Robinson Cano has now served the 162-game suspension he received a year ago after testing positive for Stanozolol, the second time he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in his career. That means he’s back on the Mets’ depth chart with two years remaining on his contract, making $24MM in each of 2022 and 2023. An optimistic Mets fan could be excited by his return, given Cano’s incredible 2020 campaign wherein he hit .316/.352/.544, an incredible wRC+ of 142 in his age-37 season. Of course, a pessimistic fan could say that “incredible” is the operative word and use the positive test as reason to expect reduced production in 2022.
Team president Sandy Alderson discussed the issue with Tim Healey of Newsday. “How he is received will depend on how he conducts himself and explains himself between now and spring training,” Alderson said. “A good deal of how the fans will respond is dependent on how he conducts himself.” When asked about how the clubhouse would respond, Alderson said, “I think the same will apply.”
Cano is now 39 and one year removed from MLB action, although he is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic in order to prepare for the upcoming season. The fact that he’s still owed $48MM makes it difficult to see the club releasing him or finding a trade partner, placing them in the awkward position of having to put him back out there and hope that he can return to form. As Alderson said, “I don’t think there will be any change in his [roster] status between now and spring training.”
Alderson also discussed the team’s rotation, saying that they are looking for upgrades there. “Starting pitching is definitely something we need to address,” he said, stressing that they will be open to adding both at the top end of the rotation, as well as depth options. On paper, the rotation currently consists of Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, Tylor Megill and David Peterson, who all dealt with either injury or underperformance in 2021. But there’s also the big unanswered question of Noah Syndergaard, who has until November 17 to decide whether or not to accept the $18.4MM qualifying offer the Mets extended to him. If he were to accept, he could potentially slot behind deGrom as the team’s #2, but after Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2020 and limited him to just two innings in 2021, he also comes with uncertainty. As for deGrom, who went on the IL with elbow inflammation on July 18 and never returned, “Do I expect Jacob to be back 100%? Yes,” Alderson said. “But as with all pitching, we’ll see.”
Uncertainty seems to be the running theme with the Mets, as they are also still looking to hire a manager and a general manager. As for the former, Alderson doesn’t seem particularly concerned, saying, “a list [of possibilities] is not that difficult to put together.”