Are the Mets Stuck with Robinson Cano?
What in the world is Steve Cohen going to do with Robinson Cano following his positive steroid test? Cano's ten-year guaranteed contract that the Mets inherited from the Seattle Mariners is in effect until 2023. Everyone is happy that the $24 Million Cano has to forfeit will give the Mets flexibility to bring in new players but not so fast. They owe Cano another $40 Million in 2022 and 2023 ($20M a year). Even if they move Jeff McNeil back to second and play around with the outfield, they will still have to think long and hard about how to spend that money because odds are, they may want to make use of Cano in another year Or, Steve Cohen may just take the loss in a principled stand against cheaters to boost the club's image.
I doubt they can trade him at this point. The chances that anyone will want Cano in a trade are slim though not none. He was an accessory in the trade from the Mariners to the Mets. The Mariners had to pay the Mets to take him, kicking in $20 Million. So when he's older, out for a year and a two-time PED offender, who is no longer on performance enhancing drugs, who will want this guy?
Perhaps this is why we just aren't seeing these massive, long-term, guaranteed contracts anymore? Between ARod, Giambi and Cano, who wants to be stuck with a cheater for years in a $100 or $200 Million dollar hole?
It's unfortunate that the CBA doesn't allow clubs to void contracts with players after two PED violations. Why is it three strikes you are out and not two? Is it because of the baseball mantra?
The MLB Joint Drug Treatment Program specifically forbids clubs from disciplining players beyond its tiered system of 80 games for a first offense, 160 games for a second and banishment for a third. It actually says, clubs cannot void contracts over a PED violation. The result? Clubs are unfairly stuck paying cheaters. It really becomes a problem when you have stars under long-term, colossal, mega bucks contracts because it favors the stars when they screw up. If a mediocre player with a short contract cheats, he's out. But, if a mega star cheats, who the league should expect more from, well they are still guaranteed tens of millions of dollars despite signing under false pretenses.
When the Mariners gave Cano that $240 Million dollar deal, he had a clean record. Now he has tested positive twice, once in 2018 for using a diuretic commonly used to cheat urine tests and now with an unequivocally banned steroid. It may conjure up memories of the Biogenesis scandal when Cano was on the Yankees team with ARod. His best friend Melky Cabrera was on the Biogenesis client list. Anyone remember the Cabrera Caper? Cabrera's friend created a phony website pretending to sell a topical cream that Cabrera said caused him to test positive and then the friend got caught and went to prison. Cano's spokeswoman from his foundation was also on the Biogenesis list, later explaining she considered a diet program there. This led to rumors that the Yankees were investigating Cano as a potential client of Biogenesis but apparently never found any evidence to support it. Cano proclaimed his innocence but within a year he was either running from or shipped out of New York to head to Seattle and lock in his deal.
For all Seattle knew he had a clean record. Now in retrospect after two positive tests, who knows what his history was. What if Cano had tested positive a few months after signing his Mariner contract? They would've had to pay him the $200 M plus under MLB"s discipline structure, which is pretty ridiculous. What if he hadn't waived his no trade clause and the Mariners were the ones to catch him using a second time? That would've meant two positives with one club yet they would've still been stuck paying out his contract? Even more ridiculous. Clubs don't negotiate guaranteed, massive, two hundred million dollar contracts thinking the players are slamming it out of the park while amped on steroids (well maybe some do, but that's beside the point). It's unfair that when clubs discover that they didn't get what they paid for and that without a player using a PED, the club may never get what they paid for, that the club still has to pay. False representations and cheaters shouldn't be rewarded. How is that an example of being tough on PED use, MLB?
It was the same situation with Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi. Despite rumors that the Yankees tried anything and everything to get out of the contract with ARod, they were stuck because of the Joint Drug Program language locking them in.
After Giambi was confronted by the FBI over the BALCO case, he admitted to a grand jury that he used PEDs. The testimony was leaked. The Yankees were eyeing the moral clause in his contract as grounds to void it but Giambi was able to negotiate to stay and probably took a pay cut.
One would think that by now the clubs would have pushed for a change to the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program language. It completely contradicts the morals clauses that are usually standard in MLB contracts, which prohibit criminal conduct and requires players meet the physical standards expected of them. If a player's drug use undermines their ability to play and meet the professional standards expected or a player's conduct is unlawful, teams can void the contract. But the Joint Drug Program pamphlet comes in and totally blocks that out. It doesn't make sense. Future players can blame cheaters like ARod, Giambi and Cano for the demise of the ten-year, guaranteed contracts in baseball. It's too big of a risk now that PED use is so much more prevalent... well, not necessarily new, just more discoverable and less tolerated.
Anyway, it looks like the Mets will be stuck with Cano, unless they can unload him in another discounted trade. Steve Cohen will have to decide whether to structure the team with him in the mix or take the financial hit for the sake of starting a new era in Mets history. As the first major drug scandal under his reign, it will be a defining moment for Cohen's legacy, to see which move he chooses.