• December 11, 2018
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Queens Chronicle

Swindled by Seattle

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2018 10:30 am

New York Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen clearly wants the Mets to win now in the worst way — and he may have done just that with his first trade.

After prolonged negotiations, the Mets received second baseman Robinson Cano and relief pitcher Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Jay Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak and prospects Gerson Bautista, Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic. The Mets also reportedly got $20 million from the Mariners to defray some of the hefty financial obligations remaining on Cano’s contract.

Granted, divesting of Swarzak, one of former General Manager Sandy Alderson’s many expensive relief pitcher free agent signings, was a positive. Bruce was hurt for a good chunk of the year but when he came off the disabled list in late August he was hitting with power.

Cano was one of Van Wagenen’s former clients so it is understandable that he would have an affinity for him. He was also a very productive player for the New York Yankees in his prime and there is always mystique in that from a Mets viewpoint. But Cano is not the same player he was when Van Wagenen negotiated that ten-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners five years ago. He is 36, and was suspended 80 games last year for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Cano’s contract had become a serious balance sheet liability for Seattle. Making matters worse for the Mariners was the no-trade clause.

Given Seattle’s understandable motivation to move Cano for financial relief combined with the lack of buyers for him, there was no reason for the Mets to ship three prospects in the trade. OK, maybe one could have been included in the deal for appearance’s sake for the Mariners but it shouldn’t have been Kelenic, their top pick from the 2018 amateur draft.

The Mets also didn’t appear to need a second baseman because rookie Jeff McNeil quickly became the toughest out in their lineup when he was called up from the minors in August.

Mets fans who like this trade will point out that while Cano was the most familiar name in the deal, the team made the trade to obtain young reliever Edwin Diaz.

Diaz had a fine season but he doesn’t have a lengthy track record of success. Closing games in New York is far different than doing so in the Pacific Northwest. There are also many relievers in the free agent market this winter.

I have faith in Van Wagenen but he got played by his Mariners counterpart, Jerry DiPoto. He is going to have to be a better poker player in the future.

The Cano-Diaz trade obscured the fact that the Mets decided not to offer Wilmer Flores a contract for 2019, making him a free agent.

The Mets have a surfeit of infielders and apparently Flores’ versatility and his uncanny ability to get game-winning hits did not factor into Van Wagenen’s decision-making. Wilmer has spent his entire career in the Mets organization and deserved a better a fate. He shouldn’t have trouble catching on with another big league club.

The hiring of Jim Riggleman as the Mets’ bench coach was understandably praised. Riggleman is a former manager and his baseball knowledge is unparalleled. Most importantly, he is very familiar with the National League which his predecessor, Gary DiSarcina, was not. DiSarcina will be the Mets’ third base coach in 2019.

Former Mets second baseman Wally Backman, who was a member of the 1986 World Series-winning team, will manage the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League in 2019. Unfortunately for Wally, Suffolk County may be as close to Citi Field as he’ll ever get.

The Brooklyn Nets always get off to respectable starts despite a perennial paucity of talent compared with most other NBA teams. Invariably, however, they go into prolonged slumps right around Thanksgiving which tend to last through the start of the new year.

This pattern is rearing its ugly head again. Last week they lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer to the Philadelphia 76ers when Jimmy Butler drained a three-point shot with less than a second left on the clock. These things occur in the NBA all the time but what really hurt was that it represented the culmination of the Nets dissipating a very big lead which they had enjoyed throughout that game. And it disappeared at the very worst time for them, of course.

The Nets proceeded to cough up sizable leads in the fourth quarter in their next two home games against the Utah Jazz and the Memphis Grizzlies and lost both games. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson admitted that his team is lacking confidence during crunch time prior to Friday night’s game with the Grizzlies.

Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club lost its most recognizable player when David Villa announced that he would not be back in 2019. Speculation is that he plans on playing in his native Spain again.

Discovery Networks, which distributes Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, is going into business with Tiger Woods in the launching of Golf TV, which will occur in early 2019.

Fox Sports has signed a deal with the New York Racing Association to televise races from Belmont Park and Saratoga. Aqueduct was left out of the deal for reasons that were not articulated. Expect most racing cards to be shown on Fox Sports’ FS2 network.

The movers and shakers of the sports world were in attendance at the Sports Business Journal’s Dealmakers in Sports conference that was held last Wednesday at the Essex House in Manhattan.

Longtime baseball executive Larry Lucchino admitted that the new tax laws which disallow a business entertainment deduction for companies that purchase game suites and tickets will have a negative effect on the sports industry. He added that he expects that the various sports leagues will lobby Congress to have them be allowed as deductible expenses once again.

Lucchino, who is a former Boston Red Sox CEO and is currently in charge of moving their AAA farm team from Pawtucket, RI to Worcester, Mass., graciously gave out Sox swag to anyone who asked him a question. He joked that he has a Yankees pacifier for any fans who were upset at how the 2018 season concluded.

Former Knicks guard Baron Davis was a panelist at Dealmakers. He spoke about his investment strategies and how he took an equity stake in Vitaminwater instead of an endorsement fee. “They did not have enough to pay me so I took the stock instead!” he said with a laugh. He cleaned up, just as former Mets third baseman David Wright did, when Coca-Cola bought the company from its founder, Middle Village native Mike Repole.

Life and style

Discovery Network will salute high school students who are trying to restore New York Harbor to a time when it was a home to oyster beds and lots of other marine life with “Take Back the Harbor,” which debuts on Dec. 18.

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