End of the Canó era?
Photo: Keith Allison, Creative Commons License
Reports are flying around the Interwebs (sourced to Joel Sherman of the New York Post and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic) that Mariner General Manager Jerry Dipoto is close to unloading second baseman Robinson Canó and his giant contract onto the New York Mets.
Well, not all of his giant contract. Any deal would likely include a hefty sum of cash going to the Mets and the Mariners taking on a big contract from New York's roster. But the end-goal of this is clearly to get out from under the remaining five years of obligations to Canó.
The rumored deal would also include closer Edwin Díaz as the sweetener to get the Mets to take Canó. Losing Díaz would hurt the M's, but the closer "position" is the most volatile and arguably overvalued in the modern game, so though we'd hate to see him go, it wouldn't be the end of the world.
The Mets have a number of prospects that Dipoto is interested in, including 23-year-old pitcher Justin Dunn and 19-year-old outfielder Jarred Kelenic. Both were first-round draft selections (2016 and 2018, respectively), Dunn out of Boston College and Kelenic out of high school. Dunn split last season between Class-A and Double-A (8-8, 4.39 combined), while Kelenic started his pro career with two stops in rookie leagues, the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League (.286/.371/.468 combined).
The big contract the Mets would unload to Seattle could be that of outfielder Jay Bruce (two years remaining, $14 million each), who would find himself traded away from the Mets for the second time in 16 months—New York traded him to Cleveland in his contract year of 2017, then Bruce returned to the Mets as a free agent before the 2018 campaign. Another possible inclusion is reliever Anthony Swarzak, due $8.5 million in 2019 before becoming a free agent. Swarzak was 0-2, 6.15 for New York last year and owns a career mark of 23-32, 4.30 ERA over nine Major League seasons. Former Mariner LHP Jason Vargas ($8 million plus a $2M buyout for 2020) and outfielder Juan Lagares ($9M) are other options the Mets may want to unload in a deal.
Whether or not a deal with the Mets comes together—and Canó has full no-trade rights he would have to waive—it's clear Dipoto wants to move on from the star second baseman. Canó was signed as a free agent by Dipoto's predecessor as GM, Jack Zduriencik, in December 2013 for ten years at an annual figure of $24 million.
The current chatter is that the deal under discussion is as follows:
- To the Mets: Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz
- To the Mariners: OF Jay Bruce, RHP Anthony Swarzak, 2B/3B Jeff McNeil, minor-league OF Jarred Kelenic, minor-league RHP Justin Dunn
McNeil was 6th in Rookie of the Year voting last season despite spending most of the year in the minors. With the Mets, he went .329/.381/.471 in 63 games.
Should this deal happen, the Mariners' middle infield situation would be just as clogged as it is now; the M's would have Dee Gordon, Jean Segura, and McNeil all everyday-ready for second base and Segura and possibly Gordon suitable for shortstop. Dipoto may still be listening to offers for Segura as well.
Bruce is something of a sunk cost but may fit as an everyday DH for now. Swarzak likewise doesn't show much potential to be worth his paycheck, but would be the cost of doing business. McNeil would be a solid get if there's a place to play him, and Kelenic and Dunn are top-tier prospects, though a ways away from the Majors.
UPDATE THE SEQUEL:
Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the trade is expected to be completed tomorrow, suggesting all that remains is to get no-trade rights waived and/or medical reports reviewed. The New York Post reports that Bruce and Swarzak have been informed they are being traded to Seattle.
No word so far on any cash amount going to the Mets. In contracts alone, the Mariners would take on $36.5M for the life of Bruce and Swarzak's deals while ridding themselves of $120M for the (longer) life of Canó's. Díaz and McNeil are essentially a wash as the both are near or at the league minimum until their arbitration years.
SNY TV's Andy Martino reports that the Mets are not 100% ready to include McNeil and have offered 22-year-old RHP Gerson Bautista (3-1, 5.22 ERA in 31 relief appearances in Triple-A last year) instead. If they do not include McNeil, the Mets are faced with a similar problem to the Mariners' in that Canó would need to displace another second baseman or change positions.
Met fans don't appear too pleased with any of this, if the reaction on Twitter is any indication:
To max out at 83 wins.— Andy (@atk825) November 30, 2018
Do you need an elite closer if you never have a lead past the 8th?— Zach Jones (@ZekeBones34) November 30, 2018
If this is a fact, there will be Mets fans going on eBay to sell their fandom to the highest bidder.— Art (@orangestreak) November 30, 2018
UPDATE THE THIRD:
Sherman's latest report says McNeil is out, Bautista is in. This makes it less of a steal for the Mariners, or at least less of an immediate positive impact. Bautista is in some ways very much like Díaz—a hard-throwing right-hander that can top 100 MPH on the radar gun, was converted from starting to relief, and shot up the minor league ranks quickly. Though Bautista did make his Major League debut in 2018, he would appear from the numbers alone to need a season in Triple-A; after posting modest numbers as a starter in advanced-Class-A ball, he moved up the Mets' ladder as a reliever from Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas to the Mets in one season, but despite dominating stuff, recorded only modest statistics (4-1, 5.14 ERA, 3 saves in 49 IP in Double-A and Triple-A combined; 0-1, 12.46 in five appearances with New York). He did perform well in the just-concluded Arizona Fall League season (1-1, 2.38 ERA in 111⁄3 IP), but that's a small sample size. He is currently playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
No McNeil would simplify the Mariners' middle infield—barring more moves, it would be Dee Gordon at second Jean Segura at short—but would also mean all the wheat from this deal starts 2019 in the minors while the chaff—Bruce and Swarzak—plays out its time in Seattle.
UPDATE PART IV, THE UPDATING:
The trade is still not a done deal, with reports now saying it is not expected to be finalized until Monday. There are no snags, apparently, but is some haggling still over the amount of cash Seattle will include. According to Passan, the eventual figure is expected to be no more than $30M.
UPDATE V, RISE OF THE UPDATES:
The particulars are all finalized and the only steps left are for each player involved to pass his physical. Canó has waived his no-trade rights for this instance and the Commissioner's office has approved the transfer of cash. Medical reviews are expected to be completed Monday, at which time this will be officially a done deal.
The final deets:
- To the Mets: Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz, $20 million cash
- To the Mariners: Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Jerred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista
- Mets assume $120 million in contract obligations to Canó through 2023; Díaz still pre-arbitration. Mariners assume $36.5 million in contract obligations to Bruce (through 2020) and Swarzak (through 2019), other three are pre-rookie status.
Díaz and Canó?
The M's may trade Edwin Díaz in order to also trade Robinson Canó. Is that a worthwhile idea?