In December 2018, the Mets and Mariners braced themselves for a huge trade so obviously won by the Mariners. time to reconsider.
The New York Mets and Seattle Mariners completed a massive trade in which the Mets acquired super closehers Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano and all that entails.
When the move was first announced, fans of the game everywhere couldn’t believe the Mets would shed two top prospects in outfielder Jarred Kelenic and starting pitcher Justin Dunn. The deal was immediately branded a loss by the Mets by fans and industry pundits (see reactions from NY Post, ESPN, Yahoo Sports).
Here we are a month and a half into the 2022 regular season, and Robinson Cano is about to sign a new contract with the San Diego Padres after the Mets decided to let him go, prompting a look back at that heavy trade by the Mariners referred to as a win and a loss by the Mets.
BY Jay Bruce
RHP’s Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista
BY Jarred Kelenic
RHP Justin Dunn
INF Robinson Cano
RHP Edwin Diaz
$20 million in cash
Robinson Cano Handel: Who Won?
*Note: Statistics are current as of the morning of May 13, 2022.
Who did the Mariners get in the deal?
We start with Jay Bruce, one of the most fearsome left-handed thugs back in his prime. Bruce joined the Mariners at the age of 32 and continued fighting for the second straight season, potentially ending his playing career.
Bruce played 47 games for the Mariners before being traded back to the Phillies. After brief stints in Philly and for the Yankees, Bruce retired from professional baseball. His Mariners career consisted of 14 home runs, 28 RBI and a .212/.283/.533 slash.
Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista were two unexciting guns shipped from New York to Seattle in this shop. A useful helper in his prime, Swarzak only played 15 games for the Mariners before also being traded away early in the 2019 season. His 5.27 ERA and six home runs spanning more than 13 innings weren’t looking good for the then 33-year-old.
Bautista’s tenure with the Mariners was even worse than Swarzak’s. He made eight appearances for the club, posting an 11.00 ERA, batting seven and walking nine in as many innings. He was finally left out of the club’s 40-man squad at the end of the 2020 season and last featured in the Mexican league with the Mariachis de Guadalajara.
Young outfielder Jarred Kelenic had made it to #69 in the MLB via the MLB pipeline and was described as “arguably the highest-ceilinged prospect in the Mets organization.” Many had said he should be the only prospect off-limits to Cano trade talks.
The then 19-year-old regularly received rave reviews for his tools, with many saying he had a chance to become a true superstar and a five-tool player, a label hard to find in today’s game.
Kelenic’s tenure in Seattle was, in a word, terrible. Debuting for the M’s last season at a young age of just 21, his .181/.265/.350 slash line was ugly but could simply be his young age and growing pains. In his first 30 games this season, Kelenic has somehow gotten even worse, posting a .140/.219/.509 slash line and slamming in 37.5 percent of his plate appearances. Since debuting last year, he has been worth -0.5 oWAR and -1.3 dWAR per baseball reference.
Justin Dunn was the other high-end prospect shipped to Seattle from New York, and he’s on a different squad now, like everyone else in the industry except for Kelenic. Dunn made 25 starts for the Mariners from 2019-2021 and posted a respectable 3.94 ERA in over 102 innings. Walks were a problem for him and the Mariners brought him to the Cincinnati Reds in the Eugenio Suarez/Jesse Winker deal this offseason.
Who did the Mets get in the deal?
Beginning with Cano, the Mets acquired an aging second baseman who can no longer play a decent second baseman on defense. Coming off an 80-game PED suspension, Cano had seemingly wormed his way out of the Hall of Fame talk he’s been firmly entrenched in throughout his career.
When he joined the Mets at age 36 with several years left of his massive 10-year, $205 million contract, many in the industry were concerned about his collapsing production and PED issues. While he promptly fended off Max Scherzer in his first at bat as the Met, injuries became a problem for Cano and he struck at a higher rate than at any other point in his career.
After a poor performance in 2019 and some resurgence in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Cano was again suspended from PED action, this time for 162 games, effectively ending his tenure with the Mets. He reappeared briefly in the major leagues that season, but the Mets DFA’d and released him after hitting just one home run and having a .195/.233/.268 slash in 12 games. Overall, Cano posted a 2.2 oWAR with the Mets in parts of three seasons.
Edwin Diaz, the gift the Mets keep giving, has continued to dominate the hitters like he did for the first three years of his Seattle career. After a season in which he had a 1.96 ERA with 57 saves and an eighth-place finish in the AL Cy Young race, Diaz was brought into the deal to make Cano and his contract more attractive, and while he got his fair share it had its ups and downs for the Mets, his tenure in New York being largely a success.
After a 5.59 ERA performance in 2019, Diaz bounced back and achieved a 1.75 ERA and a paltry 17.5 SO/9 rate in 2020. He continued to be successful last season with 32 saves and a career-best 0.4 HR/9 rate. As the 2022 season begins, Diaz has played 14 games, made seven saves and has a 1.93 ERA with 24 strikeouts in just 14 innings. Since joining the Mets, he has been worth 2.4 bWAR, a number lowered by his poor performance in 2019 but set to rise with his continued success.
So who won the deal?
The simple answer here is the Mets. That’s a comment that absolutely no one thought would be made at the time of this trade.
There are many different ways of looking at it and one can come to the same conclusion. Just looking closely at WAR between the players traded, the Mariners acquired players who ended up with a combined value of -0.5 bWAR while the Mets ended up with 3.6 bWAR as of now.