NEW YORK -- In an announcement with significant implications on both Robinson Canó’s career and the Mets’ near-term future, Major League Baseball revealed Wednesday that Canó has received a 162-game suspension without pay for testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance. Canó will miss the entire 2021 season.
“We were extremely disappointed to be informed about Robinson’s suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “The violation is very unfortunate for him, the organization, our fans and the sport. The Mets fully support MLB’s efforts toward eliminating performance enhancing substances from the game.”
Canó previously served an 80-game suspension in 2018 after violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for the first time. Playing for the Mariners at that time, Canó tested positive for furosemide, a diuretic better known as Lasix, which is often used to help mask banned substances in urine tests.
“I understand that everything that goes into my body,” Canó said in a prepared statement following that suspension announcement, “I’m responsible for that.”
According to a source, Canó did not plan to release a statement following his latest positive test.
Brodie Van Wagenen had been the Mets' general manager for about five weeks when he acquired Canó, his former client, in a December 2018 trade that also brought Edwin Díaz to New York for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, among others. Canó struggled throughout '19, but he rebounded in '20 to hit .318/.352/.544 over 49 games as a 37-year-old. Canó credited his success to an offseason workout program that allowed him to keep his legs in peak shape.
“If I had any concern about what Robby’s physical state or performance ability going forward is, I would not have made the deal,” Van Wagenen said shortly after the trade. “This guy has huge ambition to be able to be great in the coming years. All of us have great confidence that a bat as consistently good as Robinson Canó has been over the years, he’s not going to lose that skill set. And if he continues to work as hard on his body and his defensive mobility, there’s no reason he can’t be a productive defensive player for us as we go forward, too.”
Canó will forfeit the entirety of his $24 million salary in 2021, but he is still due $48 million from '22-23. The Mets are responsible for approximately $40 million of that total, with Seattle picking up the rest.
A career .303 hitter with 2,624 hits and 334 home runs over 16 seasons with the Yankees, Mariners and Mets, Canó would be a borderline Hall of Famer by numbers alone. But voters have historically taken a strict line with players even suspected of PED use, let alone those with documented positive tests.
While Canó’s latest suspension will have a seismic impact on the Mets’ roster and payroll, the team is well-covered at second base in his absence. The simplest option would be to slide Jeff McNeil from left field back to his natural position at second base. That would allow the Mets to shift Brandon Nimmo to left field and sign a free agent -- George Springer and Jackie Bradley Jr. being the most prominent options -- to man center. It would also theoretically improve the Mets’ defense at multiple positions.
The Mets could also use Andrés Giménez full-time at second base, keeping their current outfield alignment of McNeil, Nimmo and Michael Conforto intact. They could acquire a free agent such as DJ LeMahieu to fill their hole at second base. Or they could move McNeil to second and sign a corner outfielder such as Marcell Ozuna to fill that hole. Without Canó’s money on the books, the Mets can spend up to $20 million more this winter without worrying about the luxury tax threshold.
Those decisions will occur in time, likely after the Mets hire a president of baseball operations to serve under Alderson.
No matter what the Mets choose, Canó’s long-term future is unclear. He remains under contract through 2023 at significant money. It is unknown if the Mets will welcome Canó back following multiple violations of MLB’s drug policy, or if they will move on despite their long-term financial commitment to him.