In his introductory press conference as Mets general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen promised creativity and aggressiveness in his quest to rejuvenate the roster. Barely a month into his tenure, he has made good on those words with a franchise-altering trade.
The Mets and Mariners finalized and announced a blockbuster deal on Monday, sending eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano and standout closer Edwin Diaz to Flushing. In exchange, the Mets are shipping outfielder Jay Bruce, relievers Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista, and prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to Seattle. The Mets are also receiving $20 million from the Mariners to offset Cano's salary, according to a source.
It’s official! We’ve acquired 8x All-Star @RobinsonCano and All-Star closer @EdiDiaz44 from Seattle in exchange for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista, minor league RHP Justin Dunn and minor league outfielder Jarred Kelenic. #Mets pic.twitter.com/h6Qd7sQvoW— New York Mets (@Mets) 3 de diciembre de 2018
A press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday at Citi Field.
The deal affirms what words alone could not: that the Mets, coming off consecutive fourth-place finishes in the NL East, are committed to vying for a playoff spot in the first year of Van Wagenen's tenure.
For the Mets, the prize of the trade is not Cano but Diaz, who is coming off a franchise-record 57-save season and is under team control through 2022. Still merely 24 years old, Diaz produced a 1.96 ERA and struck out 124 batters over 73 1/3 innings this season, earning the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award. In games that Diaz entered with a lead, the Mariners went 66-0.
While Diaz fits the bill of a proven closer, the Mets are paying a steep price to acquire him. Kelenic was the No. 6 overall Draft pick last June, is MLB Pipeline's 62nd-ranked prospect and has drawn nearly universal praise from scouts. He was perhaps the most valuable trade chip in the Mets' farm system. Dunn, another former first-round pick, broke out in 2018 and ranks 89th on MLB Pipeline's list. Bautista is a 23-year-old reliever who struggled in his rookie season, but has hit 101 mph on the radar gun.
"We view Kelenic as a true five-tool player with a very high ceiling," Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. "Dunn is another former first-round Draft pick who we think has a bright future on our pitching staff. ... Bautista has demonstrated an impressive high-velocity pitch mix."
Also rumored to be part of the deal when things grew serious last Thursday, Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil was not included in its final iteration. He could move to third base or the bench, or the Mets could use Cano at first base, though that would likely delay the arrival of New York's No. 2 prospect, Peter Alonso.
Much depends upon how much Cano, who served an 80-game suspension last year for violating MLB's joint drug policy, can contribute in his age-36 season. The five-time Silver Slugger continued to make hard contact when he played last season, finishing with a .303/.374/.471 slash line, 10 home runs and 50 RBIs in 80 games. He waived his no-trade clause over the weekend to return to New York, his home from 2005-13 with the Yankees.
After the 2013 season, Cano and his then-agent Van Wagenen negotiated a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners in a joint venture between CAA and Roc Nation Sports. Those agencies later split, and Van Wagenen divested his remaining interest in Cano's affairs when he left CAA to become the Mets' general manager.
Now, those two are reunited via a deal that will keep Cano tethered to the Mets through age 40. With the remaining salaries of Bruce ($28 million) and Swarzak ($8.5 million) off the books, plus $20 million in cash from the Mariners, the Mets are effectively paying Cano $12.7 million per year through 2023 -- though he will be a $20 million line item on their payroll each year.
In 2019, the Mets are actually spending less on Cano and Diaz than they would have for Bruce and Swarzak. One of their most significant signings last winter, Bruce struggled through foot, hip and back injuries, appearing in just 94 games and, at one point, going 116 consecutive plate appearances without a home run. Swarzak, another key offseason signing, missed much of the season to an oblique injury and posted a 6.15 ERA when healthy. Now in full rebuild mode under hyperactive Dipoto, the Mariners could flip both players to new teams before the offseason's end.
Consider the Mets on a divergent trajectory. Multiple scouts and executives defined the Cano trade as a first salvo for a team in win-now mode. With a bit more short-term payroll flexibility thanks to the deal, the Mets are likely to acquire at least one additional reliever this offseason, a right-handed bat and perhaps a catcher. In his first winter on the job, Van Wagenen figures to be active in both the free-agent and trade markets.