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Player X was pretty good this year. In fact, Player X had a wRC+ of 141, good enough for 30th among hitters with at least 175 plate appearances. Player X checked in above the likes of Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Michael Brantley, Ian Happ, Jeff McNeil, and Xander Bogaerts. Now imagine that Team Y will unexpectedly be without Player X for the entire 2021 season. That should be a crippling blow to a lineup, no? Well, not if you are the Mets and the player in question is Robinson Cano.
It was announced Wednesday that Cano tested positive for performance enhancing drugs for the second time in his career — this time for the easily-detectable Stanozolol — resulting in a suspension for the entire 2021 season. He’ll forfeit his entire $24 million salary, taking the Mets off the hook for $20.5 million. He’s still owed $24 million in 2022 and 2023, though, because Brodie Van Wagenen needs to live in the recesses of Mets’ fans minds for the rest of eternity.
As noted above, Cano enjoyed a nice bounceback at the plate this past season, batting .316/.352/.544 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI over 49 games. He turned 38 in October, but appeared to be aging gracefully with the bat and was projected to begin next season as the primary second baseman once again. Now the Mets can scrap that plan, opening up a world of possibilities which could actually make their team better.
As of now, the Mets could simply move Jeff McNeil back to second base as opposed to playing him out of position in left field. In turn, Brandon Nimmo could slide over to left field rather than play center, where he’s a liability. Free agents George Springer and Jackie Bradley, Jr. would look great in center field for New York. New owner Steve Cohen could also throw his financial weight around by signing DJ LeMahieu away from the Yankees, which would function as quite the gut punch to start his tenure.
The point is, the Mets have options and the flexibility (both in players and finances) to go any number of directions. In addition to discussing the other top free agents like Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, and Marcell Ozuna, the prominent trade candidates (Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado, and Kris Bryant) are all potentially at play. It really is a new era in Queens.
As for Cano, it’s possible he might have already played his final game for the Mets. He’ll be 39 years old the next time he’s eligible to play and more DH time is likely needed in the future, which makes him a poor fit on a roster which has Pete Alonso and Dom Smith. Steve Cohen and the new front office might be better off writing him off as a sunk cost and moving forward.
Cano is a .303 career hitter with 2,624 hits and 334 home runs to his name over 16 major league seasons. Prior to this suspension, it wasn’t hard to imagine him reaching 3,000 hits by the end of his current contract. His Hall of Fame candidacy was already in question after his first violation (he tested positive for furosemide, a diuretic) in 2018, but it’s safe to say any legitimate consideration is officially dead. It’s sad, really, as he’s often been cited as a role model for players all across the game.
Chapman Suspension Reduced
The Yankees will be without closer Aroldis Chapman for the first two games of the 2021 season. That was the decision out of Chapman’s long-awaited appeal hearing on Thursday, as his suspension from MLB was reduced from the original three-game ban.
The suspension was the result of Chapman throwing near the head of Rays infielder Mike Brosseau on September 1. The incident lit a fuse in what was already a tense rivalry. Chapman appealed the suspension at the time, but his hearing never took place before the end of the regular season due to what was described as an issue involving “availability of witnesses.”
Of course, Brosseau was able to exact some revenge on Chapman during the ALDS. Capping off a brilliant 10-pitch at-bat, Brosseau hit a go-ahead homer on a 100.2 mph pitch from Chapman to help the Rays to a Game 5 win and a trip of the ALCS.
Chapman has now allowed homers to end the Yankees’ season in back-to-back years, as he gave up a walk-off homer to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS. He’s actually the first reliever in MLB to record a loss in an elimination game in back-to-back seasons. The Yankees will have to hope that history doesn’t repeat itself (again) in 2021.
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Cruz Looking for Clarity
One of the odd things about this offseason is the uncertainty regarding the future of the universal designated hitter. It was added for this truncated 60-game regular season in order to avoid overtaxing pitchers in an unprecedented situation, but nothing was settled for 2021 because owners and the MLBPA were unable to come to an agreement this summer.
The universal DH will likely be here to stay when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season, but we’re still stuck in this strange limbo for the time being. It’s possible MLB will give the DH to the players for next season in exchange for some other concession, but if it was that easy, it probably would have been settled already. So for now, we wait. And that’s what some free agents could be doing, as well.
Nelson Cruz is most prominent among them, as Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the 40-year-old slugger wants clarity on the universal DH rule before making a decision on where to sign. He wasn’t really an option for NL teams during his last foray into free agency, so his bargaining power would obviously be strengthened if it sticks around. The same could be said for other aging players, which has long been mentioned as one of the advantages of implementing such a change. Marcell Ozuna is another notable name who would benefit, as it wouldn’t be ideal to put him in the outfield on a daily basis.
Cruz batted .303/.397/.595 with 16 home runs and 33 RBI over 53 games with the Twins this past season.
Quick Hits: With Cubs team president Theo Epstein stepping down this week, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com hears from “a number of rival executives around the league” that the belief is that the club could move “a number of players in the coming months” … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that Indians general manager Mike Chernoff will formally interview for the president of baseball operations job with the Mets, though new owner Steve Cohen indicated otherwise when asked by a fan on Twitter on Thursday … Matt Arnold has promoted to the role of vice president and general manager with the Brewers … Ron Fowler has stepped down as Padres’ executive chairman, with general partner Pete Seidler moving into the role as the largest single equity holder … The Cardinals added top prospect catcher Ivan Herrera and right-hander Angel Rondon to their 40-man roster in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft … Mark Feinsand of MLB.com also reports that “several teams” are in the hunt for free agent reliever Liam Hendriks … Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told reporters Wednesday that it’s too soon to say whether Brandon Belt (heel surgery) will be ready for Opening Day, though Austin Slater (elbow) is expected to be 100 percent for spring training … Lindsey Adler of The Athletic reports that Miguel Cairo is set to join Tony La Russa as bench coach with the White Sox … After undergoing surgery on his right (non-throwing) hand in August, Nationals prospect right-hander Seth Romero threw multiple bullpen sessions during the team’s fall instructional league … The Nationals signed left-hander Sam Clay — known as an extreme roundballer in the minors — to a surprise major league contract … The Athletics added infielders Frank Schwindel and Pete Kozma on minor league contracts … Right-hander Aaron Brooks, formerly of the Athletics, Royals, and Orioles, has re-signed with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization on a one-year, $1.2 million contract.