The conversation is ongoing. The Mets and Mariners are closing in on a deal that would bring young closer Edwin Diaz and eight-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to New York. An industry source said the talks continued into the night Thursday as the pieces and parameters of a deal continued to change, but with the teams optimistic a deal could be reached.
Diaz is a 24-year-old, elite closer who has four years of team control remaining. He is coming off a season in which he recorded a major-league leading 57 saves. In three years in the big leagues, Diaz has 109 career saves. The Yankees and Red Sox have also reportedly checked in with the Mariners about acquiring him, but the Mariners have turned their attention to the Mets.
The Mariners are motivated to move Cano, 36, and the five years, $120 million remaining on his contract. They have discussed possible deals for the former All-Star with several teams, but may have found their best fit with the Mets. Packaging Cano with Diaz is their best chance to move the aging infielder, who is coming off a season shortened by a PED suspension, without taking a huge hit.
While the Mariners are looking to dump him, Cano is still an eight-time All Star with a career .304/.355/.493 slash line over 14 years. Last year he hit .303/.374/.481 with 10 homers and 22 doubles in 80 games.
According to a source, the Mets are including Jay Bruce in the deal, a chance for them to dump his contract. Bruce, 31, is owed $28 million over the next two years. They are also sending reliever Anthony Swarzak back. The right-hander was a bust in the first year of his $14 million deal.
Bruce, who is coming off a disappointing season in which he was limited to 94 games by injuries, creates a logistical logjam for the Mets roster. They need the corner outfield spots for Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Yoenis Cespedes, when he returns from heel surgery at some point next year. Bruce seemed destined to end up at first base, but besides the fact that he had initially been reluctant to move, the Mets top hitting prospect, Peter Alonso, is also a first baseman.
The Mets need to get some salary relief from the Mariners to make this deal work, though.
And to get Diaz, the Mets are going to have to pay up in terms of prospects.
Andres Gimenez, Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic are among those the Mariners reportedly have interest in as a return. The Mets’ farm system is not well-stocked, so including any of their top prospects will be a hit. They could also include some other options if the Mariners were to make it a bigger package. Jeff McNeil, the second baseman who burst onto the major leagues last year, could be part of the package, an industry source suggested, as could a pitcher like Seth Lugo.
A deal like that, however, would require the Mets to fill multiple holes in their roster.
The Mets head into 2019 looking to build around their starting pitching — at least the core of Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler — with the team letting it be known they will listen to offers on Noah Syndergaard. That’s the same approach they have taken into each of the last three seasons, but to make it work, they need to tighten up the defense around their pitchers. That means an upgrade at catcher and center field are keys to maximizing this staff.
The Mariners just happen to have a young, athletic center fielder. They acquired Rays center fielder Mallex Smith, 25, in a trade this offseason and he would be an upgrade over Juan Lagares, who has been unable to stay healthy over the last few years.
Getting a reliable closer is a top priority for the Mets, who traded away Jeurys Familia last July. Diaz was certainly among the best in the game last year, but he is not the only option. Zach Britton and Craig Kimbrel are available on the free agent market. There are also bats and second basemen available via free agency that would fit into the club’s plans.
But signing them would require the Mets to increase their payroll significantly.
The Mets payroll was at $150 million in 2018 and has about $144 million already committed with expected raises through arbitration, according to Cots contracts. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon has said that new GM Brodie Van Wagenen has the resources to make changes, but has declined to specifically comment on if they will increase the payroll.
A big trade, which the Mets have indicated they are more open to than free agent signings this winter, seems the best way for Van Wagenen to make a significant change to an organization that is desperate for one. Bringing Diaz and Cano, who spent the first nine years of his career in the Bronx, to Flushing would certainly shake things up.
But without expanding their payroll, the Mets still have some pretty big holes to fill on their roster.
They need to tighten up their defense if they are going to attempt — once again — to build around their starting staff. The Mets need a veteran catcher and a reliable center fielder, since Juan Lagares has not only struggled to stay healthy, but has been inconsistent offensively.