Robinson Cano
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Report: Mets-Mariners trade approved pending physicals

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The Mets have all but cemented a blockbuster trade that will send outfielder Jay Bruce, right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak, and prospects Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista to Seattle in exchange for Mariners second baseman Robinson Canó and closer Edwin Díaz. As things stand on Saturday night, Canó has waived the no-trade clause on his end, and ESPN’s Tenchy Rodriguez reports that he only needs to pass a physical in order for the clubs to solidify the deal. While Díaz passed his physical on Saturday, it might still take another couple of days for the teams to approve medical information on all remaining players in the trade, at which point an official announcement will be made.

According to an earlier report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the deal was also pending approval from the commissioner’s office for the $20 million the Mariners are expected to kick in. The cash will help offset the outstanding $120 million balance on Canó’s contract, though it’s significantly less than the reported $60 million the Mariners were initially thought to be sending along with the veteran slugger. When the dust settles, the Mets will be on the hook for $63 million of Canó’s expected salary through 2023, with the Mariners eating $34 million in the combined salaries for Bruce and Swarzak.

No other changes have been made to the deal as it was first reported a few days ago.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.