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What’s in it for Robinson Canó anymore?

Robinson Canó has a secured contract, a Hall-of-Fame resume, and universal respect in MLB. So why does he keep on playing?

Here’s the growing list of baseball teams Robinson Canó has played for so far in 2022:

  • Estrellas de Oriente (10 games)
  • The Dominican Republic (7 games in the Caribbean Series)
  • New York Mets (12 games)
  • San Diego Padres (12 games)
  • El Paso Chihuahuas (21 games)
  • Atlanta Braves (1 game, current team)

That would be a lot of teams for even a fringe veteran, but we’re talking about Robinson Canó, easily one of the five best Dominican players of all time and currently playing under a 10-year, $240 million contract. Based on how he’s being passed around from team to team, however, you would think he’s an anonymous player just fighting to stay in the league. Half of that is true, anyway.

His latest stop may be his most comical. When Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies broke his foot last month, the Braves plugged his spot on the infield with Orlando Arcia and patchwork options while the team rocketed up the division standings. Now in the midst of their critical series against the Mets, the Braves executed a troll job by not only trading for Canó’s minor-league contract, but by calling him up and starting him at second base against their rivals. It would be a troll job, anyway, if Canó weren’t arguably the worst player in the league, which over twelve games with both the Mets and Padres he’s shown that he just might be. 

Teams want Robinson Canó in their clubhouse

There are still good reasons to sign Robinson Canó in 2022. Apart from being one of the greatest Dominican players of all time, he’s also probably the most beloved player to ever come out of the island, and any organization with young Latino players should jump at the chance of including Canó in their clubhouse. It also helps that the Mariners and Mets are paying the vast majority of the money he’s owed through 2023, meaning teams like the Padres and the Braves can take a cheap flier on a baseball legend. 

There’s also a chance that Canó can somehow regain his bat speed on what many consider to be the prettiest swing in the game. The Dodgers seemed to find value out of Albert Pujols last year after the Angels cut the veteran, and Pujols has parlayed that half-season success towards a smooth finish to his career with the Cardinals. Maybe the Braves think they can do what the Mariners, Mets, and Padres couldn’t do and fix him. He’s off to a good start, anyway, going 2-3 in his first game with Atlanta. 

The question is, what does Canó get out of this? 

Canó has had a comical season

So far, the answer has been a whole lot of embarrassment. It needs to be reiterated that Canó has been arguably the worst player in baseball this year, and at 39 years old there’s little hope that he can ever again provide replacement-level value, much less good value. He also graciously accepted a minor-league stint while playing for the Padres and suffered the horror of starting on SpongeBob night. And for his patience, he’s been rewarded with what will almost certainly be a brief stint with the Braves, one where he’s treated as a punchline to mock their division rivals. 

Most other players in this situation wouldn’t dream of going through this. They wouldn’t dare play in the Dominican Winter League, or in the Caribbean Series, or anywhere in the minors, much less in El Paso on SpongeBob night. Most other players would see the nearly $25 million still owed to them and stick around on the free agent list before cruising into retirement. 

And yeah, just about every major leaguer does everything they can to stick around in the majors as long as possible, but there’s something different about Canó. No matter where the game is, no matter how much he’s getting paid, no matter how he’s being used, Robinson Canó just wants to play baseball.