Robinson Cano's most recent game with the Mariners was a loss to the Tigers on May 13.
Since then, Seattle has gone 24-9 -- the best record in the Major Leagues.
There are two truths in that statistic:
1.The Mariners are playing well enough that general manager Jerry Dipoto is almost certain to upgrade the roster before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Mariners have the longest playoff drought in major North American professional sports, and Dipoto needs little urging to make moves under any circumstances. (Since he took over in Seattle less than three years ago, no GM has made more trades.)
2. There will be robust debate over how much Cano ought to play when he returns in mid-August from an 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Cano's ineligibility for the postseason -- if the Mariners reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001 -- is one factor for manager Scott Servais to consider. But separately, and perhaps more intriguingly, the Mariners have a better record this season without Cano in the lineup than when he plays.
Of the team's performance without Cano, shortstop Jean Segura said, "It's really good, but that doesn't mean we don't need Robbie. We need Robbie. But when we got that bad news, we said, 'We still have a good team.'"
One rival club official said recently that the Mariners are a more complete team with Dee Gordon's energy and range at second base in place of Cano. It's difficult to argue with that position -- based on the team's performance alone -- but the Mariners' needs could be different two months from now.
Segura has spoken with Cano regularly during the suspension.
"He's sad. I'm sad, too," said Segura, who has trained with Cano in the Dominican Republic during recent offseasons. "We're missing one of our best players. That's the first time he's missed this much time in his career. I'm pretty sure he's bored and frustrated. But he made a mistake, and he's paying for it."
If Dipoto makes a major move in the next six weeks, he'll probably look to fortify a quietly effective rotation. The Mariners have interest in Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ, and they tried to acquire left-hander Matthew Boyd -- a Seattle-area native -- in talks with the Tigers two offseasons ago.
In fact, the Mariners asked the Tigers for Boyd as part of a larger trade conversation involving J.D. Martinez during the winter of 2016-17. Seattle proposed sending right-hander Taijuan Walker and prospects to Detroit for Martinez and Boyd. When the Tigers declined, the Mariners dealt Walker and infielder Ketel Marte to the D-backs for two likely 2018 All-Stars: Segura and outfielder Mitch Haniger, along with left-hander Zac Curtis, who is now with the Phillies.
Boyd is one of the Tigers' most coveted players in trade talks, and he still could be dealt this year, despite Detroit's competitive first half. The left-hander is 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 13 starts, and his trade value has never been higher -- particularly in a market generally viewed as thin on starting pitching.