The Seattle Mariners are back. That’s the main message that one can take away from their signing of Robinson Cano. The deal was first reported by ESPN Deportes‘ Enrique Rojas. 

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the deal is for $240 million over 10 years. While the years and the numbers are stunning, they are almost besides the point. The Mariners are telling MLB that they are back to being a relevant franchise again.

The Mariners vastly overpaid for Cano, but they know that. It was the only way that Cano was going to leave the New York Yankees. This is about setting a new tone for a franchise, one that has drifted toward mediocrity and irrelevance over the years outside of Felix Hernandez.

Seattle has the money to make this type of deal without crippling the franchise long term based on a new $2 billion television deal that Forbes’ Mike Ozanian breaks down here. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, have spent heavily since signing their new television deal last season. 

Having prospects and a highly ranked farm systems is great, but no one was watching or talking about the Mariners last season. On Friday, everyone was talking about Seattle, talking about the deal, talking about other moves that the Mariners might be able to pull off this winter.

I would compare this deal to when the Boston Red Sox signed Manny Ramirez after the 2000 season. The Red Sox signed Ramirez to an eight-year deal worth roughly $160 million. It was a deal that no other team was offering. When the deal was announced, it immediately put a buzz back into the city of Boston and started the Red Sox back toward being a contender. Boston eventually won a World Series in 2004.

The Mariners remain an untapped gem of a franchise in a great market that hasn’t been able to reap the benefits of not having to compete with an NBA or NHL franchise for consumer dollars. The fact that attendance was dwindling shows that the product on the field wasn’t very exciting or interesting.

Last year, attendance was 1.76 million people, the third season in a row that attendance has been below 2 million. It’s a far cry from 2002 when the Mariners led the American League in attendance at 3.5 million, more than twice as much as they drew last season. 

Signing Cano is just as much about what he can provide off of the field than what his numbers might look like at the end of this deal. As great as Hernandez has been for Seattle, it is really tough to have a pitcher be the face of the franchise.

Other free agents will now take Seattle more seriously when the offer a deal. Corporate and business partners might be far more likely to invest now that the team has a daily face of the franchise.

Cano’s success in New York is something that can be sold as promise for the Mariners. Cano’s brand comes with him winning a World Series in New York, receiving MVP votes during six different seasons, five-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger and a two-time Gold Glove winner. 

I am normally against teams signing players to this type of contractthere is normally just too much downside. In this case, I understand the reasoning behind it. Seattle wanted back in to the AL West, back to being in the playoff conversation, back to its fanbase having hope in spring training again. 

If Cano’s contract results in the Mariners becoming relevant again, then it will be well worth it.  

Information used from Enrique Rojas/ESPN Deportes, Jon Heyman/CBS SportsBaseball Reference, Mike Ozanian/Forbes and Baseball America.

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