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Robinson Cano signing only bad if the Mariners stop now

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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.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.