Even so, there remain many questions about whether Seattle’s additions as a whole can improve a team coming off a 71-win season.
The moves made by Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik were in hopes of improving the Mariners and solidifying his own future after a shaky offseason that started with Eric Wedge’s decision not to return as manager.
Lloyd McClendon is getting his second shot as a major league manager nine years after he was last leading a club in Pittsburgh. Along with Cano, Seattle signed outfielder Corey Hart, closer Fernando Rodney and traded for designated hitter Logan Morrison.
Despite those moves, there remain concerns about the depth of Seattle’s rotation beyond ace Felix Hernandez and whether players the Mariners have been waiting for to finally pop can establish themselves as reliable, everyday starters.
Yet the Mariners believe they will be competitive in one of baseball’s toughest divisions.
“We’re ready to win. That’s what it’s all about,” Hernandez said. “We’re ready to win ballgames in Seattle. We’re ready to be in the playoffs, we’re ready to do that.”
Here are five things to watch as the Mariners try and contend in the loaded AL West:
Is there enough around Cano, though, to make him have the same offensive impact that he did with the Yankees? That will only happen if Hart is healthy enough to be in the lineup and can be the slugger he was in Milwaukee before knee problems sidelined him for 2013. Hart, Morrison and Justin Smoak must be protection around Cano and Kyle Seager.
If not, then no one will dare pitch to Cano.
ROTATION, ROTATION, ROTATION: Seattle’s rotation is a concern as the season begins with Hernandez the only certainty.
Hernandez was supposed to be backed up by AL Cy Young finalist Hisashi Iwakuma, star prospects James Paxton and Taijuan Walker and a veteran to be determined. At this point, the only certainty seems to be that Paxton will be in the rotation behind Hernandez. Iwakuma and Walker aren’t likely to join the rotation until mid- to late-April because of injuries.
The rest of the rotation will likely be filled out through a combo of Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and possibly youngster Roenis Elias.
ABOUT TIME: Seattle has waited for Smoak and Dustin Ackley to match the potential which made them among the top young prospects in baseball at one time. Ackley may have rediscovered the swing that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft. If Ackley can stay consistent at the plate, he’ll likely be Seattle’s fulltime left fielder. Smoak has already gotten a needed backing of confidence from McClendon, who proclaimed him the starting first baseman. Smoak has also shown a willingness to learn this camp, spending extra time in the cages and on the practice fields.