John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Brodie Van Wagenen seems determined to make a big splash to kick off his career as Mets GM, and while you can debate the merits of pursuing Robinson Cano in a trade, such a move would leave no doubt that there's a new sheriff in town.
Under Sandy Alderson the Mets moved slowly and conservatively in making deals, and while that wasn't always a bad thing, this organization is desperately in need of some creativity at the moment.
In short, the Mets have declared themselves a win-now team, but they need more talent to honor such a pledge and they don't have much help coming from the farm system.
Meanwhile, Van Wagenen seems to be exploring any and all possible ways to improve quickly, including adding a much-needed experienced bench coach in Jim Riggleman to help Mickey Callaway -- a good sign the new GM is attentive to detail as well as potential blockbuster moves.
As for Cano, such a trade would bring obvious risk, with $120 million remaining on his contract, but as SNY's Andy Martino is reporting, the Mets would make the deal only under strict conditions that would turn it in their favor.
It's the smart approach, knowing the Mariners are desperate to unload Cano's contract as they go about rebuilding their ballclub.
Most significantly, if the Mets can get Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto to attach Edwin Diaz, their 24-year-old closer with electric stuff, in a trade with Cano, and get the Mariners to either eat some of the money or take back Jay Bruce's contract -- or both -- the deal would look like a win for the Mets.
As Martino is reporting, the Mets would be interested in Mitch Haniger if they couldn't get Diaz, and he'd be a nice addition as well, a good defensive right fielder who put up an .849 OPS last year hitting in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.
Diaz, however, would be the big prize, and it's not unthinkable the Mariners would include him, since a closer isn't much of a priority for a rebuilding team.
The righthander led the majors with 57 saves last season, overmatching hitters to the tune of 124 strikeouts in 73 innings with a fastball-slider combination that ranks among the best in baseball.
So what might a deal look like from both sides if Diaz were in it?
Former Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd, who once made a similar trade to get out from under Mike Hampton's albatross-contract, proposed an intriguing trade on MLB Network.
Now an analyst on the network, O'Dowd had Cano, Diaz, and 25-year-old center fielder Mallex Smith going to the Mets, with the Mariners getting Bruce, Dom Smith, top pitching prospect Justin Dunn and top shortstop prospect Andres Gimenez.
One person on the Mets' side said there's no way they would include both Dunn and Gimenez, but if one of them was in the deal the overall structure might be in place.
In any case, O'Dowd said he was speaking from his own experience in believing Dipoto might make such a trade, recalling that as Rockies GM he had to include a young Juan Pierre in a 2002 deal with the Braves to unload some $84 million of Hampton's remaining contract.
"It broke my heart but I had to attach Juan Pierre to move the amount of money we needed to move," O'Dowd said. "If Jerry really wants to move Cano, he's going to have to get creative that way. But there's a deal there. I think it makes sense for the Mets."
If the Mariners did take back Bruce, his remaining salary effectively would bring Cano's total down to $94 million -- and the Mets would want more salary relief to sign off on the deal.
Of course, all of that would sound more enticing if Cano were in his prime, but the former Yankee star turned 36 in October, and while no one doubts that he can still hit, the question is how long he'll be able to play second base.
At some point he'd probably have to transition to first base, a position Cano almost surely could handle, considering how smooth he is defensively, but obviously that complicates any such trade.
And then there is the matter of Cano's 80-game suspension for failing a PED test last season, which raises questions about whether he'll maintain his level of performance as he heads into his late 30s.
"I believe Robinson Cano's bat is going to age well," O'Dowd said. "I'm not sure about his legs, but I believe he will be motivated by getting the chance to return to New York.
"And he's got something to prove coming off that suspension. He's going to have a big year."
No doubt Cano would upgrade the Mets offensively, and in turn, they would consider moving Jeff McNeil to third base, perhaps splitting time with Todd Frazier there.
Getting rid of Bruce's contract would also open up the corner outfield spots for Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, while freeing up first base for Peter Alonso -- with McNeil and Wilmer Flores as fallback options.
In addition, Mallex Smith, who stole 40 bases last season, would give the Mets a lefthanded-hitting center fielder to platoon with Juan Lagares.
Such a deal could all fit together nicely, but there's no getting around the long-term risk that would come with acquiring Cano's contract.
It remains to be seen where it happens, but it's something the Mets wouldn't have considered with Alderson as GM. Indeed, it would make for quite the bold start to Van Wagenen's career as a GM.