At this point, the Seattle Mariners are having a fire sale.
First, they traded starting pitcher James Paxton, other players like Zunino, Heredia, Colome, and now they’ve traded second baseman Robinson Canó and closer Edwin Diaz to the Mets. Here are the details of the trade.
Mets Get: Robinson Canó and Edwin Diaz + $20 million
Mariners Get: Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista
First, let’s dissect this from the Mets point of view since they are receiving the superstars in this deal.
2018 Stats: 80 GP, .303/.374/.471, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 3.2 WAR
Canó is an 8-time all-star who turned 36 in October. He is presumably on the downslope of his career and was suspended 80 games last year for using a banned substance. There are a lot of surface negatives about Canó, but at the same time, you can’t overlook the value that he brings to a team.
Last year he was on pace to be an all-star before his suspension. He finished the year playing 80 games (roughly half the season) and was on pace for 20 HR and 100 RBI, hitting .303. That’s outstanding production! Before 2018 (suspension), he had not played in less than 150 games since 2006. That’s incredible durability! For a team that’s had a long list of recent injury history, Canó provides a reliable, everyday presence at second base.
The Mets realize that he makes them better now, but also too that in a few years his production will drop off dramatically. That is why the extra $20 million dollars thrown in by the Mariners was important in the negotiations. New York will pay out the remaining 5 years of his contract at $100M dollars of what was $120M. Though it cost them some of their prized prospects, the Mets are looking to make significant strides before their young controllable players like deGrom, Syndergaard, and Conforto hit free agency.
Finally, many critics of this deal have not hesitated to shed light on Canó’s recent suspension as a reason for caution in conducting this trade. He tested positive for the diuretic Furosemide, which itself does not enhance performance, but dilutes urine samples and aids in the masking of PEDs. He admitted to taking it, prescribed to him by a licensed doctor in the Dominican. However, he denied ever taking a substance to cheat the game. This does not conclusively mean that Canó did or did not use performance-enhancing drugs. All it means is that for over a decade and taking dozens of drug tests, he has never been caught using PEDs.
After deciding to tank this offseason, the Mariners have been desperate to shed his contract off the payroll. Canó’s full no-trade clause has made it extra difficult for the Mariners to find a suitable partner for a deal. I would imagine that because of this, the Mariners were the ones who initiated talks in their pursuit to tear down and rebuild. Canó loved playing in New York with the Yankees and was presumably more than open to returning there to play with the Mets. Their new GM, Brodie Van Wagenen, was one of the crafters of Canó’s 10-year deal with the Mariners back in 2013.
This is a salary dump for Seattle, their biggest motivation behind the deal. Canó is one of the contracts they wished to get rid of in order to bring back value that will help them years down the road.
2018 Stats: 73.1 IP, 57 SV, 124 K, 1.96 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 15.22 K/9, 3.2 WAR
The biggest offseason need for the Mets was their bullpen. They traded Jeurys Familia at the trade deadline last year and lost AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins to free agency. Those three were the biggest pieces of their ‘pen in 2018.
Diaz will fill the role of closer for the Mets after having a career year in 2018. He led all of MLB with 57 saves, fourteen more than the nearest total by Wade Davis of Colorado. He had the most strikeouts among relievers not named Josh Hader (124) while only allowing 17 walks all year.
There is a lot to like about him. He’s 24-years-old with four years of controllability. He’s not going to financially cost them anything but the league minimum. His arm is electric, pumping high 90’s up and by hitters. He will fill in right away as the lockdown ninth-inning guy in Queens.
While Canó is a great player, Diaz was the prized gem of this trade. He was the reason the Mets listened to trade proposals involving Canó and his calamitous contract. Without adding Diaz in the deal, there was no guarantee the Mariners would find a place to move Canó.
And now let’s take a look at the return to the Mariners.
2018 Stats: 94 GP, .223/.310/.370, 9 HR, 37 RBI, -0.4 WAR
Acquiring Jay Bruce was one of the ways for the Mariners to offset some of Canó’s contract. Seattle was not one of the five teams on his no-trade list, allowing the Mets to dump his expendable contract and look for upgrades in the outfield elsewhere. He’s due $28M over the next two seasons and should either see regular play time in Seattle’s outfield alongside Smith and Haniger or possibly as a DH. That is all barring a trade between now and the start of the season.
Bruce’s time spent in New York did not begin or end well. In two stints with them, he didn’t have the success people were hoping for. After being traded at the deadline in 2017, he returned to the Mets in 2018 and hit 9 home runs in only 94 games due to a hip injury.
A struggling home run bat that’s also below average defensively could perhaps do better off with a change of scenery. He can go to a team without the pressure of competing for a playoff spot and just play out the rest of his contract. That or the Mariners can flip him to another team for valuable prospects. We’ll have to wait and see what trade master extraordinaire Jerry Dipoto has in mind.
2018 Stats: 26.1 IP, 6.15 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 31 K, 4 SV, -0.4 WAR
An underperforming Swarzak was also thrown in to offset some of Canó’s contract. The veteran is owed $8.5M this year coming off a season where he was troubled by a calf strain, an oblique strain, and shoulder inflammation (Mets gonna Met). Can anyone not see why the Mets were eager to get rid of this guy? He could also be a trade candidate in the coming months.
Many in the Mets organization were VERY hesitant to include Kelenic in this deal and rightly so. Kelenic was the 6th overall pick in the 2018 draft as a left-handed hitting outfielder out of Waukesha West High School in Wisconsin. The first Wisconsinite in history be picked in the first ten picks of an MLB draft was signed for a little more than $1M under slot value ($1.85M). As a pro, he’s hit .413 in 46 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League and .253 in 174 at-bats in the Appalachian League. The Mets stuck him in centerfield where he displayed above-average speed and the arm strength to play right field.
He’s lauded for his work ethic and attitude that complement his raw abilities. Lots of scouts believe he will be a superstar someday and that his floor is an above average major leaguer. He is ranked the 62nd best prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline and was the Mets #3 ranked prospect. This is the most likely piece to come back and haunt the Mets years down the road.
Dunn was the Mets’ first-round selection in 2016, 19th overall out of Boston College. There he was a relief pitcher until his junior year when he transitioned to the rotation and had a great year. The Mets have used him primarily as a starter in the minor leagues, but this could be a case where he comes up to the Major Leagues and finds success as a back-end relief pitcher.
Last year he threw 89.2 innings at Double-A to a 4.22 ERA and a .258 opponents’ batting average. His fastball currently sits 93-95 and his slider has good bite to it. There are still some questions about Dunn’s durability and whether or not his 6’2” 185-lb build will hold up in the future. He’s the #89 prospect in baseball and #4 in the Mets’ organization. With Dunn the potential is definitely there; the Mariners see it too.
This guy flew under the radar in the deal because he was not in the Mets Top 30 Prospects but has already seen a handful of big league innings. He was one of the three pitchers the Mets acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for Addison Reed at the 2017 deadline. The 23-year-old was signed by the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic back in 2013. His career didn’t get started until 2014 after he served a suspension for a positive steroid test.
This year he threw 49 innings in the minor leagues, allowing a 5.14 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. He also pitched 11.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.38 ERA for the Scottsdale Scorpions. Like many hard-throwing pitchers, he has trouble controlling the strike zone, but like they always say, you can’t teach 100. I’m sure the Mariners are thinking, with a little fine tuning, he has a chance to become the next Edwin Diaz. The low-risk addition to the trade could pay high dividends later on.
There had also been some speculation about utility man Jeff McNeil being a part of this trade. Of course, adding him to the deal would’ve gone against Brodie Van Wagenen’s philosophy about becoming a more versatile team. Jeff McNeil can play anywhere on the infield and is basically Ben Zobrist 2.0. He was promoted to the Mets in July and hit .329 in 63 games.
Before the trade, he was the favorite to start at second base for the club moving forward. Now he will be relegated to a backup role and fill in for players here and there. What McNeil needs is a full season to showcase how good of a hitter he really is. That might mean taking at-bats away from Frazier or Canó. One thing’s for sure: if he’s hitting well, Mickey Calloway will get him into the lineup.
For the time being, the Mets are the team that got better in this trade. Seattle took a flyer on future studs. Where these two franchises are at right now, this is the right move for both of them.
In the past, the New York fan base has criticized Mets management for not making moves like this in a big market. New leadership has led to a shift in their organizational thinking. It is clear that the Mets’ window for greatness is closing and Van Wagenen is trying to capitalize while they can still win.
Canó makes the Mets a better offensive team. They need to be able to score runs in a division home to all three NL Cy Young Finalists from a year ago. They also need to make sure they’re able to score more than a couple runs during deGrom’s outings this year. Thanks to their prolific pitching staff, they plan on playing in a lot of close games next year. Also adding a talent like Edwin Diaz gives them a lot of security in holding close, late-inning leads.
This trade doesn’t make the Mets a contender just yet, but it’s a huge step in that direction for a franchise that is signaling “all in” right now.
Photo Credit to The Seattle Times