This past Sunday, Robinson Canó took a pitch off his right hand, suffering a broken metacarpal. Surgery has been mentioned as a possibility. The incredibly durable future Hall of Famer will miss some serious time for the first time since 2006. We might not see him again until the second half of the season.
It always stinks when a player gets hurt, but Canó’s injury is especially unfortunate. After a good but down year offensively last year, he has been bouncing back nicely this season. He is hitting .287/.385/.441, good for a 128 wRC+. As Jay Jaffe discussed over at FanGraphs, Canó has been more selective than ever and hitting the ball harder. His 12.4 BB% is nearly double his career rate!
As for the Mariners, they are doing quite well so far. They are 23-17 and currently 1.5 games out of a Wild Card slot. I am sure that I do not need to say that it would be huge if they could snap their 16-season streak of missing the playoffs, which is currently the longest not only in baseball, but also among the major American sports.
The Mariners have no shot at winning a division that the Astros are in, and one of the two Wild Card slots are sure to go to the Yankees or Red Sox. With how weak the Al Central is looking, that last Wild Card slot is likely going to be a race between the Angels and the Mariners. Currently, FanGraphs have the Angels as having a 48.6 percent chance to get that last Wild Card slot, while the Mariners are only at 13.5 percent.
You have to take playoff odds with a huge grain of salt this early in the season, but even with that being said, the fact of the matter is that the Mariners are projected to finish the season six games behind the Angels. Canó was on pace for a 6 WAR season, and they are replacing him with Gordon Beckham.
Most analysts and Mariners fans likely expected Dee Gordon to move from center field back to his original position of second base. I was actually a fan of the Dee-in-center-field experiment. He has the speed for it. He just has not been very good there so far. He still has plenty of time to learn, to be fair, but he is also a player who has shown to be fairly reliant on good coaching to field his position well. He was never a good defender until Marlins infield coach Perry Hill came along.
Beckham is hardly a major league quality player anymore. He barely played in the majors the last season. In 2016, he hit only .212/.294/.347. That combined with his poor defense made him worth -1.2 WAR in only 88 games played. Beckham is about as a big of a downgrade as you can get over Canó.
Gordon looks like a much better option than Beckham, but then that would leave a hole in center field. The truth is that they do not have anybody else to play center field on a regular basis, and their lack of depth is really hurting them. Not only do they have no options in the minors, their farm system is so bad that they have no hope of trading for help either. Their options in terms of unsigned center fielders or unsigned keystone players look pretty bleak, too.
This is all why this season is so important for the Mariners, and why this Canó injury has the potential to be so devastating. They are one of the oldest teams in baseball, and their $161.4 million payroll is the ninth highest in the league. Nelson Cruz is the only major contract to be coming off the books, but he was only making $14 million a year anyway.
In short, the Mariners are probably not going to want to sign any major free agents in that historic class next offseason, and they will not be getting any major help from prospects anytime soon. If the Mariners do not make the playoffs this season, it could be quite a few years before they get another chance.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.