Mariners players pumped about Cano deal
Smoak says adding second baseman is 'good for us and good for the city'
SEATTLE -- Mariners fans weren't the only ones awakening to the stunning news Friday that Robinson Cano is set to become their team's new centerpiece.
Cano's new teammates were equally delighted to learn the former Yankees star had agreed to a reported 10-year, $240 million deal.
"It's pretty exciting," first baseman Justin Smoak said from his offseason home in South Carolina. "It's something we're all looking forward to. Man, that's a pretty big-time deal. It's good for us and good for the city of Seattle."
Outfielder Michael Saunders has been following the news from his winter residence outside Denver, but like most observers didn't know how serious Cano was about the negotiations until stories broke Friday morning that an agreement was in place.
"I was shocked, to be honest," Saunders said. "But it all started last year when we locked up Felix [Hernandez] with his deal and the plan to keep him long term in Seattle. Now we're starting to make a huge splash this offseason, which is something we've been trying to do the last couple years."
The Mariners have struggled offensively in recent seasons, but have been building around Hernandez with a young core of position players that now gets a significant boost from the five-time All-Star second baseman.
"To sign Cano sends a message to this organization, the fans, the city and the other 29 teams that we're trying to win now and bring a championship back to Seattle," Saunders said. "I don't think we're finished. They're trying to bring in more players. It's really exciting to be part of this organization right now and where we're headed."
General manager Jack Zduriencik pushed hard last winter to land Josh Hamilton, but he instead opted for the Angels. The Mariners were mentioned prominently in regard to Prince Fielder the previous year, but didn't have the payroll flexibility at that time to get close to what the Tigers offered.
But with Hernandez the only significant contract still on the books and ownership looking to make a bold move to turn around a run of four straight losing seasons and 12 years without a playoff berth, Seattle lured Cano with one of the richest deals in MLB history.
With designated hitter Kendrys Morales turning down a qualifying offer, the Mariners still need to either bring him back on a longer-term deal or find another DH. They also need help in the outfield, as well as another starting pitcher, backup catcher and bullpen depth.
But even with Cano's deal, Zduriencik still has payroll room and a desire to keep adding.
"This is a really big statement," Smoak said. "They were trying to make a few runs the last couple years at guys, but they finally closed the door on this one. It shows we want to win and sometimes you have to add a few pieces to do that. Signing Felix last year, [Hisashi] Iwakuma doing what he did, now to get a bat or two -- hopefully we can get back Morales or whatever -- but it's going to definitely be a different team than the last year or two."
Saunders said Cano can impact both the Mariners' lineup and their reputation with other free agents still on the market.
"It can have a lot of impact," he said. "We're going to stick him in the middle and he'll bring some fear with him. And I think this is just the start. It's no secret it's been tough to get free agents to Seattle, but hopefully this opens the floodgates and shows people we're ready to win and it starts a trend."
With a new manager in Lloyd McClendon, a new star in Cano and a rising group of youngsters still hoping to add more talent, Saunders can't wait for Spring Training.
"It's kind of time for everybody, myself included, to step up and start winning some baseball games," Saunders said. "We've said if for the last few years, Seattle is going to be an exciting team. We've been preaching patience. But without putting pressure on anybody, this can be a turnaround year for this organization."