Mets roll serious dice with Diaz-Cano trade

By the time you read this, it may be a done deal, all physicals passed. With Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano now Mets, and outfielder Jay Bruce and pitcher Anthony Swarzak now Mariners. And a trio of Met prospects named Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista now being Mariners prospects.

The good news is that neither franchise swaps an icon. Neither one really has icons just yet, though Jacob deGrom is close enough for the Mets and Felix Hernandez still is for the Mariners no matter how far from being King Felix he now is. Diaz might become one in due course, but it'll be in Mets silks for now.

The deal is the handiwork of Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and the Mets' new GM, Brodie Van Wagenen, the former agent whose clientele once included Cano, whose $240 million deal with five years and $120 million left as he becomes a Met was Van Wagenen's work in the first place.

But this isn't a deal for Robinson Cano. He's not the centerpiece. Diaz is. With one big swing the Mets decided they have a chance to win now as well as later, that their bullpen as constituted currently isn't going to get them there, and that Diaz is going to do what almost nobody else now on the Mets' bullpen staff can and lock down games near-guaranteed.

Cano is just part of the price Van Wagenen was willing to pay to get Diaz. Yes, he's an eight-time All-Star who was on the Hall of Fame track at warp speed, more or less, before he got bagged for using furosemide — better known as Lasix.

Lasix is a diuretic known to be used in treating edema from congestive heart failure, hypertension, liver disease, and some kidney issues. But it's also believed to be a drug that hides other drugs in the human body system.

Cano missed 80 games in 2018 when he was caught two days after hitting the disabled list when his hand was broken by a pitch from the Tigers' Blaine Hardy, May 13. His statement upon his suspension said he was given furosemide under prescription by a doctor in his native Domincan Republic for a medical ailment. If Cano was telling the truth, that should have scared the living hell out of everyone in baseball. What was a man with anything from congestive heart failure to liver or kidney disease doing playing major league baseball? But then Hall of Fame third baseman Ron Santo played an entire career as a diabetic, and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has just undergone his second heart surgery.

Will Carroll, a medical journalist who writes for Baseball Prospectus, wrote the definitive volume on baseball and actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances, The Juice, arguing with evidence that the substances by and large don't actually do what the hysterics think they do with certain exceptions. When Cano was bagged in May, Carroll tweeted that Lasix "is a very odd drug to be caught for. Easily detected, easily accessed in veterinary market. Certainly signals that he knew he was using and was on a stack."

So to get Diaz, who has four more years of team control and speed-of-light stuff, the Mets surrendered a bona-fide prospect, an inconsistent one, a mediocre-so-far pitcher, and a dying contract (Bruce) and took Cano in the bargain. If the Mariners were going to make them take Cano and demand a pair of attractive prospects for Diaz, the Mets were going to make them take an outfielder who's probably on his career downslope and a pitcher who isn't exactly one of the game's distinguished. That'll be part of the spin, anyway.

The prospects going to the Mariners? Kelenic is a tooled-up center fielder who bats lefthanded and projects to be a star if he develops properly. Dunn is a first-round 2016 draftee who can strike out the world when he's not walking it. Bautista is a hard thrower with a mixed minor league jacket but who was slapped silly in five now you see him/now you don't gigs with the Mets in 2018.

Losing Kelenic might haunt the Mets a lot worse in the long run, but he's only one player. This is one time the Mets didn't really unload the farm. And they didn't have to put either Jeff McNeil or Brandon Nimmo into the package, which explains one of the few heaving sighs of relief coming from Met fans over this deal.

If Cano is healthy and able to play second base, while also responding to less of a pitcher's haven in Citi Field than he knew in Safeco Field, McNeil can shift to shortstop or third base without breaking or causing too many sweats. If the Mariners had demanded one or both of them in the deal and the Mets acquiesced, New York would have exploded. Understandably.

But did the Mets really need Diaz, even if he's too much closer for a Mariners team likely beginning a serious rebuild? The Mets had a bullpen incumbent who shakes out potentially as a closer and an above average one at that. The problem is that they still can't decide whether Seth Lugo is a potential starter or bullpen man.

Maybe the numbers should have helped them make up their bloody minds. In 2018 as a starter, Lugo versus the hitters usually didn't come out well: they batted .255 against him with a .404 slugging percentage in five starts. As a reliever, in 49 games and 78.1 innings, they hit .204 and slugged .296 against him. And his ERA was 2.30.

Read that very carefully. Now tell me why it isn't a no-brainer that Lugo just might have a remarkable future at the rear end of a bullpen. But the Mets still wonder whether he belongs in the starting rotation, seemingly, especially if they're pondering a deal to send Noah Syndergaard somewhere for prospects and maybe one major league-ready youth.

If the Mets are going win-now, and it looks like they are, and it doesn't look that far-fetched when you realize they were 38-30 in the second half of 2018, they could have fixed the bullpen at a cheaper cost. They could have declared, "It's Miller time," and gotten away with it.

But perhaps they still can. They can still seduce Andrew Miller with a two-year deal at bargain cost, since Miller spent much of the past two seasons on the DL but was almost exactly his former lights-out self from his return at August's beginning until his final outing near September's end. The Mets even checked Miller's medicals out early in the free agency period and he came up clean enough. And Miller is a multiple-inning option out of the bullpen just as Lugo could be.

Met fans can dream for now about a bullpen in which you can reach for either Miller or Lugo or both for more than single-inning assignments more than a couple of times a week, with Robert Gsellman — after one season of growing pains into a full-time bullpen role — holding their coats and also able to go more than single innings a couple of times a week. And, with Lugo available to close whenever Diaz needs a break.

At the top of their game, a Diaz-Lugo-Miller-Gsellman bullpen could give fits, including in the postseason. And if they're bent on keeping McNeil and Nimmo, as they should be, they don't even have to think about dealing Syndergaard yet. They can hold off on that until next season's non-waiver trade deadline.

Pending further moves including a possible Syndergaard trade to return the aforesaid youth, not to mention deciding once and for all what to do with or about Lugo, Van Wagenen is going to look like one of two things from here. Genius or nutbag.

If the Mets reach the postseason and even the World Series next year, he'll look like a genius, and maybe Executive of the Year in his first term. If they don't, he'll look like Frank Lane, without the audacity to say — as Lane said in spring 1960, with abject foolishness, when he traded Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn, or 201 1959 runs produced for 170 — that he'd just traded hamburger for steak.

Diaz/Cano for one potential star and a pair of no-names isn't likely to break the Mets or the Mariners in half the way Colavito-for-Kuenn did to the Indians. But Van Wagenen had better pray it's steak on the Mets' 2019 menu.

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