Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano will be the newest members of the Mets, and though the team hasn’t officially announced the move yet, Brodie Van Wagenen has officially introduced himself as the risk-taker in residence at Citi Field.
According to sources close to the Mets, they have orchestrated the first blockbuster deal of the offseason, with the Mariners sending young and talented closer Diaz and aging star Cano to New York in exchange for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and, perhaps more pivotally, three prospects: outfielder and first-round draft pick Jarred Kelenic and pitchers Justin Dunn (originally of Freeport) and Gerson Bautista. The deal is pending physicals.
The Mets will dump the contracts of Bruce ($29 million the next two years, according to Cot’s Contracts) and Swarzak ($8 million next year) in the deal.
Diaz — an All-Star with a 1.96 ERA and 57 saves last year — makes around the league minimum of $550,000. The Mariners also have agreed to take on $20 million of Cano’s remaining salary, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Cano is owed $120 million over the next five years.
But while the Mets know what they’re getting in the Mariners’ young closer — or at least they hope they do — bringing Cano back to New York has the potential to define Van Wagenen’s early identity as the Mets’ general manager. The stakes are high: Cano is 36 and coming off an 80-game PED suspension. Diaz, 24, throws 100 mph and the Mets hope they can get the durability they need. And notably, if things go south, the optics are risky: Acquiring another fading All-Star at the tail end of his career while the gems of the Mets’ farm system are off helping someone else get to the playoffs.
But despite all that, there is some method to the madness . . . once you get past Cano’s age, his contract and his suspension.
Diaz — the prize in this trade — is under team control and will not be eligible for arbitration until 2020. He also helps bolster the back end of a bullpen that needs a lot of help. As for Cano, he looked no worse for wear after coming back from his suspension last year, hitting .317 with 27 RBIs, a .363 on-base percentage and a .497 slugging percentage in 41 games. The two-time Gold Glove winner, while no longer exhibiting the range of a 28-year-old, still is a perfectly adequate infielder and saved four defensive runs last season, according to FanGraphs. That same site had his WAR at about 3 last year although he missed half the season and broke a finger. Adjusting for aging curves, FanGraphs projects a WAR of 3 and 2.5 in Cano’s next two seasons before a larger dive after he turns 38.
It also helps that Van Wagenen knows Cano well. After all, he was the agent who authored that blockbuster 10-year, $240- million contract. He also made his bones with the Yankees and knows how to play in the city.
Still, it’s a gargantuan risk. The highly regarded Kelenic tore apart the Gulf Coast League after he was drafted, hitting .413 in 12 games, and is the 10th-best prospect in the majors, according to MLB Pipeline.
Cano was never formally found to have performance-enhancing drugs in his system but was dinged for a well-known masking agent, a diuretic called furosemide, which also was responsible for the suspension of at least two minor-leaguers in 2015. He staunchly denies taking PEDs, though Major League Baseball clearly felt otherwise. As a result, there’s little telling how his body and abilities will hold up, though it is true that Cano has been consistent and sturdy throughout his career.
Either way, this does highlight the Mets’ approach this offseason. Trading for Cano and Diaz, and trading away prospects in the process, means Van Wagenen intends to bet the house on the next two years. No matter how it shakes out, it at least holds to the philosophy he outlined in his introductory news conference.
“We will win now, we will win in the future,” he said then. “We’re going to develop a winning culture and a winning mindset. And we will deliver this city and fan base a team they can be proud of.”
Now all it has to do is work.