Fantasy Baseball Trade Analysis: Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz head to the Mets
How will the Mets-Mariners trade blockbuster alter the Fantasy landscape? Here's how it looks now.
The Mets and Mariners danced around a big deal for most of the last week, but they finally , according to media reports. The Mariners' teardown continued, while the Mets seem to be making one more run at the playoffs with this core. Let's break it down.
The Mets made themselves better in 2019 with this deal. They might have made their financial outlook in 2022 look worse, but they'll win more games in 2019 than they otherwise would have, and that's good news. For the Mets, and for Diaz.
Diaz is, obviously, one of the best pitchers in baseball. That he generally only plies his trade in three-batter increments doesn't bother Fantasy players, who enjoyed one of the best reliever seasons in MLB history from him last season. The numbers are, frankly, staggering: 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, 124 strikeouts, 57 saves. 57 saves. Fifty. Seven.
Diaz probably won't repeat his 2018 dominance, but that won't be because he changed teams. He's armed with just two pitches, if only because a third would be unfair to the hitters. He induced a swinging strike on a whopping 29.1 percent of the sliders he threw in 2018, making it one of the best put away pitches in the game. If his ERA goes back above the 2.00 mark, or his saves fall below the 50 threshold in 2019, you won't mind. Assuming health -- every Mets fan just started crying a little bit -- he's going to be one of the best relievers in baseball. And he should be the first off the draft board this spring.
Cano is, undoubtedly, the more interesting of the two players going to the Mets, and I think he could be a huge value for Fantasy players. The PED suspension masked it, but Cano showed no signs of slowing down in his age-35 season. Coming off a year when he hit .280/.338/.453, Cano was even better in 2018, going .303/.374/.471 with 10 homers, 44 runs, and 50 RBI in 80 games. He was terrific, and was even better after coming back from his suspension.
Of course, he's a now-36-year-old coming off a suspension for PEDs, so we shouldn't just extrapolate his half-season numbers out and go from there, right? Of course not! He's an injury risk at his age, and there's always the chance he just falls off a cliff. But we've seen players like Nelson Cruz and Dee Gordon go undervalued coming off suspensions, so if you can get Cano at a discount, I would still expect him to be a top-10 second baseman in 2019.
As for the rest of the fallout here, the most interesting names to ponder are Jeff McNeil and Peter Alonso. McNeil carried his strong minor-league performance into his partial-season stint with the Mets last season, hitting .329/.381/.471 and showing a rare bat-on-ball ability that could make him a true .300 hitter moving forward. But there may not be everyday at-bats for him, and the Mets may end up splitting his time between third, second, and possibly first. McNeil is a late-round target with upside.
That might depend on Alonso, the team's most promising hitting prospect. Alonso clubbed 36 homers in just 132 games between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and then hit six more in 27 games in the Arizona Fall League. The bat is ready, but he might be a DH masquerading as a first baseman, which means he needs to hit to stick. I expect he will, but if he gets off to a slow start, the Mets may not have the luxury of waiting around for him to figure it out. Alonso has Rhys Hoskins-like upside, but there may be someone in your league who gets too excited and starts reaching for him in the top-150. If he falls to the utility range (say, 200th overall), consider him there.
For those of you in seasonal Fantasy leagues, there just isn't much here. But those of you in Dynasty leagues will want to pay attention, as two former first-round picks swapped hands in the deal.
Kelenic is the more interesting of the two, though he's also a lot further away. The prep outfielder went No. 6 overall in the 2018 draft, and more than held his own in his first taste of professional action, hitting .286/.371/.468 in 56 games at rookie ball. He hit six homers and stole 15 bases, and could be a Fantasy stud — in 2023, or so. He's a long way away, and though the upside is high, he's also an 18-year-old with 56 professional games under his belt. If he keeps hitting like he did last year, he could move quicker, but right now he's a Dynasty-only prospect, albeit one who should be a top-10 pick among 2018 draftees.
Dunn is definitely closer to the majors, but doesn't seem to have the Fantasy upside his younger org-mate does. He's flashed upside in the minors, specifically when he posted a 2.36 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings for High-A St. Lucie in 2018, earning a promotion to Double-A. However, he came back to earth at Binghamton, posting a 4.22 ERA in 15 starts. He still struck out over a batter per inning, but also struggled more with his control. He may end up a reliever in the long run, but the Mariners will surely give him every chance to prove himself, and a 2019 debut seems likely unless things go disastrously this season. If he gets off to a hot start in the minors, he'll definitely be on redraft radars come midseason, but you don't need to draft him this spring.
Bruce gets a slight upgrade in home park, but probably a downgrade in lineup. Bruce has never hit well at Citi Field (career .667 OPS), so this could be a boon for him. He's a nice bounce-back candidate from a disastrous 2018, though he'll need to prove he's over the hip injury that plagued him last season. Don't forget, he was a top-20 outfielder in Roto leagues in 2017, and could be had for cheap in drafts this spring.
Swarzak and Bautista are relievers, but Bautista could be a dark horse to work in the late innings in Seattle after Diaz's exit. He hits triple-digits with his fastball, and that alone should get your attention. Nothing else he does may garner much excitement, as he posted a 5.14 ERA in 49 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018 — though his peripherals (29.7 K%, 7.8 BB%) paint a better picture. If he comes out throwing well in the spring, don't be surprised if he gets a chance to close for the Mariners. Keep him on your radar.
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