The Mariners announced Tuesday that infielder Robinson Cano has been reinstated from his 80-game suspension and added to the active roster. In a pair of corresponding moves, Seattle optioned right-hander Casey Lawrence to Triple-A Tacoma and transferred right-hander Sam Tuivailala from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL. Tuivailala was already known to be out for the season following surgery to repair an injured Achilles tendon.
Cano, 35, batted .287/.385/.441 with four homers and 10 doubles through 169 plate appearances before the bombshell announcement that he’d been hit with an 80-game suspension following a failed PED test. Cano was on the disabled list due to a fractured finger at the time, though that injury is well behind him given the length of his ban. In his absence, the Mariners moved Dee Gordon from center field to second base and supplemented their outfield mix with acquisitions of Denard Span and Cameron Maybin.
The plan in Seattle has been for Cano to return in a multi-position role. He’s seen some work at third base while playing on an unpaid minor league assignment to get back up to speed, and he’s also likely to see time at first base and his customary second base slot as well. The Mariners, though, have plenty of reason to continue keeping Gordon sharp at second base, though. Gordon is, after all, a markedly better defender at second base than he is in center field, making Seattle a better defensive unit when he’s playing on the infield. Beyond that, Cano will be ineligible for postseason play having been suspended, so if the Mariners are able retake the second Wild Card spot away from the surging A’s (or, more improbably, steal the division away from the two teams ahead of them), it’d be Gordon receiving all of the team’s reps at second base in the playoffs.
At the time of the news, Cano’s suspension was viewed as a potentially critical blow to a surprisingly strong start to Seattle’s season. However, in his absence, the Mariners actually have a slightly better winning percentage than they’d enjoyed with Cano on the roster and producing rather well. Whether one considers the Mariners’ success in one-run games to be a sustainable means of winning, the fact remains that they’re now firmly within striking distance of ending their playoff drought. The return of Cano should only make them a more formidable team down the stretch, even if he’ll be a nonfactor should they earn a postseason berth.