Losing Two Former First-Round Picks, Mets Acquire Cano and Diaz

While Robinson Cano missed most of the 2018 campaign due to PED suspension, Edwin Diaz proved to be the top close in baseball last season with 57 saves. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday afternoon, the New York Mets officially acquired eight time All-Star Robinson Cano and flame-throwing closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners. Giving up two former first-round picks in the process, the move signals that the Mets are all in for the 2019 season.

New York sent outfielder Jay Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak, right-hander Gerson Bautista and top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in exchange for the two ex-Mariners. While I like that first-year General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen is trying to make moves vigorously, this one comes with a ton of risk.

Sending away struggling veterans in Bruce and Swarzak seems like a valuable part of this trade for the Mets. At 31-years-old, Bruce played in 94 games during 2018 after playing in 146 throughout 2017, hitting for a measly .223 batting average with nine home runs, 37 RBIs and a -0.4 WAR. Swarzak struggled mightily in his first year with the Mets, struggling with injuries for parts of the season to post a -0.4 WAR as well as a 6.15 ERA in 26.1 innings.

The 23-year-old flame-throwing reliever Gerson Bautista also had problems finding the strike zone all last year, falling behind in counts and giving up 18 walks throughout the minors in 2018. It caused him to pitch for a lousy 5.14 ERA in 49 innings between Double-A affiliate Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas. He also gave up six runs over 4.1 innings with two dingers and five walks in his “cup of coffee” opportunity with New York.

However on the negative side for the Metropolitans, first-round pick Justin Dunn had a quality year in 2018. Throwing for a 2.36 ERA in 45.2 innings of short-season Single-A ball with Port St. Lucie, Dunn went 6-5 in the win-loss column for Double-A Binghamton, averaging a 4.22 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 89.2 innings. Jarred Kelenic, who was drafted sixth overall by the Mets last season, has proven that he can become a five-tool player in the future at just 19-years-old.

This is the biggest blockbuster trade to happen so far this off-season, and it’s tough to tell if it’s one the Mets won. Sure, the Mets still have multiple youthful players including their number one overall prospect Andres Gimenez and a major-league ready Peter Alonso at number two, but this is a move that hurts their core for years to come. New York scouted Kelenic for three years in high school for a reason, and he could really become a star in the future.

You also have to take a hard look at the contract of Robinson Cano. At 36-years-old, he still has five years and $120 million left on his 10-year, $240 million contract after being suspended 80 games last season for breaking the league’s drug policy. Seattle did send $20 million to New York in the process, bringing Cano’s contract down to $19 million a season, but that is still a hefty fee to bring on such an aging player.

Never hitting less than .280 the past 10 seasons, Cano has proven time and time again that he is a premier major league ballplayer. He hit .303 in 80 games for the Mariners last year, totaling 10 home runs, 50 RBIs and a 3.2 WAR. In 2017, he hit .280, his lowest average since hitting .271 in 2008 with the Yankees, but did have 23 bombs and 97 RBIs for a 3.4 WAR. His WAR in 2016 was 7.3.

As a Mets fan, you have to be optimistic that Cano can come off this suspension strong, and play a high level of baseball at the plate like he has for years before. But, with the long history of injuries and veteran players struggling while in Queens, it’s a risk I was hoping this new regime wouldn’t take. Time will only tell the impact Cano can make with his bat in a lineup that struggled last season.

For Edwin Diaz’s case, he was the clear key acquisition in this trade. The 24-year-old had a 1.96 ERA in 2018, led the majors with 57 saves and was clearly the best closer in baseball. In 2017, he had a 3.27 ERA over 66 innings with 34 saves, and in his first year in the majors in 2016, only had 18 saves over 51.2 innings. Although he had a ton of success in 2018, it’s unsure if he can continue his dominance into 2019 and onward. 

New York did receive him at an absolute discount though, who only made $571,000 in 2018 and won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2020. He won’t hit the free agent market until 2023.

This trade proves that the Mets are ready to build a winning ballclub, with reports of Van Wagenen being aggressive every day to try and make more moves. That’s important, because the Mets certainly can’t become complacent and believe this is the one move that can propel them forward. We have holes throughout our lineup at the catcher position and outfield, and certainly need one or two bullpen pieces to bolster the pitching staff.

I’m excited to see what Van Wagenen’s next move will be. Stay tuned for more New York Mets offseason reports in the coming weeks!