It didn’t take long for folks in the baseball world to figure out the winners and losers from Wednesday’s suspension of Robinson Cano for the 2021 season after failing a second performance enhancing drug test.
Losers: Cano (obviously, and correctly).
Cano’s Hall of Fame chances (in ashes).
Brodie Van Wagenen (Cano’s former agent and the man who, as Mets general manager, brought Cano back to New York in a trade and then vouched for his character, specifically as it pertained to Cano’s first failed drug test with Seattle in 2018).
Winners: DJ LeMahieu. DJ LeMahieu’s agent. DJ LeMahieu’s future bank account.
Yes, it may be crass to immediately pivot to the on-field ramifications of Cano’s deletion from the 2021 Mets. But Cano’s suspension for next season (if the season takes place) opens a giant hole for the Mets to slide the best player on the 2020 Yankees right into their payroll and lineup.
Notice the Mets are not on either the winners or losers list. Not yet, anyway.
At first blush, you’d think taking Cano’s $24 million salary off the books would help immensely. But these are the Steve Cohen Mets, not the Fred Wilpon Mets. The Mets were already in position to outbid any team for any free agent, as new team president Sandy Alderson gleefully pointed out in his re-introductory news conference.
No, Cano’s suspension simply makes it easier for the Mets to get LeMahieu if they want him because they can overpay the heck out of him and give him second base with no questions asked.
That would mean no awkward daily decisions for manager Luis Rojas (if he returns) on who to play at second or where to slot LeMahieu on the infield if Cano was around. Remember, there’s no guarantee the NL will have the DH in 2021, so it’s possible Cano would have had to at least started next season as the primary second baseman.
Cano, who turned 38 on Oct. 22, had a fabulous offensive mini-season in 2020 (.316, 10 home runs, .896 OPS). Now we probably know why.
When and if the Mets break bread with LeMahieu, they can offer the most cash and the certainty of a position atop the lineup and at second base.
And the most cash.
The Yankees, in an amazing How the New York Baseball World Turns plot twist, aren’t in the same position. Hal Steinbrenner is likely to look to cut payroll heading into 2021. LeMahieu may turn out to be (gasp) simply too expensive for the Yankees.
But not for the Mets. Imagine that. Crazy times.
The other winner in the Cano saga is the Mariners, who were on the hook for $3.75 million of Cano’s 2021 salary as per the Dec. 3, 2018 trade. The Mets got Edwin Diaz and Cano – and will get Cano back after the suspension for two more seasons at $24 million, beginning in 2022.
Talk about awkward.
The Cano trade was Van Wagenen’s first big move as GM and will stand as his legacy. Van Wagenen’s future job prospects as a front office person probably weren’t that great after he was dismissed following the sale to Cohen and hiring of Alderson. But the former agent had this to say after acquiring Cano:
"If I had any concern about what Robby's physical state or performance ability going forward is, I would not have made the deal. I do think it's important remembering Robby was not suspended for a PED. He was suspended for a diuretic."
Turns out it’s not important at all.
What’s important for the Mets is -- once they are over the "extremely disappointed" mindset Alderson dutifully mentioned in a statement about Cano – is to send LeMahieu a picture of second base at Citi Field. And tell him it’s his if he wants it.