There have been rumblings that the Mariners have been trying to move Robinson Cano; and, well, anyone on the 25-man that stands between them and a complete franchise tear-down. That could happen in one, foul swoop, as according to multiple sources, they are on the brink of dealing Robinson Cano and Edwin Díaz to the Mets in exchange for what seems like a mystifying package given the circumstances:
So if, as expected, the trade is finalized Fri it will be Diaz, Cano, $ to offset some of Cano’s contract for Bruce/Swarzak/Kelenic/Dunn/Bautista. Bruce and Swarzak are owed $39M.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 30, 2018
Let’s start from the Mets’ perspective here, because that probably makes more sense, at least in isolation. The Mets will be acquiring a future Hall of Fame second baseman in the twilight of his career, but with two-to-three wins of usefulness in the near-term.
The catch is that they have to take on his deal while trying to move another deal, like Jay Bruce, and the reward is that they are acquiring Díaz, who is far and away the best reliever in the big leagues. Sporting a 44 ERA- and 44.3% K-rate last season, one would have imagined that he could have gotten a major haul just on his own. Instead we will likely never see, as he is included in a salary relief deal.
For the Mariners, that value discussion is a bit more muddled, especially considering we don’t know which prospect they will acquire:
We haven't updated our NYM prospect list yet but here's our most updated feeling about the $ values on their top tier; this top group can be ranked a number of ways. We think $15M is the value of Cano+Diaz, so another ~$15M in cash from SEA should be able to get any NYM prospect. pic.twitter.com/LoX38cCJku— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) November 29, 2018
Jerry Dipoto is essentially shipping out $15 million in surplus value, with more money included determining whether they get, say, David Peterson or Peter Alonso.
Why not just package Díaz and Cano separately? Eat Cano’s money and get a flyer prospect in return, and then sell Díaz for the maximum prospect-laden deal, would make the most sense to me. Instead, arguably their best asset under team control will be used to clear the debts of previous front offices. It’s just a weird deal all around, and probably the biggest blockbuster of this kind since... the 2012 Red Sox/Dodgers deal? You tell me if you can find a more important since then.
The Mets are also mired in a retooling of their own with new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen; it should also be noted among his conflicts of interest that he represented Robinson Cano at one point at CAA. He’s now also in rumored negotiations over a Noah Syndergaard deal, which would only cause this whole ordeal to be a side-step: why take on a massive contract just to acquire a great reliever when you’re about to trade your most talented (maybe not best) pitcher away? Unless the plan is to also sell Díaz for a further prospect return, then right now the picture isn’t entirely clear.
However this shakes out today, we’re going to be talking about this trade for a long, long time. I don’t think people expected the Cano deal to take shape like this, and I doubt the Mets or any Mets fan envisioned an outcome like this this offseason.