The Mets got an early Christmas present when Robinson Cano got busted for PEDs and was suspended for the season. The good news comes in multiple ways. The most obvious of these is that the club now has an extra $20.25 million at its disposal. Not that the bottom line was going to be an issue with new ownership but rather because the Mets are now that much further from hitting the Competitive Balance Tax, which most teams generally try to avoid.
And there’s the fact that Cano was not the team’s best option to play 2B but was likely to be put there for the overwhelming majority of the time, due to his veteran status and bloated contract. Finally, while Cano’s 2020 numbers look very good, he also benefited from a very hot start. In his first 27 games, Cano had a 1.088 OPS thanks in large part to a .373 BABIP. But in his final 22 games, Cano managed just a .670 OPS, much more in line with the .736 mark he posted in 2019 and what you would anticipate from a 37 year old.
So, how do the Mets proceed in their happy new reality? Here’s how our writers would move forward:
David – Consider that the Mets had $24 million tied up into their second (or third) best second baseman and that they still have glaring holes in center field, catcher, their starting rotation and their bullpen. The addition by subtraction here allows the Mets to keep Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo in the starting lineup while re-allocating those funds to the needs I just mentioned. Assuming Steve Cohen puts his money where his mouth is, the Mets could be looking to add $50 to $75 million of payroll, which is more than enough to accomplish those things.
Joe – This helps the Mets pencil in McNeil at second base for the entire season, which opens up a question mark at third base. Sandy Alderson and Steve Cohen have spoken about being more active in the international market, so maybe the Mets use the money saved from Cano’s salary to get Ha-Seong Kim, a star shortstop from the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO. His bat plays at third base, and there is speculation that the 25-year-old will ultimately be an MLB third or second baseman. If the Mets see him as more of a second baseman, they can still roll with McNeil at third. Either way, Cano being out of the picture opens up the door for this possibility.
Dalton – With Cano out of the way for the time being, there are plenty of suitors for the second base position on the Mets roster internally. The biggest name being McNeil, who saw a lot of time there during his early Mets days. McNeil is already on the payroll, so it makes no sense to go out and sign DJ LeMahieu. Speaking in Thanksgiving terms, why go out and buy the whole turkey when you already have the breast in the freezer?
Matt – Put McNeil at third base and sign a new second baseman. As always, there are many more free agent options at second, including LeMahieu, Kolten Wong, Tommy La Stella and others. The 3B FA pool is far less appealing with old, familiar faces like Justin Turner, Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera. No thanks. And don’t say, J.D. Davis, who is better suited as a bench piece or trade chip. Unless we can work out a trade for Nolan Arenado or Kris Bryant, the Mets are better off leaving McNeil at third and finding a new second baseman.
Jim – With $20 million plus freed up from Cano, I’d have to pursue a deal for George Springer. We might need to increase that base salary figure to get Springer but it would help balance the line-up and improve the overall defense. Not replacing Cano with another infielder seems to still be ok due to the position flexibility our team is likely to have in 2021.
Brian – Install McNeil at second base and aggressively pursue J.T. Realmuto on a two-year deal. Offer him up to 2/$70. If you get Realmuto under those terms, fill in with the best pitching and 3B the budget will allow. If that doesn’t get the job done, sign Bauer and whoever you think the next best free agent pitcher is and fill in at 3B and catcher. Springer is a great fit for the club but unless you’re prepared to deal an outfielder, it seems that money could be better spent elsewhere.