After spending the first 6 years of his career in New York, Robinson Cano is on his way back to the Big Apple. The only difference is this time he will be playing in Queens instead of The Bronx. The trade is official. Robinson Cano and elite closer Edwin Diaz have been traded to the New York Mets for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista. Seattle will also send $20 additional million to cover part of Cano’s contract. Seattle has been awfully busy trading Alex Colome and James Paxton earlier this offseason.
The trade was reported by Joel Sherman of the NY Post:
Full deal is Diaz, Cano and $20M to #Mets for Bruce, Swarzak, Kelenic, Dunn and Bautista. Mets will pay Cano 5 yrs $63M once subtract how much owe Bruce/Swarzak plus $20M
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 2, 2018
Cano, 36, is coming off a bit of an odd season. He was suspended during the 2018 season for using performance-enhancing drugs but still put together a very productive season. Cano hit .303 with an OBP of .374 in 2018 over the course of 310 at-bats. His production actually never dropped off after getting banned for PED’s either. Cano still was a 3.2 WAR player despite missing 80 games.
Cano has actually lived up to the contract thus far. After the 2013 season, Cano signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million. Cano hit .296/.353/.472 during his tenure with the Mariners has the 17th WAR among position players since 2014. The problem is the backend of the contract will likely become an albatross. Cano’s bat has shown that it will likely age well but he is no longer an elite defender and may have to move into a DH role within a few years. No one wants to pay a 40-year old $24 million per year. With five years remaining, it’s doubtful that Cano will still be a productive player even three years from now so that’s why money was included in the deal.
The biggest motivation for the Mets was acquiring Edwin Diaz. If you don’t know who Edwin Diaz is then maybe you should because he is the best closer in the sport. Diaz, 24, comes with 4-years of team control and is coming off a 57 save season. Diaz’s impressive numbers go well beyond the number of saves. There’s no question that Diaz is the best in the business and it’s why he was included in the deal to take on Cano’s contract. In 2018, Diaz notched a 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and 15.2 strikeouts per 9. That’s as good as it gets.
The Mariners have two sets of players coming over. The first set is the veteran players who come over from New York are Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak. Both of which are included in the deal to offset some of the Cano contract. Bruce is owed $26 million over the next two years. Swarzak will earn $8 million in the final year of his deal. Both players underachieved a year ago as free agent pickups last winter. Bruce was a -0.4 player in 2018 hitting .223 with an OBP of .310. Bruce also stuck out 75 times in 319 at-bats. Swarzak was somehow even worse. His 6.15 ERA was deserving of being released. Maybe Swarzak can recapture his 2017 magic but the 2018 version was a total nightmare.
The second group of players are prospects coming to Seattle. The most promising of the group is Jarred Kelenic who was the 6th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. This seems like a high price tag to give up for a player who may have superstar potential. The guy was the 6th pick in the draft for a reason. Prospects are prospects so it’s too early to judge Kelenic’s inclusion in the deal but it seems odd they would part with a player they drafted just months prior. Kelenic is the 62nd ranked prospect in the sport according to MLB.com.
Justin Dunn was the Mets first round selection in 2016. Dunn, 23, reached AA this year and had some success. In 2018 in the minors, Dunn went 8-8 with a 3.59 ERA. The scouting report on Dunn according to MLB is a pitcher who has great stuff. His fastball sits around 93-95 with his best-offspeed pitching being a pretty nasty slider. The former Boston College alum is the 89th ranked prospect in the sport. The Mets give up their 3rd and 4th ranked prospects from an organizational standpoint. Gerson Bautista comes over in the deal as well who reached the Majors with zero success. Bautista was a former piece in a prior deal with the Red Sox for Addison Reed.
Overall, I hate this deal for the Mets. I was under the impression that the Mariners were desperate to rid themselves of the Cano deal. Adding in Diaz to a Cano deal was just the cost of doing business. Sure, the Mariners will eat some of the Cano contract but they should be happy with this return. The Mets are taking on $100 million of Cano. Plus, you could make the argument that Kelenic and Dunn would have been a fair price to pay for Diaz alone. For the Mariners to dump a good portion of Cano’s deal and get two top 100 prospects is a steal for the Mariners. Jerry Dipoto has to be smiling ear to ear today knowing that he ripped off rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen. Again, I’m a big believer in prospects being prospects but the Mets overpaid here. One of the reasons they probably overpaid is because Van Wagenen was Cano’s old agent who helped him get the monster contract. That screams conflict of interest to me. Van Wagenen probably made an emotional decision and valued Cano as an asset rather than a salary dump that should have given him leverage in a trade. If the Mets wanted Cano and Diaz it should have cost them Bruce Swarzak and no-name prospects.
There are a lot of things that need to happen for the Mets to salvage this deal. Cano has to continue to hit at a productive level through his age 40 season. Unlikely but not impossible. Cano also has to play 2nd base for 5 more years unless the NL adopts the DH. Diaz has to remain the best closer in the sport. The two top 100 prospects need to turn into complete busts. If those things happen then the Mets won this deal. I wouldn’t bank of all of those going right. I get that Edwin Diaz is the best closer in the sport but he’s only providing 70 innings per season. Will Edwin Diaz be nearly as reliable saving games in New York compared to the Pacific Northwest? Was that really worth taking on a big contract and giving up two highly sought after prospects? Probably not. If the Mets wanted a closer so bad, they could have signed a guy like Zach Britton, Craig Kimbrel, or David Robertson on the free agent market and kept the prospects to trade in a separate deal. Typical Mets. Bring in a former Yankee who is past his prime. What could go wrong!