M’s Nearing Cano Blockbuster, Trade Alex Colome to Ease the Tension

marc w · November 30, 2018 at 12:39 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The M’s are about to trade 2B Robinson Cano and CL Edwin Diaz to the Mets – the actual Mets – in exchange for top prospects Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and the contracts of Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak. It’s a franchise-altering deal, one that sends off the biggest trading chip the franchise has moved in years, and one that firmly closes the door on any form of contention in the next few years. A deal this big takes time, so we’ve watched the initial speculation, counter-offers, and analysis play out publicly over several days. It’s at once fascinating and awful.

The M’s are obviously desperate to move on from Cano. The question is why: it can’t purely be a cost-saving move, as with the money they’d reportedly send to New York AND by taking on Bruce and Swarzak, they don’t really save a lot, especially in the next 2-3 years. Edwin Diaz garnered a lot of attention from other clubs – how could he not? – and the M’s still seem hell-bent on packaging him with Cano.

Now, I think Cano’s contract has always been overplayed. Yes, it’s a lot of money, and yes, it runs through his age-40 season, but what gets lost here is that Cano’s been productive in his time with Seattle. Yes, he missed 80 games last year, and that probably led to some of the urgency with which Jerry Dipoto shopped him this month, but people are referring to him as an albatross or simply as a cautionary tale about long contracts. No; Robinson Cano is *still* an excellent player, and will add value on the field wherever he plays next year. Is he worth his contract? He’s projected for 3 wins next season, and at ~8-9 per, that’s $24-27 million, or right in line with what he’ll get. The problem is that the M’s will be paying about half of that amount. At ~$12 M per year, Cano looks like a decent bargain, particularly in the early years. “What about his age 39-40 years?” you ask? Who cares? He’ll have provided plenty of surplus value once you account for the M’s kicking in all of that money. The M’s are building a contender, it’s just in New York.

That’s not to say the deal is as disastrous as it first appeared. The M’s now get two prospects that easily slide into the front end of their top 10, and Anthony Swarzak had a brilliant 2017 before an awful 2018 turned him into a salary-matching throw-in that probably undersells him a bit. I’m not sure I love this deal, especially without knowing what, say, Philadelphia would’ve traded for Diaz alone, but I’m just struck by the weirdness of it. What about Cano’s personality or what about the clubhouse’s demeanor in the 2nd half did Dipoto attribute to Cano? For a year or two, the M’s had been doing everything they could to counter the old narrative that Cano was selfish. We’ve seen him work with plenty of young hitters, going back to Justin Smoak, Ketel Marte, Jean Segura, and then youngsters this season. We watched the loose, laughter-filled competitions that Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano would organize for the M’s in the spring, and as much as anything, that camaraderie was singled out as a reason why the M’s were blowing their pythagorean record out of the water in early 2018. Not long after, the M’s are apparently deciding to pay handsomely to be rid of one of the architects of that culture. Meanwhile, the Mets, long seen as loathe to spend money following the Bernie Madoff-fueled losses their owners absorbed, will take on a long-term contract right when they’re trying to extend Cy Young winner Jacob de Grom.

Both teams can probably come out of this claiming victory. The Mets get a ton of money to go along with their new obligations, they get one of the best relievers alive (who happens to be earning next to nothing), AND they keep their top prospects in Peter Alonso and SS Andres Gimenez. The M’s can say they get future flexibility to add star-level players AND get two very good prospects for a system that needs them desperately. They recognize that what the M’s of 2019-2020 need *least* are shut-down relievers, so better to move them now.

That approach also led to today’s rather more modest deal. The M’s are sending Alex Colome to the White Sox in exchange for catcher Omar Narvaez. At first glance, this is simply great for the M’s. The M’s do not need a great set-up man or closer in Colome, and I remain somewhat skeptical that he’s great at all. He’s had a FIP in the mid 3’s 3 of the past 4 years, and he hasn’t shown a *persistent* ability to strand runners the way he did in 2016. He’s a good player, but not a transcendent one – not when the average reliever has a K% just 2 percentage points behind Colome’s 2018 mark. Narvaez is an intriguing guy. He’s 26, bats lefty, and draws a ton of walks. Coming into 2018, that was essentially the sum total of his attributes: he had zero power, and hadn’t shown consistent hitting ability in the minors beyond a good walk rate and low Ks. Worse, he didn’t have a classic catcher’s arm, a Zunino-grade cannon to control the running game – he was a bat-first catcher with half a bat. But 2018 showed a lot of promise. Narvaez hit 9 HRs, tripling the 3 he hit in 2016-17 combined. There’s a bit more whiffs now, but a high walk rate and mediocre power is pretty darn good, especially at that position.


16 Responses to “M’s Nearing Cano Blockbuster, Trade Alex Colome to Ease the Tension”

  1. cjones on November 30th, 2018 8:31 pm

    My first reaction to impending trades is always to try to figure out who is getting the better deal. Then I remember that a) we don’t know nearly as much about the players involved as the FO does, and b) a player’s value is not a constant – it changes with time and it depends on the team they’re on. So, I try to stay calm; time will tell.
    Of course, this calm attitude doesn’t apply to thievery like Lowe/Varitek for Slocumb.

  2. sexymarinersfan on November 30th, 2018 9:43 pm

    The original deal was,

    Mets get: Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and Mallex Smith

    Mariners get: Andres Gimenez, Justin Dunn, Dominic Smith, and Jay Bruce


  3. LongDistance on December 1st, 2018 5:24 am

    I can’t disagree with the analysis at all, but I can perhaps address the why: because there’s simply no need for WAR or any other considerations to keep these guys around, when there’s no expectation they’d be doing anything with it — or the clubhouse atmosphere — or anything. Rolls Royce hood ornaments on a used Chevy.

  4. MrZDevotee on December 1st, 2018 8:30 am

    I think the deal becomes clearly better as we start to learn that the M’s likely will be on the hook for closer to 1/4 of Cano’s remaining salary rather than the half it started out.

    And Gerson Bautista is an interesting “thing” supposedly being added, in that he’s a hard thrower/slider guy with control issues– something the M’s have some level of success at fixing in the past.

    Painful as peeling off these bandaids can be, DiPoto is quickly restocking our farm system and youth movement.

    I’m okay with it. If he can do it without losing Haniger, even better. Now I’m anxious to see what Leake and Segura bring us.

  5. DAMellen on December 1st, 2018 10:53 am

    Really? Man, I hate this trade and am starting to dread all future trades. How are Paxton and Diaz combined worth less than Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, or Jose Quintana was worth individually? At this point, I feel like if Jerry is THIS bad at negotiating, we should give up on rebuilding through trade. I’d rather have two extra draft picks than a guy with a high probability of being an adequate third starter, two guys who might be fourth or fifth starters if we’re lucky, a worthless future middle reliever, and a prospect with high upside who’s so far from the majors that the odds of him ever making an impact are just a shade higher than the odds of my 36 year old, haven’t pitched since middle school ass ever making an impact. Where’s Gleyber Torres or Eloy Jimenez or Clint Frazier? And I recognize that Kelenic has so much potential that it wouldn’t be a shock to see him as a top 20 prospect next year, but you have to acknowledge that he’s also so young and unproven that it wouldn’t be a shock to see him fall off the prospect map completely next year either so no matter what happens, his current value just isn’t that high and this trade should reflect that. It doesn’t. And I bet the next few trades don’t either. So far, Colome for Narvaez is the only trade I like. Maybe Jerry should give up on trading and focus on his true passion: being racist and sexist.

  6. sexymarinersfan on December 1st, 2018 11:36 am

    I really like this trade! He did it! He got us out from under the Cano deal. It was supposed to be the impossible. Plus he got us Kelenic who I was big on from the moment I saw him. He’s the future of this franchise now!

  7. Westside guy on December 1st, 2018 4:53 pm

    I will withhold judgement until I see the final deal. I don’t hate it on the face of it, though.

  8. 3cardmonty on December 2nd, 2018 3:26 am

    I’m about done with this front office. It’s been clear for years Dipoto is a second-division GM. The player development record is still nonexistent. Underwhelming returns for Paxton and Diaz. And Kevin Mather somehow still has a job. What an absolute dumpster fire. Sack the lot of them and hire Kim Ng.

  9. MrZDevotee on December 2nd, 2018 9:08 am

    So NYPost is reporting it’s done other than physicals…

    M’s will only send $20 million– so we’re unloading $100 million of Cano’s salary…

    Bruce’s and Swarzak’s contracts are movable (especially with both being only 1 year removed from good seasons), so this is likely not a “done” thing for the M’s yet.

    Overall, I think DiPoto did better than expected. (And let’s be realistic people– once the “they’re rebuilding” buzz is on, we’re not getting players at their prime back in return– and don’t NEED to…)

    Let’s all remember back to when we traded Randy Johnson to the Astros for what we all thought were “a bunch of nobodies” at the time. This is how these deals work. ESPECIALLY if you’re asking someone to take on a $120 million contract for a guy in his late 30s.

  10. MrZDevotee on December 2nd, 2018 9:15 am

    Also important to remember–

    It REALLY SUCKED to be a Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs fan about 8-10 years ago… It’s a process. It works, but there’s a painful, ugly period that has to happen. You have to know which of all these young guys is going to pan out before it’s time to pay money and put key players around them. Those days are 2 years out. There are no shortcuts. They probably should have done this LAST year, but I think it was worth trying to get lucky in the last seasons of The King’s, Cano’s, and Cruz’s time with us. We basically put off the rebuild for a year, to roll the dice, because we had a couple of super stars that deserved a last chance at “going for it”.

  11. LongDistance on December 2nd, 2018 9:26 am

    There’s no way a radical rebuild is going to by easy, or make everyone happy. But the point of a rebuild is not to be tweaking what you’ve got, but getting rid of anything and everything that could hold you back — if you’re lucky.

    We’ve been tweaking for so long … looking to pick up this piece or that piece that might make the difference. With results of almost and maybe. We watched great players see their careers peak and wane, seasons come and go without any real effort to pull the trigger come the July deadline. Just stirring sand, with our heads deeply inserted (in the sand, of course). We need to rebuild, and we need to get used to what that means. I don’t think many fans really know what that means, or how you go about watching it happen out on the field (other than knowing, for sure, they’re bound to lose more than win…).

    Yes, we’re saying goodbye to great players who would have maintained the club on artificial respiration for another season. I’m a million times more interested in watching next season, the pieces come together slowly, seeing what they can do, than watch the club shambling along business as usual. Time for this team to grow up and join the real world … a world it has in some ways avoided for quite a long time. Throwing bandaids on the thing in terms of dinger chasing and the fun family experience…

    That said, other nasty issues: KS and FH. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised at anything.

  12. heyoka on December 2nd, 2018 6:41 pm

    We thought we’d Cruz on a Cano down win river. Instead we find we are Dunn, and on the open rebuild sea.

  13. eponymous coward on December 3rd, 2018 7:51 am

    You can’t assume success before it happens (especially when 10–15 organizations are trying to tank at the same time, it’s mathematically impossible for them ALL to be successful). Pittsburgh spent 20 years being bad. They got Wild Card games and now are mediocre again.

    PS: there are organizations that don’t actually have to rebuild, ya know. Go look up the last Yankee team that lost 95 games in back to back years. Or Red Sox. Or Dodgers.

  14. eponymous coward on December 3rd, 2018 7:58 am

    The real world is an organization that hasn’t succeeded at building a consistent winner. Why do we think they’re going to start now?

    I’m on team “you might as well fire Jerry at this point”- the good GMs don’t have to rebuild, or wouldn’t have spent years dicking around and getting behind the curve, to the point where they have everyone chasing the same strategy they need to execute. Following the pack of a bunch of other GMs is a recipe for mediocrity.

  15. sexymarinersfan on December 3rd, 2018 9:11 am

    Ha!! I see what you did there. It’s time to give Dipoto an extension. Amazing job on his “retooling” plan. This team is going to be really good in 2 years. A young rotation of Gonzalez, Dunn, Swanson, Sheffield, and Gilbert. OF of Smith, Lewis, and Haniger. As of now a possible I field of Crawford, White, Gordon, and Seager. We have catching depth in Navarrez and Raleigh! Great job Dipoto. All the while, our future Superstar Kelenic is waiting in the wings!

  16. MrZDevotee on December 3rd, 2018 12:42 pm

    True words… But… Outspending everybody doesn’t work either, ’cause only one team STILL wins it all… And then you’re stuck for years to come… (See Angels, or Yankees 9 out of every 10 years until recently)… Those are really the only two options, spend or build, unless you wanna be the A’s and just leverage rental players year to year and hope to land on red. (See: milquetoast fan experience – it was either the A’s or M’s who were destined for playoff disappointment this season. )

    Sexymarinersfan summed up the optimist’s “realistic” point of view. Baseball is a very fancy Jenga game. You have to remove the right pieces, but keep the tower building, and then try not to add too many mistake pieces to the top before the whole thing topples.

    Fingers crossed.

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