Robinson Cano signing only bad if the Mariners stop now


No, there’s very little chance that Robinson Cano will resemble a $24 million player in 2023.

But at least he’s better than that now. In a world in which Jacoby Ellsbury is worth $22 million annually and middle-rotation starters get $10 million-$13 million per year, it’s hardly unreasonable to value Cano as a $30 million player.

Over the last five years, Cano ranks first in the majors in rWAR. He’s never been the game’s best player in that span, but he’s always been excellent and he’s never been hurt. He’s finished 17th, 3rd, 6th, 4th and 5th in the AL MVP balloting the last five seasons. During that span, his worst average is .302, his worst home run total is 25 and he’s never played in fewer than 159 games. In fact, he’s played in 159 games in seven straight seasons.

So, the Mariners are getting as much of a sure thing as there is in baseball, at least for the next few years. Cano will be 31 next season. He’s demonstrated no sign of decline so far, but it will come. The back half of his contract will be ugly. They usually are. But that’s acceptable. At least Cano is strong enough offensively that he should be a decent enough regular in his upper-30s, even if it’s as a first baseman.

What the Mariners can’t do, though, is stop with Cano. Second base wasn’t even a problem area for them. They would have let youngsters Nick Franklin and Dustin Ackley battle for the position if Cano had gone in a different direction. Now those two are trade bait. Packaging one of them with right-hander Taijuan Walker might bring David Price from the Rays.

That’s a high price to pay, though. Better if the Mariners just sign a couple of more key free agents, especially now that their second-round pick is gone anyway. Ideally, they could bring in Shin-Soo Choo, too, though many suspect he’ll go to the Yankees with the money the Bombers were saving for Cano. A starter from the Matt Garza-Ervin Santana-Ubaldo Jimenez trio would make sense. Nelson Cruz is also a likely target. I’m not as taken with him — he’s an overrated hitter and a poor defender — but he would supply some pop. Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew and Corey Hart would be better targets.

Ideally, the Mariners need two more quality players out of this. Then they could be taken seriously as a 2014 contender. They still wouldn’t be the favorites in the AL West, but it would certainly be enough to get the fans excited again.

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

cardinals logo

The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.