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I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Robbie Cano was the best player on the Seattle Mariners in 2016. Yeah, I know, I’m taking a HUGE risk in making that declaration. Normally when you make that statement, though, you’re just comparing a good Mariner against a bunch of scrubs, but the 2016 team was pretty solid in many ways. Cruz and Seager were dynamite as usual, and while the pitching was shaky at best, you’ve got to say a kind word about what Iwakuma was able to do, anchoring an injury-depleted (at times) pitching staff. In years past, the best Mariner was always Felix, with 24 nobodies behind him. In 2016, it actually means something when you say Cano was the best this team had to offer.
Truth be told, Cano was on a short list of best second basemen in all of baseball – both offensively and defensively – and in the running for best player in the entire league. No one is clamoring to take away Mike Trout’s MVP award, but I’m just saying, Cano brought a lot to the table, and was a major reason why the Mariners stayed in contention for as long as they did.
While the Mariners did quite a bit to bolster the lineup and defense this offseason – particularly with the signing of Jean Segura, who was like the N.L.’s version of Cano – we’re going to need Robbie to be every bit the MVP candidate he was in 2016.
Aside from Kyle Seager, I’d say there are a lot of What If’s with this unit. If I’m being fair, I have to admit that I have a lot of confidence in our offense to get the job done. We should be – at the VERY least – as good as we were last year (and, “as good as we were last year” was good enough to crack the post-season, had the pitching been up to snuff), but I’ve got a feeling this offense could be great. Like, Top 3 in the entire American League great. But, you know, nothing’s a given in this game.
Nelson Cruz is getting up there. We don’t know how Segura and Valencia will fare in their transition to a new team. The catcher position is always a cluster. The outfield has the potential to be REALLY terrible at the plate. And, you could say I’m less than sold on Dan Vogelbach being better than Adam Lind (who himself was a relative disappointment last year). As I alluded to above, I have no reason to doubt Seager, as he has either maintained or gotten better every year in the Bigs, but it would be nice for Cano to be our superstar once again.
It’ll be interesting, because Cano is coming off of a career high in home runs with 39. It’s probably not fair to judge him by those numbers; I highly doubt we’re going to see him crack 40 in 2017. In that sense, it’s reasonable to expect a dip in his overall slugging percentage (he was about 35 points over his career average last year). The key will be not having Cano regress TOO much. It’s always helpful when guys around him are hitting well too, so don’t think I’m putting it all on his shoulders; but we definitely need him leading the way for this offense. I fully expect the 3-4-5 hitters to be the crux of this offense once again, and that means Cano needs to both set the table and drive guys home. It would be too much of a black hole to have someone like Cano, making the money he’s making, hitting where he’s hitting in the lineup, if he came in and stunk up the joint.
Fortunately, unless he gets injured, we should still have another All Star year out of our All Star second baseman. There’s no logical reason to expect anything less.