Cheatin' Cano to Mets?

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T15D23
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Cheatin' Cano to Mets?

Postby T15D23 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:42 pm

High-risk move for the Mets in their potential blockbuster deal with the Mariners
Ken Rosenthal

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On​ Sunday night,​ when​ I​ first heard​ the Mets were in​ contact​ with the Mariners​ about Robinson​ Canó, I​​ asked an agent for his opinion.

“Don’t see Canó fitting with the Mets for about 1,000,000 reasons,” the agent said.

On Thursday, after the names of the Mets’ prospects in the deal began to be reported, an executive from another club called me.

In essence, the exec wanted to know, “If new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is making deals like this, where can I sign up for one of my own?”

As with any trade, it will be years before we can accurately judge this blockbuster, the first of the offseason. But know this: Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto was said to be euphoric on Thursday over his expected return for Canó and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.

The return, once the deal is official, reportedly will include outfielder Jarred Kelenic, the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft, right-hander Justin Dunn, the 19th overall pick in ‘16, and right-hander Gerson Bautista, one of three pitchers the Mets acquired from the Red Sox for reliever Addison Reed at the 2017 non-waiver deadline.

It also will include outfielder Jay Bruce and reliever Anthony Swarzak, whose combined $34 million obligation will help off-set Canó’s remaining $120 million, as well as an unknown amount of cash that further will reduce the Mets’ financial commitment going forward.

At first glance, Dipoto is pulling off the baseball version of having his cake and eating it, too: He will save tens of millions on Canó while getting a substantial return on Diaz, whose value figured to be significantly higher if traded alone, unencumbered by Canó’s contract.

How much better, though, could the Mariners have done?

A rival executive said the trade breaks down into two separate but fair deals:

Diaz for Kelenic, Dunn and Bautista.

Cano for Swarzak and Bruce.

The exec believes the Mariners perhaps could have gotten slightly more if they had separated Diaz from Canó, adding he could better judge the transaction as a whole once he knows the amount of cash involved. But the question for the Mets, even as they admirably shift into win-now mode, is the same question every team faces in every trade: Could they have put their assets, both in dollars and prospects, to better use?

Neither player they will acquire fully merits their trust.

Canó, 36, will be wedded to the Mets for the next five years, without the availability of a designated hitter to cushion his defensive decline (though it is conceivable baseball will adopt a universal DH before his contract expires).

Diaz, 24, arguably was the best closer in the game last season, and he has four years of control remaining, the first at a bargain rate near baseball’s minimum $555,000 salary. But he is also a reliever, the most volatile species in the sport, and one of the most available, too.

Van Wagenen, who as an agent helped negotiate Canó’s 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract with the Mariners in December 2013, evidently sees him differently than most of us, regarding the player as a baseball savant who will provide the Mets with both tangible and intangible benefits. Even last season, when Canó served an 80-game suspension for violating baseball’s joint drug policy, he projected to nearly a six-win player according to fWAR – a superstar.

“His bat was real good late when I saw him,” said one scout, referencing Cano’s .860 OPS in 179 plate appearances after he returned from his suspension on Aug. 14. “But his legs won’t hold for defense later on.”

Commentator Keith Olbermann, speaking on behalf of Mets fans, provided on Twitter a list of second basemen who delivered soul-crushing performances after joining the Mets – Juan Samuel, Carlos Baerga, Roberto Alomar, Kaz Matsui, Luis Castillo. Canó will be motivated to restore his legacy and Hall of Fame candidacy. The Mets retained Jeff McNeil, one of the players the Mariners pursued, as protection at second. But even if Canó excels in ‘19 and even ‘20, it’s frightening to envision what he might be in ‘21, ‘22 and ‘23.

Diaz, due to his youth and rising but affordable salaries once he hits arbitration, is a far better bet. Still, the Mets could have gone about addressing their late-inning relief in entirely different ways.

The free-agent market is flush with relievers – Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Jeurys Familia, etc. The Mets could have signed two of them and retained Kelenic and Dunn. They could even have invented their own closer, as teams often do. But no, they had to have Diaz, who will make sense for them only if they find additional bullpen help, a catcher and center fielder – pieces they might acquire in their next big deal for, ahem, right-hander Noah Syndergaard.

Prospects are prospects, impossible to bank on despite the apoplectic reactions of many fans when their favorite Baseball America darling moves to another team. Too many teams fear trading young players, so Van Wagenen, if nothing else, deserves credit for acting boldly. But new GMs often make mistakes because they are not familiar enough with the players in their organization. Van Wagenen, beginning an entirely new career, figures to be even more prone to such mistakes. Who advised him on this deal? And to what end?

Dipoto raises his own questions, bouncing from one extreme to another; one rival executive says the GM’s abrupt shifts do not promote stability, organizational balance and responsible decision-making. Dipoto has now traded catcher Mike Zunino, left-hander James Paxton, Diaz and Canó from last season’s 89-win team. Shortstop Jean Segura might be next, and frankly, Bruce and Swarzak should not grow too comfortable, either.

At the GM meetings, after Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported the Mariners were “considering a full-fledged teardown,” Dipoto responded by saying such talk was, “dramatized.” Turns out the word Dipoto should have used was, “accurate.” If his moves are not “tearing it down to the studs” – something the GM vowed not to do – then what exactly are they?

Ah, but words are just words – baseball off-seasons are full of half-truths and misdirections, and actions are all that matter. The Mariners entered this off-season with the game’s worst farm system, according to Baseball America. Dipoto is improving it rapidly – the Yankees’ top prospect, left-hander Justus Sheffield, was the headliner in the Paxton trade. But the M’s have gone 17 years since their last postseason appearance, the longest drought in North American professional sports. And now their major-league team figures to be terrible in ‘19 and for a while good beyond, though Dipoto will have significantly greater payroll flexibility.

Many rival executives thought escaping Canó’s contract would be near-impossible, but Dipoto pulled it off while getting a return for Diaz that likely would have been lauded even if it had been for the closer alone. Dipoto was said to be on Cloud Nine on Thursday night. A person in touch with the Mets’ front office, meanwhile, said some team officials were crushed by the prospect of losing Kelenic, noting, “I think two of their guys might cry.”

Initial assessments of trades often prove to be over-reactions; Kelenic, after all, is probably three years away. But in this case, the initial assessments were telling, too.
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