New Mets Cano, Diaz introduced at Citi Field
M's were reluctant to trade star closer until NY included Kelenic in deal
NEW YORK -- Like most around baseball, Edwin Diaz first learned he was heading from the Mariners to the Mets in a blockbuster seven-player trade through social media. He picked up his phone and texted Robinson Cano, the eight-time All-Star second baseman who headlined the deal.
"Hey, man, we're going to New York," Diaz told him. "Let's go there and have fun and be with the best fans in baseball."
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Several days later, Cano and Diaz climbed onto a Citi Field podium for their introductory press conference as Mets. The former is a 36-year-old career .304 hitter on something at least resembling a Hall of Fame arc. The latter was the Mets' real reason for completing the trade, and for giving up as much talent as they did.
Perhaps the best relief pitcher in baseball, Diaz is, at age 24, only entering his prime. He is coming off a season in which he not only led all American League relievers in strikeouts, but also pitched well enough for some advanced metrics to suggest his 1.96 ERA was actually the product of bad luck. Diaz takes over immediately at closer for the Mets, who relied mostly on Robert Gsellman and Anthony Swarzak in the ninth inning after trading Jeurys Familia in July.
"Mets fans are going to have a lot of fun with him," Cano said of Diaz. "He loves this game. He works hard. Back in Seattle, he was the first guy that showed up at the ballpark."
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When Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen first engaged his Mariners counterpart, Jerry Dipoto, on a potential Cano deal at the GM Meetings last month, Dipoto initially refused to include Diaz in the deal.
"He told us no a number of times," Van Wagenen said. "We kept staying on it, we kept trying to be aggressive with it, and ultimately found a deal structure that we could get both players."
For the Mariners, the sticking point was Jarred Kelenic, a 19-year-old outfielder the Mets selected sixth overall in this year's Draft. He and pitching prospects Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista are now gone to Seattle, along with Swarzak and outfielder Jay Bruce. The Mets also received $20 million in salary relief from the Mariners, actually lowering their 2019 payroll commitments through the deal.
The Mets will pay for that both literally and figuratively in future years, but right now, the math allows Van Wagenen to make additional transactions in his first offseason at the helm. At least one of those will come in the bullpen, where the Mets are searching for an established setup man to team with Diaz, Gsellman and swingman Seth Lugo.
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Options on the free-agent market include Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, Cody Allen, Player Page for David Robertson and Familia, though some of those pitchers will surely seek closing jobs.
"It goes without saying, but I'll state it very clearly: We did not make this move to be our last move," Van Wagenen said. "We have talent already on the roster. I've said consistently throughout my tenure that we want to bolster our team. We want to improve our production next year. We want to win more games. And hopefully we can continue to add more talent around guys like this."
Not that the acquisition of Diaz can truly overshadow Cano, who also slipped a Mets jersey over his shoulders for the first time. A face of the Yankees for the first nine seasons of his career, Cano found himself in a different uniform on Tuesday, in a different borough and at a different stage of his career. He hit .303 with 10 home runs last season, missing 80 games after violating Major League Baseball's joint drug policy.
Like Diaz, Cano spent much of the press conference discussing his desire to win a title in New York, a decade after earning his first ring with the Yankees in 2009. According to Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, citing his analytics team, the Cano trade increased the Mets' projected win total from 83-84 to 88-90.
"We do a couple more things," Wilpon said, "maybe we can be 90-plus."
Consider Tuesday a significant step toward that end as the Mets made their first move to transform their bullpen weakness into a strength.
"I came here to win," Diaz said. "To the Mets fans, I came here to win, to try to reach the World Series and get the ring."