Regardless of the production received from Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz over the course of their careers as New York Mets, it will never be enough to quell the appetite of what Met fans desire from them. In order to get Cano and Diaz, the Mets had to trade away Jarred Kelenic, who has appeared in numerous videos as a corner outfield version of Mike Trout. The thought of what Kelenic might have been and will become has been enough to keep Mets fans tossing in their sleep, as well as given them an angle to treat the trade made with the Seattle Mariners almost always negatively.
Last season, the prospect of treating the trade as a failure was completely warranted. Both Cano and Diaz underperformed at a wild rate. Diaz, who had led the American League in saves the year prior to being traded to the Mets with 58, saved only 26 in his first season with the Mets. Cano played 80 games in 2018 due to a PED suspension, but still managed to hit .303 with a .471 slugging percentage. He slashed just a .256 batting average with a .428 slugging in 2019. It would be hard for even former Mets PR wizard Jay Horwitz to put a positive spin on the situation.
The media, and the Twitter warriors, had a field day. The trade is often discussed already as one of the worst in franchise history. What didn’t help was the videos surfacing of Kelenic absolutely raking in the minor leagues, as well as the numbers he recorded. Through his 117-game ascension from Mariners Low A to Double A last season, Kelenic torched opponents with a .291 average, 23 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and 68 RBIs. It made Baseball Prospectus drool enough to place him as the seventh best prospect in baseball entering 2020.
At the early onset of this sprint of a season, it appeared it would be more of the same suffering. Fans groaned about the prospect of Cano hitting any higher than fifth in the lineup, and Diaz blew his second save opportunity via a two-strike count home run against the Atlanta Braves, with his trademark smile to boot. Yet, after slow starts for both, things began to change. Diaz received some time on the pine and a relief from ninth inning duties. Cano, perhaps not feeling the pressure of that three hole, began to hit. All of a sudden, both Diaz and Cano appeared to be playing competent baseball in a Mets uniform.
Cano returned from his stint on the IL on Friday night at a convenient time. Although the word is that Jeff McNeil will not miss significant time after crashing into the left field wall at Citi Field on Thursday to catch a first inning line drive, there is no exact date for his return. The bat of Cano immediately brought juice back, as he delivered not only a home run, but a game-tying RBI single with two away in the top of the ninth. Following the game, his average sat at .412 for the season. Short season or not, it still has been an impressive run from Cano, and he has proven to be the most consistent Met hitter this season. It might be worth considering moving him up in the lineup to give him more RBI opportunities, since the rest of the team has struggled so much with driving guys in.
As for Diaz, the eighth inning role has brought some clarity to his presence on the mound. He has shrunk his ERA to 2.16, and has registered 17 strikeouts on the young season. His ERA+ is at 206, right near where his mark of 208 was when he shut the door 57 times in 2018. Looking past statistics with Diaz, his pitch movement has simply looked better this season than last, which is a great sign. Regardless of whether or not Diaz and Cano show to be competent ball players with the Mets, their careers with the Mets will unfortunately always be viewed in a negative light.
With the trade, there will always be an air hanging around about what could have been. This all or nothing attempt by Brodie Van Wagenen at the beginning of his tenure left no middle ground to grade the trade upon, due to the nature of all the players involved. With such high risk in trading Kelenic and Justin Dunn for an aging Cano and potential flash in the pan Diaz, there must be high reward. The trade would have to result in momentous victory, or it would be shrouded in monumental failure. Although Cano and Diaz are off to good starts this season for the Mets, until they help to garner World Series rings for the team, the acquisition of the pair, fair or unfair, will always be viewed as a failure.
Diaz saved 57 games in 2018
Kelenic slashed 23 minor league home runs in 2019
Cano is batting .412 in 2020