The Money Game: What’s the Point in Spending?

The baseball season may have ended over a month ago, but the Hot Stove is just starting to heat up. FSLR will now be covering the MLB so stay tuned for more well-written articles like this one:

On Friday, seemingly earth-shattering news was unveiled: Robinson Cano had agreed to sign a 10-year contract worth $240 million with the Seattle Mariners, rivaling the most lucrative contracts ever to be offered in major league history. By confirming the deal, Cano could become the third-highest paid player ever to play professional baseball.[1] If Cano signed another one of these contracts, he could own the Pittsburgh Pirates with another million to spare (he has options if he doesn’t prefer freezing Pittsburgh)![2] The underlying question, and it emerges whenever a high-profile deal is completed, is why? What is the benefit behind allocating millions of dollars to a single individual who is subject to the same troubling odds of chance as anyone else in the world? He could get hurt in any fashion, on or off the field, his physical ability could face the daunting enemy of age, or his skills could simply deteriorate. What could justify splurging $240 million on one player when the risks of signing someone for that much money are significantly higher than the risks of signing someone for even a quarter of that? Let’s try to get at the Mariners organization’s reasoning behind the deal.

SATISFYING THE FANS

For one, this kind of move serves as evidence for the fans that their Mariners are trying to compete in the ultra-competitive American League West. With the other teams in the division outlaying millions of dollars the past few years for players such as Josh Hamilton, Yu Darvish, and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mariners have to show that they are at least attempting to form a playoff roster. And signing the best second baseman and one of the most electrifying players in the league is a great place to start. Everyone and their mother will want some kind of Cano memorabilia. Whether it takes the form of an autograph or a jersey, there will no doubt be an increased interest in the team and thus, a higher revenue coming in from the supportive fan base. Above all, in a division where the Mariners are seen nowadays as perennial bottom-dwellers, they can boast about the fact that they have one of the best pure hitters in baseball, which they can add to their having one of the best pitchers in baseball.

RUN PRODUCTION SURGE

Now let’s look at what this deal does for the Mariners’ roster. We can start off by saying it does nothing short of miracles for a lineup loaded with talent that somehow manages to underachieve offensively every year. Last year, the Mariners ranked third to last in the MLB with a .237 batting average and in the bottom ten in runs, hits, RBIs, and on-base percentage.[3] No one can deny the fact that the Mariners are stocked with formidable players up and down their lineup, starting with Dustin Ackley in the leadoff spot, transitioning into Kendry Morales, Justin Smoak, and Michael Morse in the heart of the order, and rounding out with young phenom Jesus Montero towards the bottom. The Mariners just lacked a catalyst, a player who could act as the glue for the often disjointed batting order. Cano fits the role perfectly. By last season’s end, he found himself in the top twenty in the majors of every single batting category you could care about (2B, HR, RBI, AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS).[1] He does every job you could want: he hits for average so he can get on base for the sluggers behind him, and he knocks in the people on base before him. In every facet of hitting, Cano is able to manufacture runs at an almost unmatched pace (not to mention that he has won two Gold Gloves in the past three years). His capability on offense is exactly what the Mariners need to lift their floundering offense out of the gutter.

AFFIRMING SEATTLE AS A POSSIBLE FREE AGENT DESTINATION

Lastly, signing Cano is a sigh of relief for the Seattle administration. They always seemed to miss out on big-name deals (the talent they acquired came by way of trade). But by luring the best second baseman in the game to their home, the Mariners prove to the league that they are a viable option for free agents. They are willing to spend the cash they need for a championship and furthermore, they are not going to continue to lose out to the big-market teams in their league (and scarily their division). Although many people will complain that apportioning that much money to one player is too much of a gamble, the Mariners are using it as a statement. A demonstrative victory punctuated by a flourish is enough to prove to the league that common bottom-dwellers are not as far behind the powerhouses as most people think.

[1] Greg Johns, http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/robinson-cano-agrees-to-deal-with-seattle-mariners-according-to-multiple-sources?ymd=20131206&content_id=64441206&vkey=news_mlb

[2] Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/mlb-valuations/list/

[3] Mlb.com, http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/stats/sortable.jsp?c_id=sea#playerType=ALL&elem=%5Bobject+Object%5D&tab_level=child&click_text=Sortable+Player+hitting&game_type=’R’&season=2013&season_type=ANY&league_code=’MLB’&sectionType=st&statType=hitting&page=1&ts=1386560910366&sortColumn=obp&sortOrder=’desc’&extended=0

[4] Mlb.com, http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/sortable.jsp#sectionType=sp&sortColumn=ops&season=2013&league_code=’MLB’&statType=hitting&game_type=’R’&elem=%5Bobject+Object%5D&tab_level=child&click_text=Sortable+Player+hitting&season_type=ANY&page=1&ts=1386561588635&sortOrder=’desc’&extended=0

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