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Keidel: Mets Are Just Getting Started With Cano, Diaz Trade

Jason Keidel
December 02, 2018 - 3:34 pm

So after the Yanks pluck the first log from the Hot Stove, the Mets have joined the offseason party. And unlike past moves and managements, the Mets seem to mean business.

New GM Brodie Van Wagenen let the world know he's the boss by trading with Seattle for relief pitcher Edwin Diaz. And what better way to match the Yankees than to deal for a former Yankee? Indeed, the Mets also get second baseman Robinson Cano, the first homegrown Yankee of note over the last 15 years, and the only All-Star spawned by the farm system until Aaron Judge and the Baby Bombers flooded the Bronx. 

In return the Mets have shipped outfielder Jay Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak, and prospects Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista. Cano had to waive his no-trade clause to officially approve the trade, which was the easiest part of the whole thing. Gotham is Cano's ancestral home, the place of his baseball birth, and one of very few active players in the five boroughs who actually played for Joe Torre.

Like all things Mets, you see the intelligence and imprudence. Diaz is an excellent closer who will replace the departed Jeurys Familia. Last year Diaz appeared in 73 games, pitched 73 1/3 innings, and fanned an astounding 124 batters while notching an obscene 57 saves. Diaz also posted a 1.96 ERA and 0.791 WHIP. 

As far as Cano, 36, is concerned, this back-to-the-future fling assures us of two things. First, the Mets are desperate for some infield muscle and, in Cano's case, they now have an eight-time All-Star who's clearly on the back-nine of his career but has already blossomed in Gotham, and left with a World Series ring. 

Second, it proves Brian Cashman's patience paid off. After the 2013 season, the Bombers had to decide whether to keep Cano or let him fish  in the free-agent river. We couldn't be sure that, at 30, Cano was worth the risk of a sprawling deal that would bridge him to his 40th birthday. The GM chose the latter. 

Cashman was right. Cano cashed in, signed that monstrous, 10-year, $240 deal and the Yanks somberly moved on. While Cano still flashed the talent that made him such a natural NYC star, he wasn't going to get better in his 30s, which is the only way to justify that kind of contract. (Not to mention Cano was banned for 80 games for testing positive for PEDs.) 

He's still got five years left, so the Mariners must devour some cash for the trade to work. But not nearly as much as the Mets were supposed to get. Initially the Mariners were going to eat $60 of the $120 million left on Cano's contract. Then, for some reason, the Mets settled on $20 million. The Mets will have Cano's bat at its pseudo-prime for two years, then they will have to find a place to hide him on the field over his final three years. 

Call it irony or synergy or what you wish, but Van Wagenen is the one who worked with the Mariners as Cano's agent. And he is the one ushering Cano back home. For his part, Cano was meant to be here and play here. Of all the MLB players I've interviewed, no one was more relaxed or charming, or had the easy, disarming smile of Robinson Cano.

But as Boomer Esiason has said much of this week, we've turned this into the Robinson Cano Deal, as if Diaz were some marginal player to be named later, ignoring his substantial stats and sublime right arm. Guilty. This may not be the deal Mets fans dreamed about in front of the fireplace, but at least they are making deals worthy of bold ink. And Diaz is a bona fide fireballer who can close games, having blown just four in 2018.  

To that end, the Mets may snag another log from the Hot Stove. Word is the Mets are pining for Cory Kluber, the former Cy Young winner and current ace of the Cleveland Indians. (If the Mets are close to bagging a gem like Kluber, it makes you wonder where the heck the Yanks are in all this.) 

The Mets may not make all the right moves, but they are making moves. Mickey Callaway form the biggest group hug in the sport, can wax romantic about loving his club until they love themselves, but you need talent more than talk. With Sandy Alderson, you knew he was often the smartest guy in the room. The problem was he knew it, too, and often flooded the room with so many platitudes you had to leave for higher ground. Worse, the product on the field was just as soporific as his low-key sermons. 

Maybe the Mets have unshackled their GM to do what GMs are supposed to do - find fine players and pay them. If you don't have enough big-league players, then trade for some. The Mets just did that. And it sounds like they're just getting started with Edwin Diaz and Robbie Cano, don't ya know...

Twitter: @JasonKeidel