Well, the hot stove is on fire right now! In just the past two weeks, we’ve seen Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann sign with Atlanta, Garrett Richards sign with San Diego, and the Mariners sent catcher Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay, as well as starter James Paxton to the Yankees. Seattle is in talks with New York again – this time, it’s the Yankees crosstown rivals. That’s right, the Mets are getting in on the trade fun!
Now, nothing is set in stone just yet, but the rumors keep flying around involving a trade that would potentially send Cano and Diaz to Queens in exchange for a package of prospects, according first to Jeff Passan. Ken Rosenthal then got a little more detailed, saying that according to sources, the Mets would send outfielder Jarred Kelenic (their 2018 1st Round Pick) and pitcher Justin Dunn (their 2016 1st Round Pick) to Seattle.
Right off the bat, I like this hypothetical deal for the Mets. They get an elite closer who is coming off of a season in which he saved 57 games, had a 1.96 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 208 ERA+ and put up some insane strikeout numbers: 15.2 K/9IP and 7.29 K/BB Ratio. He is under team control for four more years, as well. Cano is now 36 and is coming off a season in which he only played in 80 games, thanks to an 80 game suspension for PEDs. Those problems aside, he is still a good hitter (.303/.374/.471 slashline with a 136 OPS+ and wRC+). Aside from his suspension, the lowest amount of games that he had played in from 2007-2017 was 150. To put it simply, the dude is durable. His defense is still above-average, as he 4 DRS last year at second base. The M’s also experimented with him at first base last year which went, eh, I guess alright. It wasn’t ideal, but what can you do? His range isn’t what it used to be, but he’s 36 and that’s come to be expected.
The problem is that he is still owed $120M over the next five years, and that’s why the Mariners want to deal him. The only way I see this trade going down is if Seattle eats about half that contract. I can’t see the Mets including those two first round picks otherwise. At the same time, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto is probably including Diaz in an effort to sweeten the pot a little bit. Either way, this would work for both teams: Seattle gets two great prospects (Kelenic and Dunn both rank in the Top 100 on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 Prospects) and the Mets get an established bat and a fantastic closer under a team-friendly contract. The Mets can play Cano at second base for a few years until he breaks down and play Jeff McNeil at third base (he’s played there in 161 games professionally, so it wouldn’t be a terrible idea). Top prospect Peter Alonso would likely be the Opening Day first baseman. This could work out pretty well!
Except it can’t.
Shortly after the initial news broke out, Ken Rosenthal reported again that Jeff McNeil was being discussed in the trade, as well.
I hate this for the Mets. McNeil, the budding infielder who electrified the Mets offense after being called up on July 24, would be a great return for the Mariners, in my opinion. Keep in mind, after his call up, the Mets went 37-26. According to Fangraphs, he compiled 2.7 WAR in just 63 games, as well as slashing .329/.381/.471 with a 140 OPS+ and 137 wRC+. He is under team control for SIX MORE SEASONS after being a late bloomer and arriving to the majors at 26 years old.
The Mets have a decision to make, and it amounts on a few scenarios:
- They need to seriously consider if McNeil’s hot streak after coming to the majors was a fluke. If they believe this to be the case, then they can sell high on him while his value is up. But there is a serious risk that this guy is for real and they will be trading him for an aging infielder with an inflated contract.
- They need to seriously believe that Cano can continue putting up good offensive numbers. He’s 36 years old. It is not uncommon for hitters to begin breaking down at this point.
- Do they believe that Cano will put them in contention where McNeil can’t? Fangraphs has Cano with 2.9 WAR in 80 games this season. To me, 2.7 WAR in 63 games from a 26 year old rookie is more valuable than 2.9 WAR in 80 games from a 35 year old making $24M per year.
- Does the addition of Diaz make it that valuable for them that you add in a player of McNeil’s talent? Can they find another prospect that they can throw in?
To me, adding McNeil is a major risk for the Mets. He has major upside and has the type of contract that the Mets should be valuing right now, not throwing away. That is, if this trade even happens. Let’s wait and see.
By: Chris Perkowski