Guess who’s back on the active roster — and payroll?
After a year away because of another PED suspension, Robinson Canó is officially back on the active roster of the New York Mets.
Canó, 39, returns to a Mets team that, frankly, doesn’t need him.
At this point in his career, he can really only play second base (where he has spent most of his career) or first, where the Mets already have Pete Alonso and potentially Dom Smith. The Mets have Jeff McNeil, who also bats left-handed, at second.
The Mets have other left-handed bats, in fact. There’s a good chance Michael Conforto has played his last game for the Mets; he has reportedly already declined the qualifying offer and will test the market. The club should be looking for a right-handed hitting, starting outfielder this winter.
And the Mets are a defensively underwhelming team. The Mets will presumably have Smith, McNeill and Brandon Nimmo in the everyday lineup batting lefty. If they add another left-handed bat to the major league roster, a defensive upgrade is a significant need.
So, if the Mets don’t need Canó, how can they make his contract disappear? And, most importantly, can they do it in a way that actually helps the big league ballclub?
Canó has two years remaining on his contract with a $24 million pricetag per season. That’s a lot for any team to consider on a 39-year-old who has been out of baseball for a year.
But there’s another team that might be interested in moving a comparable pricetag.
The Chicago Cubs owe right fielder Jason Heyward $24.5 million for the next two years. Heyward’s offense disappeared in 2021 and the Cubs are clearly looking to rebuild after trading three other key pieces from their 2016 championship roster at the deadline.
However, Heyward had two productive seasons before 2021. He posted OPS+ of 100 in 2019 and 129 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Though he bats left-handed, Heyward is still considered a very good defensive right fielder. The likelihood that he’s the starting right fielder in Chicago are slim; he is undoubtedly considering the rest of his career coming off the bench.
If the Mets could flip Canó to Chicago straight-up for Heyward, it could help both ballclubs at an almost break-even cost.
Canó could potentially DH for the Cubs, who don’t have as many lefties in their lineup as the Mets. He could also get some time at second base as the Cubs install Nick Madrigal as their everyday player at the position; Madrigal is coming off a season-ending injury and was acquired from the White Sox in the deal sending Craig Kimbrel to the other side of the Windy City.
Heyward is seven years younger than Canó and would be the Mets’ best defensive outfielder. He has championship experience and has been a leader for the Cubs. And a change of scenery might help rejuvenate his career.
What’s keeping the deal from getting done? The Mets don’t have a general manager… or manager… or president of baseball operations… so it would require Sandy Alderson to make the deal.