Unless you are the Los Angeles Angels with Mike Trout or maybe the Boston Red Sox with Mookie Betts, no baseball team can definitively say they have a better player on their team than Nolan Arenado. Since 2015, he has been a top eight player in the league in terms of fWAR, and he has been a top six player in terms of DRS.
Arenado has won seven straight Gold Gloves, been an All-Star for five straight seasons, and he has won a Silver Slugger in four of the last five seasons. It should come as no surprise he has been a top five finisher in the MVP voting over that five year stretch.
Arenado has proven himself to be the rare player who has the ability to impact the game in the field and at the plate. He is one of the best in the sport, a future Hall of Famer, and at 28 years old, he is in his prime. When players like this are available, you do everything you can do to acquire them.
That should include the Mets.
If Arenado was on the Mets in 2020, his 5.7 WAR would have been the best on the team. To that end, the Mets have not had a position player have a WAR over 5.0 since Juan Lagares in 2014, and they have not had a position player with a WAR better than Arenado’s 5.7 since David Wright had a 5.9 WAR in 2013.
If you think about it, that’s what Arenado is. Both are Gold Glove caliber and Silver Slugger players who are top 10 players in the sport. The key difference is Arenado is healthy and playing now. When players like Wright come along, and Arenado is that level of player, you do what you can to get him.
When you look at the Mets roster as a whole, the only player they have better than Arenado right now is Jacob deGrom. When you consider deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he is signed to a very reasonable contract extension, you cannot trade him for Arenado.
Any other pitcher on the Mets roster, Noah Syndergaard included, can and should be considered in a potential Arenado trade.
As for the rest of the Mets team, you can and should consider trading all of them if the price is right.
Yes, that means you should consider trading players like Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. It would hurt to lose either player, but you will have one entrenched in one of the corner outfield spots, and you can move Jeff McNeil to LF on a permanent basis to accommodate that loss.
For what it is worth, the Mets should be willing to trade McNeil for Arenado as well. After all, Arenado is a better baseball player than McNeil, and if you’re going to choose between the two as who you want to be your third baseman for the next five years, you are going to chose Arenado.
Finally, yes, you can also consider trading Pete Alonso. If the Mets traded Alonso for Arenado, they still have Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis (who is really only just a first baseman) to play first. At the end of the day, you hate losing Alonso who has proven to be not just a very good player, but also one who has captured the hearts and minds as Mets fans.
That said, Arenado is a better baseball player than Alonso. More to the point, the Mets are a better team with Smith/Davis at first, Arenado at third, and an outfield of McNeil-Nimmo-Conforto than have a team where they either play Jake Marisnick everyday or have a platoon of first basemen in left field.
They’re also a better team with Alonso and Arenado at the corners. To that end, if you can swing a deal without giving up Alonso, or any of their other core players which include Conforto, McNeil, Nimmo, and Syndergaard, you do it. The problem is the Mets don’t necessarily have that farm system after all the damage Brodie Van Wagenen did last offseason.
To that end, if the Rockies want a player the ilk of Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Andres Gimenez, Matthew Allan, Brett Baty, or whomever else the Rockies inquire, the Mets should be willing to listen. Of course, if the Rockies want to go this route, the caliber of Major League player the Mets should be willing to part in such a trade comes down a significant peg from the aforementioned core.
Now, it should be noted Arenado has an opt out after the 2021 season. If you are the Mets, you don’t disrupt your core without getting him to waive that or renegotiate the contract. That is where Steve Cohen and his money should hopefully come into play.
If the Mets can get Arenado to waive his no trade clause and opt in to his contract, short of Jacob deGrom, there is no one the Mets should not discuss in a trade because at the end of the day, the Mets do not have a player as good as the one Nolan Arenado is.
With the Mets protecting Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki from the Rule 5 Draft, the 40 man roster is completely full. With the Mets needing to address a number of areas of this team, this means ever trade, waiver claim, and free agent signing is going to require a player coming off the 40 man roster.
Obviously, Drew Gagnon was the first casualty, but he is not going to be the last. Here is a look at some of the other players sitting on the bubble:
2019 MLB Stats: 0-3, 6.95 ERA, 24 G, 22.0 IP, 1.727 WHIP, 7.0 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
The success Bashlor has had in the minors has not translated at all to the majors. In fact, his control issues have only been magnified, and he has not been able to blow his fastball by anyone. This left him hittable, and he has been hit hard.
2019 Stats: 11 G, 4 PA, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K
Haggerty was a September call-up with the Mets looking to add some late game speed as they were making a push for the Wild Card. With the current roster crunch, the Mets are too heavy on infielders. With Luis Guillorme firmly establishing himself as a Major League caliber utility player, Haggerty’s spot is all the more tenuous, and he’s very likely the first position player designated for assignment in the event a non-catcher is signed.
2019 Stats: 0-3, 6.59 ERA, 9 G, GS, 13.2 IP, 2.049 WHIP, 8.6 BB/9, 6.6 K/9
After struggling as a two pitch starter in his brief Major League appearances, Flexen was finally moved to the bullpen where he had fleeting success. You could argue with his stuff he could succeed next year in a bullpen role, but it’s very possible the Mets don’t see that happening as he was not called up last September. His being out of options may only accelerate a DFA decision.
2018 MiLB Stats: 4-9, 4.18 ERA, 26 GS, 140.0 IP, 1.343 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 8.0 K/9
Kilome is a promising prospect who has control issues and is coming off Tommy John surgery. So far, the Mets have indicated things are going well in his rehab, and he should be ready to pitch early in the 2019 season. That said, if he has a setback, he could be moved off the roster in short order.
2019 MLB Stats: 1-1, 5.51 ERA, 9 G, 16.1 IP, 1.592 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 6.1 K/9
Mazza was a 29 year old rookie who finally made his debut with the Mets last year. While he was on the September roster, he did not pitch in a meaningful game although he did pick up his first Major League win on the final game of the season.
2019 Stats: .191/.231/.316, 5 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI
Nido got his chance to be a defensive minded back-up, and he worked well with pitchers like Noah Syndergaard. Still, he effectively hit like a pitcher at the plate, and his framing numbers, albeit good, were not at the point where you could justify keeping him in the Majors with the way he hit. With him being out of options, and the Mets looking to upgrade, he has the most tenuous spot on the 4o man roster.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 G, 6.2 IP, 2.100 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Nogosek seemed to turn a corner getting his control under wraps in Syracuse, but those issues would resurface in his brief Major League appearances. There is promise in his arm, but his control issues may eventually make him expendable.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 12.15 ERA, 2 G, 6.2 IP, 2.250 WHIP, 8.1 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
Oswalt was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft after he was the 2017 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Since that time, he has struggled, and it was partially the result of how the team left him sitting dormant for stretches and asking him to pitch on very short rest. He also dealt with some nagging injuries last year. In July and August, when he was healthy and finally giving a stretch of starts, he pitched well posting a 1.98 ERA in 10 starts which will probably save his spot on the 40 man roster. Still, with his not getting a September call-up, it’s not a guarantee.
2019 Stats: 1-1, 4.58 ERA, 17 G, SV, 19.2 IP, 1.068 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
Last year, Sewald was designated for assignment, and yet again, despite the odds, he pitched his way back to the Majors. In fact, at the end of the year, he was arguably the most reliable right-handed reliever in the Mets bullpen not named Seth Lugo. He has a low walk rate, good strikeout rate, and had a better FIP than ERA. One thing which may save him is his still having a Major League option remaining.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 5.19 ERA, 17 G, 8.2 IP, 1.731 WHIP, 5.2 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
Zamora is an interesting case. In his career, he has posted reverse splits, but he has a very good K/BB ratio against LHB flashing a wipeout slider. With MLB enacting rules effectively eliminating the LOOGY role, a pitcher like Zamora could actually have increased value, but for that to happen, he needs to harness himself better. Fortunately, he has options remaining.
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said one of the areas the team is going to look to address this offseason is center field, and the team would prefer to obtain a right-handed hitting center fielder. Looking at the free agent market, that player doesn’t exist, and with the Pittsburgh Pirates purportedly not willing to trade Starling Marte, that player may not exist on the trade market either.
So with poor options on the free agent and trade market, and the Mets being unwilling to move Rosario to center, the Mets are in a position where they need to “think creative” like they always preach. Of course, that is code for finding a cheaper option.
For starters, let’s assume Brandon Nimmo can play center. At a 28.5 ft/sec sprint speed, he was faster than Juan Lagares, Kevin Pillar, and Lorenzo Cain. Nimmo also had a -0.7 JUMP, which was the same as Pillar and better than Ketel Marte. All in all, Nimmo has the ability to play a good center, and with better positioning, he could be a positive defender.
That leaves Michael Conforto to play left field or right field. In terms of right, he showed himself to be a good right fielder, he is arguably better in left field. Certainly, having Conforto in his natural left would allow the Mets to play Nimmo in center. Having a very good right fielder would make Nimmo in center all the more viable.
From a defensive standpoint, Yasiel Puig is arguably the best defensive player available. That is not the only thing which would make Puig an enticing option for the Mets.
According to most reports, Puig is going to accept a one year deal to rebuild his value. On that front, his 1.3 WAR as the lowest it’s been since 2016. He didn’t pull the ball as much, hit the ball in the air more frequently, and his HR/FB rate dropped. His 0 DRS was the worst of his career.
Despite all of that, Puig is still in the prime years of his career, and his metrics look much like the player Puig has always been. Notably, his sprint speed and JUMP were on par with the last few seasons putting him where he was when he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2017.
According to Baseball Savant, he was above his career averages in hard hit percentage and exit velocity last year. He would also make some improvements in terms of his walk and strikeout rates. Putting it all together, even though the results weren’t quite where they had been the two previous years, it appeared Puig was the same player he has always been. For some reason, the numbers just weren’t there.
Realistically speaking, in 2019, Puig can be the roughly 3-4 win player he had been in his last few years before being traded from the Dodgers. You could also make the case he is a player born to play on the big stage, and there is no bigger stage than New York.
You could also surmise playing in a larger ballpark like Citi Field could have him return to his approach with the Dodgers which had led to him being more successful than when he was trying to hit more homers in the bandbox than is the Great American Ballpark. Then again, the danger for any team interested in him is the Dodgers were able to get the most out of him because they are so far beyond any other team in terms of analytics. Put another way, we saw the type of player Puig is without a smart front office putting him in the best position to succeed.
The best case scenario is Puig could be the team’s next Yoenis Cespedes. With them both hailing from Cuba and their having similar reputations, this at least seems plausible. The worst case is he’s a disappointing player who is still an upgrade over what the Mets already have.
For a team like the Mets who are operating on a shoestring budget and need players who could well outperform their contracts to contend, Puig is exactly the type of player they should acquire. If nothing else, he should help the Mets defensively, which should also be a boon to their pitching staff. All told, for a team looking to improve in center, they are likely going to need to sign a right fielder to do it.
The Mets added Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki to the 40 man roster protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft. This leaves the Mets hoping they won’t lose players like Patrick Mazeika and Shervyen Newton.
To that end, the Mets also hope they can find a player in the Rule 5 Draft who will have a positive impact in 2020. While Johan Santana and Jose Bautista are the ideal, they’ll certainly settle for a player like Sean Gilmartin, who was a valuable reliever in that 2015 bullpen.
While you are looking for All-Stars and valuable contributors, the dream is you draft a future Hall of Famer. In Major League history, that feat has only been accomplished three times. Can you name the three players? Good luck!
The New York Mets did the obvious and added Andres Gimenez and Thomas Szapucki to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. With the team potentially losing Tomas Nido as they investigate backup catching options, they secured their catching depth by adding Ali Sanchez. Finally, they arguably protected their best exposed starter in Jordan Humphreys.
Even with the Mets protecting these players, the organization is in real risk of losing some players in the Rule 5 Draft. In fact, you can see the Mets losing at least one player and possibly more. Here is a look the players the Mets may well lose in the order of likelihood of it happening:
Ryder Ryan, RP
Stats: 3-1, 3.05 ERA, 25 G, 2 GS, 44.1 IP, 1.263 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Ryan was the Mets return from the Jay Bruce trade with the Indians. He has a mid 90s fastball which can hit as high as 97 MPH, and he has a good slider. The two pitches can produce swings and misses, and when batters make contact, they hit the ball into the ground.
Ryan’s big issue has been control. That is partially due to his being a converted pitcher and also partially to his movement being difficult to him to harness. He made significant progress on that front in 2018 only to completely regress last year. If a team believes they can harness that, they will assuredly draft him.
Matt Blackham, RP
Level: Binghamton & Syracuse
Stats: 8-2, 2.60 ERA, 40 G, 55.1 IP, 1.066 WHIP, 4.6 BB/9, 11.4 K/9
In some ways, Blackham is very much like Ryan in that he is a reliever who can post high strikeout numbers, but he really struggles with control. However, whereas Ryan profiles as a future Major League reliever with his being 6’2″ and his ability to throw it in the high 90s, Blackham is only 5’11” and throws it in the low 90s.
Even with his throwing it in the low 90s, he generates a lot of strikeouts. In fact, he struck out 13.4 batters per nine in Binghamton. However, it should be noted that number dropped to 6.3 in 12 appearances for Syracuse. Still, with the movement he has on his fastball coupled with good breaking pitches. It’s very possible he is a pitcher who makes it to the Majors in 2020, but right now, the question is what uniform he will be wearing.
Shervyen Newton, INF
Stats: .209/.283/.330, 15 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 32 RBI, SB, 4 CS
With a good 2019 season, Newton might’ve forced the Mets hands. However, Newton had an injury plagued season and struggled mightily and his somewhat troubling strikeout rate worsened. Still, looking through it, Newton is a very promising prospect with promising power, athleticism, good instincts, and a born leader.
In a normal year, Newton would almost be guaranteed to go undrafted. However, with Major League Baseball adding an additional roster space, teams may opt to use that spot to stow a promising prospect like Newton. That goes double for American League teams who may not need to go so deep into the bench for a game. More than one person has surmised the Tigers could very well take this gamble.
Stats: .245/.312/.426, 25 2B, 3B, 16 HR, 69 RBI, SB
On the subject of the 26th man, it will be interesting to see how teams use it in 2020. Some may use it to stash a Rule 5 prospect, and some may use it to carry an extra reliever or a catcher. If they are so inclined to carry an extra catcher, Mazeika is an interesting candidate.
Mazeika has a promising power bat, and he typically hits for more power when he is not catching everyday. While his stats in Binghamton don’t necessary prove that out, especially with him repeating the level, he did have a 118 wRC+with an above-average .182 ISO.
While there have been knocks on his catching ability, he has made significant strides. His framing has been overlooked, and he does his part controlling the running game. This is an area of his game he constantly works on and he makes strides forward each and every year. It’s possible a team sees that and wants him as their backup catcher.
Harol Gonzalez, RHP
Level: Binghamton & St. Lucie
Stats: 12-4, 3.01 ERA, 25 G, 23 GS, 137.2 IP, 1.082 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
The best way to describe Gonzalez is he is a pitcher who knows how to pitch. .He is a strike thrower who does not beat himself. He’s a four pitch pitcher without one outstanding pitch who thrives by mixing his pitches and locating them.
As the competition has improved through the minors, Gonzalez’s strikeout numbers have dipped, and yet he continues to be an effective pitcher. You could argue he has a future in the Majors as a long reliever or spot starter. His absolute ceiling could be fifth starter, but it is very questionable if he reaches that. Still, there is always room for a pitcher who knows how to pitch and can get outs. It will be interesting to see if some team finds that worthy of a Rule 5 pick.
Overall, the Mets arguably protected the right players. With the way the rules are designed, you cannot protect everyone. That leaves the Mets hoping the ones they did not protect will either go undrafted or be returned to the organization during the 2020 season. At the moment, that seems to be a long shot.
As the Mets look to improve their roster, the one gaping hole is center field. It has been a problem for years with the Mets looking at stop gap options like Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto partially due to Juan Lagares inability to stay on the field and his inconsistent production at the plate, and last year, in the field.
Brodie Van Wagenen has said the team is looking for a right-handed bat at the position. On that note, the free agent center field options are quite poor. In fact, some of the more viable options are Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez, three players whom the Mets realized were not real options.
When looking past the right-hand side, the options aren’t exactly great. The best option of the entire group is likely Shogo Akiyama, and he’s a 32 year old who has never played in the Majors. Further compounding that, Akiyama is said to have slipped defensively meaning he should probably move to a corner spot in 2020.
Fact is, there is no real good option. Looking at the trade route, the best known option is Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley hasn’t been a league average hitter since 2016, and he has had consecutive negative DRS seasons. While he can still handle the position defensively, his defense is not at the point where he can justify his bat or a raise from his 2018 $8.55 million arbitration salary.
To that point, Brodie Van Wagenen has said the Mets need to be creative this offseason, so perhaps they should be creative and move Amed Rosario to center.
The impulse to make that move has subsided with Rosario posting a 0 DRS in the second half. That was a significant improvement from his -16 DRS in the first half and the -16 DRS he posted at the position in 2018. With his only being 23, we can expect him to improve, but considering the level he is at now, it is debatable he can ever reach the lofty Gold Glove expectations we all once had for him.
He might be that if he moved to center.
Baseball Savant noted Rosario had a 29.2 ft/sec sprint speed last year. That is essentially the same speed as Victor Robles and Kevin Kiermaier, and it is quicker than Lorenzo Cain and Manuel Margot. Those of four of the top five center fielders in DRS last year. If nothing else, that tells us Rosario has the speed to cover the position.
Looking at last year, Jeff McNeil worked with Luis Rojas during Spring Training to get up to speed quickly on being an outfielder. During the 2019 season, McNeil proved to be a good outfielder with a 2 DRS with his time split between left and right.
Looking at Rosasrio, he has the speed, and he has the coaching. With his tools and drive, he has all he needs to succeed as center fielder. That goes double with him having an offseason and Spring Training to work on it. The only question is why would the Mets do it. Well, there are two reasons.
First and foremost, there are no real center field options available to the Mets. This leaves them having to hope for magic with a retread or for their getting creative with a solution like Rosario. Now, moving Rosario to center would create a hole at short. On that note, there are better options available like Didi Gregorius and Jose Iglesias.
Those two short term options are much more appealing than any of the center field options available this offseason. On the subject of the short term, the Mets also have to take some consideration of Andres Gimenez. While Gimenez struggled in 2019, he did deal with hand injuries, and he did rebound with an excellent stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Ultimately, the Mets may have to find space for Rosario and Gimenez on the same roster. The Mets could faciliate that by moving Rosario to center. It is a good long term solution, and really, considering the options available at both center and short this offseason, it is the best short term solution as well.
The last few years there has been discussions about how Andres Gimenez needs to move off of shortstop due to the presence of Amed Rosario. The natural choice was second base, but with the Mets obtaining Robinson Cano, that position is blocked for the next four years.
Early this year, it seemed there was going to be a potential opening at shortstop with Rosario struggling there for the second straight year. It got to the point where he began taking balls in center. However, with Rosario turning things around in the second half both offensively and defensively, he seems cemented as the team’s shortstop for the future. As a result, the plans for him in center have likely been abandoned.
While the plans of moving Rosario to center have been abandoned, the plans of moving a shortstop to center should not be.
Right now, the Mets have two very real problems. First, they have zero Major League ready prospects which will begin the year in Double-A or higher. Second, with Rosario establishing himself as a real Major League shortstop and with Luis Guillorme showing he’s a real option as Major League infield depth, there’s no room for Gimenez in the middle infield over the long term.
With no room for him in the infield, and with the team needing outfielders, the solution seems obvious. That’s only obvious if Gimenez could actually play the outfield. Based upon his skill-set, he should be able to make that transition.
Baseball America calls Gimenez “a quick-twitch athlete with well-rounded skills, a high baseball IQ and leadership qualities” who has a “quick first step.” MLB Pipeline notes Gimenez has a “strong arm, excellent hands, range and plus instincts for the position.” While this was written for him being a shortstop prospect, these are the type of skills you want out of a center field prospect.
As an aside, we saw Juan Lagares make the same transition from shortstop to center when he was a prospect. In 2011, Baseball America said he was best suited in left field due to his fringy speed and below-average arm. The following year, the analysis was updated to indicate he had ” the average range, sure hands and plus arm strength required to play all three outfield posts.” As we know he would become a Gold Glover at the position.
This is not to say Baseball America was wrong at the time on Lagares. Rather, it shows the more a player works at a position the better they get. We saw that with Lagares developing into a Gold Glover. We saw that with Rosario figuring things out at short in the second half this year.
If Gimenez has a real future in the Mets organization, he is going to have to find a new position, and he is going to have to put in the time to improve at it like Lagares and Rosario did with theirs. That position was supposed to be short or second, but he’s hopelessly blocked there.
However, center field is wide open for him. Moving Gimenez to center allows the Mets to help solve their center field depth issues while also solving the problem of finding a spot for their sole Major League ready position player prospect. When you break it down, the question isn’t whether the Mets should try this, but why haven’t they done this already.
This past week I appeared on the Simply Amazin’ podcast to discuss a number of issues facing the Mets right now.
During the podcast I mentioned Anthony Kay, Ali Sanchez, Vince Coleman, Mackey Sasser, T.J. Rivera, Noah Syndergaard, David Peterson, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Ryley Gilliam, Steve Villines, Andres Gimenez, Juan Centeno, and others.
Please click the link and listen.
The New York Mets are five games under .500, which is the lowest point they’ve been at any point this season. As with most teams under .500, everything seems in disarray. This is a pattern for the Mets franchise which exists even in good times. Still, things have been at a higher level of dysfunction lately.
Mickey Callaway didn’t take kindly to what appeared to be an innocuous comment from Newsday’s Tim Healey. The frustration coming from a tough loss, having to answer difficult questions, or whatever else is related to being the Mets manager came flying out. Callaway finally snapped and directed it at Healey, which he shouldn’t have done.
This was an embarrassing course of events which were made all the more difficult when Callaway had to speak with reporters three times before getting the words which people wanted to hear from him out. As bad as you may want to characterize what Callaway did or did not say, it’s nowhere near are terse and sarcastic as what Vargas had to offer:
Jason Vargas' entire statement regarding yesterday's incident: pic.twitter.com/FbiBaSsSYi
— SNY (@SNYtv) June 24, 2019
It should be noted here Callaway was at least man enough to speak with Healey personally and offer an apology. Nowhere was it reported Vargas did the same. Despite that, both were not suspended and were fined $10,000.
Of course, with this being the Mets, that’s not enough. During the game, we were reminded just how bad a job Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager. Jay Bruce would hit a pinch hit home run against Brooks Pounders, a scrap heap guy Van Wagenen had to obtain to try to piece together what was an incomplete bullpen to begin the year. That homer essentially put the game away for good.
In that game, there would be 20 runs scored and 34 hits. The only position player in either starting lineup not to register a hit? Robinson Cano. Cano was 0-for-5 dropping his stat line to .223/.270/.361. So far, he has a -0.8 WAR in year one of a five year $100 million obligation to the 36 year old second baseman.
At the same time, we have seen Edwin Diaz have the worst year of his career while Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn are progressing well in the Mariners system. According to MLB Pipeline, Kelenic is the 24th best prospect in all of baseball, and Dunn is the 67th best.
That means if Van Wagenen did not make the trade, right now, the Mets would have five top 100 prospects (Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Anthony Kay) with more on the horizon. That means the Mets farm system would have been the envy of everyone, and the team could have sold REAL hope for an under .500 fourth place team.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote an article alleging Van Wagenen called the Mets to instruct Callaway to remove Jacob deGrom from a game. The reporting has been confirmed many times over with the allegations going much further than this being an isolated event. On the topic, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post had this to say:
I asked the question to Brodie Van Wagenen this way, a few hours before the Mets would prove to be a splendid tonic for the reeling Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in serving as 13-7 patsies, a few minutes after he feigned ignorance at a subtler version of the inquiry:
“Do you tell Mickey what to do?”
* * * * *
So I asked. And this is what Van Wagenen said: “This organization is about teamwork and collaboration and the ability to trust the manager on an everyday basis.”
This is what he didn’t say: “No.”
It wouldn’t be until after the game Van Wagenen would seek to deny the reports. When he did, he would come across as less than convincing.
This is all coming off the heels of the team scapegoating both Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez while replacing them with an 82 year old Phil Regan and their bringing back Ricky Bones less than a year after he was removed from the position. We’ve also seen Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton scapegoated this year.
On top of all of this, Brandon Nimmo went from neck pain we shouldn’t worry too much about to a bulging disc he tried to play through (both in the majors and in a rehab stint) to being shut down. Jed Lowrie has yet to play this season. Overall, the handling of the medical situations has continued to be inept, and the offseason acquisitions have mostly been a disaster.
At this point, no one has any credibility, and people have long since stopped wanting to hear what Callaway and Van Wagenen have to say.
The Mets have been embarrassed by the actions of his manager and fifth starter. There’s a potential scandal brewing with the General Manager allegedly violating MLB rules. There’s the continued problems with handling injuries, and the payroll remains an issue. Fans are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the team, and they’re staying away from the ballpark. Overall, the team is five games under .500, and they are closer to last place than the division or a Wild Card.
This is the exact time Jeff Wilpon needs to speak with the media. He needs to show everyone the team is not dysfunctional. He needs to support his embattled General Manager and manager. He needs to provide a vision for the future; one which can get the fans reengaged. In the end, this team is run by Jeff Wilpon, and he is the one who has to be accountable for the decisions made.
Speaking now is what a true leader would do. When put that way, we shouldn’t be holding our breath waiting for him to be accountable for the decisions made by him and the people he put in charge.
While Sandy Alderson had his faults as the Mets General Manager, he left the Mets in a very good position. The next General Manager would have at this disposal the assets and core necessary to build a real World Series contender sometime within the next three years. If done, properly, this could have been a stretch akin to the 1980s Mets.
First and foremost, there was a young core still under control. Michael Conforto rebounded from shoulder surgery in the second half, and he appeared ready to return to his All Star form. Brandon Nimmo had a breakout season where he was the second best hitter in the National League. Jeff McNeil emerged to hit .329/.381/.471 in 63 games showing a great contact rate while playing well at second base.
The team still had a very good starting rotation. Jacob deGrom is the reigning Cy Young winner. Zack Wheeler‘s second half was as good as deGrom’s. Steven Matz finally made 30 starts in a season. Noah Syndergaard came back from a finger issue and pitched well. Over his final eight starts of the season, he was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
The team also did not have an onerous long term deal which would stand in the way of really improving the team. After the 2019 season, the contracts of Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Anthony Swarzak, and Jason Vargas were set to come off the books. That was $32.5 million coming off the books. Combine that with Wheeler’s $5.975, and that was $38.475 coming off the books.
With respect to Vargas and Wheeler being pending free agents, the team did have internal options. Justin Dunn had a breakout season, and he re-emerged as a Top 100 prospect with an ETA of last 2019 or early 2020. With a similar 2019 season, you could see him realistically being part of the 2020 rotation or possibly the bullpen.
Behind Dunn, Anthony Kay and David Peterson had an opportunity to make a push to put themselves in a position to have an ETA of 2020. Between the three pitchers, the Mets realistically only needed one more starter via trade or free agency.
Those three pitchers were not the only near Major League ready talent the organization had. Pete Alonso was Major League ready. If he wasn’t, the team still had Dominic Smith who would spend the offseason addressing his medical issues and continuing to get into better shape.
This was all part of a very promising farm system which could have made a charge to the top of the game. In addition to the pitching and Alonso, the team had Jarred Kelenic, who appeared to be a once in a generation talent. Behind him was an impressive collection of teenage talent which included Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and Mark Vientos.
If handled properly, the 2021 or 2022 Mets could have had a rotation with deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and at least one of Dunn, Kay, Peterson, or possibly Simeon Woods Richardson. The infield would been Alonso, McNeil, and two from the aforementioned group of teenage prospects. That’s if Amed Rosario didn’t have a breakout season or move to the outfield. Speaking of the outfield, an outfield of Nimmo-Kelenic-Conforto would have been the envy of the game.
Sure, not all of the prospects would have developed, but you also could have had someone like a Ross Adolph or another prospect emerge much like we saw with McNeil in 2018. There was also the impending 2019 draft class to consider. The overriding point here was the Mets had a deep well of prospects, and they had payroll flexibility.
Whoever was going to be the next General Manager of the Mets was going to be, they were taking over a job in an enviable position. There were difficult decisions in front of them like which players do you extend, and how hard exactly do you push to contend in 2019 or 2020 knowing what was on the horizon. Certainly, you had to do some of that because taking over the job was likely going to require you to sell a vision of contending in 2019.
While players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would have been well worth pursuing, realistically speaking, the Wilpons were not going to green light those signings. On the trade front, the only player available worth the Mets top prospects was probably J.T. Realmuto, but the Marlins have never seemed inclined to be reasonable in a potential deal with the Mets.
With that in mind, whatever the vision for the new General Manager, there needed to be an element of restraint. No matter what the new General Manager did, they needed to maintain that level of payroll flexibility while also not damaging the farm system to pursue short term fixes and/or underselling prospects in order to find ways to circumvent not being able to spend.
Well, in one trade, just one, Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed. In trading Dunn, the Mets lost their lone near Major League ready starter. That was important in case of an injury in 2019, and it was important because with Wheeler and Vargas being free agents, the Mets needed to find at least one cheap option for the rotation.
Worse than that, the team added Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract. Over the next five years, the Mets had $20 million on the books for a player who was going to have a steep decline in one of those five years. That player was coming in at a position already filled by McNeil and at a position which was going to be filled with young talent during the duration of Cano’s contract. You also weren’t moving Cano to first due to Alonso and/or Smith.
Yes, this is where many point out the Mets obtained a cost controlled closer in Edwin Diaz. That’s true. However, he came with a debilitating contract. He also came at the expense of Kelenic. Certainly, a prospect of Kelenic’s level is worth more than a closer both in terms of value in a trade and just in terms of a future impact on a team.
Brodie Van Wagenen would then worsen things. He would trade prospects in Adolph, Adam Hill, Scott Manea, Felix Valerio, and Santana with Bobby Wahl to add J.D. Davis and Keon Broxton (who didn’t last two months with the team). No matter your impression of those players, that’s a big chunk of prospect depth for two players who were really nothing more than bench players.
That’s not a good allocation of your assets, especially when your organization does not have the ability to absorb Cano’s contract in stride and spend their way around losing this prospect depth. Anyone taking over the Mets job knew this, Brodie Van Wagenen included.
However, despite that knowledge he went all-in on 2019. He did not maintain the payroll flexibility needed to address the loss of two rotation spots, a third baseman, and a center fielder in free agency. He traded away not just two top 100 prospects but also quality depth prospects thereby harming their ability to add at this year’s trade deadline (if everything worked out) or to build the 2020 team. Mostly, he lost Kelenic who was a franchise altering prospect, who aside from Darryl Strawberry, the organization has not seen.
Overall, not only did Van Wagenen fail to build the 2019 Mets into a contender, he hamstrung the team’s ability to build that contender in 2020 and beyond. The reason is the team does not have the payroll flexibility or the prospect depth truly needed to overcome the way the Wilpons choose to operate their team.
Consider for a moment if Van Wagenen did nothing, the Mets would have been a fourth place team much like they are now. However, if he did actually do nothing, the Mets would have had a deep farm system and real payroll flexibility to attack this upcoming offseason. That’s all gone now, and seeing what he did to this organization in less than a year on the job, it’s difficult to have any faith he can turn things around and get the franchise back on track.