Read his lips: The Mets will take the necessary steps to win in 2019.
“I will state it very clearly,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Tuesday at Citi Field, where the Mets introduced new additions Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. “We did not make this move to have it be our last move.”
Team COO Jeff Wilpon said needs remain at catcher, in the bullpen, at utility infielder and perhaps center field. For now, the Mets have their starting second baseman and closer, following a blockbuster that sent five players — including two top prospects — to the Mariners for Cano and Diaz. The Mariners are also sending $20 million to the Mets to help pay Cano over the next five seasons.
In the 36-year-old Cano, the Mets are banking on an eight-time All-Star who received an 80-game PED suspension last season with a reputation for sometimes loafing. The 24-year-old Diaz, who pitched to a 1.96 ERA last season with 57 saves, gives the Mets an elite closer who is under club control for the next four seasons.
The cost was steep for the Mets. In addition to shedding two underachieving contracts to Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak that totaled $36 million over the next two seasons, Jarred Kelenic, the No. 6 pick in last summer’s draft, and the organization’s top pitching prospect, Justin Dunn, went to the Mariners. Also added to the deal was reliever Gerson Bautista.
The trade serves as a reunion for Van Wagenen and Cano; as an agent for CAA, the Mets GM negotiated the 10-year deal worth $240 million the player received from the Mariners before the 2014 season.
“The pieces that [Van Wagenen] is going to get and be able to make this team to win, for me I play this game because I love to win,” said Cano, who won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009. “I don’t care about anything else, and for me, it’s about winning. It’s not about playing 162 games and just go home. It’s about winning and to be able to win another ring, especially on this side of the city, it means a lot to me.”
Van Wagenen cited the collaboration within the Mets front office that helped orchestrate the deal. Included was Wilpon, who was vacationing in Africa last week as the trade talks heated up and remained in constant contact with Van Wagenen to keep abreast on the latest iterations of the deal.
Diaz couldn’t have been obtained without including Kelenic, the 19-year-old outfielder, in the deal, according to Van Wagenen. And the Mets were focused on obtaining Diaz not only to improve their own bullpen, according to Wilpon, but also because of rumblings the stud closer might be traded within the division to the Phillies.
“The analytics people looked at it and beforehand we were probably 83-84 wins,” Wilpon said. “And after this trade they think we’re 88-90. If we do a couple of more things maybe we could potentially be 90-plus.”
But the Mets still need pieces, among them at catcher, where J.T. Realmuto’s name has reemerged as a potential target for the club. An industry source confirmed talks between the Mets and Marlins have continued about the All-Star catcher, and Miami seeks a major league player — perhaps Amed Rosario or Brandon Nimmo — in return. It’s unlikely the Mets would include Michael Conforto in a deal for Realmuto, according to the source. Yasmani Grandal and Martin Maldonado are among the free-agent possibilities in which the Mets have shown interest.
“From our standpoint, we don’t want this team to be built on ifs,” Van Wagenen said. “For the last couple of years, ‘If player X is healthy. If Player Y has a rebound year. If Player Z has a breakout year from the farm system.’ A lot had to go right over the last couple of years, and when things didn’t go right, we were left vulnerable.”
Cano said he wasn’t officially asked to waive his no-trade clause until Saturday, when the teams received the go-ahead from MLB to complete the deal. But the second baseman indicated he was on board with a return to New York from the start.
“The thing that impressed me the most was the last game with David Wright, the way all the fans showed up and showed their love to David,” Cano said. “That was impressive.”
Cano declined to answer questions about his PED suspension, which was levied upon him last spring after he was found to have used a diuretic that MLB labels as a masking agent. Both Van Wagenen and Wilpon noted that Cano never tested positive for PEDs.
“I don’t think he’s a drug cheat,” Wilpon said. “I could be proven wrong, but I don’t think he’s a drug cheat.”
Cano said he’s put the suspension in his rearview mirror.
“I’m preparing myself right now just to come to spring training,” he said. “Be in the right shape, and be able to help this team, not only winning, but especially in the clubhouse.”
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