The Mets and Mariners have the parameters in place for a trade that will bring elite closer Edwin Diaz and eight-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to New York. The deal, as it stands now also has the Mariners sending enough cash to cover a significant portion of the remaining $120 million on Cano’s salary, an industry source confirmed.
The deal is not expected to be finalized on Friday, per a league source. It includes multiple medical records to be reviewed and Cano needs to officially waive a no-trade clause, which is not expected to be an issue.
The Mets would also be dumping the salaries of Jay Bruce, who is owed $28 million over the next two years, and Anthony Swarzak, who is in the final year of his two-year, $14 million deal with the Mets, onto the Mariners’ payroll.
That roughly leaves $85 million of Cano’s salary remaining over the next five years and the Mets sources said the Mariners will cover much of that.
The Mariners, on the verge of a rebuild, were very motivated to move Cano, 36, which made this blockbuster deal possible.
An eight-time All Star with a career .304/.355/.493 slash line over 14 years, Cano hit .303/.374/.471 with 10 homers and 22 doubles in 80 games last season. He should still be able to add a little pop to the Mets lineup in 2019, at least. But he missed nearly half of the 2018 season after he was busted for using PEDs and was suspended 80 games.
Packaging Cano with Diaz is the Mariners best chance to move the aging infielder without taking a huge hit.
The Mets are still paying a high price, however, for Diaz in terms of prospects.
The Mariners insisted on getting two of the Mets top prospects back in the deal. The Mets will send their 2018 first-round pick, Jarred Kelenic, to Seattle along with right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn and right-handed reliever Gerson Bautista, who the Mets acquired from the Red Sox in 2017 for Addison Reed. Kelenic, 19, rose quickly through the rookie ranks and established himself as a possible future star.
In return the Mets are getting the 24-year-old Diaz, who is already considered one of the top relievers in the game. He is coming off a season in which he posted a major-league leading 57 saves. In just three seasons in the big leagues, he has 109 saves.
That already would put him among the best relievers who are currently available on the free agent market like Craig Kimbrel and Zach Britton. But Diaz is a much better deal, because he is under team control for the next four years. He does not even become arbitration eligible until after next season.
And he has been devastating on the mound.
In 191 innings pitched over his major league career, Diaz has struck 301 batters, walking just 64. This season, in 73.1 innings pitched, Diaz struck out 124 batters, second among relievers to Josh Hader. He averages 98 miles an hour on his four-seam fastball, which generates a lot of swings and misses, and 90 mph on his slider, according to Brooks Baseball.
Rebuilding the bullpen was the Mets top priority for 2019 and getting Diaz is a great start.
The deal also demonstrates the change in the Mets organization under new GM Brodie Van Wagenen. The former player agent, who ironically represented Cano when he signed the 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners, is starting off with a big bold move. Former GM Sandy Alderson was more conservative and perhaps the Mets over-valued their prospects under his regime. The Mets now seem more willing to use young talent as resources to improve the major league club. But, even when this deal goes through and Cano and Diaz are in Flushing, the Mets are still facing a big rebuilding project. With the Phillies eager to spend and the Braves young and surging upward, if the Mets are going to back up Van Wagenen’s boasts of being able to win in 2019, they still have a lot of work to do.
They may have the best starting staff in the National League on paper and it’s fair to try and build around it, but they have seen that fall apart all too often in the past. They need to tighten their defense up if they are going to attempt to win on the shoulders of that starting staff. The Mets need a veteran catcher and a reliable center fielder, since Juan Lagares has not only struggled to stay healthy, but has been inconsistent offensively.
And that takes resources.
The Mets payroll was at $150 million in 2018 and has about $144 million already committed with expected raises through arbitration, according to Cots contracts. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon has said that Van Wagenen has the resources to make changes, but has declined to specifically comment on if they will increase the payroll.
While this was a great start for the novice GM, Van Wagenen’s wheeling and dealing has to continue to rebuild this Mets roster if they are going to keep up even within their division in 2019.