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40 in 40: Robinson Cano

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What will the coolest Mariners second baseman get up to this season?

88th MLB All-Star Game
haha like i’d be caught dead driving this american made piece of junk, c’mon man
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Let’s check in and see what ol’ Robinson has been up to this offseason.

Ah, a little trip to Israel. Very cool.

Riding a camel, as one does.

A lil’ dip in the Dead Sea.

And one of the only times anyone has ever looked cool with a shirt tied around his or her waist. This man knows how to live.

I typed “Robinson Cano smile” into the photo tool search engine and got 25+ pages of this:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

And this:

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees

And lots of this:

Seattle Mariners v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Our globetrotting, effortlessly cool second baseman continues to live his best life as a Seattle Mariner. We’ve all said this many times before, but I still can’t believe he CHOSE to play here (and take home a metric shit ton of money to do so, well done, Jack Z). Without Cano, there is likely no Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariner. There might not even be Jean Segura, Seattle Mariner, even though that was a trade. Segura and Cano’s friendship/mentorship was one of the nicest warm and fuzzy things about the 2017 season.

MLB: SEP 29 Mariners at Angels
JEAN: walk away, albert.
ALBERT: look guys, i’m just sayin’...
JEAN: WALK. AWAY.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The other warm and fuzzy thing that happened in 2017 was Cano winning the All-Star Game in Miami with a home run and subsequently being named the All-Star Game MVP, joining the heady company of Ichiro and Ken Griffey, Jr. as the only Mariner players to hold such a distinction.

it’s ya boi

Will Cano begin a precipitous decline in 2018, his 14th season in the majors? The power bump from his barn stormin’ 2016 season mysteriously went away in 2017, even as flyballs continued to leave stadiums across the league at a torrential rate. It was announced in mid-December in the most no-detail fashion that Cano had been dealing with a “lower-body injury” for the latter half of the 2017 season. Seems likely that this injury could have impacted Cano at the plate, but all we have is speculation at this point.

So, two out of four of Cano’s seasons in Seattle have been marred by lower body injuries (hernias, etc) that didn’t keep him off the field completely, but likely had a negative impact on his play at the plate and at second base. His very healthy 2016 resulted in a near-MVP candidate type of season, where he belted 39 home runs, had a 138 wRC+, and was worth 5.9 WAR. Given his age, that’s more than likely Cano’s peak as a Seattle Mariner. I hope I’m wrong and 2018 is gives us a healthy Cano for most of the season and we see that effortless lefty power swing in full bloom again.

The other longstanding question about Cano is when he’ll agree to or be asked to switch to first base. The defense isn’t a liability yet and his graceful smoothness is still very much there, but is it worth the injury risk going forward? Acquiring Segura and locking him down to a contract extension last year shows that the team has the pieces in place to move Segura to second (where he’s shown great skill and comfort in the past) and finally solve the offensive cosmic black hole known as first base by placing a hopefully-still-productive Robinson Cano there. Also, the recent acquisition of Dee Gordon gives the team more flexibility at second, since they can slot Guillermo Heredia (or even Braden Bishop) into center field in Gordon’s stead. Again, all we have is speculation at this point, but I would not object to 2018 being Cano’s last full season at second base. I’d rather see the switch happen a bit too early than too late.

In the meantime, we still have the unique pleasure of watching one of the game’s greatest second basemen of all time play for our favorite baseball team. I’m ready for it.