Seattle Mariners fans will see a Robinson Cano-less team for quite some time. Here are 24 potential replacements that the Mariners should consider trading for.
Cano was already facing a spell on the sidelines after he suffered a fractured fifth metacarpal following a hit by pitch in a game in Detroit this week.
Now, with the news (Deportivo Z 101’s Hector Gomez was the first to report the news in a tweet, which The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal later confirmed) that Cano has been suspended 80 games, the Mariners will be without the veteran for the foreseeable future.
BREAKING NEWS: According to off the record sources and non-official reports, dominican All-Star Robinson Cano will be suspended for Steroid Use, could be announced today.#ZDeportes @z101digital @ZDeportes
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) May 15, 2018
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 15, 2018
It represents a significant blow for a Seattle team trying to crack the postseason for the first time since 2001.
With Cano, fresh off a 3.1 fWAR in 2017 and a 6.1 fWAR in 2016, Seattle had an impact player to spearhead a talented roster that also includes the likes of James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino and Dee Gordon.
In another division, perhaps, Seattle might have enough talent to stay afloat and compete for the divisional crown without Cano.
But in a crowded American League West that features the Astros and Angels already ahead of the Mariners, Seattle could be in trouble.
The Wild Card picture is equally crowded, seeing as one of Houston and Anaheim will be in the race for one of the two non-division playoff spots. The same can be said for one of either the Yankees or Red Sox, as well as teams like Toronto and Minnesota.
Seattle needs to find a suitable replacement, and fast.
Short term vs long term
There’s good news and bad news on that front.
The good news is that Seattle can shift center fielder Dee Gordon back to second base, where he played with the Dodgers and Marlins prior to arriving in the Pacific Northwest. This would give Jerry Dipoto and company some flexibility as they can look to trade for either an outfielder or a second baseman.
On the flip side, the bad news is that the M’s might just be limited to rentals.
They of course could pursue a player under contract/team control long-term, but with Cano and Gordon locked into significant deals for the foreseeable future, it wouldn’t make sense for the Mariners to spend big on a player like Jonathan Schoop or Starlin Castro only to see the player move into a reserve role in 2019.
It also puts Dipoto in a bit of a bind because to acquire a player who can make an impact, he may have to delve into a perilously-thin farm system. As it stands, that farm system contains Kyle Lewis, Evan White and little else in the way of frontline trade chips.
Finding the right fill-in will also be key as due to the suspension, Cano can’t play in the postseason this year if the M’s qualify.
With that in mind, here are some of the best fits for the Seattle Mariners in their hunt for a Robinson Cano replacement.
(All contract information via Spotrac.)
What to do they have in common?
They’re the only position players with a higher fWAR than Jed Lowrie.
Despite the infielder having a strong year, he’s ticketed for free agency in the winter and Oakland needs to make room for Franklin Barreto up the middle.
Another deal, this time for Lowrie, could be beneficial.
The 34-year-old is already sitting on a 2.1 fWAR and has amassed a 156 wRC+, a .401 wOBA and a .225 ISO in 193 plate appearances.
His .367 BABIP is a bit high and suggests some regression could be in order considering Lowrie has operated with a .298 BABIP in his career and respective metrics of .314 and .316 in the past two seasons.
Still, it’s worth noting that even with a lower BABIP in 2017, the former Astro and Red Sox player delivered a 3.5 fWAR, a 119 wRC+, a .347 wOBA and a .171 ISO in 645 plate appearances.
That’s an ideal output for a Robinson Cano stand-in.
Merrifield might fit into the same category as Schoop and Castro given his controllability. That being said, he’d nonetheless be a perfect fit in Seattle.
A 29-year-old capable of playing first base and all three outfield spots in addition to second base, Merrifield could still start full time for the M’s in 2019 with Cano still on the roster.
With Nelson Cruz also slated for free agency, Merrifield’s ability to play multiple positions would allow Scott Servais to get players like Cano, Haniger and Gordon off their feet more often with semi-consistent plate appearances at designated hitter.
Merrifield owns a 111 wRC+, a .355 on-base percentage, 14 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases.
With Cano out, he’d provide some much-needed length to the bottom of Seattle’s lineup.
It might be slightly more costly to acquire Merrifield considering he’s controllable through 2022, but the fit is there.
The ultimate sell-high candidate for the Reds, Gennett mashed 27 home runs en route to a .367 wOBA last season.
He’s at it again in 2018, posting a .363 on-base percentage and a 143 wRC+ for the National League Central club.
With another year of arbitration eligibility remaining, Seattle may not be the best fit for Gennett long term as they’d probably have to shift him to the outfield—where he has limited experience in the Majors—to keep him in the lineup on a consistent basis.
Jose Iglesias, Adeiny Hechavarria, Alcedis Escobar and Freddy Galvis
Iglesias, Hechavarria and Escobar are more glove-first shortstops, but Seattle could try sliding them over to second base.
The Mariners’ lineup isn’t lacking for run producers at the top and table setters, so they could opt to shore up a defense that has, on the whole, a 0.8 defensive runs above average metric.
Galvis differs from the rest in the sense that he’s a bit more of a threat at the plate. The infielder mashed 32 home runs in the past two seasons for the Philies, and while his wRC+ numbers (76, 73, 80 and 76 since 2015) don’t catch the eye, he’d be a definite upgrade over Seattle’s current options.
The above group are more bench types who would fall into the same category as someone like Beckham or Romine than a starting option like Merrifield or Gennett.
Of the five, Pirela stands out as an interesting fit as a utility piece.
Similar to Merrifield in the sense that he can fill in at multiple positions, the former Yankees farmhand would be more of a complimentary piece in Seattle.
The 27-year-old turned in a 122 wRC+ and a .202 ISO in 344 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017, but has slumped to a 88 wRC+ and a .081 ISO in 2018 despite his BABIP going from .343 to .344. Pirela’s wOBA has also taken a dive off a cliff, falling from .355 to .296 from last season to this season.
That might make him less expensive in a trade, but if he can rediscover his 2017 form, he’d provide cover at Seattle’s two positions of need (second base and left field).
If the Seattle Mariners opt to move Dee Gordon back to second base on a more consistent basis and acquire an outfielder to patrol the grass in Safeco Field, these options could pay dividends.
The ex-Mariner left the Pacific Northwest in the lopsided Erik Bedard blockbuster and has been good for a 28.7 fWAR metric in his time in an Orioles uniform.
With the O’s going nowhere fast and Jones set for free agency this winter, a trade makes sense.
Considering J.D. Martinez, a far better offensive rental than Jones, didn’t fetch a prospect on par with Lewis or arguably White last season, Seattle could conceivably snag the outfielder without surrendering either of their best minor-league talents.
Of course, that’s all speculative and Martinez and Jones are completely different players, but there hasn’t been much of a precedent for veteran, rental sluggers changing hands at the deadline in past years.
Jon Jay continues to get on base at a high rate. The outfielder has quietly turned in a .363 on-base percentage in 183 plate appearances so far for the Royals this season.
Signed to a one-year deal this offseason, he’d also be a rental. While he’ll never hit for much power, the 33-year-old would help lengthen Seattle’s lineup.
At 34, Denard Span is having his best season since departing Washington as a free agent.
In 153 plate appearances, the former National, Giant and Twin is getting on base at a .373 clip while registering a 121 wRC+ and a .347 wOBA.
His walk rate (15.7%) is higher than his strikeout rate (13.7%) and he’s doing it all with a .272 BABIP that is well below his BABIPs in recent years, as well as his career .313 metric.
The veteran has a $12 million mutual option for 2019 with a $4 million buyout.
Like their American League counterparts in Baltimore, the Reds aren’t going anywhere fast—and despite being just 27 with a year of arbitration eligibility remaining, Hamilton doesn’t look like a long-term piece in Cincinnati.
The Seattle Mariners could hit him ninth as a pseudo-leadoff hitter for later innings. Teamed with Dee Gordon and Jean Segura, the M’s could wreak havoc on the base paths.
A former Mariner turning things around in another city, Martin is having a bit of a career revival in the Motor City.
In the same number of plate appearances that he logged in 2017 with Seattle and Chicago, it’s been a night-and-day difference for the outfielder.
Leonys Martin in 2017: 138 PA, -0.3 fWAR, .207 BABIP, 35 wRC+, .224 wOBA, .513 OPS, .109 ISO, 3 HR, 5.8 BB%, 23.9 K%.
Leonys Martin in 2018: 138 PA, 1.4 fWAR, .340 BABIP, 132 wRC+, .371 wOBA, .863 OPS, .214 ISO, 5 HR, 8.0 BB%, 19.6 K%.
(Obviously Martin’s BABIP metrics play a part considering his career number in the statistical category is .308. Still, even if he regresses some in 2018, he’ll likely be much better than the hitter he was in 2017.)
The outfielder has been a key player in Detroit’s surprising 20-23 start, so the Tigers simply won’t give him away.
Martin had some strong showing in a Mariners uniform, so a reunion would make sense.
Currently on the disabled list, Seattle probably would have had to surrender one or both of Lewis and White to acquire Garcia last year or during the offseason.
The former Tigers farmhand broke out at the plate with a .375 wOBA and a 4.2 fWAR that was higher than his previous career total of -0.1 by, well, a lot.
It would be interesting to see, if traded, what the return would look like for Garcia now.
His breakout last year included a .392 BABIP, that is well above his .338 career metric, and his offensive production has cratered—.246 wOBA, 51 wRC+—in 2018. That production has been in part impacted by a .286 BABIP. Still, the dip in production isn’t ideal.
He’s also been sidelined on the disabled list due to a strained right hamstring.
Still, he’s only 26 and has a year of arbitration eligibility remaining.
Plus, the White Sox haven’t exactly let their players depart for nothing via trades as of late, extracting full value for Adam Eaton, Chris Sale, Anthony Swarzak, Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Todd Frazier.
Both are more versatile bench pieces than solutions in left field. However, it might be worth the gamble to see what Swihart can do with consistent plate appearances.
Somewhat like Dietrich and Swihart, the aforementioned trio would be more platoon options or bench bats. Joyce has smoked right-handed pitching in his career (.350 wOBA, 123 wRC+) and owns a .353 on-base percentage this season.
He’d be yet another A’s player who could be a trade fit for the Mariners.
Like Garcia, Grichuk is currently on the disabled list, but when healthy he could be worth a look for the Seattle Mariners.
He’s struggling in 2018, but has a 3.0 fWAR and a 2.2 fWAR on his resume.
At full strength, Toronto’s ideal starting outfield might not include Grichuk thanks to Teoscar Hernandez’s emergence.
A 26-year-old outfielder with two-plus years of arbitration eligibility remaining won’t exactly come cheap, but with Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey and Dwight Smith Jr. knocking on the door, the Blue Jays may find it prudent to move on from Grichuk so as to avoid a log jam.