The Mariners don't talk much. And when they do, they rarely say anything of consequence.
You can't blame them. In the off-season, everything you say can be viewed as—or is—a negotiating tactic. The baseball world has recently viewed the Mariners as a leverage tool in markets for players. So it's no surprise that, as the goals and the available resources have changed in recent years for the franchise, they've been especially cautious not to reveal more than they intend to with regards to their roster construction plans.
That's why it's especially encouraging to hear someone operating outside the realm of roster construction speak on what the Mariners have done, and how it fits into their future plans. This comes from a piece in Harvard Magazine, with a big hat-tip to LL commenter Mirror for the find:
In team sports, "the measure of success is winning," says Bart Waldman ’70, executive vice president for legal and governmental affairs and general counsel for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. "Winning brings fans, television audience, and everything else that makes our business model work. Bringing in a superstar who adds panache and some glitz but doesn’t change the win/loss picture doesn’t move the needle the way winning does. It really depends on whether your team is poised to take advantage of what that superstar brings. In baseball, the marginal value of each victory increases as you approach or surpass 90 wins—the number that typically puts you in the playoff picture. A superstar who adds five wins, taking you from 75 to 80 wins, doesn’t add much value by himself. But the same superstar who takes you from 90 to 95 wins probably puts you in postseason play, adding a ton of value."
Yes, this is from the organization's in-house lawyer, and not anyone involved in personnel decisions—but I'd wager the odds of the attorney understanding the Mariners' place on the win curve and others not is pretty unlikely. He works in the building as an EVP and likely has a strong sense of the organization's longterm and short-term goals.
It's funny though, as he's referencing Cano he says a superstar who takes you "from 75 to 80 wins" doesn't ultimately offer much value by himself—and that's almost exactly where the Mariners are now.
There's nothing new here, and certainly nothing we would disagree with. The Mariners need to do more if they're looking to legitimately contend in 2014, and while just a month ago establishing that as the goal would be preposterous, that's what happens when you commit a quarter of a billion dollars to a player who's going to get worse every year until his deal expires in 2024.
Also, this isn't only about the on-field product either. The Mariners are a business, and as Waldman says, it's winning— not a couple stars—that'll boost sagging attendance and now-crucial television ratings.
But again, if Waldman understands this, it's likely others within the organization do as well. I've said before that the Mariners likely have a big trade left in them, and that they should go hard after Tanaka—and it wouldn't see surprise me to see them do both. It remains to be seen who exactly the remaining pieces are, but there will be more pieces.
If not, and the goal of bringing in Cano was only an attempt at "moving the needle," then Waldman is right—it won't.