Robinson Cano an expensive catch for the Seattle Mariners

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So often a team is smitten by reputation and makes a reckless, big-money investment in a free agent that it hopes can turn around a franchise. It is always a gamble.

Players want major bucks and long-term security that their former teams won’t provide, so they seek new homes where all things will be hunky-dory. That is also a big gamble.

Long-term nature of contracts aside, sometimes a match is made in heaven when a player and a team immediately click. That’s what we have seen this season with Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners.

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Cano and Seattle a perfect match

Originally, when he informed his former employer the New York Yankees of his salary demands and contract needs, Cano came off as slightly insane. Well, he found a team that was slightly insane too, and he and the Mariners not only hit it off, but one season into their relationship it’s clear that Seattle made the best free-agent signing of anyone in the game this year.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Cano, 31, is a six-time All-Star second baseman and the winner of two Gold Gloves. When his contract was up after the 2013 season the free-spending Yankees offered him a seven-year, $170-million deal to stick around.

The Mariners trumped them with a 10-year, $240-million offer. It almost never happens that the Yankees get outbid for a player they want, or wish to keep. This time it appeared they had a spending ceiling as opposed to the typical club sky-is-the-limit philosophy.

Who knows what Cano’s game will be like in 10 years? But it has been first-rate in 2014. Cano has been superb, the glue for the surprisingly strong Mariners, who are in the hunt for an American League playoff berth during this last week of the regular season.

Key player already

The 6-foot, 210-pound Cano, who was named after Jackie Robinson, was batting .320 going into Wednesday’s play and he has been hot and a team leader from his first moments in the lineup in April. Pacific Northwest fans quickly warmed to him. Without Cano, it is doubtful Seattle would be challenging for a playoff spot.

How much money is too much for one player? Cano is getting paid a crazy amount, but nobody in Seattle is complaining because he is doing exactly what he signed up to do and the team is reaping benefits in the standings and in the stands at Safeco Field.

On the flip side, the Yankees have endured a troubled season, burdened by a large number of injuries to key players. Despite those woes they are still making a last-minute run at a playoff spot, although the odds are very much against them because of the ticking clock of the schedule.

One has to wonder if Cano had remained a Yankee if the team might not have been better able to withstand its difficulties this summer and be cruising to a post-season slot anyway. That’s definitely a what-if, but there is little doubt that Cano switching teams affected the fortunes of two American League clubs this season.

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