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Boyle: M’s buy some credibility

FRIDAY, DEC. 13, 2013

SEATTLE – With the ink barely dry on his massive new contract, and with agent/hip-hop mogul Jay Z seated nearby, Robinson Cano flashed what can best be described a $240 million smile. 

“I’m excited and happy,” the Mariners’ newest and biggest investment said Thursday. “I couldn’t be more happy than this.”

Well, yeah. Who wouldn’t be happy about that contract?

Cano, a five-time All-Star with the New York Yankees, did everything he could to convince everyone that the 10-year deal he signed with the Mariners wasn’t about money. 

“It felt like family,” the 31-year-old second baseman said. “That’s what you want. 

“People say I left New York because I got money. It’s wasn’t about the money. It’s just that I was looking for a contract that I can be able to play and focus on the game, not worry about when I’m 37, 38, maybe do I have a job, am I able to play?”

But who are we kidding? This was in many ways about the money, both from Cano’s standpoint – “I didn’t feel respected. I didn’t see any effort,” is how he described the Yankees efforts towards keeping him – and more importantly in the long run, this was about the money the Mariners committed to adding a legitimate star to their lineup.  

This signing, which general manager Jack Zduriencik described as “historic” showed the Mariners willingness to invest heavily – or to overpay depending on your point of view – to buy themselves not just a middle-of-the-lineup bat, but some major league credibility.

For too long, the Mariners have been Felix Hernandez and the no-name lineup. Last year they became Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma and the no-name lineup, but the end result was the same: a paucity of offense and a too few victories. 

For the Mariners to not only win more games, but to be taken seriously by their fans and other free agents, they had to take this risk, even if it meant agreeing to the third-largest contract in baseball history.

In the past two years, the Mariners have made a run at Price Fielder and Josh Hamilton, they tried to trade for Justin Upton, and all said no. This time, thanks to a recruiting pitch by Hernandez – “That played a big role in my situation,” Cano said of Hernandez’s endorsement of the club – and yes, a very big check, a superstar finally said yes to the M’s. 

“We didn’t have the star,” Zduriencik said. “We just didn’t have the star at the moment, except for Felix, and Iwakuma doing what he did. We needed the position player impact guy, and we got him.”

Already the perception of the Mariners has changed since news of the deal broke last week, Zduriencik said. That may well have helped them land Corey Hart, who reportedly agreed to a deal with the M’s Wednesday, and it should pay dividends down the road. 

The Mariners have scarred their fans far too much to reasonably expect everyone to just jump in with both feet following this move, but it has to help.

In the long run a contract this big could be damaging, though Zduriencik believes the early years of the contract could actually end up being a bargain for his club, but what other choice did they have? The Mariners went all-in on Cano because they had to try something.

It’s a bold move, to be sure, but isn’t bold a welcome move from a team that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2001?

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