New GM Brodie Van Wagenen started off his first offseason in his new position with an aggressive move that netted the Mets second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, pending physicals. The Mariners included $20 million in return and are taking on the contracts of Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak, and they’re receiving prospects Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista from the Mets.
So where does this leave the Mets now? Even at age 36 Cano is still an upgrade in the infield, and obviously Diaz is a huge upgrade in the bullpen over Swarzak. The Mets have definitely improved their team, but they still have not addressed any of the glaring holes they entered the offseason with. The set bullpen pieces most likely are Diaz, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman, and it gets pretty thin beyond them.
As for the infield, the depth just got a lot deeper. As it stands now, the starters are likely Todd Frazier, Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano, and Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith. Jeff McNeil is the utility man, and hopefully T.J. Rivera is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery to give the Mets further depth. And of course, they still have defensive wiz Luis Guillorme, as well.
While the infield is seemingly set, even with the non-tender of Wilmer Flores, the Mets are still thin at catcher, the bullpen, and the starting rotation. The Mets did tender Travis d’Arnaud a contract but they have made it no secret that they would like to upgrade at that position. With Yan Gomes headed to Washington, the easiest route would be to sign either Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos, both of whom would actually be an upgrade. Martin Maldonado is also on the market but he is known more for his defense and would not offer much offensively.
If they wanted to trade for a catcher it could get tricky. Especially after this trade, the Mets most likely don’t have the prospects to acquire J.T. Realmuto, but perhaps a trade for Francisco Cervelli could get done.
And of course there are those persistent Noah Syndergaard rumors. One rumor has him headed to San Diego in return for Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges as well as prospects not named Fernando Tatis. Hedges again offers very little offensively and could be a fine backup catcher, but you would hope the Mets could get more for a stud 26-year-old pitcher.
That brings me to said 26-year-old stud pitcher. The Mets cannot complete a trade like this only to turn around and trade one of their dominant starting pitchers. This was an “all-in” kind of move. You can’t be sort of all-in because that is how you end up with 80-win teams on the the outside of the playoff picture. Half measures don’t work, and the Phillies have already made it known they are planning on being aggressive this offseason.
Plus, as we have seen recently, the Mets are already pretty thin with the starters. Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz do not have the best track records when it comes to health, and even with them staying relatively healthy, the Mets had to give a plethora of starts to Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, P.J. Conlon, and Drew Gagnon last season. Replacing Syndergaard with J.A. Happ or Gio Gonzalez thins the rotation even further. Jason Vargas is still under contract and did not look good in his first season with the Mets. If the Phillies go hard after the big names on the market, the only way the Mets can compete is if they have phenomenal pitching.
That includes the bullpen as well. Craig Kimbrel is reportedly seeking a six-year deal, and the reliever market in general has exploded the past few years. Van Wagenen getting an elite closer at a low salary is a good move financially for the long term, but he cannot stop there no matter the cost. There is plenty of talent on the reliever market outside of Kimbrel. Even a reunion with Jeurys Familia would help shore up the bullpen.
Again, if the Mets are truly going for it they are going to have to loosen the pursestrings. Bryce Harper would be a fantastic get, and Manny Machado would, too. A right-handed bat would be a nice complement to the team’s lefty-heavy lineup.
The Cano-Diaz trade unquestionably makes the Mets better in the short term, but there are still quite a few holes that need to be filled if the Mets genuinely want to be competitive in the National League next season. The prospect pool also got thinner, so the Mets cannot afford any half measures this offseason or they will again be stuck in mediocrity with no reinforcements on the horizon.