Robinson Canó suspended 162 games by MLB after drug test

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.