There was skepticism and cynicism when Brodie Van Wagenen announced that he would be committed to building a championship team when he was introduced as the Mets general manager. After all, his predecessor Sandy Alderson said the same thing and he did nothing outside of making moves in the summer of 2015 to improve the team at the fans’ urging.
It’s easy for anyone to say that when being introduced for the first time to the public. We call this corporate-speak. The proof would be in the details.
So when rumors circulated last week the Mets were about to acquire Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners, it had Mets fans in a tizzy. Your typical Mets fan was on Twitter every five minutes waiting for this transaction to be approved. In fact, there was hysteria as to whether the deal would actually happen. This is what gets New York sports buzzing these days, in a landscape that features so many pro teams stinking: A potential blockbuster trade.
The deal was finally approved Saturday night, as Cano and Diaz were introduced to the media and Mets fans Tuesday morning.
Whether a Mets fan agrees or not to this deal, one thing can’t be denied: Van Wagenen actually lived up to his word in doing what he can improve to the Mets instead of paying lip service to it. This itself should make this trade a success.
Under Alderson, it seemed the Mets hoped a deal would fall to them rather than them initiating a deal. It seemed the team was waiting for prices to go down to sign a free agent. It seemed the team was content being a bystander on the sidelines if nothing materialize. This is why the Mets have not been a playoff team over the last two seasons.
It was refreshing to see Van Wagenen actually going for it by taking a risk. He knew he could not do nothing with the Atlanta Braves making moves such as signing Josh Donaldson, the Nationals eventual signing Patrick Corbin and the Phillies being the favorite to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.
Acquiring Diaz with a player-friendly deal is much better than overpaying and giving that many years to a free agent closer such as Craig Kimbrel, who reportedly is seeking a six-year deal. They also get a proven closer rather than hoping for a low-risk project such as Andrew Miller to work out as closer.
Yes, Cano has five more years on his deal that he signed in 2014. Yes, there are questions about whether he can sustain his performance after taking PEDs that resulted in a suspension. But he can still be a productive hitter at this time. He could be a good mentor to Amed Rosario if the Mets shortstop is still with the team. He can bring that veteran leadership. It’s a risk the Mets have to take. If he can produce for three good years, the Mets will sign up for it for a guy that is supposed to be a throw-in to this trade.
My money is on Cano to be productive.
Please spare me about the Mariners robbing Peter by forcing the Mets to give up Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic for the Mets to pay Paul by acquiring Diaz and Cano. They have to give up to get something, and the Mets can’t be waiting to go for it in 2023 or 2024 when the Mets have one of the best starting pitchers in baseball in Jacob deGrom and a starting rotation that can win games every day. They need to strike while the core is still intact.
Van Wagenen is clearly looking to do more, and that’s encouraging for the Mets players and Mets fans. He is smart enough to know this deal won’t be enough to dethrone the Braves as NL East champions. He is looking to acquire a catcher with reports circulating the Mets could trade Amed Rosario or Michael Conforto to the Marlins for catcher J.T. Realmuto, even though it may make more sense to just sign Wilson Ramos rather than offer assets to get a catcher. He also is looking to acquire Indians ace Corey Kluber.
Who knows if the deals will work or not? That’s the beauty of all this. Despite all that, it’s refreshing to see a Mets general manager earn his salary after Alderson basically treated his job as if it was a retirement job. It’s great the Mets are relevant in the New York sports scene and in the baseball scene. It’s good to know the Mets are behaving like a big-market club instead of a small-market club.
If nothing else, Van Wagenen has provided buzz to a franchise that has become stale in recent years. It is about what he will do next. With one move, another move has to be next as the saying goes. He did not make the Cano and Diaz deal just to be content.
Let’s call this progress, forward-thinking or whatever superlative that can come up in what Van Wagenen is trying to do.
The bottom line is the Mets are a better team now than they were yesterday.
This is no lip service to Van Wagenen backing up his words with action.