Lying in the tall grass fielding offers, the Cleveland Guardians have yet to make one of their typical offseason blockbuster trades where they move on from a talented player before he gets to free agency. Their most obvious candidate, Shane Bieber, is still there. So is star closer Emmanuel Clase. A seemingly implausible trade target for the New York Mets, they were among the teams listed as a destination for the American League Edwin Diaz over at Bleacher Report.
Beyond just naming the Mets as a destination, a trade package was assembled. A rarity for many mock trades without bias, this one would be far too tempting to turn down if it actually came true.
Why this trade works for the Mets
Both Ronny Mauricio and Ryan Clifford have questions. More immediate is where Mauricio fits into the puzzle. Something we’ve been asking for years, his ACL injury this year might eliminate him from the third base equation as the Mets would probably want a more sure answer by next season. Down to one minor league option, he's not even a consideration to remain patient with. Add in the fact he'll miss most or all of the coming year and it's easy to include him in this trade.
Clifford is far more debatable. A power hitting first baseman and right fielder, we'd like to think he is expendable because Pete Alonso isn't going anywhere and Drew Gilbert is the future right fielder. In any case, Clifford plays positions where there are always alternatives. The risk here is he becomes much better than originally expected when he was drafted in the 11th round by the Houston Astros in 2022.
For Mauricio and Clifford, the Mets get one of the best closers in baseball. Not that they need it now. Clase would obviously become a setup man.
Why this trade would never happen
Already signed to an extremely team-friendly contract, we'd have to expect the Guardians could get much more for Clase. As noted in the Bleacher Report story, the Mets wouldn't be expected to part with any of their better prospects at the moment for just about anyone. Perhaps adding in one of their breakout pitchers in the deal makes it a little more realistic. At the same time, it becomes a little less tempting. Only a little.
Clase’s deal is guaranteed through 2026 with a salary never exceeding $6.4 million. In 2027 and 2028, he’ll earn $10 million on a team option or a $2 million buyout. Considering how many pitchers of lesser quality are signing for around $10 million now, Clase would have to start throwing blindfolded with the wrong arm to become a burden on the payroll.
How much a team should trade for an elite relief pitcher is often in question. When the Mets landed Diaz prior to the 2019 deal, the trade was a bit more complicated because of the veterans and their salaries. Strictly looking at it from a Diaz for Jarred Kelenic, Gerson Bautista, and Justin Dunn standpoint, this mock trade for Clase looks even more satisfying. It’s just a shame it’s not one Cleveland has actually offered or ever would.