11:46am: The Padres are likely to finalize a deal with Canó tomorrow, tweets Dennis Lin of the Athletic. San Diego already has a vacancy on the 40-man roster, so they’d only need to make a corresponding 26-man transaction.
11:07am: The Padres are closing in on a deal with Robinson Canó, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Heyman’s colleague, Joel Sherman, reports (on Twitter) that San Diego is among a handful of teams that has expressed interest. According to Sherman, the eight-time All-Star is likely to sign a major league contract.
Canó was released by the Mets last week. New York had designated him for assignment on May 2, the date for teams to cut their active rosters from 28 to 26 players. Canó had started just under half the Mets’ games through the season’s first month, splitting his time roughly evenly between second base and designated hitter. He’d gotten off to a difficult start, however, hitting just .195/.233/.268 through his first 43 plate appearances.
The 17-year MLB veteran showed some worrisome statistical indicators beyond just the poor results. He made contact on a personal-low 73% of swings, a few points below this season’s league average. Canó also chased nearly half the pitches he was thrown outside the strike zone and hit more than 55% of his batted balls on the ground. At age 39 and coming off a full 2021 season lost to a second career suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, the Mets decided those early numbers were reason enough to move on.
One could also take the more optimistic view that Canó was merely shaking off some rust after the long layoff. A 12-game showing is an incredibly small sample off which to base any definitive conclusions — even regarding the elevated swing-and-miss and chase numbers. When Canó was last eligible to play before this year, he performed quite well. In 182 plate appearances during the shortened 2020 campaign, he hit .316/.352/.544 with ten home runs. That was the second of three seasons between 2018-20 in which Canó posted well above-average offensive production.
Of course, few players have matched Canó’s performance since he entered the league. He’s a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and has finished in the top ten of MVP balloting six times in his career. Were it not for his pair of PED suspensions, he’d be a virtual lock for eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. There’s little question Canó’s days as that kind of superstar are behind him, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility he could still be a useful hitter, particularly against right-handed pitching.
The Padres evidently believe that to be the case. San Diego has gotten incredible production from Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer in the season’s early going. Ha-Seong Kim, Jurickson Profar and Luke Voit each have unimpressive batting averages, but their combination of power output and (particularly in Voit’s case) huge walk numbers have propped up their overall performances. The rest of the lineup has struggled to varying degrees, and San Diego’s overall .227/.320/.364 team slash line is middle-of-the-pack.
The Friars are looking for affordable ways to bolster the offense. If they believe Canó is still an above-average hitter, there’s reason to roll the dice. The Mets remain on the hook for almost all of the $37.6MM still owed to Canó over the next two seasons under the terms of his original ten-year contract with the Mariners. If a deal were to get across the finish line, San Diego would owe him only the prorated portion of the $700K league minimum salary. That’s of particular import with the Friars just narrowly below the $230MM base luxury tax threshold, which they don’t appear eager to exceed.
Canó wouldn’t be a regular anywhere on the diamond for the Padres. Hosmer is a lock to hold onto first base so long as he’s hitting at this level, and Jake Cronenworth has second base accounted for. The right-handed hitting Voit is the primary designated hitter and figures to remain so, but Canó could spell him on occasion against righty starters while serving as a depth option on the right side of the infield.