NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin’ Korner: Are the Mets Being Creative or Destructive, Yanks Move Aaron?

Neil Miller/NYSportsday

“We’ll win now and we’ll win in the future.” That was a bold statement from Brodie Van Wagenen who said that when he was introduced as the new Mets General Manager last month. He neglected to say that in order to “win now,” you have to sacrifice some of your “future.”

You have to give to get but how much are you giving and how much are you getting back?

The Mets are reportedly on the verge of completing a deal with the Mariners to acquire 36-year old Robinson Cano and 24-year old stud closer Edwin Diaz. It’s still unclear as to what the Mets are giving up although it’s pretty certain that the package begins with Jay Bruce and reliever Anthony Swarzak. The deal is also reported to include two former #1 picks, outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right handed pitcher Justin Dunn.

Van Wagenen wanted to make a “splash” with his first big move as Mets GM, but is this move in the best interests of the team. On the surface, the Mets are a better team, but how much better are they really? There are still holes to be filled including catcher, first base and an outfield spot with, preferably a right handed hitter.

When a team brings in a new General Manager, that person will try and make a “splash.” With an “out of the box” hire, that “splash” may not be what’s best for the team.

There are some out there who say, “prospects are just that, prospects” while generalizing that they never pan out anyway so why not take advantage of their value while it’s high.

Van Wagenen has been on the job a little over a month, but has much does he really know about the Mets farm system that enables him to make a smart decision, (and not a mistake) on the prospects that are reportedly going back to Seattle. Has he been leaning on Omar Minaya, who is probably the best pure talent evaluator of any of the Mets’ executives.

Seattle is essentially saying to teams, ‘If you want Diaz, you will have to take back Cano,’ with the knowledge that they would also have to pick up some of the remaining money. They also want to replenish their farm system while relieving themselves of a financial burden.

No matter how good Diaz turns out to be, the trade will still be measured, somewhat, by the success of Cano, at least for the first two or three seasons. The Mets cannot expect the 36-year old to be as productive as he once was, especially when he gets to 39 and 40 years old.

As my nysportsday.com colleague Joe McDonald pointed out in his column, “Do the Mets really want Cano on the roster at his age 40 and 41 seasons being owed eight figures a year?” That’s the long term risk. The short term risk is if Cano has declined more than people think.

Last season, Cano hit .303 with 50 RBI’s in 80 games but that was only half a season. Would his numbers have been good if he played the entire season or would he have worn down in the latter half? They will most certainly have an albatross of a contract when this deal is in its final stages. Will this trade turn out to be five players for a solid closer and what if one of these “prospects” turns out to be a productive major league player.

There are no guarantees with young players, no matter how highly touted they are, but sometimes you have to heed what you’re hearing, and when it’s so overwhelmingly one sided from those in the know you also need to trust your gut. Kelenic may be worth that trust.

John Harper, who is one of the best baseball reporters in the business tweeted a quote from two scouts who said the “Mets would be making a big mistake if they give up Kelenic.” In the tweet, one of the scouts sized up Kelenic by saying, “He’s still young but has a chance to be a superstar.” Scouts don’t usually go out on a limb like that unless they really see something special.

I would usually take that kind of assessment with a grain of salt but some of the scouts that I’ve spoken to are almost unanimous with that sentiment about Kelenic. Some called Kelenic the “best pure hitter in the Draft.” One scout said, “He [Kelenic] has the look of an elite hitter.” While the 19-year old is not that big, (listed as 6’1” 195 lbs) he has yet to fill out. Another scout said Kelenic’s swing is “mechanically sound with plus power and he has a good feel for the strike zone.”

In previous columns, I have advocated for the Mets to be creative with their approach this off season but when does creative become destructive. That’s a fine line that teams have to negotiate when making pivotal personnel decisions that could have a great impact on a team’s future.

The Mets lost out on Yan Gomes (ICYMI: Nationals reportedly acquired Gomes for a minor league outfielder) but there was an interesting development concerning a catcher. 28-year old James McCann was non-tendered by Detroit. McCann is a solid, defensive catcher who, despite a down season in 2018, has shown an ability to be semi-productive at the plate. The Mets should be interested.

According to Fancred’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees had discussions with the Marlins about catcher J.T. Realmuto and would be willing to offer Gary Sanchez in return. Miami reportedly likes Sanchez but is asking the Yankees to add another of their top prospects as part of the return package. The Yankees believe Sanchez is worth enough that they don’t have to add another top prospect. If he’s “worth enough” in a trade, why deal him now? Are the Yankees admitting that they’re concerned about Sanchez’ defense or the times he appeared to give up at-bats last season?

While the Yankees appear to be closing in on free agent pitcher Patrick Corbin, there is a need for a versatile infielder. Yanks may bite on Jonathan Schoop who was non-tendered by the Brewers after he was acquired at last July’s trade deadline. Free agent Josh Harrison is also on their radar

Would the Yankees move Aaron Hicks and sign free agent Bryce Harper. That was an idea that was suggested by MLB Network Radio’s Jim Duquette. Hicks, who is a free agent after next season, may be attractive to the Indians who are offering some of their starting pitching in return for outfielders. The Yankees have reportedly shown an inclination to re-up Hicks but his value will never be higher than it is now.

HKLooking: I heard Buck Showalter with Chris Russo on his “High Heat” show on MLB Network and wondered if the former manager would accept a job as a bench coach for one of these younger skippers. Showalter could be a valuable resource…..It was surprising that Cleveland settled for such a cheap price for Gomes. It was first being reported that Michael A. Taylor was going back to Cleveland, but the Indians got back minor league OF Daniel Johnson and right hand pitcher Jefrey Rodriguez. Maybe the Indians would’ve taken back Bruce or Brendan Nimmo with one of the Mets’ young minor league arms…..Gomes going to Washington also means the Dodgers will look elsewhere to fill their need for a catcher. LA would have the chips to entice Miami to a deal for catcher J.T. Realmuto but I’m hearing the Astros are heavily involved there as well. However, Houston has made it clear that they will not trade top pitching prospect, Forrest Whitley…..Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton was non-tendered and the Phillies may make be interested in adding the speedster. Philly is looking to trade 1B Carlos Santana and move Rhys Hoskins to first base. That would open up the left field spot so the Phils could move Odubel Herrera to left field and sign Hamilton who would give them a presence at the leadoff spot and set the table for Hoskins and company. Giants may also be interested in Hamilton


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