At the time of the deal to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, popular results among Mets fans was mixed. Maybe it tilted more towards those who thought it was a bad idea but certainly no worse than a 55-45 type of split. Then, after just about everything that possibly could go wrong from a Mets perspective happened during the 2019 season, popular opinion was heavily against the trade. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that on January 1, 2020 that 98% of fans would have voided the deal if given the chance.

So, it should be noted that both Cano and Diaz are performing quite well in this shortened season. Cano sits with a .958 OPS after 115 PA. And Diaz, after giving up runs in two of his first three appearances and losing his closer’s job, has battled back to post a 1.23 ERA in his last 14 games, with a 4.0 K/BB rate, thanks to 32 Ks in 14.2 IP. The walks are a concern but he’s only allowed 1 HR in that span, a far cry from last year’s gopher ball issues.

Meanwhile, Justin Dunn is 3-1 with the Mariners but has hardly been overwhelming with a 4.09 ERA, good for a 103 ERA+. Absolutely, the Mets could have used him in 2020 but he hasn’t been as good as either Cano or Diaz. And with no minor league season, we haven’t had any Jarred Kelenic exploits, either. Kelenic made the Mariners’ 60-man roster but he’s yet to make an appearance in the majors, despite Mallex Smith’s .348 OPS.

In 2019, the trade was a big win for the Mariners. In 2020, it’s shaping up to be a big win for the Mets. It’s the type of deal that the Mets were supposed to win in the immediate term. The hope was that the Mets would win the first 2-3 years while Kelenic was in the minors. And not just win from a production standpoint but win as in have Cano and Diaz lead them deep into the playoffs. That could happen in 2020, with the Mets now having a 53.8% chance of making the playoffs despite a current sub-.500 record. With a top-heavy pitching staff and a strong offense, they could win a playoff series or two.

It’s important to recognize how the deal is working for the Mets here in 2020. But let me state for the record that this was still a bad trade.

SPINNING THROUGH THE METS ROTATION – At the beginning of Spring Training, the Mets expected their 2020 rotation to feature Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello and a battle between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha for the fifth spot. Of course, neither Syndergaard nor Stroman threw a single pitch for the club. And Matz, Porcello and Wacha have been varying degrees of terrible. The injuries are bad luck and the rotten performance – well, it happens. But let’s recount how the Mets reacted to openings in their rotation.

Matz won the last spot and when Syndergaard went down, they moved Wacha to the rotation. Few were upset with the way this was handled. But when Stroman was lost, the Mets called up David Peterson. This was overwhelmingly approved, too, even if not to the same degree as the first move. But then the Mets used Robert Gsellman for their next SP opening and not many people approved that move at all. Then Walker Lockett got a shot, followed by Corey Oswalt. Those last three pitchers combined for 19.2 IP in six games as a starter. If that wasn’t bad enough, they allowed 16 ER. Finally, the Mets moved Seth Lugo to the rotation. In three starts, he has a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 IP. And just for kicks, the Mets gave a start to Ariel Jurado, too. That went as poorly as expected, as he allowed 5 ER in 4 IP.

It’s my opinion that the rotation was mishandled and not by a little. At the very least, Lugo should have gotten the third shot. That would have allowed Gsellman more chances to pitch in the majors, both to stretch out and to get acclimated to MLB action. Before making his first start, Gsellman had pitched a total of just 1 IP in the previous 365 days in the majors. How he was allowed to start doesn’t get the scrutiny and disdain that it deserves.

With the way the Mets handled things, Gsellman’s confidence is shot and they lost Lockett due to the necessity of a waiver move. Oh, and they also lost Jordan Humphreys, another depth rotation piece. One can argue that Lockett is no loss (disagree) and that Humphreys wasn’t likely to do anything, anyway (agree.) But one could also say that they lost time in the rotation that could have been better used with Lugo, lost a potential valuable bullpen piece in Gsellman and that perhaps a regular turn in the rotation for Lockett or Oswalt would have delivered better results. We can all agree that the way the Mets handled it didn’t work at all. And they had other options.

WINNING BIG IN BLOWOUTS – Conventional wisdom is that good teams know how to win the close ones. The reality is that winning one-run games is just as likely to be about luck, while good teams thrive in blowouts, defined as when the final score results in a 5-run or more advantage for the winning team. The Mets are 19-22 overall after Sunday’s big win, which upped their record to 8-3 in blowouts. It’s tough to rationalize the Mets’ overall record when their blowout record is so good. Here’s how all winning teams did in blowouts and one-run games in 2019:

Team Overall One-Run Blowouts
HOU 107-55 24-19 36-12
LAD 106-56 27-22 41-12
NYY 103-59 18-19 32-16
MIN 101-61 23-12 35-13
ATL 97-65 28-16 31-17
OAK 97-65 27-22 30-17
TBR 96-66 23-16 26-16
CLE 93-69 15-16 29-24
WSN 93-69 17-21 29-19
STL 91-71 25-22 26-17
MIL 89-73 27-18 18-22
NYM 86-76 24-23 21-17
ARI 85-77 24-26 32-20
BOS 84-78 23-22 27-23
CHC 84-78 19-27 32-18

Five of our 15 teams with winning records had losing marks in one-run games, while the Mets and Red Sox were both just one game above .500 in this split. By comparison, only one team had a losing record in blowouts and 10 of the 15 teams were 10 games or more above .500 in the blowout split. The 2020 Mets have their work cut out for them to finish above .500 for the season. But in a normal year we’d be pretty confident that a .727 mark in blowouts would mean they were a pretty good team.

A HIT WITH A SWING AND A MISS – In 2020, the MLB rate for a swing and a miss is 11.3, noted as SwStr%. This means that for every 1,000 pitches, MLB hitters will swing and not make contact 113 times. In Sunday’s game against the Phillies, deGrom threw 108 pitches and recorded 35 swings without contact. That’s a 32.4 SwStr% or nearly three times the average rate this season. It marked the first time since 2016 that a pitcher recorded that many empty swings in a game. Danny Duffy completed eight innings when he notched 35 while deGrom accomplished his in seven. Just another log on the fire for the greatness of deGrom.

A MISS WITH RISP – There are four teams in the National League with a team OPS over .800 and they are: San Diego (.822), Atlanta (.821), New York (.812) and Los Angeles (.808). The top three teams in the NL in runs scored are the Padres, Dodgers and Braves. The Mets fall to sixth in runs scored because of their dreadful results with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers are just about equal with the Mets in overall production. Yet they’ve scored 40 more runs than the Mets. And that can’t be explained by the Dodgers having played one more game. Rather, it’s because the Dodgers have a .911 OPS with RISP while the Mets have a .690 mark. With RISP, the Dodgers have produced 162 runs. The Mets have pushed across only 129.

17 comments on “Cano/Diaz trade update, the bungled rotation, deGrom’s domination

  • NYM6986

    Great observation on their poor rotation management. For a team generally known for developing starting pitchers, whether home grown or via trade, it seems like they missed the boat with Lockett and Oswalt. Petersen has certainly earned his shot and his temporary demotion to the pen was surprising. I know Matz is a “slow developing lefty” but it seems he peaked in his first game at Citifield both from a pitching and hitting perspective. Look for him to be in a package to get a true CF who can also hit. Then the question is who do they throw to? My hope is when Cohen gets league approval the catcher heading our way will be JT Realmuto. And lastly, if we got the Cano and Diaz of 2020 in 2019, with the pitching staff we had and the emergence of Alonso, we might have captured our third crown. Nice win yesterday, now let’s do it again today.

    • Mike W

      When in the last five years have the Mets developed and brought up a very promising starting pitcher?

      • Brian Joura

        Just because we went through a stretch where the Mets brought up Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom and Syndergaard in a four-year stretch doesn’t mean you bring up guys like that on a regular basis.

        • Mike W

          Syndergaard was the most recent in 2015 in the stretch that you mentioned. Would have been nice to even have one more in that caliber for 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. So until we get to see what Allan, Wolfe and Dominguez can do, that’s a pretty long stretch.

          • Brian Joura

            I just feel like you’re being unrealistic.

            The Nats called up Stephen Strasburg in 2010. There hasn’t been anyone remotely like that for them since.
            The Marlins called up Jose Fernande in 2013. Have they called up anyone like that since? Sandy Alcantara made the AS team but he’s 10-18 with a 3.83 ERA
            The Phillies had Cole Hamels in 2006 and then waited until 2015 before Aaron Nola

            Look at the earlier Mets. They had Matlack in 1972 and then it was until 83/84 before Darling and Gooden.

            What the Mets had from 2012-2015 is the exception

  • Brian Joura

    While looking up something else, I found out that when the Mets DFA’d Walker Lockett to free up a spot for David Peterson returning from the injured list, they kept both Paul Sewald and Daniel Zamora. Now, Lockett may stink but I’d have certainly kept him over either of those two relievers.

    • David Klein

      Lockett was out of options so they had to dfa him to clear a roster spot

      • Brian Joura

        Gotcha.

        I still think they should have used better long-range roster management skills than to be in a situation where they lost a guy with at least some upside. While he wasn’t good in his start – at least he gave them innings. Why was he called up to be a reliever when they knew they were going to need the roster spot soon for Peterson?

  • Rob

    The kevin smith to Orioles puzzled me. Had decent minor league numbers and seemed like the closest the mets had to a major league ready starter that could contribute. Was never high on dunn. I got to see him pitch a few times and just seems to get flustered easy and lose focus.

  • TJ

    The starting pitching has been clearly mismanaged, and that is on the GM. Sometimes those little deals that we don’t pay much attention to are big deals nonetheless. Plawecki for Lockett was a loss for the GM. Saying that in hindsight is one issue, and some of the problem was created before Brodie came on the scene by rushing Nido to the bigs in a somewhat panic move. But, the bottom line was, they acquired a marginal big league starter with minimal options for a less marignal big league catcher out of options, when the Mets were short on big league catchers as well as high level minor league starters with options. Now, I don’t know the marketplace, but if Lockett or a guy like him had more options, they would be much more of an asset, in a COVID season or in any season. Lockett is not good by MLB standards, but he is mch better than Sewald and Zamora. No GM wins every move, but every single move is important and should be made with the big picture in mind, maybe even moreso than the immediate need.

    I’ll stick with the Cano trade being a bad deal, but I have no doubt that Jeff signed off or bought Brodie’s schtick knowing the club would be for sale shortly. If things go down as we expect, Cohen will own the team, eating money will be less of an option, and the NL DH will be permanent. That softens the blow regardless of how players perform, but if Kelenic should go on to provide high level CF play for a good run, it will sting anyway, unless the Mets find themselves a CF that excels on offense and defense as well.

  • Name

    Edwin Diaz’s stats are a facade. In terms of helping the ballclub, he’s been an even bigger bust than last year.
    Last year he had a -1.588 WPA in 58 IP.
    This year in only 17 IP it’s -.52, prorate that to last year’s innings and that’s -1.77

    Cano is a +.713 so together they are just +.2, hardly a success. Justin Dunn in his few innings is at +.1

    • Brian Joura

      Looking at Diaz’ WPA on FanGraphs, where you can see it by individual game, he’s had 12 games with a positive WPA, 5 games with a negative WPA and one game with a 0.00 WPA. Obviously, for a closer, you get more of a negative in a bad outing than you get of a positive in a good outing. The Aug 30 game against the Yankees when he gave up the HR, he had a (-0.80) WPA for the game. His biggest positive outing this year has resulted in a 0.16 WPA.

      Even if you go back to his big 2018 with the Mariners, his biggest WPA in a single game was 0.23, which he did twice. He had five games with a bigger negative WPA that season. Overall, he had eight negative outings, three neutral ones and 62 positive outings.

      It’s tougher for a closer to post a high WPA in a game than a starter. Last year deGrom had 11 games with a higher WPA than Diaz’ best in 2018.

      Just to be clear, I’m not disagreeing with your post – I’m just trying to give it context. The real disagreement comes from paying a high price in trade assets for a closer, no matter how much you like the reliever.

      • Name

        Does that mean you’ll retract some of the statements you’ve made in the article?

        “So, it should be noted that both Cano and Diaz are performing quite well in this shortened season”
        “In 2019, the trade was a big win for the Mariners. In 2020, it’s shaping up to be a big win for the Mets.”

        • Brian Joura

          Absolutely not.

          WPA has its uses but it’s not the only word on things. Let’s look at fWAR, even though I don’t feel it does a good job of valuing relievers, either.

          Cano – 0.9
          Diaz – 0.6
          Dunn – (-0.1)

          • Name

            So if you think the trade is still a big win for the Mets in 2020, that would imply that you do disagree with my first post. Unless you’re saying Cano is performing really well and that’s why it’s a big win no matter how well or poorly Diaz is doing.

            I really think WPA is the measure to use to evaluate late game arms. The job of closer is to protect leads and prevent losses and WPA measures that well. Sequencing is important for relief pitching. Giving up no runs when it’s a 2-1 game and giving up 2 runs when it’s a 5-1 game affects the standings a lot more than the reverse.

            Diaz has given up runs when it’s counted and prevented runs when it hasn’t and that’s why he has a bad WPA and should not be a considered a success (so far) in 2020.

            • Brian Joura

              I woke up in a good mood and I was bending over backwards not to be argumentative

  • MattyMets

    Going forward, a rotation of deGrom, Lugo, Porcello, Peterson and Wacha/Matz may not be enough, but, now that Alonso and McNeil are hitting again, maybe we can sneak into the playoffs and benefit from a shorter rotation. Porcello and Peterson have had their moments, but Wacha and Matz are typically losing games for us by the 3rd inning and burning up a taxed bullpen. For next year, we need to add a strong arm – a real innings eater. Syndergaard probably won’t be ready to start the season, but with him and a new arm, the rotation could be strong by mid-season.

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