Monday, July 20, 2020

The Cano Conundrum

Joel Sherman had a piece in the New York Post today about Robinson Cano, asking some of the same questions that I've been asking myself about the Mets second baseman. It's been bugging me that Luis Rojas has been batting Cano third in the lineup. The Mets are lucky enough to have some very good hitters on the club right now, and Cano shouldn't be batting third unless he's producing like an elite hitter. Sherman goes on to ask the fair question if Cano should be in the lineup at all.

Last year Cano put up an OPS+ of 96 for the season. He also played below average defense at second base. Historical comparisons aren't kind to 37 year old ballplayers coming off a bad season. Sherman does list a few who did bounce back, and that's obviously the hope for Cano. The Mets will be paying him a lot of money for 3 more years. I'm sure Rojas is batting Cano third in the lineup as as show of faith from the manager, and I get that, too. But how long does he stay there if he continues to produce at last year's level?

The Mets looked really out of sync offensively this weekend. I try not to read a lot into two exhibition games, but the season starts in a few days and they didn't look ready for it. I should probably give Cano some credit for getting one of the three hits the Mets managed on Sunday, but I'm not sure that gifting him the third spot in the lineup as a vote of confidence is something the team can afford right now. It seems like the way Rojas is committed to go, however.

I hope the guy gets off to a hot start and earns that lineup slot. But if he doesn't, I'm curious to see how long Cano lasts there. And really, if his offense looks like last year, Sherman's question of whether he belongs in the lineup at all becomes an important one.

Too many times over the years we've seen the Mets stubbornly stay with a guy much too long because they're afraid to eat a big salary. I still have nightmares haunted by visions of Jason Bay's futile at bats, and Bay was making less than the $20 million per year that Cano will be getting.

It's pretty much a given that when Cano plays he's going to hurt the Mets defensively. Nobody beats the calendar when it comes to quickness and reflexes. Cano is not the second baseman that he was a few years ago, and there's no reason at all to expect that to improve. He needs to produce offensively to justify giving him playing time. If he can do that, then maybe the Mets can justify giving him at bats at DH and getting better defenders in the field. But you can't play a guy at DH who can't hit any more.

Unless Cano has a big turn around this year what happens to him is likely to be one of Rojas' biggest tests this season.

I had a real long day today. I have more to write about, but I think I'll tackle it tomorrow when I'm fresh. Until then, please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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