The New York Mets have made their biggest trade since acquiring Johan Santana ten years ago.
The Mets received $20 million cash, second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Jay Bruce, relievers Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista, and top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.
At first glance, this looks promising for a franchise that, Jacob DeGrom aside, has sorely lacked All-Star talent for the better part of the decade. Cano is one of the best second baseman in baseball history, and Diaz is arguably the best closer in the league today. Adding them to a roster that won just 77 games last season is undeniably a good thing. Cano and Diaz make the 2019 Mets better. No question.
That’s why this trade is being considered a “win-now” move by the Mets and their new general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen. You don’t acquire 36-year-old Cano, with five years left on his dreadful contract, and Diaz, an elite, soon-to-be expensive closer thanks to arbitration, if your plan is to rebuild.
Van Wagenen, I think rightfully, sees an opening in the NL East. The Marlins are still looking to unload J.T. Realmuto and no new uniforms can cover up the fact that they’ll probably be terrible again next season. The Nationals have all but lost Bryce Harper, and unless Harper (or Manny Machado) goes to the Phillies, they project as fringe Wild Card contenders at best. That leaves the Braves as the lone, serious threat in the division.
However, if he turns around and trades Noah Syndergaard, signs J.A. Happ to replace his innings, and calls it an offseason, the Mets will have another 2008, 2009, or 2010 on their hands.
The Mets never made the postseason with Santana on the roster. The same can be said for Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Dare I mention Jason Bay? Making one splashy offseason move does not fix all of your team’s problems overnight. In case you forgot, the Mets don’t exactly have a catcher or a bullpen, and they’re once again an injury or two away from everything blowing up in their face.
Acquiring Cano and Diaz is a good start to building a postseason-caliber team, but it should not be the Mets’ crowning achievement of the winter.
I’m not even saying they shouldn’t trade Syndergaard. If they find the right deal that brings back top prospects or some other high-impact big league piece, then go for it! But don’t just replace him with a Happ or Dallas Kuechel. Jump into the Patrick Corbin sweepstakes. Call the Indians about Corey Kluber, or the Diamondbacks about Zack Greinke, or both. Sign David Robertson and/or Zach Britton. Have Cano show Manny Machado around New York, sans The Bronx.
If Van Wagenen is serious about winning, then he’ll do all of this, and more. Cano and Diaz are simply not enough. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either go for it or rebuild. Don’t do both. Granted, there’s still time, but the clock is already ticking for the Mets to make their next move.