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Robinson Cano Trade Will Cost Mets More Than Zack Wheeler

According to various reports, unless Zack Wheeler accepts the qualifying offer, and he’d be crazy to accept it, he is going to be a part of another organization in 2020. This would be one thing if the Mets believed they should pursue Gerrit Cole or another big name free agent, but as we know, Wheeler is as good as gone with no real replacement coming to the Mets.

Using Nathan Eovaldi as a comp, Wheeler would be owed a deal with an AAV of at least $17 million. Given his strong finish to the season, it’s arguable Wheeler could meet or possibly surpass $20 million. Of course, that depends on the length of the deal.

Now, from some corners you’ll hear the Mets can’t afford to keep Wheeler for that contract. There will be excuses offered with respect to the luxury tax threshold, can’t keep all of your players, and/or the Mets can’t afford him. If any of these are true, this is the latest example of just how much Brodie Van Wagenen has screwed things up in just one year.

The $20+ million deal per year for four years or more which could’ve been given to Wheeler is already on the books. That money is being given to Robinson Cano.

Cano turns 37 this month, and he is coming off an injury plagued year where he had just a 0.3 WAR. He was below average at the plate with a 93 wRC+, and he was bad in the field with a -6 DRS.

This leaves the Mets path to contention vested in a 37 year old getting healthier, more durable, and turning back the clock. Historically, this is a very poor bet. It’s certainly not a bet you’d like to have $80 million riding on over the next four years.

This is money which could’ve been invested in Wheeler. This wouldn’t allowed the Mets to keep this vaunted starting staff together for at least one more year. Possibly two. Instead, the Mets are going to let Wheeler walk because the money which could’ve been given to him is already tied up with Cano.

The obvious retort is if the Mets didn’t have Cano, they’d likely have Jay Bruce still. Putting aside the Mariners were able to trade him, he is only due $14 million in 2020. As such, he didn’t tie up the payroll for the ensuing three years thereby giving the Mets room to negotiate with Wheeler.

So, again, the money which could’ve been spent to keep Wheeler has already been spent.

Initially, when the trade was made to obtain Cano and Edwin Diaz, the focus was on losing Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic. Rightfully so. However, the damage to the team goes beyond that. It’s not just losing two prospects, it’s losing Major League players.

It’s not just this year either with Wheeler likely to depart. It also will hinder the ability to keep players like Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Brandon Nimmo. It’s possible there are more casualties when you consider arbitration raises and the like.

So overall, the Cano Trade didn’t cost just two top prospects. In the long run, it’s going to cost the Mets high-end Major League talent; talent necessary to fulfill the Mets win-now objectives.

Put another way, that trade is only going to get worse.

8 thoughts on “Robinson Cano Trade Will Cost Mets More Than Zack Wheeler”

  1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    Another good writeup. Showing the foolish Cano-Diaz deal from new angles highlights just how bad it was, and how damaging it will be over time. Now Dunn and Kay are gone, and both might have contributed to the 2020 Mets, making the team that much worse.

    Even MLB.com wrote that the Wilpons will treat Wright’s and Cespedes’ salary as 2020 payroll no matter how much they’re reimbursed, so we’re looking at the following team (from which talent is likely to dealt rather than added):

    SP deGrom
    SP Syndergaard
    SP Stroman
    SP Matz
    SP Oswalt

    1B Alonso / Smith
    2B Cano / Lowrie / McNeil
    SS Rosario
    3B Lowrie / McNeil / Davis
    C Ramos / Nido

    LF McNeil / Davis / Smith /
    CF Nimmo
    RF Conforto

    Bench: Nido / Guillorme / Davis / Smith

    Bullpen: Lugo / Diaz / Familia / Justin Wilson
    Gsellman / Drew Smith / Sewald / Zamora
    .
    .
    A team planning on contending would add at least one top-notch arm to the pen, and another Justin Wilson-level arm. Gsellman’s just a replacement level bullpen arm, and he’s probably 5th on their depth chart for the pen. They’d also add a starting CFer, move Nimmo to LF, and make Nimmo the reserve CFer.

    McNeil would move to 2B or 3B, depending on whether the Mets best addition during the offseason was a starting 3Bman or 2Bman. As bad as the Cano deal was, he was a HOF level talent and could have a good year left in him. So… what do you do when you have other needs at least as significant?

    Here are all the positions the Mets can upgrade at:

    Starting pitcher
    Starting CFer
    Starting 2B or 3Bman
    Top-flight reliever
    Solid bullpen arm
    Backup Catcher (maybe they can trade for Plawecki?)

    1. metsdaddy says:

      One note on Cespedes is the Mets are completely on the hook for his 2020 salary whether or not he plays

      1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

        Understood, though I believe his insurance is similar to Wright’s (though please correct me if I’m wrong), where 75% of his salary is covered, and where there’s a 60 day deductible that rolls over from season to season, meaning that since Cespedes missed the last 60 days of the 2019 season, his coverage for 2020 starts from Opening Day (assuming he’s still out).

        If he plays even one game, though, say on May 1st, is immediately injured and out for the rest of the year, his salary is only covered by insurance from April 1 to April 30, then from July 1st through the end of the season (after the 60 day deductible period following May 1 ends), or 4 months total. If he’s making $29m in 2020 his insurance in this case would pay the Wilpons $29m * 0.75 * (120/180 days) = ~$14.5m

        Without Cespedes the Mets aren’t in bad shape in the OF, but they really do need a solid defender in CF, even if it’s in a backup role. If they were going to add, say, $20m in salary for 2020 it looks like the best addition would be in the rotation, where a new SP would replace whomever they currently tab for the 5th starter role. That’s an improvement that can’t really be matched by adding to any other slot and given that someone like Oswalt might easily go negative in WAR, adding a good SP could easily add around 5-6 WAR to the 2020 Mets. Signing Grandal and dealing Ramos for his 2020 salary might be the next best move, and pretty close to adding an SP. Still, as the rotation stands, if one of the front 3 goes down for half the season, the team’s pretty much busted. At this point they don’t even have a 5th starter, never mind rotation depth.

        A lot of pennants have been won by teams with 4 good starters, a decent 5th starter (Matz in this case), and an average offense.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Cespedes’ 2019 salary was covered by insurance, but the 2020 will not be. The shame is they need his RHB to help counterbalance this lineup.

          1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

            Ah, I didn’t realize that. I thought the Mets had him covered through the end of his contract, as each of the following suggest. I’d be interested if you have one to a link to any write up asserting the contrary

            The Wilpons secretive practices don’t help, but each of these three articles imply Cespedes is insured for 2020. The first article also makes it clear elsewhere that the Wilpons will count the entirety of Cespedes $29m salary towards payroll even if in January they know he’ll never play again and even if 75% of his salary is covered by insurance. I don’t mind ownership groups counting insurance premiums as part of payroll, but it’s bs to count the way the Wilpons do, just as it’s bs to fail to subtract any salary that owners dump in-season when end of the year payroll is added up.

            “Cespedes is scheduled to receive $29 million next season, during which he is expected to miss at least the first two months. If Cespedes’ condition is covered and the Mets are recovering 75 percent from insurance, that would translate into $7.2 million for the franchise over two months — perhaps enough to add another proven bullpen arm or bat to the lineup for one season.”
            https://nypost.com/2018/07/26/how-mets-may-lose-big-money-on-cespedes-insurance-policy/

            “Fortunately for Mets owner Fred Wilpon, the Mets aren’t obligated to pay the entire tab for Cespedes. According to The New York Post’s Greg Joyce and Ken Davidoff, the team purchased an insurance policy on Cespedes’s contract. The policy requires that the insurer pay a portion of Cespedes’s salary in the event of a qualified absence from play. Cespedes’s inability to play due to heel injuries are qualified. It’s unclear if this policy also covers injuries caused by a non-baseball incident. Either way, the Mets will be on the hook for at least some of Cespedes’ remaining salary in 2019 and 2020.”
            https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/05/21/yoenis-cespedes-injury-new-york-mets-brodie-van-wagenen-contract-void

            “As per the four-year, $110-million extension he signed in the fall of 2016, Cespedes is scheduled to make $29 million this season — with approximately $7.5 million already earned — and $29.5 million next year. The Mets are already collecting significant insurance on Cespedes’ contract — a “little less” than the 75% they collected on David Wright’s contract, as Jeff Wilpon said last December — for his heel injuries, which have limited him to just one game since last May. Reclaiming his salary would give the Mets further savings as well as penalize Cespedes.”
            https://nypost.com/2019/05/20/yoenis-cespedes-bizarre-mishap-could-create-mets-money-battle/

  2. Mark Jones says:

    The Wilpons are solely responsible for this. They foolishly hired BVW even though he had no experience in player development. It’s why the Mets continue to be a second rate franchise. Until the Wilpons hand over control of baseball operations to very experienced people with a strong track record in player development, the results on the field will remain the same. The Mets will be a losing team punctuated by occasional seasons above .500.
    After many years where their farm system yielded little talent, Alderson who is very experienced at player development, began to stockpile talent in the minors. The result was Conforto, Alonso, Mcneil, D Smith, Rosario and Nimmo. What does BVW do as soon as he’s hired? He trades away two top prospects for a washed up Cano and a one trick pony named Diaz. Even if Diaz turns it around in 2020, as the author pointed out, taking on Cano’s 80 million in salary is a dead weight that will cost the team the ability keep younger talent under contract.
    If a business in another industry made a move that was as reckless as the Cano deal, it could put them out of business, but in baseball bad deals only ensure losing seasons. When’s the last time a MLB team went out of business.
    When you remove risk, you increase the odds of failure.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      There are a few who came close, including the Mets, but MLB bailed them out.

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