The news that Robinson Canó will miss the entire 2021 MLB season may have shocked the New York Mets, but it probably doesn’t disappoint Steve Cohen. The team’s new owner may have gotten a two-fer out of the deal.
Cohen gets to wipe a burdensome contract off the books for the upcoming season and can now make life difficult for the New York Yankees, the Mets’ crosstown rival.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman can’t be pleased.
MLB has suspended Robinson Cano for the 2021 season
Major League Baseball announced on Nov. 18 that New York Mets second baseman Robinson Canó is suspended without pay for the entire 2021 season as a repeat offender under the policy governing performance-enhancing drugs.
The statement from the commissioner’s office said Canó, 38, tested positive for stanozolol. He was previously suspended for half the 2018 season for the use of PEDs.
Canó was scheduled to make $24 million in the eighth season of a 10-year, $240 million contract that the previous Mets ownership inherited in a seven-player trade with the Seattle Mariners.
Canó had played for the New York Yankees from 2005-13. He had signed with Seattle as a free agent before the 2014 season in a deal negotiated by then-agent Brodie Van Wagenen. The Mets hired Van Wagenen as their general manager after the 2018 season, and one of his first moves was to trade for his former client.
Van Wagenen established that he wasn’t cut out to be a GM. With a veteran baseball mind like Sandy Alderson making the Mets’ key decisions, Yankees GM Brian Cashman has worthy competition in New York.
Robinson Canó’s suspension isn’t a huge blow for the New York Mets
The New York Mets responded to the suspension of second baseman Robinson Canó by issuing a statement saying the team “fully supported” MLB’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
If MLB also had a truth-in-advertising policy, the Mets probably would have been obligated to announce they were relieved by the suspension. At $24 million per year, Canó would be considered overpaid for a World Series contender despite the fact that he still hits for average with some power.
But the Mets are at least three or four player moves away from contending, let alone winning in the postseason, and the slightly more than $20 million they’re saving (the Seattle Mariners pick up part of his salary) can be used elsewhere.
That’s not to say Canó couldn’t have been an asset next year. He did hit .316 with 10 homers over 49 games in the pandemic-shorted season. However, the eight-time All-Star selection’s range in the field started to fall off noticeably during the 2017 season. The Gold Gloves in 2010 and ’12 are distant memories.
As is often the case with long contracts, the Mets aren’t getting the productivity or durability that the Mariners saw in Canó’s first few seasons there.
The New York Mets can make life tough for the New York Yankees
Billionaire Steve Cohen has resources that the previous New York Mets ownership did not possess, and he has indicated that he will spend in pursuit of restoring respectability to a franchise that has finished with a winning record in just three of the past 12 seasons. As the New York Post reported, that puts him in competition with the New York Yankees, who’ve outspent every team in the majors for a long time.
With Robinson Canó out of the picture for 2021 and likely out of the Mets’ plans after that, Cohen and the Mets do not have to look far for a replacement. Yankees second baseman D.J. LeMahieu is entering free agency coming off a career year. He batted an AL-best .364 with 10 home runs in 50 games.
LeMahieu is just 32 years old and made half as much as Canó did this past season. Cohen can pay LeMahieu the $20 million in Mets money that Canó is forfeiting because of the suspension before the new owner has to start dipping into his own wallet. It simply becomes a matter of hammering out the length of the contract.
If the Yankees thought they might have a shot at keeping LeMahieu for $75 million over four years, they’ll presumably have to offer something a little north of $100 million over five years to stay competitive with what the Mets can offer.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman already entered the offseason wondering what to do about free-agent pitchers Masahito Tanaka and Jamie Paxton as well as outfielder Brett Gardner. All would have been useful next summer, but now one or more may be beyond his budget — Cashman is stuck overpaying Giancarlo Stanton — if the Yankees intend to keep LeMahieu away from the Yankees’ crosstown rival.
Regardless of how it plays out, LeMahieu comes out a winner after turning down the $18.9 million qualifying offer from the Yankees.
Meanwhile, Cashman comes out the loser. His team hasn’t been to a World Series since winning the title in 2009, but the Yankees have owned the back pages of the tabloids because the Mets couldn’t compete financially.
Now that the Mets are owned by a billionaire, the heat will be on to prove Cashman has a better baseball mind rather than just a fatter wallet.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.