Mets can get more out of Robinson Cano in a lesser role next season
By Tim Boyle
The New York Mets could get a lot more out of Robinson Cano if he drops down in the lineup behind the kids who can hit.
Whether you’re pleased with how Robinson Cano played in the second half of 2019 or not, I think everyone can agree he’ll never be able to live up to his contract. This is something the New York Mets were willing to accept when they acquired him from the Seattle Mariners. For the chance to have an elite closer like Edwin Diaz under their control, overpaying a veteran infielder was a punch they were willing to accept right to the gut.
The infamous Cano/Diaz trade has had its share of twists and turns all year long. For the first three months, it looked like Cano was the one who made this deal a regrettable one. Down the final stretch, it has been Diaz dragging this trade through the mud.
To his credit, Cano found some semblance of his former self. Post All-Star Break, the man slashed .284/.339/.541 and knocked than twice as many home runs as he had in the first half of the year. He didn’t exactly light the baseball world on fire, but he showed how much of a capable hitter he can be moving forward.
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Cano’s hamstring injury back in August had me convinced we wouldn’t see him on a field again until Spring Training 2020. Because the Mets were in a playoff race, I think he was a little more inspired to return to action. It’s a good thing he did. Cano has been able to salvage a season that looked destined to end poorly.
If we view Cano as a $24 million per year player, there’s a bad taste left over. We can’t do this. Instead, the Mets need to not let this affect how they spend. They also need to look at his numbers only when putting together a lineup.
When fans talk about finances in baseball, it’s only because of how a player’s salary can limit the team’s willingness to spend further.
Sure, baseball has no salary cap. It does have a luxury tax. Individual owners also have budgets. And as everyone knows, the Wilpons have theirs down to the penny.
Cano belongs no higher than sixth in any Mets lineup. This may even be generous. When all of the regular starters are healthy, I’m not sure there’s anyone I want up at the plate less.
As a number six-hitter, Cano looks like a much greater threat. His power to the gaps still exist. In a role where he’s there to clean up anything the middle of the order left on base, I think he can do quite well.
The Mets failed to make this switch often in 2019 despite Cano’s struggles. He started 58 games batting third, 22 batting fourth, and another 18 batting fifth. Only twice Mickey Callaway turned in a lineup card with Cano’s name in the sixth spot. He never dropped lower.
Thankfully, the team has an excuse (as if they needed one) to slide Cano down the lineup. He is not one of the best hitters on the team and many others are currently on the rise.
In addition to moving him down the order, would it be so bad to sit Cano once a week? The team will have Jeff McNeil available to play second base. If they bring back Joe Panik, it’s yet another suitable replacement.
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Too many poor lineups have put the Mets at a disadvantage. Heading into 2020, this needs to change. It can start with a lesser role for Cano.