by Paul West
When the Mets got him, Robinson Cano was a necessary addition to a roster undergoing renovation and a lineup whose approach had famously gone astray. One of the best hitters of his generation, Cano imparted wisdom to younger players regarding situational hitting, mechanics, and reading pitchers and defenses. Several of the Mets’ players and staff attested to both his concrete and intangible value; and the proof was in the pudding, as he was one of the more productive hitters in a once-dangerous offense that had lost their beloved hitting coach and mostly chased their tails at the plate.
This year has been decidedly different, which is why Cano was the right choice to designate for assignment when the time came to condense the roster.
This year, the Mets come in with Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Eduardo Escobar to support the remainder of their never-out-of-a-game offense from recent years. Of equal importance was the departure of Javy Baez, a streaky hitter whose perpetual ‘yolo’ approach led to occasional power binges and prolonged slumps characterized by poor discipline–at the plate, and in interactions with fans and opponents. This year’s Mets have combined patience, presence of mind, situational hitting, and renewed collective confidence. Ironically, Cano has stuck out as one of the offense’s few weak links, while key roleplayers like JD Davis and Dom Smith–both of whom can play multiple positions, albeit marginally in the case of left field–have recovered from last year’s swoon and been productive. Travis Jankowski has been exactly as expected: a fourth outfielder with speed, who can play all three outfield positions and serve as a pinch-runner late in games. Jeff McNeil has also rebounded from last year’s woes, batting .361 so far and hitting well from different spots in the lineup; and Luis Guillorme–the Mets’ other lefty bench option and infielder–has not just out-hit Cano this year, he’s more defensively versatile.
None of this means Cano won’t be missed. As Francisco Lindor said, Cano is “a good teammate, a good person and obviously he’s got a great track record and we all know what he’s capable of doing … I don’t care how old he is, the mind is still fresh and he can still hit.” All of these things are true; but while the Mets’ ecosystem is clicking the way it is, and all other available starters and roleplayers are playing the way they are, Cano is simply the odd one out.
Is it possible that Cano will end up on another team, find himself at the plate, and make mets fans wish he was still here? Absolutely. Still half a year shy of 40, Cano is exactly what people mean when they say ‘professional hitter,’ and hitters of his kind have produced at his age. But it won’t be a situation like Wilmer Flores or Justin Turner, where they gave up prematurely on players whose development was still worth waiting out. The Mets no longer need the degree of mentoring he provided when they were in transition, and it’s increasingly looking like they’ve entered their championship window. Cano will be missed, but cutting him was the move of a team with the bigger picture in mind.