Veteran closer looking forward to next chapter

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Updated: September 21, 2013

Serving southwest Michigan since 1834
October 16, 2018
By Ben Hayden, Gazette Staff

 

He doesn’t light up the radar gun, or have the menace and intimidation that is common for many modern-day closers. But if there’s one thing Juan Canó is, it’s effective.

The 35-year-old veteran appears poised to test the free agent market for the first time since 2013 and he has mixed emotions about his time with the Kalamazoo Badgers seemingly coming to an end.

“I’ve had a great time here and I consider this place home, but it seems it’s time to move on,” said Canó, who earned $7,190,000 last season and has yet to be offered another contract. “I don’t blame Kalamazoo for wanting to move in a different direction, even I don’t know how long I’ll still be able to play this game.”

Canó’s fastball tops out at 90 miles per hour and his slider is an effective, but not dominant pitch. He has made his career simply by having pin-point control and keeping the ball in the park.

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“I miss barrels,” Canó joked about his pitching style. “I won’t blow anyone away, but I’m going to keep guys off balance and make them hit my pitch. Most of the time when that happens, it’s going to work out OK for me.”

Things certainly have worked out OK for Canó thus far in his career. He is the owner of a career 3.25 ERA and he came into his own in Kalamazoo in recent years, saving 29 of 34 in 2015, 24 of 25 in 2016, 31 of 36 in 2017 and 34 of 40 this past year. In total he has 140 career saves, good for 18th on the all-time PEBA list.

“It’s a tough job and nobody ever said it was easy. When you save the game, people expect you to save the game. When you blow the game, you’re the goat,” he said. “I love it though, there’s no spot I’d rather be in.”

It remains to be seen whether Canó will be able to land another job as a closer in PEBA, as teams typically tend to go toward the more typical flamethrower in that role.

“I can’t imagine I’ll be at the top of anyone’s free agent list, but I think my track record speaks for itself,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for years and doing it well. I want to close, but as long as I have a major league job I’ll be happy.”

Kalamazoo could end up being in on the veteran, but the team likely won’t extend him, hoping instead to let him go to free agency and get his services back for less than the over $7 million he would have to be paid in an extension.

“We can’t say enough about the job Juan has done for the team the past six seasons. He’s a consummate professional and has helped this team win a lot of games,” said general manager Cole Hobson. “Wherever he ends up, we wish him the best in his career.”

Canó had a brief taste of the postseason with the Gloucester Fishermen in 2008, but with over a decade now having not played on a winning team, the veteran’s choice in a free agent suitor is clear.

“Optimally I’d love to play on a team that has a chance to win a championship. Personal stats and accomplishments are great, but I’m at the point of my career where I’m hoping to play for a winner,” he said. “The interesting part in all that is that I think Kalamazoo could be that team in 2019 and beyond. There are some good young pieces there and I think the team is close to turning it around. I’d love to do it there but I’ll be happy wherever I end up if there’s a chance to play in the postseason.”