Cano and Diaz trade is a very smart move for the Mets in 2019

Robinson Cano
"Robinson Cano" by Keith Allison https://flickr.com/photos/keithallison/14841660603 is licensed under CC BY-SA

The New York Mets and Seattle Mariners completed the biggest deal of MLB’s offseason so far which saw Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz trade the west coast for the big apple. Cano will wear 24 with the Mets, just as he did with the Yankees.

The Mariners sent $20 million to the Mets in the deal, while the Mets got rid of Anthony Swarzak and Jay Bruce’s contracts. Prospects Jarred Kelenic, the sixth overall pick in 2018, Gerson Bautista, a 22-year-old reliever, and right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn were sent to the Mariners.

Cano still has five years and $120 million left on the monster contract he signed with Seattle. The money sent to New York, along with the salary relief from Swarzak and Bruce departing, helps lessen the financial burden. Diaz, one of the game’s best relievers, is on league minimum currently and does not hit free agency until 2022.

New Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen parted with two highly regarded prospects in this deal. Kelenic is a potential five-tool star, but Van Wagenen has prioritised 2019 and 2020 rather than waiting to win.

Jerry Dipoto, Seattle’s general manager, had previously stated he was not keen on moving Edwin Diaz. The Mariners are embarking on a rebuild, though, and Dipoto was keen to get rid of Cano’s remaining money. Attaching Diaz, who is their biggest asset, was perhaps the only way to do that.

Relievers are volatile. Diaz, in that sense, is a gamble for the Mets. When adding relief arms was an offseason priority, it’s hard to look at it that way. They have one of the best rotations in the sport, and it was key to get a closer who could turn quality starts into victories. Jacob deGrom was often let down by the bullpen in 2018 (they led the league in relief losses). It was crucial to address that if the Mets are to contend in 2019.

The main concern with this deal is Cano’s money. That’s a problem for the future rather than the present, however. Cano is still an asset as a hitter. He had 136 wRC+ in 80 games in 2018 – he clearly improves the Mets’ line-up next season and probably beyond.

Bruce and Swarzak play a part in this too. Bruce struggled with an 89 wRC+ last season and Swarzak was unrecognisable from his 2017 self when he was healthy. The removal of their combined $22.5 million for next year gives vital payroll flexibility to fill other holes through either free agency or trade.

Losing two top prospects hurts New York’s already mediocre farm. Kelenic and Dunn were ranked third and fourth respectively on MLB’s 2018 list, but Kelenic has not played above rookie ball and Dunn posted a 4.22 ERA in 15 Double-A starts this season. For all the promise, the outfielder is far from a guaranteed MVP. Dunn may well never make the bigs.

Prospects are overvalued. The haul the Red Sox gave up for Chris Sale is a good example, particularly given Yoan Moncada’s indifferent Major League career to date. The Mets have a core capable of contending for a championship right now – this deal is a way of maximising their chance of winning the next two years.

Citi Field is already home to a frightening rotation. In Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario, the Mets have the beginning of a solid offence. Having added Diaz and Cano, they are just a couple of pieces away from being a real threat. Relief arms to bridge the gap to Diaz are key, as is an outfield bat.

The Braves are formidable, and the Phillies are willing to spend at an extravagant rate. The 77-win Mets could have stood still or torn it down. Van Wagenen has been proactive and backed the players they already have with this deal.

This is a very smart move for a team being run to a strict budget. Van Wagenen has strengthened the line-up for next season and added an elite closer for relatively little prospect cost while keeping money free to add other players this winter.

About Sam Cox 97 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play. Twitter: @SamRCox_