For better or worse, the Mets felt compelled to fire Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game. Accepting the Mets at face value, they were blindsided by this, and they believed this was the best thing to do for the organization.
Hanging over the organization right now is who is going to be the next manager? The longer that question lingers, the worse the Mets look, so it would behoove them to act quickly.
On the one hand, the Mets already did their homework. Beltran was one of several candidates they interviewed, and in the case of Eduardo Perez, some of the very good candidates considered are still available.
However, with all due respect to those candidates, including Perez who could be a good manager, the Mets put their vetting of external candidates for the position when they said in their conference call they were unaware of the widely reported sign stealing reports and rumors, and they did not investigate it nor ask candidates like Beltran about it.
Regardless of the quality of their vetting, the Mets went out and built an entire MLB staff under the presumption Beltran was going to be the manager. More than that, this is a group who has already been working together and formulating plans for Spring Training and the regular season.
It would at least seem an external hire would be counter-productive. This late in the game you would not want anyone reinventing the wheel. Furthermore, a new hire would like some say about a staff which has already been completely filled.
To that end, the Mets best course of action is to hire someone already on the staff. Looking at the staff as it is assembled, the best candidate by far is Luis Rojas.
First and foremost, Rojas has already managed the Mets core. In his time in the minors, he served as a minor league manager for Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and others.
Rojas has had a hand in their development and success. Moreover, they respect him.
Looking at the complete roster, Rojas was one of the holdovers from Mickey Callaway‘s staff. In his role as quality control coach, he was a liaison between the front office and the clubhouse handling strategy, preparation, and utilization of analytics.
Rojas is already aware of the front office expectations are, has dealt with them on a daily basis, and he’s developed relationships with the Mets players.
On the latter point, Tim Healey of Newsday reports, “The Mets promoting Luis Rojas to manager would go over very well in the clubhouse.”
Overall, when looking at Rojas, it’s the smoothest possible transition. He’s respected by the front office and clubhouse, and he’s seen my many to be someone who could be a very good manager one day. Looking at it from that perspective, he’s the natural choice.
That said we should all be keenly aware the Mets didn’t hire him. In fact, he wasn’t even a finalist for the managerial position.
Presumably, whatever issues led the Mets to believe Rojas was not the best candidate for the job still exist. To that extent, it would not be the best decision to name Rojas the manager when the team had some reservations about his being the manager in 2020.
Taking that and everything into consideration, the Mets should name Rojas as the interim manager.
After all, anyone who is named now should be named as an interim. As noted, the Mets vetting had its issues, and they’re going to hire someone to lead a staff they had no input in its choosing.
Moreover, this is late in the game. In many ways, this is not much different than Beltran having been fired mid-season. In those circumstances, teams routinely name an interim manager so they can conduct a full scale search for a manager in the offseason.
Perhaps, the Mets should be doing that anyway as they will have a new majority owner at some point during the 2020 season.
As it pertains to Rojas, the decision has its benefits. It allows him to prove himself with some of the heat taken off. There will be fewer articles about the Mets rushing the process to hire someone who might not have been ready, and instead, there will be more of a focus on how he improves. Ideally, at some point, there will be articles about how the Mets should remove the interim tag.
Ultimately, the Mets firing Beltran has had them lose who they thought was the best man for the job. Other candidates like Derek Shelton have accepted positions elsewhere. This is a bad situation which can be made worse by rushing the process and hiring the wrong guy.
Accordingly, the best course of action is the smoothest transition possible with Rojas at the helm with an opportunity to prove he’s truly the man for the job.
Like it has been for most of their history, the Mets are currently build on starting pitching. That presents a problem for this organization because they will soon be in the unenviable position of having to rebuild their rotation over the ensuing few offseasons.
The Mets will have to face the same exact situation the ensuing offseason as both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season. That means over the course two years, the Mets are going to have to address how they want to handle 80% of their starting rotation.
Complicating matters is Michael Conforto hitting free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz as well as the shallow upper parts of the Mets farm system. How the Mets choose to address their rotation will be vitally important as Jacob deGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season.
After that 2022 season, Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will be first time arbitration eligible, and Amed Rosario will be heading into his last season under team control. This means the Mets core is going to be quite expensive and on their way out to parts unknown over the next few seasons.
At this point, we should all be wondering what exactly is the plan here.
At times, the Mets seem all-in. We saw that not just with trading away prospects to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but we also saw that with the Mets trading away prospects like Blake Taylor, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Adam Hill for what amounted to be nothing more than complementary pieces.
On the other hand, the Mets don’t see remotely all-in when they fail to address the back-up catching situation and let Zack Wheeler, their second best pitcher over the past two years, leave the Mets to go to the Philadelphia Phillies. Couple that with the Mets not making a push for players like Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado, or being active on the trade market for players like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, this seems more and more like a team without a clear direction.
Now, part of that can just be a result of how ineptly the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen have run this organization. Another aspect can be this team being in a relative holding pattern until Steve Cohen’s purchase of the club is finalized and approved. There may be other factors at play, and really, at this point, we are all just guessing.
What we do know is based on the control over the current core, the Mets window to compete for a World Series is right now, and the team has done little to push the team over the top. We also know that until this core is extended, the Mets window is going to be limited to just these two years.
When you look at things through this prism, you see the need to give extensions to at least some of your core. Certainly, that is the case when the goal is sustained winning and not just short windows. In theory, there is still 10 months to do that, but at the moment, the Mets have missed their biggest and perhaps best opportunity to do it once again leaving the impression this is an organization without a clear direction.
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.
One of the best parts of the Mets organization this past decade was how they drafted. In fact, the only first round draft picks to not make the majors were in the past three years, and all three of those players appear on their way to be Major Leaguers.
It’s difficult picking out who was the best pick.
Matt Harvey started the 2013 All-Star Game and had big starts in the 2015 postseason. Brandon Nimmo has a career .387 OBP, and he was the second best hitter in the National League in 2018. Michael Fulmer won a Rookie of the Year and was an All-Star. There’s also Jarred Kelenic who has quickly made his way through top 100 rankings.
Keep in mind, these are some of the impressive draft picks who didn’t make the top five. Here are those who did:
5. Pete Alonso
In one year, Alonso set the all-time rookie home run record and the Mets single season record. He’d be the first Mets position player named an All-Star in his rookie season, and he’d win the Home Run Derby.
Alonso was more than just the outlandish numbers. He emerged as a young leader. He responded to MLB’s absurd First Responder caps by getting cleats for the entire team.
More than being a great player, he is someone who truly gets it. The fact he was a second round pick makes him an absolute steal of a pick.
4. Seth Lugo
No, Lugo is not the best player on this list, but it’s important to remember he was just a 34th round draft pick.
Players picked in that round are not expected to make it to the majors let alone have a significant impact at the Major League level.
In 2016, he helped save the season pitching to 2.67 ERA as a reliever and starter helping the Mets reach consecutive postseason for the second time in team history.
Over the past two years, he’s emerged as arguably the biggest bullpen weapon in the game. For instance, he was the only reliever last year to finish in the top four in the league in innings pitched and FIP.
3. Jeff McNeil
On top of that, his 141 wRC+ since his MLB debut is 13th best in the sport. It’s one of the reasons he was an All-Star this year.
When you get a player who is a good defender at multiple positions and is one of the better hitters in the sport with a first round pick, you’re thrilled. Getting that from your 12th round pick in the 2013 draft is the stuff of legends.
Very rarely is a player ready for the Majors one year after being drafted, but Conforto isn’t most players.
Conforto was a godsend in 2015 providing an offensively starved team with a potent bat. More than that, in the 2015 World Series, he was actually led all players in OPS. That was highlighted by his hitting two homers in Game Four.
While he had some injury issues, he’d be a 2017 All-Star, and he’s now all the way back from his shoulder injury. His value goes beyond his bat as he has played all three outfield positions to help the team with their needs.
So far, he has the ninth best wRC+ among Mets with at least 500 games played. He’s top 20 in WAR among position players, and he’s on the cusp of the top 10 in a number of categories including homers.
So far, he’s been a key figure in a pennant winning team, and he’s already a top 10 offensive player. That’s all before he’s reached his prime.
1. Jacob deGrom
Not only has deGrom emerged as a top three pitcher in Mets history, but with him being drafted in the ninth round of the 2009 draft, he’s not only the top draft pick of the decade, he’s also the best draft pick the Mets organization has ever made.
‘Twas five years before Cohen, when all through the Citi
Not a dollar was whirling, not even a fifty.
The equipment was hung in the clubhouse with care,
In hopes a free agent soon would be there.
Jeff was nestled all snug in his bed,
While visions of insurance savings danced in his head.
And Fred in his ‘kerchief, and Saul in his cap,
Began preparing for when they took that one final nap.
When out on the news wire there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.
Away to Twitter I flew like a flash,
Sifted through the notification and ignored the trash.
A new moon on the New York baseball shown
The chance of the Wilpons money no longer be sown.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Steve Cohen, and some reason to cheer.
With a new owner, so wealthy and smart,
I knew in a moment the Wilpons ways will part.
More rapid than eagles the hope sure came,
Mets whistled, and shouted, and called extensions by name!
As quality free agents sign and poor excuses once fly,
Finances no longer an obstacle, debt reaching the sky.
So among the fanbase optimism grew,
Jeff Wilpon soon to be gone, and Van Wagenen too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard through the wall
The prancing and pawing of agents who now call.
As the Mets try to get ahead, and turn things around,
Soon gone are the Wilpons ways which always confound.
Cohen was dressed all in Mets gear, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes not tarnished with Brooklyn Dodgers adorations afoot.
A bundle of cash he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a legitimate owner, hanging over a stack.
Our eyes—how they twinkled! our moods how merry!
A leader like Moses, and nothing like Terry!
Boras’ droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the green in his eyes from money now aflow
The stump of a pencil Cohen held tight in his teeth,
Writing to Jeff that only in title he will be chief.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
Which hungered to see a Mets winner playing on his telly!
He loved his art, some displayed on a shelf,
One piece alone worth more than all of Fred’s wealth
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
In five years Cohen will leave experts to their work,
Suddenly we won’t see micromanaging from some little jerk.
Injured players no longer needing to ignore doctors they chose,
Now healthy teams playing Mets foes!
He sprang to the bank, to his team gave a whistle,
As homers and fastballs firing faster than a missle.
But I heard him exclaim causing a lot of mayhem,
“Happy Christmas to all, and all a L-F-G-M!”
For a moment, let’s assume the 2019 season was similar to the 1998 or 2005 season in that it was a stepping stone to real World Series contention.
While we can and should dicker about whether the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team, there is hope for optimism as Carlos Beltran begins his second act in a New York Mets uniform.
Behind that optimism is a cold dose of reality.
We didn’t know it in 1998, but that Mike Piazza led team had two seasons as a contender. That was basically the same case with the David Wright and Jose Reyes led 2005 team we all thought would be good forever. This will likely be the same fate this core faces.
After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents leaving the team to try to scramble to either re-sign them or attempt to sign a starter from a free agent class nowhere as good as the one which saw the Mets lose Zack Wheeler.
After 2021, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. That leaves the Mets looking to invest in four spots in the rotation over the next two years as the farm system is not prepared to provide that help in a way it could’ve if Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson were still with the organization.
Yes, we should see David Peterson grab one of those rotation spots, and a Stephen Gonsalves or Franklyn Kilome may emerge. However, they likely don’t have the same ceiling the 2015 – 2019 rotations had thereby eliminating the key competitive advantage the Mets had.
If you really want a heavy dose of reality look a year past that, and you’ll see Nimmo and Lugo will be a free agents, and deGrom can opt out of his deal. That’s going to happen as Alonso, McNeil, and Rosario are likely getting big arbitration salaries.
This means by 2022 this entire core could be completely gone with Alonso being the player designated to build around much in the same way the Mets opted Wright for that honor.
Overall, this means unless things change dramatically, the Mets have a two year window. That could be opened longer if Steve Cohen flexes some financial muscle, and/or he opts to bring in an actually qualified and competent GM to replace Brodie Van Wagenen.
To that end, there’s hope even if Jeff Wilpon will be running the show. On that point, we can all hope it’s just a title with no real opportunity to drag the organization down.
No matter what the case, it’s imperative the Mets realize this is their shot, and they need to start acting like it instead of making a series of half measures hoping it adds up to a whole competing roster.
With the Cleveland Indians getting a very modest package in return for Corey Kluber, it is very possible the team hastens trading Francisco Lindor. After all, by trading him sooner rather than later, you are maximizing the return you would receive in a trade. That’s important considering the Indians have already indicating they WILL NOT be re-signing the superstar shortstop.
In an attempt to figure out what the Indians could get for Lindor now, MLB.com worked out six potential trades including a possible trade with the New York Mets. The proposed trade had the Mets sending Amed Rosario, J.D. Davis, David Peterson, and Brett Baty to the Indians to obtain Lindor.
Shockingly, for some reason MLB believed the Mets may walk away with the deal feeling the offer is too much. In reality, it is likely the Indians would want more. Of course, that presumes the Indians do not see Rosario as a star in the making, or that they could see Peterson thriving in their pitching system.
Really, if this is it, the Mets should absolutely at the opportunity.
Lindor, 26, is already the best shortstop in baseball, and he is about to enter his prime seasons. As he enters those seasons, he already has two Gold Gloves (one Platinum Glove), two Silver Sluggers, and five All-Star appearances. His 4.7 bWAR this year was his “worst.”
Since his Major League debut in 2015, his 27.2 fWAR is the seventh best in the majors. Among shortstops, his 119 wRC+ is fifth best among shortstops, and his 55 DRS is third best.
When you break it down, Lindor is a legitimately great player. He’s a superstar, and having him on your team brings your franchise that much closer to being a true World Series contender. When you look at the Indians, when you have a player like Lindor and a loaded pitching staff, you can get to the World Series.
When you break it down, the only thing the Mets need to do what the Indians did in 2016 is to get Lindor. Yes, Lindor would matter that much to this team, and yes, even on a team with Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo, Lindor would be the team’s best position player.
With all due respect, he’s a significant upgrade over Rosario, even with Rosario scratching the surface in the second half last year. That improvement is in the field and in the lineup. That type of upgrade lengthens the lineup, improves the defense, and it makes everyone better.
That makes having Jake Marisnick in center everyday more palatable. It allows the Mets to sit Wilson Ramos more for a much better framer behind the plate. It allows for a lot including the team overcoming some of their problems to become a real World Series contender like the Indians were.
Sure, we can argue the Mets need a bullpen more, a backup catcher, an everyday center field, or anyone of their significant holes. More than that, the Mets need the talent to take them to the next level. Lindor is that talent, and if you are lucky, the Mets will be in a position to extend him as Cohen grows in his power over the team.
Overall, the Mets need to do what they can do to get Lindor. While is is very possible to overpay for him, in all likelihood, it is quite difficult you could argue there is s way to overpay to obtain him. Even if you do overpay, you are still walking about with a top 1o Major Leaguer who makes your team better in every aspect of the game.
To that end, if the Indians are dangling Lindor, the Mets should do all they can do to obtain him because he is that great, and his acquisition is that important. No one should stand in the way, especially those mentioned in the mock trade. When you boil it all down, Lindor is exactly what the Mets need. Lets’ hope the Mets can find a good package for him.
Look, when you have a trade with the framework of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn blow up in your face while getting absolutely nothing of value from free agent signings like Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie, and you are still cheered at a Mets game, chances are you believe you are Teflon.
Better yet, you probably believe no matter what you do people will buy whatever you are saying. We’re seeing the effects of that.
Despite Zack Wheeler and Marcus Stroman appearing in the same rotation last year, Van Wagenen is selling Stroman as a replacement for Wheeler in the rotation. Despite touting a rotation of four aces with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Wheeler last year, now with the signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, Van Wagenen is selling the Mets having six starters who are number four or better.
Worse yet, Van Wagenen is now touting the Mets rotation as the deepest in the game. That is despite the fact Wacha has shoulder problems and isn’t really a Major League caliber starting pitcher right now. Porcello has value, and may be in line for a rebound, but he is really no more than a fifth starter. Regardless, overselling this rotation which is clearly worse than the 2019 rotation is evidence of how little Van Wagenen thinks of everyone’s intellect.
It gets worse.
Despite not adding any relievers to the bullpen, Van Wagenen is touting how he improved the bullpen. He has done that by claiming the team has added Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. If you think you are taking crazy pills or have amnesia, you don’t. Both Lugo and Gsellman were in the bullpen last year. Same goes for Brad Brach.
Saying the Mets have addressed the bullpen by adding Lugo and Gsellman is like saying the Mets have improved the lineup by not trading Brandon Nimmo this offseason, or by having Jeff McNeil in it after his late season injury. Fact is, keeping the same players doesn’t upgrade anything. It is treading water, but Van Wagenen doesn’t think anyone is intelligent enough to discover that.
Believe it or not, it gets better. Van Wagenen actually had the temerity to say this, “We’re in a position now where we can only look to make good baseball deals and not feel like we have to do something.”
That’s right. Fifteen months into his tenure as the Mets General Manager, he is boldly saying that now he is only looking to make good baseball deals instead of making moves for their own sake.
Seeing his affinity for his former clients like Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, you’re now free to draw your own conclusions about whether they were good baseball deals, or whether there was a compulsion to something. Really, you can make that about any decision made prior to his next one.
Based on his history, it’ll be a bad one, he’ll think we’re all stupid as evidenced by his nonsense explanation, and we’ll just be sitting around waiting for the Steve Cohen Era to truly begin.
Seemingly since the day he was the Mets first round pick in the 2011 draft, Brandon Nimmo has been on the trade block. If not for suspect medicals for another prospect in the trade, Nimmo would have been traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the Jay Bruce trade.
In the ensuing two years, Nimmo would show the Mets just how lucky they were that the original iteration of the Bruce trade failed.
In 2018, Nimmo hit .263/.404/.483 with 28 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers, and 49 RBI. His OBP was second in the National League to only Joey Votto. Only the National League MVP Christian Yelich would top Nimmo’s 148 wRC+.
Despite his pedigree in being a first round pick, former top 100 prospect, and being named to the Future’s Game roster twice, there were still those who doubted Nimmo calling him a fourth outfielder. They’d jump on his early season struggles to prove their point.
The problem with drawing those conclusions was Nimmo was hurt. Very hurt. A bulging disc had a negative impact on his stats and cost him 89 games. With that injury, and the setbacks he had during his rehab, there were some concerns about Nimmo’s ability to return to his 2018 form.
Nimmo would quiet those concerns when he returned in September. Nimmo would play in 26 of the Mets 27 games that month, and he would hit .261/.430/.565 with four doubles, a triple, five homers, and 15 RBI. Aside from just his ability to stay on the field, he showed the ability to replicate the success he had the previous season.
Now, Nimmo is entering his first year of arbitration, and according to MLB Trade Rumors, Nimmo is projected to receive just $1.7 million for 2020. Between his neck injury and the low salary arbitration figure, this is likely the cheapest Nimmo is going to be.
That $1.7 million figure is going to increase significantly until he hits free agency after the 2022 season. At that time, he will be just 29 years old set to get a large free agent deal. Notably, Michael Conforto will have already hit free agency, and the Mets simply do not have the farm system to sustain losing both Nimmo and Conforto.
When you combine Nimmo’s speed, as well as his ability to play all three outfield positions, he has the ability to help the Mets withstand the loss of Conforto, or better yet, allow the team to make the hard decisions it may need to one day make. He also played better defensively than most believe. As noted by Baseball Savant, last year, he had a 2 OAA, and that is a year after his 5 OAA.
Nimmo is the type of young, cheap player who the Mets should be looking to keep as the core of their team, and that is before you take into account intangibles like his hustle and his being a fan favorite. Axiomatically, locking up Nimmo now also helps the Mets keep salaries down at a time when the Mets are trying to create room in the budget.
When you break it down, the Mets should be finding common ground towards an extension buying up a year or two of Nimmo’s free agent years instead of shopping him around for players who may very well not prove to be anywhere near as good as he will be.
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.