CLEVELAND — The Mets’ future, or at least the version before Brodie Van Wagenen got his hands on it, had lockers about 15 feet apart Sunday in the American League clubhouse at Progressive Field.
One belonged to Jarred Kelenic, the other Justin Dunn, the Mets’ two former first-round picks sent to the Mariners — along with Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak — in the December trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
Seven months later, the two still have trouble believing it. They were together, down in Port St. Lucie for a Mets mini-camp, when the first hints of the blockbuster trade leaked out in late November. Dunn texted Kelenic from the golf course, and later the group was at dinner at a local sports bar, where the news flashed on the TV screen.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Is anyone else seeing this?’ ” Kelenic said Sunday before MLB’s Futures Game. “I just kept looking at the TV.”
Even when Kelenic’s mother called him, feeling that the rumors were legitimate, he tried to assure her otherwise, saying, “Mom, this doesn’t happen to first-year guys.”
Until it did. Sandy Alderson made Kelenic the No. 6 overall pick in 2018, and Freeport product Dunn was selected at No. 16 two years before him. But rather than becoming part of a championship foundation in Flushing, they now are key parts of Jerry Dipoto’s rebuilding vision in the Pacific Northwest. Kelenic went 0-for-3 in the Futures Game. Dunn pitched a scoreless second inning with a strikeout.
“At first, it was kind of tough to wrap your head around it — especially for me, being a New York kid,” Dunn said. “I live 35 minutes away, still to this day, you know. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I was close to playing at home, playing in front of family and friends. That would have been cool.”
So their only introduction to Van Wagenen was to say goodbye. It wasn’t how either expected his Mets career to play out, but it was another lesson in their continuing baseball education. As Van Wagenen told Dunn, it was a “business decision.”
“I understand that, being from New York,” Dunn said. “You know what winning means and you know how important the Mets are to the city, so he had to do the right move for his team, and that was help them win now.”
That was Van Wagenen’s plan, anyway. The reality is somewhat different. Kelenic, who will turn 20 next week and recently was promoted to high Class A Modesto, has raked at two levels this season, hitting .296 with 15 homers and a .929 OPS in a combined 73 games and playing every outfield position. The only thing that temporarily slowed his progress was a wrist strain, suffered on a slide shortly after his promotion, which prevented him from swinging a bat for two weeks. It was taped for Sunday’s game, but it hasn’t tarnished a breakout year.
Dunn, 23, a righthander, has a 3.82 ERA for Double-A Arkansas, with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He credited his changeup, taught to him by former Mets pitching guru Frank Viola, as a difference-maker this season.
Both prospects are acutely aware of how the Mets’ side to the trade turned out, with Cano looking every bit of his 36 years (.240, four homers) and Diaz in the midst of a worrisome regression (5.50 ERA, four blown saves). “People tell me about it all the time,” Kelenic said. “It stinks, in all honesty. I wish it was a win-win for both. I do. I mean, the season’s not over. It’s still early. I’m just trying to stay out of it, because there’s nothing I can do, you know?”
Dunn also believes it’s a little premature to pass judgment on the controversial swap.
“I mean, that’s baseball,” he said. “Who would think that Robinson Cano would be doing what he’s doing? And Edwin Diaz, you look at his stuff, it plays off the chart all the time. You could look up after the second half, and them come out and be the best players, and then this conversation is irrelevant, [then] it’s a great trade. Hopefully it works out for everybody and everybody comes out on top.”
Kelenic called it “unfortunate” that the Mets dealt him away, adding, “But who knows, I could always come back there. I never want to burn any bridges there.”
Both Mariners also remain tight with a number of former teammates and made sure to mention they’ll be pulling for Pete Alonso in Monday’s Home Run Derby. Dunn referred to Alonso as “his best friend” and said he’ll have his “Polar Bear Pete” T-shirt ironed and pressed for the occasion.
“Peter’s happy-go-lucky, he’s a teddy bear,” Dunn said. “So 'Polar Bear' fits him perfectly. He’s just something special. I mean, he’s amazing.”