On June 9, 2016, the New York Mets front office selected Long Island native Justin Dunn in the first round of the MLB Draft with hopes of seeing him pitch on the Citi Field mound in the near future.
Six years later, Dunn stepped on the mound in Flushing, Queens for the first time. But, he didn’t take the mound until the bottom half of the first inning, as he was pitching for the opposing team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Dunn was one of seven players exchanged in the blockbuster deal that sent Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to New York, while the right-handed starter was moved with top prospect Jarred Kelenic and three other players to Seattle.
That move was the first of many for new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who wanted to make a splash with his first move.
He certainly did that.
And the backlash was resounding.
In Van Wagenen’s first press conference in 2018, he expressed how he wanted to “win now and in the future.” While he had acquired two All-Stars, it was at the cost of two of the Mets top prospects.
As time progressed, Kelenic rose to become one of baseball’s best prospects; Dunn looked like he would be in the Mariners starting rotation in the near future. At the same time in New York, Diaz pitched to a 5.59 ERA in 2019 with seven blown saves in 33 opportunities. He allowed 15 ninth inning home runs in 42.1 innings. Cano was a massive disappointment, holding a .256 average with a .736 OPS in just 107 games.
The trade would haunt Van Wagenen, as he was removed from his position after just two years.
But, in 2022, it appears as if the Mets actually won the deal that was proclaimed among the worst in franchise history.
Diaz has become the best closer in baseball in 2022. He has pitched to a 1.39 ERA, holding a .289 ERA+ entering August 9th, while striking out 52.9% of the batters he has faced. He has become the division-leading Mets most valuable asset on the mound this season. Not only are the trumpets blasting while he jogs in from the bullpen incredibly electric, but his fastball and slider combo are too.
After Cano’s second PED suspension resulting in missing the entire 2021 season, he only appeared in 12 games this season in New York before being DFA’d. While he will still be paid through the 2023 season, it appears Steve Cohen is happy to do so if it makes his ballclub better. (Spoiler alert: it has.)
Here are the five players Seattle got back in the deal and where they are now:
Jarred Kelenic: While he was baseball’s top prospect for an extended period of time, his career WAR is -2.2, his career batting average is .169 and has struck out in more than a third of his career at-bats. While he is strong defensively, he has not shown he can be a consistent piece for Seattle. The .582 OPS in 130 career games is frightening to see.
Justin Dunn: In 11 starts a year ago, Dunn posted a 3.75 ERA for Seattle. While he was solid, his season had ups-and-downs thanks to continuous injuries. He was moved to Cincinnati in a large deal for Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker. Before his season debut Monday, he posted a 6.75 ERA in eight minor league starts this season.
Jay Bruce: Played 47 games for Seattle before being traded. Bruce retired after the 2021 season.
Anthony Swarzak: Posted a 4.56 ERA in 2019, did not pitch in 2020 and posted an ERA well above 9.00 in 2021. He also retired after the 2021 season.
Gerson Bautista: Appeared in eight games in 2019 for Seattle, but was outrighted off the 40-man roster in 2020. He has been pitching in Mexico ever since.
So, Mets fans, is it time to apologize to Brodie Van Wagenen yet?
For a deal that was considered one of the worst in franchise history at the time, the trade continues to favor the Mets as time goes on.
While he was among one of the most hated players on the roster in 2019, Diaz has become a fan favorite. He has become the best closer in baseball and will always be a key piece in the large trade between Seattle and New York.
Just two years ago the deal was considered the “Jarred Kelenic trade,” or even the “Robinson Cano trade,” since the Mets were taking the veteran’s contract.
For now – and forever – it will be called “The Edwin Diaz trade.”
And it’s time to admit it: the Mets won the deal.