Brodie Van Wagenen’s first weeks as Mets general manager have been marked by the relative minutia of a young baseball offseason: front-office changes, minor-league signings and other organizational housekeeping. Nothing that would significantly impact the major-league team, nothing that would help the 2019 Mets become the contenders they say they plan to be.
That is very close to changing in a very big way.
The Mets’ pending bold, franchise-changing megadeal with the Mariners — the first major move of what could be a series of them this offseason — took firmer shape Friday as the teams came close to completing their terms, sources said. In the agreed-upon framework, second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz would come to New York and a five-player package would head to Seattle: outfielder Jay Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak, outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic, pitching prospect and Freeport native Justin Dunn and reliever Gerson Bautista.
The trade is not done — one source suggested the i-dotting and t-crossing could linger into next week — and the teams still have to decide how much cash Seattle will include, not an insignificant hurdle. That money will be to offset Cano’s salary. Cano, who will need to waive his no-trade clause to join the Mets, is set to make $120 million over the next five seasons in a contract negotiated by Van Wagenen a half-decade ago.
While the Mets stand to get better on paper, this trade comes with plenty of risk, too. The club is prioritizing the nearer-term future — the next couple of seasons — while sacrificing part of their future in the form of Kelenic and Dunn, both first-round draft picks in the past three years and top-100 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
The Mets are betting that Cano, 36, will remain a productive player after serving an 80-game PED suspension in 2018 and that Diaz, 24, will sustain his All-Star production in the late innings. Last season, Diaz had a 1.96 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP and a majors-high 57 saves. Cano had a .317/.363/.497 slash line in 41 post-suspension games.
The other benefit for the Mets is dumping Bruce ($29 million the next two years, according to Cot’s Contracts) and Swarzak ($8 million next year). In terms of the 2019 payroll, the Mets break about even here before factoring in the money Seattle will include. Bruce and Swarzak total $22.5 million; Cano makes $24 million and Diaz something close to the league minimum ($555,000).
That would preserve whatever payroll flexibility the Mets began the offseason with. Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has offered effectively no insight into how much Van Wagenen and staff are permitted to spend. Cot’s Contracts estimates the Mets’ 2019 obligations at $144 million (including raises for arbitration-eligible players). In 2018, they had an Opening Day payroll of about $150 million.
If and when the trade is completed, it will mark the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise Van Wagenen made during his first public comments as Mets GM.
“We will infuse new talent to the roster to supplement what is already in place and what we already have,” Van Wagenen said last month. “We will be creative, collaborative and proactive.”