If you squint, you can make some sense ofof second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz. In part, that's because of these numbers ...
- 80.9 wins
- 10.8 percent chance of winning NL East
- 20.4 percent chance of making postseason
That's how the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) projected the Mets for 2019 prior to the Cano addition. That would make a for a four-win improvement over 2018, and that one-in-five chance of making the playoffs is something a front office can work with.
To be sure, it's easy to laugh at the idea of the Mets contending this coming season, but it's not really an outlandish notion. This, after all, is a team that went 38-30 in the second half with a plus-37 run differential over that same span. When it comes to roster-building for a given season, this scribe proceeds from the first principle that when in doubt teams should attempt to contend. The Mets, forecast as a .500 team before dealing for Cano, qualify as fringe contenders. Beyond that general notion, there are the particulars -- the Mets for too long have behaved like something other than a team splitting the media capital of the western world. On those grounds, any sort of investment in the product by the Wilpon family is not to be discouraged.
Mostly, though, this is about the Mets having a realistic shot at contention. For the Cano addition to make sense, they need to fully commit. That means, no, Noah Syndergaard should not be traded, and, yes, further roster improvements should be sought out. Half measures are to be avoided, especially when making the playoffs is the goal.
That brings us back to Cano. Yes, he's 36, but he's coming off a 2018 season in which he put up an SportsLine ...of 136 and a of 3.2 in just 80 games. Even if decline takes hold in 2019, he still figures to be quite useful, especially given how durable he's been (that lost half-season in 2018 was of course the result of a suspension). Speaking of which, here is Cano's preliminary projection for 2019, again from our compadres over at
Those are strong numbers across a typical Cano workload. Last season, the Mets got a fairly strong .788 OPS from their second basemen. That was mostly the work of Asdrubal Cabrera, who was traded to the Phillies before becoming a free agent, and Jeff McNeil, who was in line to be the Mets' starting second baseman before the Cano add.
That brings us to roster flow. McNeil's a 26-year-old who put up a 140 OPS+ in 63 games with the Mets last season. That's on top of an .823 OPS across parts of six minor-league seasons. While he's likely to regress somewhat in 2019, he still profiles as a useful hitter. The good news for New York is that he can also play third base, and, as a left-handed hitter, he also pairs well with decline-phase Todd Frazier in a platoon arrangement at the hot corner. So Cano's presence doesn't necessarily force McNeil to the bench or back to Triple-A.
As for Diaz, he gives the Mets dominance in the closer role, and his addition means that Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo can slide down to the primary setup roles. The Mets, though, still need some depth in the bullpen even after landing one of MLB's best closers. On that note ...
The expectation is the Mets will look to pair Edwin Diaz with a high-end eighth inning guy - David Robertson and Andrew Miller were two such names thrown at me - and also add a veteran multiple-innings type reliever to the bullpen.— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) November 30, 2018
That's encouraging on a couple of fronts -- GM Brodie Van Wagenen recognizes that the bullpen is still a concern, and it signals that the Mets will keep making moves with an eye toward winning in 2019. To repeat, that's the only way the Cano move makes sense.
The Mets still need to do more after buttressing the relief corps (Marwin Gonzalez would be a nice fit), and of course resisting the urge to trade Syndergaard is highly advisable given that winning in the upcoming season is the immediate goal. Don't meander from the course, and the splash additions of Cano and Diaz are more than justifiable.