Baseball’s silly season is off to a roaring start with Brodie Van Wagenen looking to make a first big splash as newly-minted Mets GM by taking on the onerous contract of his most famous steroids-stained former client, Robinson Cano, in order to land elite closer Edwin Diaz.
It’s a complicated deal with a lot of moving parts over the past couple of days, but it appears the principal players in the deal will be Cano and Diaz for Seattle’s part, and Jay Bruce, Jeff McNeil and two of the Mets’ top prospects, outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Justin Dunn from the Mets. What is not clear is how much of Cano’s remaining $120 million contract Van Wagenen negotiated, as the point man for Jay Z’s Creative Artists Agency in December of 2013, are the Mets going to wind up absorbing?
Even subtracting the remaining $28 million owed Bruce, we’re still talking about a $92 million deficit here.
On the surface, that would seem insurmountable, especially when you consider why the Yankees’ talks with the Mariners about a Cano-Jacoby Ellsbury exchange of terrible contracts broke down. Ellsbury is owed approximately $47 million through 2020, which would have represented a $73 million gap. But when the Yankees asked the Mariners to add enough additional cash to the deal to essentially turn Cano into a $10 million per year player, Seattle flatly refused. End of discussions.
You have to believe these discussions wouldn’t have advanced this far without some understanding of how much of Cano’s remaining money the Mets are going to have to absorb. As much as Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto has been desperate to unload Cano and the contract he had nothing to do with, he wasn’t willing to help the Yankees close a $73 million gap in a deal that didn’t include his closer, so why would he help the Mets on one even larger?
That’s why I’ll believe this deal when it happens. There has to be more to it than all the Silly Season scuttlebutt flying all over social media the last couple of days. Because if there isn’t, this means the Mets essentially would be paying upwards of $90 million, plus McNeil, a real baseball player who endeared himself to their fans last summer with his hitting and inspired style of play, plus two top prospects for Diaz — while Cano, at 36 with five more years on his contract and a steroids conviction that forever sullies him and assures him of never going to the Hall of Fame, becomes an untradeable player for them instead of Seattle.
If the deal does go down, Van Wagenen will undoubtedly spin it as part of his “win now” strategy — which can’t happen without a bona fide shutdown closer like Diaz, who had a 1.96 ERA, 7.29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, and a major league-leading 57 saves last year, and is under team control through 2022. He will point to Cano, even at 36, as being a significant upgrade at second base. But for how long? Another left-handed hitter in a lineup overstocked with lefty hitters. And maybe it’s just me, but why do I think giving up McNeil will come back to haunt the Mets the same way giving up on Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner did?