team dropped $240 million on me and told me they were committed to turning things around, then I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem publicly applying pressure to follow through on that commitment. I say, smart competitive move by probably the only guy in the organization able to make it.

    • jafabian

      It’s gonna be interesting to see how Lincoln handles it if Cano continues with his complaints thru the media. Lincoln hated it when Junior and Lou would do it. But both of them came on board the USS Mariner long before he was named captain. This time the complaints are coming from a person he brought in himself. Can he weather thru it? We’ll see.

      • art thiel

        I think Lincoln will grit his teeth, but given the complaints of meddling that Eric Wedge made to the Seattle Times, he might not be able to help himself.

    • art thiel

      I think his public statement was my point.

      I do think the club bosses resent it.

  • tedsfrozenhead

    Oh Robbie…did you actually believe the lies Jack and Howard told you?

    Poor guy…

    • art thiel

      If someone paid you $240M, would you decide to believe him?

      • dinglenuts

        For 240M, I would believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the general goodness of humankind.

        Although, that said, i wouldn’t believe anything Jack or Chuck told me. They’re much less credible.

  • ksmyth

    Not to be contrarian, spending money is fine, but is Kendrys Morales the right bat? Yes, he had a decent 2013, but he can’t play a position, he’s only a DH. If Corey Hart can’t play the outfield, and whether he can or can’t remains to be seen, he’ll be fighting Logan Morrison for DH time. Santana is different, but likely you’re locked into a guy for four years and $50 M whose career is very inconsistent. He did well with KC in 2013 on a team with a very good outfield defense–2014 Mariners, not so much. Spend the money, but on the right guys.

    • art thiel

      True enough, but at this juncture, the FA field is picked over. Everyone left has limitations. Trading is the other option, but are the M’s so deep they can give up prospects for a win-now vet?

  • Tian Biao

    uh oh – he will soon be labeled a ‘malcontent,’ as in, not content with a happy ballpark experience, not content with losing, not content with sub-par team mates. The guy’s a goner. He obviously doesn’t fit in.

  • Pingback: Cold Calling Harry Caray | Booth, Justice and the American Pastime