Late Wednesday afternoon, the baseball world was shocked to find out that Mets second baseman, Robinson Cano, tested positive Stanozolol. This is a performance enhancing drug (PED) and is banned by Major League Baseball. Since this is the second time he has failed a drug test, Cano was suspended for the entire 2021 season. In 2018, Cano tested positive for using furosemide. While this substance is not a PED, it can be used as masking agent and obstruct PED tests. Therefore, it is also banned by the league.
The 2018 suspension was bad, but forgivable. Afterall, it was not proven that Cano was using PED’s. He claimed that he simply didn’t know the substance was banned. It was proscribed to him by a doctor in the Dominican Republic and he took it while visiting his native country. If he was using it to cover up PED’s the numbers didn’t show it. Once Cano returned in 2018, he actually had better numbers.
Regardless, this situation makes the Cano/Diaz trade seem even worse than it originally was. It was definitely a red flag to go all in on an aging infielder who was coming off a PED suspension. Former GM, Brodie Van Wagenen must be glad that he doesn’t have to address the media on the situation of his former client.
It needs to be stated without any equivocation. Cano looks like a complete idiot. Getting caught cheating once is bad. Getting caught a second time, puts you in a mind numbing category. Once you get caught, you are forever on the radar of the drug testers. As a player, you need to be extra careful about what you put into your body. You’d almost think that as a veteran player, he’d know some tricks to beat the system if he was going to cheat anyway. For example, take a new substance that isn’t on the official MLB list.
What could be the most shocking part, is that Cano doesn’t fit the mold of a PED user. He turned 38 in October. A typical user will be someone young who needs the extra edge to make it. Think of Jenrry Mejia. The reason he kept using is because clearly, he wasn’t that good without PED’s. It makes sense why he’d think that he just needed that extra boost to get that big contract and be financially settled for life. Without it, he’d probably be a fringe major leaguer. The problem is that Cano isn’t that guy. He is one of the best second basemen of all time. This failed test means that he will likely not get into the hall of fame. Heck, if he retired a week ago, he’d likely have gotten in despite the first suspension. At this stage in his career, the goal is to just put up decent numbers to increase longevity stats. Currently, he is high in many of the key metrics used to judge a player’s greatness. Have a look at where he ranks among second basemen.
As a result of his foolishness, Cano will lose $24 million. This is after the COVID season in which he only made $7.5 million because of the salary cuts. In other words, he lost over $40 million in a short period of time.
With all this said, it’s great news for the Mets. One of the big mistakes of the BVW era was thinking that older position players would be the key to success. Cano, Lowrie, Cespedes, Gomez and Hamilton are all examples of guys brought in way past their prime. Cano had the extra burden of the massive long-term contract. The Mets are now off the hook for $20,250,000 in 2021 (The Mariners were responsible for the rest). We will soon find out if this changes the outlook for this offseason. Can the Mets now afford Bauer and Realmuto? What about Springer and LeMahieu? Heck, why not go after a reliever like Hendricks and lock up Conforto for the long haul? As of yesterday, Steve Cohen had in the area of $60 million to spend before worrying about the salary cap. It is now $80 million.
Beyond the money, the Mets are now much more flexible as a team. Cano was only able to play second and DH. While we don’t know yet if the DH will be permanent, the Mets have more options in the middle infield. They can use Gimenez and Rosario up the middle to improve the defense. McNeil could move back to second to make room in the outfield. Dom Smith can be at first and Alonso DH. The possibilities really open up without Cano tied to second.
Additionally, the Mets can go out and get a righty bat. One of the big problems that they have had is that the lineup is too lefty heavy. Conforto, Nimmo, McNeil, Smith, Gimenez all hit lefthanded. Adding Cano to that mix made them very susceptible to southpaws. If the Mets replace Cano’s bat with a righty or switch hitter, there is a lot more balance to the lineup.
Time will tell if this is the end of the road for Cano. One more strike and he is out for good. There is no doubting that Cano comes across as looking very dumb. It is rare that a player of his stature gets caught and even less common for it to happen twice. However, this does open up a lot of possibilities for the 2021 Mets.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)