This weekend should have been one of awkward reunions.
The Seattle Mariners are playing in New York against the Mets this weekend. In 2019 the teams combined to swing one of the biggest blockbusters in recent memory-sending All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to the Mets along with fireball closer Edwin Diaz in exchange for a package of young players headlined by uber-prospect Jarred Kelenic.
Cano was supposed to help get the Mets back to the playoffs, while Kelenic was supposed to provide the core of the Mariners’ rebuilding effort.
Yet, as the Mariners and Mets take the field this weekend, neither player will be on the field.
Cano struggled in his first season with the Mets, bounced back for a successful year in the 2020 Covid shortened campaign, then was suspended all of last season after getting caught taking performance-enhancing drugs- his third such offense.
After he struggled out of the gate this season, the Mets cut him at the start of May, choosing to eat the almost $50 million left on his contract rather than watch him continue to take up a spot on the roster.
Kelenic has not fared much better in Seattle. His career batting average sits below .200. This season he’s hitting a paltry .140- which is around what most relief pitchers hit when pitchers were allowed to bat. On Friday afternoon, just before the team took the field in New York, they demoted Kelenic back to Triple-A, hoping that yet another demotion to the minor leagues would allow him to salvage some of his potential.
In grand Mariners fashion, they traded a player-Cano-who was supposed to reinvigorate the franchise and failed to do so, for another player who was supposed to reinvigorate the franchise and was unable to do so- Kelenic-and wound up with nothing to show for it on the field. The only person who is able to come away a winner in the whole mess is Mariners owner John Stanton, who managed to get out of Cano’s mega-contract, and got to keep the savings for himself. This offseason was one where the Mariners were supposed to use those savings. Instead, they have the 22nd highest payroll out of 30 teams.
Stanton chose to keep the money instead of investing it in the team. Maybe he bought a new yacht. Or a bunch of stock. Or perhaps he set it on fire. Who knows. What he didn’t do was significantly improve the team.
Even Met’s owner Steve Cohen didn’t make out too badly. The man has billions to spare, and thanks to Cano’s suspension last season, the team saved themselves roughly $25 million on what he was owed.
The blockbuster deal instead wound up being a bust for both sides, but the Mariners may have gotten the worst of it. New York fans bemoaned the loss of Kelenic. He was the centerpiece of the trade, a future star in the making. Now he’s back in the minor leagues, and the Mariners are just hoping he can be something resembling a productive major league player. The rest of the haul the Mariners got in return for Cano and Diaz didn’t wind up amounting to much, with only Justin Dunn providing enough potential to allow him to be used as part of the trade that brought starting outfielder Jesse Winkle and third baseman Eugenio Suarez to the Mariners in the offseason.
While Kelenic’s failure to launch has been a massive blow for the Mariners, the Mets have simply chosen to spend around Cano’s albatross contract. After Cohen bought the team, he cleaned house in the team’s front office and coaching staff. The regime that was responsible for bringing in Cano is gone, and they found ways to construct the roster around his contract. With the caveat that the team is still the Mets and could turn into the laughing stock of the national league at any moment, they are currently in first place in the National League East.
While the team owners laugh their way to the bank, Mariners fans can only look at the two notable absences on the field this week; two players gone who were supposed to mean big time change was ahead for the franchise, and feel like nothing has changed.
While the Cano-Kelenic trade will go down in history as one where neither team may have won, the Mariners, as they have done so often in their history, still managed to come out as the losers.