Last night’s report about the massive trade between the Mariners and the Mets seems to be holding true this morning, with today’s reports suggesting that the deal is close to done. Its not totally done — New York reporters are saying that it won’t be officially announced today — but in the meantime, here’s everything we know about it:
- Infielder Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz will go to the Mets;
- Outfielder Jay Bruce and reliever Anthony Swarzak will go to the Mariners, as will prospects Jarred Kelenic, an outfielder, and pitchers Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista;
- The Mariners will also send cash to the Mets to help defray Cano’s salary. How much cash is not yet known. Cano, of course, is owed $120 million over the next five years.
Bruce is not cheap himself, mind you: he makes $13 million in 2019 and another $13 million in 2020. Swarzak will make $8 million in 2018. Combined, those two make almost as much as Cano will make this upcoming season, so that salary offset should be seen as a key part of the deal too.
As for the prospects . . .
Kelenic was drafted in the first round, sixth overall, by the Mets in the 2018 draft. In 56 games for the Gulf Coast League Mets and Kingsport Mets, he hit .286/.371/.468 with six home runs and 42 RBI. Baseball America rated him the fourth-best prospect in the Mets organization. Some reports are saying he’s a future star, and that may be, but he’s still only 19 and is a long, long ways away from making any sort of major league impact.
Dunn, 23, was the Mets’ first round pick in 2016 and, according to Baseball America, he’s the fifth-best prospect in the organization. Dunn began the year in High-A St. Lucie and went 2-3 with a 2.36 ERA before a promotion to Double-A where he started 15 games, going 6-5 and posting an ERA of 4.22. He struck out more than ten guys per nine at both stops.
Bautista actually had a cup of coffee in the bigs this past season, appearing in five games and allowing six runs over four and a third. Originally a product of the Red Sox system, he has a 3.12 ERA over five minor league seasons, primarily as a reliever. He strikes out a lot of guys. He gives up too many hits. Based on his statline, he seems like a project, but all projects are fun on some level.
That’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of moving money and because of that it’s almost folly to say, definitively, who “wins” this deal. We can say that everyone involved did something they wanted to do.
- Are adding a star in Cano, who even if he’s getting older, can still hit and may feel extremely motivated now that he’ll be back in New York. He may not have anyplace to play in three years, but for the next two years it’s not hard to imagine him helping the Mets offense and at least being passable in the field;
- Got one of the best closers in baseball in Diaz, who is under team control and very affordable for the next couple of years; and
- Unloaded salary and got cash to at least help offset Cano’s cost.
- Got three prospects with considerable upside to help replenish their mostly barren minor league system;
- Unloaded Cano and saved at least some money in the process; and
- Got some warm bodies and contracts in Bruce and Swarzak that will help them fend off any grievances from the player’s union that their newly-launched tank job is too tanky. Not that anyone should be super inspired by that.
Which is not to say that this deal is beyond criticism. We can’t know this for sure, but it seems like the Mariners could get more for Diaz in a standalone trade than in a Cano salary-dump. And, by taking on Bruce, Swarzak and sending cash to New York, how significant the salary dump really is is open for debate. The prospects are nice, but prospects routinely break your heart. Even the top one here — Kelenic — is only 19 and is by no means a sure thing major leaguer, no matter how much hype you hear about him today.
On the Mets side, I think people are selling Cano’s abilities short and are allowing his suspension last year to obscure the fact that he’s still a good hitter, but I also think all of the talk about his “star power” and his “great relationship” with Brodie Van Wagenen, his former agent, is empty noise. “Star power” and hanging out with your friends does not win baseball games. The above point about prospects notwithstanding, trading three of them for a closer, basically, is a hefty price. Especially given how many relievers there are out there on the free agent market. All of that said, I think the Mets are better with Cano and Diaz — who, no matter what some Mets fans may say today is no random and fungible bullpen arm — and minus the prospects than they were with Bruce, Swarzak and the prospects. People who are arguing against that notion have yet to convince me and, I think, have a pretty hefty burden to do so.
Ultimately, I am skeptical of anyone who says, with certainty, that either the Mets or Mariners are winning (or blowing) this trade. There are too many moving parts and the prospects are total wild cards. It could look equally great or equally stupid for either team in a couple of years. The Mariners improved their farm system and unloaded a guy they felt they needed to unload. The Mets got better in the short term, which is something people have been begging them to try to do for a long, long time. Beyond that, there are uncertainties galore.
Which makes it a pretty fun baseball trade.