Bad news for Robinson Cano is good news for DJ LeMahieu.
LeMahieu was already one of the top position players available on the free-agent market, and now the 32-year-old would be a perfect fit for either the Yankees or Mets.
The Mets already had three clear needs heading into the offseason: starting pitching, catcher and center field.
With Cano out for the entire 2021 season after receiving a 162-game ban for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Protocol, having tested positive for the banned substance Stanozolol, the Mets can add second base to the list.
Because Cano will have to forfeit his salary next season, the Mets will save a little more than $20 million, giving new owner Steve Cohen even more payroll flexibility.
Perhaps the simplest solution for the Mets to make up for the loss of Cano would be to use Jeff McNeil at second base, with J.D. Davis at third. Andres Gimenez could also play second.
That’s almost certainly the direction the Mets would have gone if the Wilpons still owned the team.
Cohen has yet to put his imprint on the organization, but it seems highly unlikely he’ll be looking for simple solutions.
Instead, the Mets could make an even stronger play for LeMahieu, who turned down the $18.9 million qualifying offer from the Yankees.
Coming off a two-year, $24 million deal in The Bronx, LeMahieu can be used at first base, second and third, and is in line for more years and a significantly higher salary — both of which the Mets can now easily afford. That could lead to a bidding war between the New York teams, with LeMahieu also sure to draw interest from elsewhere, as well.
Other free-agent infielders could enter the picture, including Tommy La Stella. The 31-year-old can play second and third and is productive at the plate, but hasn’t had more than 321 plate appearances in a season. Cesar Hernandez, 30, led the AL in doubles this past season and can play second base, third and shortstop.
Another free agent, third baseman Justin Turner, seems likely to stay with the Dodgers. And rejoining the Mets would mean a reunion with Sandy Alderson, who as general manager designated Turner for assignment in 2013.
If the Mets choose not to spend the saved money on an infielder, they also now have more cash to go after J.T. Realmuto to address the catching situation or add to whatever they might offer right-hander Trevor Bauer to join Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and — eventually — Noah Syndergaard in the rotation.
George Springer and Marcell Ozuna in the outfield were already options to add firepower to the lineup.
Cano still has two years and $48 million owed to him after the suspension, with the Mariners picking up $7.5 million and the Mets on the hook for the rest, so they aren’t done with Cano just yet.
Still, in an offseason in which the Mets already figured to be extremely busy in unpredictable ways, they have even more room to maneuver.