During their first meeting about 2019, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Mickey Callaway agreed that their roster needed a well-respected, accomplished, battle-tested player that could handle New York and provide a heavyweight presence in the clubhouse.
According to MLB sources familiar with the deal, Van Wagenen quickly identified Robinson Cano as a possible fit. It was well known the Mariners were eager to move his contract, which -- by the way -- Van Wagenen negotiated for Cano when representing him in 2014.
In return for taking on roughly half of the $120 million left on Cano's current contract, the Mets wanted closer Edwin Diaz. In the end, after shopping a similar deal to other teams, the M's sent Cano and Diaz to the Mets for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, and prospect Gerson Bautista while no longer having to pay roughly $60 million in payroll during the next five years.
The popular talking point against Cano's potential production in 2019 is that he will be playing his first season in the National League and without the DH.
However, in 14 big-league seasons, while Cano has only ever played in the American League, he hit as the DH in just two percent of his more than 8,000 career at-bats. The point is, while the DH would be a nice fallback, it's not like Cano is a career DH now playing without it in the NL.
As a result, I buy in to projections made by PECOTA, Zips, Steamer and the FanGraphs community, which have Cano hitting around .280 with just over 20 HR, 80 RBI and 2.5-3.5 WAR.
This level production across a full season of at-bats is not far off from what is projected for Jeff McNeil, who started 63 games for the Mets at second base last season.
As a result, between McNeil, Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores, the Mets had the second-most WAR of any group of second basemen in the NL last season. In Cano, Jed Lowrie and McNeil, the trio is projected this season to have the third-most WAR from second base.
The thing is, while accumulating stats and driving in runs is obviously important, as noted at the start of this post, Cano's influence may be felt more from what he does off field.
"It's no disrespect to other guys, but Cano is a Hall-of-Famer, he's already at that level," Callaway told me during February. "He's all about winning and he brings a different level of experience and leadership to the ballpark than most guys in the game today."
Cano told me a few weeks ago that he prides himself on being open to giving advice or guidance to any player in the clubhouse, especially young guys still adjusting to the big leagues.
He again said the same when talking to reporters earlier this week.
"I don't want to say they rely on me, but I know that they are watching," Cano said, according to the Daily News. "I'm always open to any question, any advice. I hope that I can help them and be the leader for the team."
In the way Jacob deGrom is front and center when the pitching staff is on field together before games this spring, Cano is the man when position players take the stage.
He's been a dynamic, but laid back presence. He's free and easy in his movements. He's comfortable and natural. This is clearly not his first rodeo. And, while he put his teammates and the media at ease with his smile and stance, he can quickly shift in to focus mode, peer over his shoulder and indicate to everyone in his circle that it's time to get to work.
For instance, whereas Jose Reyes made for a familiar, inspirational life coach and someone that had known Amed Rosario since he was a teenager, Cano is a boss with a reputation, a ring, 2,400 hits, eight All-Star appearances, MVP votes and 11 postseason series on his resume. He can push Rosario (and anyone else for that matter) in a way that would never work for Reyes or, frankly, anyone else to wear a Mets uniform now or during the past decade.
Cano's mentors included Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, he explained, all of whom he is trying to emulate when talking with his current teammates.
It's not just Cano's words and hits that will impact his teammates, but also his actions.
For instance, Michael Conforto recently explained how closely watching Cano from the on-deck circle has helped the young outfielder this spring with pitch-selection and his approach at the plate, specifically when hitting against the shift.
"He's a guy that every day, you see the same thing," Conforto said, according to the Daily News. "It's really good for me to be able to watch that. ... He's going to be a big part of our success this year and I hope I can learn a little bit from him."
If Cano can play in at least 130 games, hit around .275 with roughly 15-20 HR and 20 doubles, while striking out on average less than once per game, I think he'll be treated fairly by fans.
If his presence and leadership help Conforto, Rosario and Brandon Nimmo live up to and possibly beat expectations, while also helping them to find their own brand of leadership, Cano's stats will be the least of his value in 2019.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!