Did The Seattle Mariners Fleece The New York Mets?

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When Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto traded Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz in the offseason to the New York Mets f or “some prospects” and a salary offset in the person of Jay Bruce, many Mariners fans groaned in despair, as it was apparent that the retooling was in full gear. 

As the trade deadline looms ahead of July 31st, it’s worth taking a look at how each team has faired.

New York Mets

The “take back” for the Mets in a trade that essentially aimed at acquiring the young and under control closer, Edwin Diaz, was eight time all-star second baseman Robinson Cano. In his nine seasons with the New York Yankees before signing a 10-year, $240MM contract in free agency with the Mariners, Cano hit .309/.355/.504. In his five years in Seattle, Cano hit .296/.353/.472, a slightly lower BA, essentially the same OBP, and a downtick in SLG, perhaps due to the home ballpark.

What has Cano done for the Mets? Well, after coming off a season in which he was suspended 80 games for violating the league’s PED policy, the thirty-six-year-old Cano has hit .250/.294/.412, a full .053/.059/.079 lower than his career totals (this includes a 4-4 with 3 HRs on Wednesday). Thus far, the Mets have acquired an aging middle infielder, owed $96MM (albeit $20MM paid by the Mariners) who has produced ZERO WAR in 2019.

The “prize” of the trade from the Mets perspective was flame-throwing reliever Edwin Diaz, who led major league baseball in 2018 with 57 saves. Throw in a 1.96 ERA and 124 K over 73.1 IP and what could possibly be the downside in Queens? Well, so far in the apparently cursed Mets uniform (no sighing out there, Mariners fans), Diaz has thrown 39.1 innings to a 4.81 ERA (until recently over 5) with 22 SV and 61 K, proving once again that relievers results tend to be volatile and saves are a useless statistic.

Seattle Mariners

To unload the Cano contract and get back top prospects, Dipoto agreed to pay $20MM of Cano’s remaining salary and take back the remaining two years of OF Jay Bruce’s three-year $39MM contract. In true Jerry Dipoto fashion, the Mariners quickly flipped Bruce when it became evident that the 13-2 miracle Mariners start was a complete fluke. The Philadelphia Phillies, who were off to a disappointing start, snagged Bruce for an uninspiring A+ prospect in Jake Scheiner (sorry Jake) and $21MM to offset the contract. To be fair, Bruce has hit 10 HR and slugged .564 for Philly, even if he only gets on base at a .273 clip. The band box Citizen’s Park stadium in the City of Brotherly Love is tailor made for Bruce, so win/win – Mariners salary dump and semi-productive player for Philly.

The centerpiece of the trade with the Mets from the Mariners perspective was 19-year-old OF Jarred Kelenic who was drafted sixth overall in the 2018 draft. Dipoto has been open about his disappointment in 2018, as he thought Kelenic might fall to thirteen for the Mariners, with no disrespect intended to the eventual Mariners pick, RHP Logan Gilbert, who has dominated in A and A+ this season and worked himself up to AA in Arkansas, where he has struggled a bit.

Kelenic, who immediately became the number one prospect in the Mariners farm system, destroyed the Sally league in West Virginia this season, hitting .309/.394/.586 with 11 HR in just 191 AB. His promotion to A+ in Modesto has seen a bit more modest but still promising slash line of .259/.333/.466. 

It’s worth noting that Kelenic is 3.5 years younger than the average competition at that level. Currently Fangraphs charts Kelenic’s ETA in the majors as 2021 with a future value on the 20-80 scale of 55, a solid everyday starter. His in-game power is currently rated well below average with an average upside, but given the current status of the baseball in MLB and the launch angle revolution. Who’s to say what his mid-twenties may bear?

The second prospect that former agent turned Mets GM, Brodie Van Wagenen relinquished to obtain a bad contract and an overhyped reliever was RHP Justin Dunn, originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers straight out of high school in the 37th round of the 2013 draft. Still only 23 years old and 1.4 years younger than his peers in AA, the Arkansas Traveler has pitched 88.1 innings in the Texas League this season to a 3.46 ERA with 106 K. Dunn is ranked 5th in the Mariners farm system by Fangraphs and may see some time in the big leagues this season after rosters expand.

Evaluating the Trade

At the time of the Cano and Diaz trade, many Mariners were not only dismayed but perplexed. After all, Cano was churning away on a Hall of Fame career (possibly derailed by the PED suspension) and Diaz was unquestionably the best reliever in baseball. 

In retrospect, nearing this season’s trade deadline, the Mariners appear to have “won” the trade, if not possibly made out like a bandit. Cano appears to be in the inevitable age curve decline that gets to all of us, baseball player or not, and Diaz has regressed to (probably a bit beyond) his mean. The record books are strewn with ninth inning bright flames who flamed out. (I’d say remember Eric Gagne, but that would date me).

While it is not certain that Kelenic and Dunn will prosper in a Mariners uniform, it’s safe to say that getting off Cano’s contract, giving up a “prized piece” that may never be so prized again, in return for two promising prospects, was a good deal in the end.

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About Author

Brian Hight

Brian Hight lives in Seattle and writes primarily about MLB and the local Seattle Mariners, with a focus on advanced analytics. Occasionally, he delves into the NFL and the NBA, also with an emphasis on advanced statistics. He’s currently pursuing a Certificate in Data Analysis online from Microsoft, where he hopes to create a prediction model for baseball outcomes for his capstone project.

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