‘We Came Here to Win’: Mets Unveil Cano and Diaz

‘We Came Here to Win’: Mets Unveil Cano and Diaz


Edwin Diaz was at home in his native Puerto Rico last week when buzz about a potential blockbuster trade that would send him and his Seattle Mariners’ teammate, Robinson Cano, to the Mets fluttered across social media. By Friday, the trade was in mostly in place. That night, Cano, who was in his native Dominican Republic, called Diaz.

“Be ready,” Cano told Diaz. “We’re going to New York. We’re going to have fun over there, win games and help the team.”

On Monday, Cano, a second baseman, and Diaz, a relief pitcher, were in New York for their physicals and dinner with the Mets’ brass, including the owners, front office staff and Manager Mickey Callaway. The next morning, the players were formally introduced as the Mets’ new stars — completing a splashy, albeit risky, move that signaled the team’s commitment to contending for a playoff spot in 2019 after back-to-back losing seasons.

“We did not make this move to have this be our last move,” the Mets’ general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, said just over a month into his new job. Before he was hired in October, Van Wagenen was an agent who had represented, among other players, Cano.

The trade was both bold and precarious for various reasons. The National League East is getting tougher by the minute: the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals, who reached a deal with the top free agent starter Patrick Corbin on Tuesday, are all improving.

The Mets mortgaged part of their future by giving up three prospects — including two first-round draft picks in outfielder Jarred Kelenic and pitcher Justin Dunn — and absorbed $100 million of the contract that Cano, 36, signed with the Mariners in order to acquire him and Diaz, 24.

Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer and a co-owner of the team, called the trade “pretty neutral” in terms of dollars for 2019 for three reasons: The Mets unloaded $36.5 million (the amount owed to underperforming veteran players, outfielder Jay Bruce and relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak) from their payroll; they received $20 million from the Mariners; and Diaz is relatively inexpensive now.

Questions will linger about the new acquisitions, though. The Mets took on the five remaining years on Cano’s contract, which will expire when he is 40. He played only 80 games last season because of a fractured hand and an 80-game suspension related to a positive test for a banned substance.

Cano declined to address the suspension when asked on Tuesday, saying that he already had discussed it during the season and wanted to focus on the positive. Van Wagenen knows the details of the episode but would not specifically address it beyond saying that Cano was suspended for a diuretic and not a performance-enhancing drug.

Cano was indeed caught using furosemide, a diuretic he said last season was given by a doctor for a medical condition, but it is sometimes used to hide the presence of other banned substances. Under baseball’s drug policy, a player who tests positive for a diuretic is suspended if he cannot prove that he used it for legitimate purposes or if league officials determine the intent was to use it as a masking agent.

“If I had any concern about Robby’s physical state or performance ability going forward, I would not have made the deal,” Van Wagenen said.

Wilpon said he was “very comfortable” with the explanation Van Wagenen gave him regarding Cano’s suspension but declined to elaborate. “I could be proven wrong, but I don’t think he’s a drug cheat,” Wilpon said of Cano.

Regardless, Cano’s power and defense at second base, where he won Gold Gloves in 2010 and 2012, have declined some over the years, but he still hit .303 with an .845 on-base-slugging-percentage last season — production that could have helped the Mets’ streaky offense.

Cano said he felt younger than 36 and that he is capable of competing against younger players. He pointed to David Ortiz and his former Yankees teammates Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as examples of those who played at 40. (Not all were productive at that age and some played under a cloud of performance-enhancing drug usage.)

“You’re not going to be the same guy when you get to 40 as 25,” Cano said. “Your body is so different. But I will say this: If you work hard and always prepare yourself, like other guys did in the past, you’ll be able to play at that level.”

Cano, an eight-time All-Star, said it was easier to waive his no-trade clause knowing he would be reunited with Van Wagenen, but he also cited his love for New York, the passion for baseball here and the chance to compete for a title again.

“He has a vision on his legacy,” Van Wagenen said. “He has a mission in mind that he wants to define his career the next five years as much as he has over the course of the last 10.”

Although relief pitchers can be volatile from year to year, the Mets believe Diaz’s age, four years of control and cost relative to older free agent relief pitchers outweighs any decline in Cano’s performance.

“When you start as high as Robby Cano did, that decline is pretty valuable and as good as anything we have in the organization,” Van Wagenen said.

The Mets believe their window to win is for the next few seasons, while pitchers Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, who is unlikely to be traded, and outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto are all in the same uniform.

Van Wagenen called Diaz the best closer in baseball. Diaz, whose fastball reaches 100 miles per hour, showed promise before a breakout 2018, which he attributed to an improved competitive mentality. He had a major league-high 57 saves while posting a 1.96 E.R.A., striking out 124 over 73⅓ innings, and earning his first All-Star nod.

Diaz said a bone spur, which was discovered in his throwing arm when he was drafted in 2012, has never been an issue. He said he was impressed the Mets gave up three prospects to acquire Cano and him.

“We came here to win and try to reach the World Series and get a ring,” he said.



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