On MASN’s O’s Xtra pregame show prior to this evening’s game, Tom Davis and former Oriole Rick Dempsey mentioned the upcoming west coast swing for the Baltimore Orioles (following the all-star break). That road trip includes Seattle, who coming into league play this evening are 49-42. On one hand, Seattle is in a division with a couple of giants in Anaheim and Oakland – they currently sit in third place. However thus far they’re also far outweighing expectations.
Seattle stunned the likes of just about everyone this past off season by signing free agent second basemen Robinson Cano to a 10-year $240 million contract. (Which incidentally gave us the spectacle of New York fans grousing about another team swooping in and “stealing” one of their homegrown players by offering more money.) I was just as flabbergasted as anyone else, and my opinion at the time was that Cano wouldn’t make that big a difference in Seattle. They were coming off of a 71-win season…how much difference could one guy make?
In fairness, Cano’s only hit six home runs on the season. However he also has 52 RBI, and he’s
posted an OBP of .384 along with his .323 average. Defensively, he’s fielding at a .992 clip at second base. The only guy with more RBI than Cano is Kyle Seager with 59. For the record, this is also a team who’s pitching staff is putting up a 3.18 ERA – albeit it granted in a pitcher’s park.
But here’s the question; as crazy as that contract seemed at the time and still, did Seattle get it right? If you don’t care what the payroll is and/or don’t really have expectations of production based on salary, then your answer has to be yes. I suppose the follow-up question is whether or not Cano is the reason they’re winning more often.
As I alluded above, pitching plays a role for sure. Anytime Felix Hernandez is in your rotation, you’re going to be in good shape. However a player of Cano’s caliber is one that might well make guys around him into better players. Many people point at the trade that brought Adam Jones to the Orioles (from Seattle ironically) as a turning point for the franchise. While Jones was a young player and Cano was well established as a star when he signed with Seattle, Jones ended up being the same type of player in Baltimore.
A guy of Cano’s ability streamlines a batting order, which will in fact make everyone from top to bottom into a better hitter. So if you’re looking at wins and losses, one would have to say that the Cano signing was in fact worth the money. As of right now, Seattle is certainly in the hunt for a wild card spot. Whether or not that keeps up certainly remains to be seen.
So can the Baltimore Orioles learn anything from this? I would say not. Yeah, I know…you can’t believe it can you? Every situation is different – if Seattle is any indication year-over-year, these types of moves always work out. However that’s just one instance. Look back at the trade that brought Glenn Davis to Baltimore; at the time that was a move that was highly praised. But in retrospect that wasn’t the smartest move in the world.
What it really boils down to is personality to be honest. If you go through the Orioles’ clubhouse today you’ll see guys that genuinely like playing with each other and being together. That wasn’t always the case with this franchise, from the days of Glenn Davis all the way up to the not-so-distant past.
That’s something that’s strongly considered when it comes to bringing players aboard and even sending them out. In 2012 the O’s traded for future hall-of-famer Jim Thome; given Thome’s reputation across the league, there was never any question of him fitting in with the atmosphere in the clubhouse. Many fans wondered yesterday whether the O’s would try to sign now former Boston catcher A.J. Pierzynski after he was DFA’d. This is not a reflection on Pierzynski or anyone else, however it appears that the O’s aren’t interested in him. He’s a decent catcher, but I’m not sure he’d fit in with the chemistry this team has.
So it’s highly probable that Robinson Cano was the perfect fit in terms of a player as well as a personality in Seattle. Again, it’s tough to say it’s him and only him that’s making the difference. However he’s certainly the most glaring difference in their lineup year-over-year. So should teams throw caution to the wind in terms of player salaries if the guy is the right overall fit? The right answer is that it matters how much money we’re talking about.