The eighty-game suspension of Robinson Cano created an interesting situation for the Mariners, who have already responded in part by shifting Dee Gordon to second base and acquiring Denard Span. But more moves are anticipated for the surprising AL West leaders, with Cano’s return playing into the calculus, as GM Jerry Dipoto discussed with ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.
Lest there be any doubt, Dipoto made clear that Cano won’t simply be handed his regular job at second when he’s eligible to be activated. While the club sees Cano as “perhaps the biggest acquisition of anybody at the deadline,” per Dipoto, it’s also cognizant of the fact that he isn’t going to be eligible for a hopeful postseason berth due to his ban.
Since the M’s will be using Gordon at second if they crack the playoffs, he’ll need to spend a good bit of time there late in the regular season. That could set the stage for some sort of “time-share,” says Dipoto, who also notes that the plans will “be dictated by where we are in the standings.” Presumably, that could mean leaning on Cano more if it’s necessary to squeeze out every last win — which certainly may be the order of the day given the level of top-level competition in the divisional and Wild Card races.
Dipoto acknowledged that there’s still quite a lot of ground to cover before the team can begin sketching out postseason lineup cards. As he put it, “First, we have to continue to play well. If we start to get too far ahead of ourselves in allocating playing time in late August and September as we sit here in June, that’s probably not the wisest thing to do.”
That said, the plans for Cano and Gordon have implications for the team’s deadline planning. It’s certainly possible that Cano could spend time at first base, where the M’s have received middling production. Perhaps that would leave the team free to focus its resources — including the untapped portion of the money saved on Cano’s forfeited salary — on boosting its pitching staff more than filling out the lineup. While the organization would still need to have a plan in place for managing a Cano-less postseason, that general approach might maximize its chances of making it to the dance in a top-heavy American League.