In the present, Robinson Cano will lose a year of his career. The Mets will save a bit over $20 million in 2021 and be able to organize their roster in a better way. That was the most immediate impact
In the present, Robinson Cano will lose a year of his career. The Mets will save a bit over $20 million in 2021 and be able to organize their roster in a better way.
That was the most immediate impact with the announcement Wednesday that Cano had failed a test for a banned substance. The second offense meant a suspension for all of 2021 without pay.
But larger and historic impacts are part of this as well:
1. Cano’s whole career is now in question. It should be remembered that in the minors Cano was viewed as a good, but never elite, prospect. The Yankees thought so little of him that he was offered in packages to try to acquire Carlos Beltran, Troy Glaus, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez — and none of the other teams thought enough of Cano to grab him.
In the case of the trade for A-Rod, the Rangers had five players they could have taken along with Alfonso Soriano after the 2003 season and took Joaquin Arias rather than Cano.
By the way, imagine if Rodriguez, not Cohen, had bought the Mets. Perhaps the most notorious PED cheat ever and a buddy of Cano’s would be presiding over a team that just lost Cano to a drug suspension. A-Rod’s statement on the subject would play like been-there, done-that performance art.
2. Cano’s Hall of Fame chances drop to approximately zero. He was going to have a tough time already with an 80-game suspension in 2018 on his record. But he could argue that ban was for a diuretic and not a performance enhancer — the diuretic is verboten because it could be used as a PED masking agent.
This time around, Cano is being banned for Stanozolol, a heavy-duty steroid. It is hard to imagine he could explain this away as part of a Cooperstown candidacy. All of his historic second base numbers are now in doubt.
3. “I do think it’s important remembering that Robby was not suspended for a PED. He was suspended for a diuretic.” The person who said that was Brodie Van Wagenen, Cano’s agent at the time of the 2018 suspension and the Mets’ GM after that season who obtained Cano. Van Wagenen confidently explained he traded for Cano because he knew the second baseman’s whole case in 2018 around the 80-game suspension.
So at this point, unless Edwin Diaz is jumping up and down after getting the final out of a Mets World Series triumph, Van Wagenen is going to be the father of one of the worst trades in history — before even knowing if Jarred Kelenic becomes a major league star. His two years as Mets GM went from bad to worse Tuesday.
The Mets sent Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak to the Mariners for Cano, Diaz and some cash to offset the final five years at $120 million left on Cano’s contract. Even if Kelenic never becomes elite, his prospect value has grown to the point at which the Mets could have gotten much more than an expensive, suspension-tied, aging second baseman and a closer for him.
4. In the fifth inning on Sept. 27 against the Nationals, Robinson Cano popped to short. It is possible that was the final at-bat of his career. He will still have two years at $48 million left in 2022-23, $40.5 million owed by the Mets.
But at that point he would not have played since September 2020. He will be 39. He will have no ties to the Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson administration, and Cohen’s wealth is more likely to allow the Mets to see him as a sunk cost and just eat the remainder of the contract. This is easier to imagine because the Mets are saving $20.25 million in 2021 with Cano suspended and can adjust their roster more comfortably without him.
Cano already had lost his range at second. So Jeff McNeil can go there or the Mets could sign DJ LeMahieu — though they might be better with LeMahieu at third and McNeil at second anyway. If there is an NL designated hitter, Dom Smith moves to first and Pete Alonso becomes the DH. With or without LeMahieu, the Mets will be moving on with a better, more projectable group. And if Cano is jettisoned by the Mets, would any other team — even for the minimum — want to pick up a 39-year-old who was twice suspended and hadn’t played in a year?
If that were the case, what at one time seemed a certain march toward 3,000 hits would end at 2,624.