The Padres are likely to request that second baseman Robinson Canó accept an optional assignment to Triple-A El Paso, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Heyman suggests the eight-time All-Star would refuse to go to the minor leagues, as is his right as a player with five-plus years of MLB service time.
If San Diego follows through with removing Canó from the active roster, he’d have the right to elect free agency. That seems to be the likeliest outcome, which would end his time in San Diego after just 11 games. Robert Murray of FanSided first tweeted there was “growing chatter” that Canó’s time in the organization could be coming to a close.
The Friars just signed Canó to a big league deal last month, finalizing agreement on May 13. That came on the heels of the Mets designating the five-time Silver Slugger winner for assignment and releasing him, one year removed from a 162-game PED suspension. In so doing, New York ate the approximate $37.6MM remaining in guaranteed commitments on his contract through 2023. The Padres, pressed right against the base competitive balance tax threshold and looking for affordable offensive help, rolled the dice on Canó for just the prorated portion of the $700K league minimum salary.
Canó had started awfully with the Mets, hitting .195/.233/.268 through 12 games. That came with a massive spike in strikeouts and ground-balls relative to his earlier work, and he saw a significant drop in his free passes. San Diego chalked that up to the minuscule sample and hoped Canó would rediscover better form at the plate, but that hasn’t happened in the past couple weeks.
Through 33 plate appearances, the lefty-swinger is hitting just .094/.121/.094. He’s drawn one walk against ten strikeouts and has yet to tally an extra-base hit. The alarming strikeout, grounder and walk numbers have all gotten worse relative to his early-season numbers with the Mets. It seems the continuation of those struggles will lead the Padres to make a quick trigger in letting Canó go not long after bringing him aboard.
At 30-20, the Friars are 3 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. They’re firmly in Wild Card position at the moment and surely have their sights set on taking the division, so they can ill afford to continue devoting Canó at-bats while he’s struggling to this extent. With no way to send him to the minors without his consent, they’re reportedly willing to watch him depart the organization entirely.
Canó has seen occasional starts at second base, freeing up Jake Cronenworth to bounce around the diamond a bit more. If the Friars indeed grant Canó his release, Cronenworth would likely head back to the keystone on a more or less everyday basis. Eric Hosmer, Ha-Seong Kim, and Manny Machado make up the remainder of the typical starting infield. The team is hoping star shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. can make his return either later this month or in early July.
Meanwhile, the 39-year-old Canó would head back to the open market and explore other options. The Mets will continue to pay all of his salary (minus the league minimum for any time he spends on another MLB roster), so there’d be no financial risk for a team in adding him. The bigger question is whether he’s still capable of performing well enough to warrant an active roster spot.