By Kyle Brasseur
Field Level Media
The Seattle Mariners received a blow on Tuesday when star second baseman Robinson Cano was served an 80-game suspension by Major League Baseball for testing positive for the diuretic furosemide, violating MLB’s joint drug agreement.
Furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, has been known to be used as a masking agent by track athletes. Cano’s suspension means MLB was able to prove he was using it to mask a drug, which led to the 35-year-old dropping the appeal and accepting his suspension.
Cano claims the substance was given to him by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment without his knowledge, but the suspension mars his reputation as one of the game’s best second basemen regardless. His 305 home runs are second all time among those to primarily play the position behind only Jeff Kent, and his 1,206 RBIs rank eighth and his 2,417 hits are 12th among second basemen.
So where do the Mariners (and Cano) go from here? Here are five quick thoughts:
5. Hall of Fame or Hall of Shame?
Entering this year, Cano was putting together a career worthy of first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame. Now, his chances might as well be out the window. The eight-time All-Star and four-time top-five MVP finisher joins the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and many others on the list of players to have their Cooperstown credentials discounted by being linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds, the game’s all-time leader in home runs, has topped out at 56.4 percent of the 75 percent needed for induction in six years on the ballot. And he was never suspended for PED use during his playing days. What does that say for Cano’s chances?
4. What about Cano’s contract?
This isn’t just a one-year problem for the Mariners. While Cano will lose more than $11 million in salary during his suspension, the team is still on the hook for $120 million owed his way over the next five seasons. Not to mention, Cano has a full no-trade clause, meaning he won’t be easy to get rid of even if other teams are interested. The Milwaukee Brewers have found with Ryan Braun that there isn’t much of a market for disgraced former stars even if they go back to having success. “We will support Robinson as he works through this challenge,” the Mariners said in a statement. We’ll see how long that lasts.
3. Can Seattle get through this?
Speaking of the Mariners, Cano really put them in a bind this year. It used to be that we would find out about players being definitively linked to PEDs well after they allegedly used them and the team had already reaped the benefits. Now, the team gets the raw end of the deal. Cano is suspended 80 games and is ineligible for the postseason if the Mariners are to make it for the first time since 2001 — the longest postseason drought in the four major North American pro sports. Seattle entered Tuesday third in the American League West at 23-17, and losing its No. 3 hitter for more than half the remainder of the season isn’t going to help.
2. In Gordon Beckham we trust?
When Cano hit the disabled list Monday as the result of a fractured fifth metacarpal in his right hand sustained on a hit-by-pitch, the Mariners promoted Beckham from Triple-A Tacoma to take his place. Now, Beckham, who owns a career .239 average across 10 major league seasons, finds himself with the starting job potentially handed to him for the next three months. (Cano’s time on the DL counts toward his suspension.) The Mariners don’t have a top middle-infield prospect close to the majors to turn to, nor do they want to transition center fielder Dee Gordon to second, where he had played the majority of his career entering this season. Top potential trade options this summer include the Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier and the Oakland Athletics’ Jed Lowrie, but Seattle is regarded as having one of the worst farm systems in the game, so there is little to offer potential trade partners.
1. Will the real Cano please stand up
Even if the Mariners find a way to get by while Cano is suspended, who knows what they’ll be getting back upon his return. How much of Cano’s star-level production has been the product of PED use? How will he respond to a new target on his back? There’s no telling what to expect with Cano this season or moving forward, but the Mariners are going to have to figure out something — or else the next five years in Seattle could be a painful slog.
–By Kyle Brasseur, Field Level Media (@KyleBrasseur)