Posted on August 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Seattle Mariners have added a big bat to their lineup for their stretch run, and they did so without making a trade. Second baseman Robinson Cano has rejoined the Mariners after serving his 80-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. Cano will not be eligible for the postseason if the Mariners make it. But he could be instrumental in helping Seattle reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
At the time of his suspension, Cano was hitting .287 with an OPS of .825. Of course, he had been sidelined by a broken hand just days earlier. However, the 80-game suspension gave him more than enough time to recover from that injury. Cano appeared in five minor league games over the past week, going 7 for 18 with two home runs and a double. Clearly, his bat is ready to contribute to Seattle’s lineup.
Of course, where Cano fits into Seattle’s lineup is another issue. When Cano was suspended, the Mariners moved Dee Gordon to second base on a full-time basis. The Mariners have no intention of moving Gordon back to center field. The DH spot is also unavailable for Cano. Nelson Cruz has 30 home runs and an OPS of .902, making him indispensable for the Mariners at this point in the season. That will force Cano to see time at both third base and first base, both positions he’s never played in the majors.
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“There is no great blueprint that says this is what is going to happen 33 percent of the time or 67 percent of the time,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Monday. “We have to play it day by day and series by series. … The fact he can move around the field and is willing to do it, it should really keep some guys fresh and hopefully, it pays dividends.”
If Cano starts playing first and third, it will mean taking at-bats away from Ryon Healy and Kyle Seager, respectively. Healy has produced plenty of power this season with 22 home runs. But his average is low and his on-base percentage is atrocious. Seager has had a similar season. He has 19 home runs, but his average and on-base percentage are so low that his OPS is only .690.
Cano will also have to prove that he can handle those positions defensively. He saw some time at those positions during the past week in the minors. However, he’s unfamiliar with both spots and could become a liability. Servais may also decide to take him out late in games for defensive purposes, which would limit his at-bats some.
At the moment, the Mariners are 4.5 games back of the Astros in the AL West and 2.5 games behind the A’s for the second wild-card spot. Cano is more than capable of helping the Mariners overcome those deficits. His bat is a potential difference maker over the final month and a half of the season. However, Cano is now a player without a position. While the Mariners will no doubt be excited to have him back. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to maximize his impact down the stretch and help push the Mariners into the postseason.