SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto continues pushing hard to bolster his club as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, but Seattle finds itself in the unique position of knowing it will also add an eight-time All-Star to its lineup in 25 days when Robinson Cano returns from
SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto continues pushing hard to bolster his club as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, but Seattle finds itself in the unique position of knowing it will also add an eight-time All-Star to its lineup in 25 days when Robinson Cano returns from his 80-game suspension.
The question is where exactly Cano fits into that lineup. The 35-year-old second baseman continues to work out in the Dominican Republic, taking ground balls at both first and second base, and Dipoto said he'll see time at both those positions as well as designated hitter after he becomes eligible again on Aug. 14.
But the Mariners now view Dee Gordon as their primary second baseman after he's played so well there following Cano's mid-May suspension.
"There may be a time, especially mid-August to the end of the season where [Gordon] slides out to center field for a day," Dipoto said. "But primarily he's going to play second base. We sat down and talked with Robbie, and he said again, 'Whatever I need to help this team get to the postseason.' He was great about it.
"Robbie even joked about playing the left side of the infield when he was in the Minor Leagues. He's in a good place and a team-first place, and I know is working hard at it. I actually intend after the Trade Deadline to go down to the Dominican Republic and visit him and see what it looks like, especially defensively. I know he's hitting well."
Though things can change in a three-week span, Cano appears ticketed primarily for first base, where current starter Ryon Healy is hitting .240/.270/.447 with 18 home runs and 46 RBIs.
"Robbie has really good hands, so I think transitioning to first base as an alternative position is something that once he does it once, he'll realize how good he can be at it," Dipoto said.
Cano is working out with some former Major Leaguers and young prospects at a baseball facility he and his father own in the Dominican, taking batting practice and doing fielding drills daily. Cano won't be eligible to play in organized games until August when he can begin an official rehab stint, but he is conducting what Dipoto called "his own pickup games."
One thing that is certain, the Mariners will find a spot somewhere for Cano in their lineup on a daily basis once he returns. The club was 23-17 when he was suspended and has gone 35-22 since, but much of that success centered on the starting pitching, and the offense struggled in a 3-8 skid going into the break.
"Robbie going out really hurt our lineup," Dipoto said. "The fact this group of players was able to come together and rise up, I don't want to state the obvious in a blunt way, but if you think we're a better team without Robinson Cano in our lineup, you're crazy. We're a better team when he's in there. That being said, this group has done a remarkable job, and we have to find a way to keep that mojo where it is and to keep our defensive team in a good place."
Cano's impending return means Dipoto will focus primarily on adding pitching as the Trade Deadline approaches. He said the market has been slow to develop so far, but believes Thursday's deal between the Indians and Padres that sent relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to Cleveland could jump-start things.
"I'm not sure how many position players and starting pitchers of note will move at this Deadline," he said. "I think a lot of the business will be done around bullpens. We've certainly had our feelers out there on a variety of different things that would help our pitching staff, whether it be bullpen or starting pitching.
"And we've even kept some feelers out there for the potential to add a position player, whether something versatile or just an addition that might help us in some way, whether upgrading defense or helping to goose our offense. But we do know that with Cano coming back, I don't want to call that a primary concern. We do want to focus on pitching."
Dipoto said payroll isn't an issue as the club looks to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
"We're not going out there determining or judging the best upgrade for us on a paycheck," he said. "It could be a player making $1 million or a player making $10 million. I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know we have the resources to do it. Whether we have the prospect capital to do that, I can't promise. But I know we have the financial capital."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.