Esposito: Cano Deal Just The Appetizer

So the Brodie Era kicks off with a splash, a cannonball in the pool of change. Or is it chance?

Already fans and critics of the Mets’ impending deal with the Mariners are circling the waters with praise and protest, but there’s really only one way for Mets fans to view this blockbuster deal, with expectations, arguably high expectations.

The questions are many. Will Robinson Cano maintain his reputation as an everyday All-Star calibre second baseman? Will he be so grateful to return to the city where he first claimed his status that his joy will benefit many Mets victories?

Or will he contract Baerga Syndrome, a deadly ailment that afflicts All-Star second basemen when they breathe oxygen in a Mets uniform? Will the 36 rings on his aging tree begin to sap his strength and productivity? And then there is the question if that masking agent he was bagged with was just a one-time out-of-character occasion or the tip of the iceberg headed for an ocean collision with the good ship Van Wagenen.

Actually, you can break down this about-to-be-announced deal thusly:

Would you have traded Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak – two Mets who vastly underperformed last season, with the club on the hook for about $36 million the next two years – for Cano straight up, with $20 million coming back to help offset the $120 million due to Cano the next five years?

And that answer is hell, yeah, as Cano’s production the next two years – both offensively and defensively – should outweigh anything Bruce and Swarzak would have contributed. And the $20 mil the Mets will lay out for Cano each year (factoring in the Mariner rebate money) is actually less than what both jettisoned Mets would have received in ‘19.

We’ll get to years 3, 4, and 5 in the Cano deal a little later.

And would you trade three prospects – good prospects, agreed, but yet, prospects – for arguably the best closer in baseball last year, and still under team control (meaning cost control, arbitration after ‘20) for four years.

And that answer should also be yes. While the futures for Jarred Kellenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista, appear quite bright, getting Edwin Diaz is actually a major coup for the kickoff to the Van Wagenen Era.

Have you looked at the numbers? Leading the majors with 57 saves – second greatest total ever – Diaz sat down batters with 124 strikeouts that equal a 15.22 strikeouts per nine innings ratio, and is only the second reliever to have at least 50 saves and over 100 Ks in a season (second to Eric Gagne), only 24 years old with a devastating 100-mph arsenal in his right arm.

Think about that. If he were to pitch a nine inning game, only 12 outs conceivably would have come from batters that actually put the ball in play.

Opponents batted only .160 against Diaz, his WHIP is a miniscule 0.79, and his strikeout to walk ratio is also a favorable 7.29.

Yes, the Mets bullpen should have a solid anchor for quite a while. Think about all those Mets games where they held the lead in the late innings (Jake’s games, especially), only to have the pen leak them out of the win column. Diaz should lock down a lot of those Ws.

As for the kids that are going to Seattle, they’re still kids, albeit good ones, and their futures may come back to haunt the Mets, but Van Wagenen made clear he intends to give the team sustainable success in the present and in the future. But you can’t get to the future without creating a present.

Critics have lashed out and said those prospects could have been used as chips to get a solid catcher, as the Nationals just did in acquiring Yan Gomes from the Indians, or to entice Derek Jeter into giving up J.T. Realmuto. But you’d like to think that Van Wagenen at least broached both parties with said ideas and there wasn’t a marriage. There was talk the Mets were close to getting Gomes, but the Nats swooped in with apparently, a better offer.

Critics also said why not sign one of the closers/relievers out in the market as free agents, as in Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, Joe Kelly, or Craig Kimbrel. But they’re all older, would command larger paychecks, and some, as in Kimbrel, were looking for as much as six-year deals. Get real, Craig.

Nonetheless, this was just a first salvo from the Van Wagenen Camp, and there’s a chance there will be more announcements soon or at the Winter Meetings next week.

It was curious that Van Wagenen cut ties with fan-favorite Wilmer Flores, but the Cano deal kinda made him expendable. And perhaps his arthritic knees may become a greater hindrance in the future than anticipated. However, with the frequency of injuries that pop up in Flushing, Wilmer’s versatility and his propensity for coming through in the clutch kinda made him unique.

Jeff McNeil may be stepping into that utility role, as the Cano deal bumps him from the regular second base gig. However, a crystal ball might see a future where Cano’s age shifts him into a third baseman in the ensuing years, and perhaps McNeil can reclaim that position two or three years down the road.

It’s true that the end years of Cano’s deal could become a major headache in Flushing, but all reports are he keeps in excellent shape and could become the exception to the always decreased production of aging superstars. Ahh, wishful thinking. The truth is you can’t defeat Father Time – unless you’re Tom Brady – but the Mets will just have to cross that bridge then.

There’s still more to do. Another bat, a big bat, a righthanded bat, preferably, is still needed while waiting for Yoenis Cespedes’ heels to heal. There’s a big bat in Arizona who might get moved – Paul Goldschmidt, but that would mean likely parting with more future pieces, as in Peter Alonso, perhaps one of the prized pitchers, or at least a ton of other prospects. Still, tempting, very tempting.

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