NEW YORK — Strike two against Robinson Cano.
The New York Mets second baseman was suspended for 162 games by Major League Baseball on Wednesday after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug for the second time in his decorated career.
The 38-year-old Cano will miss the entire 2021 season and lose $24 million in salary. The eight-time All-Star hit a robust .316 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in this year’s pandemic-shortened season.
Minus Cano, the Mets could give offensive sparkplug Jeff McNeil a regular spot at second base – probably his most natural position. The suspension also might prompt them to pursue free agent infielder DJ LeMahieu, an AL MVP contender the past two years with the crosstown Yankees.
The penalty came less than two weeks after Steve Cohen bought the Mets for $2.4 billion, a move that created an avalanche of positivity for a team that has reached the playoffs just three times in the last 20 years.
The commissioner’s office said Cano tested positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. He was penalized 80 games in May 2018 while with Seattle after a positive test for Furosemide, a diuretic that some athletes have used to mask other substances.
“We were extremely disappointed to be informed about Robinson’s suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” new Mets president Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “The violation is very unfortunate for him, the organization, our fans, and the sport. The Mets fully support MLB’s efforts toward eliminating performance-enhancing substances from the game.”
There was no immediate comment from Cano or the players’ union.
Alderson was hired by Cohen on the day the Mets sale was completed. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen exited the same day – Van Wagenen made the trade to get Cano from Seattle in December 2018 after previously being his agent.
In a move that polarized Mets fans, the high-priced Cano and big league saves leader Edwin Diaz were acquired in a deal that sent top outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic and young pitching to the Mariners.
Cano was set to head into the eighth season of his $240 million, 10-year contract. He will not be eligible for the playoffs if the Mets make the postseason.
In 16 seasons, he is a career .303 hitter with 334 homers, 1,302 RBIs and two Gold Gloves. He played 49 games this year in a season shortened from the usual 162 to 60 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cano became a star with the Yankees, then signed a big contract with the Mariners. His ban during the 2018 season made him among the most prominent players penalized under baseball’s anti-doping rules.
At that time, Cano said the diuretic “was given to me by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment.” Cano said he didn’t realize the drug was banned by MLB.
Cano has 2,624 career hits and Hall of Fame-caliber statistics for a second baseman. But with his baseball future uncertain at age 38, his latest suspension certainly puts his pursuit of 3,000 hits – and his chances for Cooperstown – in serious jeopardy.
The 28-year-old McNeil has hit .319 with an .884 OPS in three seasons with the Mets and was an All-Star in 2019. He came up as a second baseman in 2018 and has made more major league starts there than at any other single position, though he’s also done fine in the outfield while shuffling between left field, right field and third base.