PHILADELPHIA — For the first time in nine years, Robinson Cano is officially a free agent.
The Mets announced on Sunday they released Cano after he unsurprisingly passed through waivers unclaimed. The veteran second baseman was designated for assignment last week.
So now, the baseball world awaits his next move.
GM Billy Eppler and manager Buck Showalter were confident Cano would land with another team. If he does, that club will be required to pay Cano just the league minimum of $700,000. Since the dollar amount to pick up Cano is so insignificant, and the universal designated hitter is in play, it is likely he will receive interest on the open market.
Cano, 39, ended his Mets tenure having played just 168 games for the Amazin’s. He was acquired in a controversial trade from the Mariners ahead of the 2019 season, in which the main piece of the deal was closer Edwin Diaz. Then Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, who was and is again Cano’s agent, paid a steep price by absorbing the 10-year, $240M contract Cano signed with Seattle in 2013.
Steve Cohen’s Mets are still on the books for the remainder of that contract — just under $40M through the 2023 season — whether or not the second baseman is acquired by another team. The Mets weighed their options and decided to make the wise baseball decision to DFA Cano and eat the money because he no longer fits on their loaded roster.
In 12 games and 41 at-bats with the Mets this season, Cano posted a -0.5 bWAR and hit .195/.233/.268 with a career-worst 25.6 strikeout percentage. Cano had an .896 OPS in 49 games in the 2020 season, a year which was immediately tainted after he was suspended for testing positive for his PEDs for a second time.
The organization that does want to take a chance on Cano will also receive the baggage that comes with acquiring a player who cheated the game not once, but twice. Prior to his first positive PED test in 2018, Cano was on a Hall of Fame trajectory. He’s a .302 lifetime hitter with a .842 career OPS, and is approaching 3,000 hits.
But now, any opportunity he may receive will come with a time limit. The Cano brand no longer outweighs a club’s limited roster space.