Robinson Cano will sit out the entire 2021 season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs for the second time in his career. The 162-game suspension, which makes him ineligible for postseason play next year and puts him one failed PED test away from a lifetime ban, carries multiple ramifications.
Let's examine how this affects Cano, the New York Mets, and others:
First off, it's somewhat puzzling that Cano is being dinged a second time for using the same drug, stanozolol. After all, the eight-time All-Star has already secured his financial fortune, landing a 10-year, $240-million contract with the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2014 campaign. Now, factoring in both of his suspensions - the first of which came in 2018 with Seattle - Cano will have forfeited $36 million.
While Cano has not yet made a statement, it stands to reason he was trying to stay on the field. In 2019 with the Mets, the second baseman appeared in 107 games, the fewest of his career (not including 2020 or his suspension-shortened 2018, when he still played in 80 contests). More importantly, he wasn't himself. Cano posted his first-ever sub-.750 OPS season while battling a hip injury.
Motivations for PED use vary from player to player - many use them before their big payday - but Cano seemed to use them in order to stay on the field and justify that huge contract.
The 38-year-old seemed to be putting the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career. At 2,624 hits, Cano already had more than legendary second basemen Joe Morgan, Red Schoendienst, and Ryne Sandberg - each of whom is already in Cooperstown. In fact, every second baseman with more hits than Cano is already enshrined.
Furthermore, only Jeff Kent's 377 homers surpass Cano's 334 among second basemen (Alfonso Soriano, who hit 412 home runs, played more than half his games in the outfield). Cano would've easily bested that mark over the final three years of his current deal. Now, though, with only two seasons left - at age 39 and 40, respectively - it's not a slam dunk that the five-time Silver Slugger hits 44 more dingers.
Finally, by JAWS - Jay Jaffe's WAR score system that helps determine the likelihood a player makes the Hall solely by on-field production - Cano ranks seventh all time among second basemen. Every player ahead of him is enshrined. And, at 59.2 JAWS, Cano had a real shot to surpass the legendary Rod Carew at 65.5, a threshold that would've likely made Cano a first-ballot inductee.
But instead of watching him age gracefully and bolster a Cooperstown resume - he's coming off another elite year at the plate, hitting .316/.352/.544 with 10 homers over 49 games - Cano's PED suspensions seem to have completely erased his Hall of Fame case.
PED forgiveness is growing among Hall of Fame voters, though. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both earned over 60% of the vote last year for the first time. However, Bonds is almost definitely the best hitter of all time, and Clemens is arguably the best pitcher of all time. Cano isn't even the best second baseman - handily behind at least Joe Morgan and Rogers Hornsby.
Perhaps a better proxy for Cano, then, are two other players who were more recently added to the ballot: Manny Ramirez and Andy Pettitte. Unlike Bonds and Clemens, Ramirez and Pettitte were suspended for PEDs.
The only reason to bring up Pettitte - Cano's former teammate with the New York Yankees - is to show that even players with the fringiest of Hall of Fame cases who tested positive for PEDs are garnering some attention. The left-hander was named on 11.3% of ballots last winter.
Ramirez, though, could be a watershed case for proven PED users like Cano. Ramirez was suspended twice, both of which came near the end of his career, also like Cano. On Ramirez's fourth year on the ballot in 2019, he earned 28.2% of the vote. For context, Larry Walker - who wound up in the Hall on his final year of eligibility - didn't get that much support until his eighth year on the ballot. Also, it's worth noting that Cano's 59.2 JAWS has already eclipsed Ramirez's 54.6.
So, maybe Cano's Hall of Fame case doesn't totally evaporate over this. It certainly makes it more complicated, and it ruins any first-ballot chances he may have had following his 80-game ban back in 2018. However, depending on how the final years of his career go and whether Ramirez gets a plaque, Cano could still squeak in.
First, losing Cano - who was the third-best hitter at the keystone last year behind DJ LeMahieu and Brandon Lowe (minimum 100 plate appearances) - is not fun. Sure, Jeff McNeil just found a path to more regular playing time, but the Mets' depth is now Luis Guillorme.
Second, New York now has an extra $24 million to spend. New owner Steve Cohen is already on record saying he wants to use it on players, but it's not really that simple.
See, Cano's $24-million annual salary comes back on the books in 2022 and 2023. While this additional money is good now, it doesn't afford the club long-term flexibility.
The Mets were already poised to spend big this winter, but is going after LeMahieu on a three- or four-year deal now an option if Cano will be back in 12 months anyway? That seems like a precarious way to invest.
Or, more interestingly, perhaps there are some premium players out there looking for one-year deals that fill a more dire hole for the Mets, like in the starting rotation.
Bauer was once on record saying he would only take one-year deals, but those chances seem remote or non-existent now. No, Charlie Morton is the one that makes the most sense. The veteran right-hander is reportedly pursuing a one-year contract, possibly with an option for 2022. With Noah Syndergaard likely shelved to start the year while still recovering from Tommy John, Morton makes a ton of sense.
One thing about Brodie Van Wagenen that you can't really blame him for is the fact that he went for it. However, the Cano trade looks much, much worse on his record as a general manager now.
Mets fans are already irate about losing Jarred Kelenic, who has yet to make his major-league debut but seems like a can't-miss outfield prospect. Factor in Edwin Diaz's nightmare first season with New York and the last thing this deal needed was a second suspension for Cano.
The Mets aren't owned by the Wilpons anymore. However, one offseason without controversy would be a welcome development that turns "Meet the Mets" from a tongue-in-cheek phrase back into a cute anthem of a potential contender.