When Brody Van Wagenen receives his final verdict as Mets general manager, his one glaring error will live in the memory of fans like a drunken escapade. The tragedy of his fateful decision will linger for the foreseeable future, as Robinson Cano’s $24 million price tag (runs EACH SEASON through 2023) and Edwin Diaz’ relapses make each player untouchable. If watching both isn’t gut-wrenching enough, looking west starting in 2021 might produce sepsis.
The result of obtaining both albatrosses on the fateful day of December 3, 2018, is hard to fathom. Despite never producing a home-grown everyday player worthy of Hall of Fame induction since joining MLB in 1962, Van Wagenen’s first bold move as GM (hired on October 29, 2018), spit in the face of intelligence.
Despite recording two division titles and World Series appearances (both losses in five games) since 1989, the Mets lack of home-grown talent is alarming. Perhaps Van Wagenen viewed the 38 previous first-round selections since 1989 and drew his conclusions. From 1989 through 2017, the Mets 38 first-round draft selections yielded just three all-stars, David Wright (7x), Matt Harvey (1), and Michael Conforto (1).
Van Wagenen traded the Mets fourth (2018 first-round pick Jarred Kelenic) and fifth (2016 first-round draft pick Justin Dunn) highest-rated prospects, Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak for every Mets fan worst nightmare. Van Wagenen moved on the deal and even accepted paying Cano $100 of the $120 million remaining on his 10-year, $240 million contract signed in 2014.
The stalwart of the deal was Diaz, who at age 24 appeared to be one of the top relievers in baseball. Blessed with electric stuff, Diaz average 14.9 K per 9 innings, while posting a 1.01 WHIP, 2.64 ERA, .187 BA, .566 OPS, converted 109-121 save opportunities and Seattle won 82 percent of the games in which he appeared.
While the former Seattle closer fared well in his 24 appearances (Mets won 19 with Diaz posting 1.64 ERA, 13/14 Save/Save Opp.), his last 44 appearances have been a disaster.
|Team Win Pct in App,||0.824||0.632|
|HR per 9||0.9||2.4|
|>>.545 win pct., 1.55 WHIP, 7.82 ERA in last 44 appearances|
Cano meanwhile continues to struggle in his return to the Big Apple. Last season the former Yankee posted career lows in WAR (0.3), BA (.256), and OPS (.736). Now 37, there is little reason to foresee him returning to the form that saw him average 22 HR, 88 RBI, and a .848 OPS in the first 14 years of his career.
Meanwhile, Kelenic ranks 11th on MLB top prospect list, posting a .904 OPS (23 HR, 20 SB, .291 BA) across three levels in 2019. The former sixth pick in the 2018 draft, Kelenic’s rapid improvement, and five-tool ability have scouts drooling.
While the Mets lost Zack Wheeler to free agency and Noah Syndergaard to injury, watching Justin Dunn blow away his competition must sting. Dunn posted a 1.19 WHIP in 2019, striking out 158 in 131.1 innings and reached the majors in late September.
Watching Diaz melt under the New York spotlight and Cano growing older each minute, Van Wagenen’s gaffe could rank among the worst trades in team history. For a franchise known for their legendary blunders on the trade market (Nolan Ryan, Amos Otis, Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Ken Singleton, and Scott Kazmir, to name a few), that is saying something.