How Brodie Van Wagenen Damaged Mets Rotation
When looking at the Robinson Cano trade, the main focus has been on Edwin Diaz‘s struggles as well as the loss of Jarred Kelenic. Lost in that is just how much this trade has impacted the Mets starting rotation, which has been the strength of this team.
This offseason, the Mets have already lost Zack Wheeler to the rival Philadelphia Phillies. Wheeler desperately wanted to stay a Met, but he was not offered a contract to stay with the Mets despite giving the team the last chance to sign him. That decision was made all the more damning when you consider Wheeler was not taking the largest contract offered to him, and the $118 million deal he accepted was really less than he was worth.
Realistically speaking, the Mets passed on Wheeler because the team is estimated to be roughly $17 million under the competitive balance tax threshold, and indications are the team will be unwilling to raise their budget to those heights. Signing Wheeler would have required them to go over that threshold. Of course, the Mets would have more money to spend if they were not paying Cano $20.25 million per year. Had the trade not transpired, the Mets could have just reallocated that money to Wheeler.
With this being the Mets, the team let Wheeler walk in free agency because the team does not typically like to invest that much money in free agency. Had the Cano trade not transpired, the Mets could have looked to have Justin Dunn replace him in the rotation.
In fact, Dunn made his Major League debut with the Mariners last year. In his four starts, he held his own going 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP. The Mariners had him on a very limited pitch count, so really this served nothing more than to get his feet wet and show he could potentially be a part of the 2020 rotation. Arguably, Dunn did that.
In addition to Dunn, there was Anthony Kay, who was traded along with Simeon Woods Richardson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. As noted by Andy Martino of SNY, one of the reasons the Mets obtained Stroman was to prepare for the eventuality of Wheeler departing in free agency.
There’s some problems with that rationale. First and foremost, Stroman isn’t really a replacement for Wheeler when both were in the same rotation last year. The other issue is Stroman is a free agent after the 2020 season, which just delays the problem by a year.
Looking towards 2021, both Dunn and Kay should be established Major League starters. Like Dunn, Kay would make his debut last year, and like Dunn, he would really show he could be a part of a 2020 rotation with his allowing two runs or fewer in two of his three starts.
Ideally, the Mets could have had both Kay and Dunn in the rotation with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in 2021. That could have proven to be a formidable rotation, and going back to the Cano trade, Kelenic would have been primed to make his Major League debut playing in the outfield between Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto while also appearing in a lineup with Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.
However, by 2021, the Mets will likely have a rotation without Wheeler, Stroman, Dunn, and Kay. They will also be in a similar position to where they are now looking for a way to replace Syndergaard and Matz in the rotation. Sadly, while we all focus on Kelenic, and justifiably so, the real ramifications of the Cano trade will be the impact on the Mets rotation.
The only hope we have at the moment is Steve Cohen’s purchase of the team will allow him to keep this core together and build off of it in free agency. Of course, with Van Wagenen remaining the General Manager, the Wilpons staying in charge for five years, and with the team still on an austerity plan at the moment, the hopes seem to be further out than the near distant future. As such, all that Van Wagenen has wrought is still a significant issue.