In theory, the Mets could have signed a closer in free agency, kept their prospects and not bothered with Cano, who is 36 years old and served an 80-game suspension last season for a positive drug test. But Cano might have something left.
He batted .317 in 41 games after returning from his suspension, and hitting is just what he does. As soon as Cano reached the majors, with the Yankees in 2005, Manager Joe Torre compared him to Rod Carew, the Hall of Famer with 3,053 career hits. Cano is not far behind with 2,470 hits — and a lot more thump, however he achieves it.
The Mets need hits; they ranked 29th out of 30 teams in hits last season, ahead of only the Philadelphia Phillies. Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets’ new general manager, is Cano’s former agent. That he would put so much faith in his former client, knowing his baggage, underscores his confidence in Cano.
The Mets hired Van Wagenen to be bold, not cautious, and bold can mean reckless. Van Wagenen was aggressive by necessity in his former line of work — nobody hires an agent to tank — and so he is again. He sold the Mets’ chief operating officer, Jeff Wilpon, on a vision of winning now. Raiding the farm system for a closer and an aging, expensive infielder is the ultimate win-now move.
Should the Mets now replenish the system by trading Noah Syndergaard and signing a veteran replacement like J.A. Happ? Ruben Amaro Jr., one of three assistants to Van Wagenen with experience as a general manager, could remind his boss of the perils of such a move.
With the Phillies in 2009, Amaro traded three prospects to Toronto for Roy Halladay and simultaneously acquired three prospects from Seattle for Cliff Lee. The best of those six prospects was Travis d’Arnaud, who went from the Phillies to the Blue Jays to, eventually, the Mets — who now want to replace him. Halladay and Lee, of course, continued being Halladay and Lee.