When Brodie Van Wagenen took over as the Mets General Manager, he was gifted an organization with great pitching depth. It was more than just reigning Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. It was a rotation so deep, Steven Matz was a fifth starter.
Behind them was an upcoming group of starters at or near top 100 rankings. Of note, Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay were first round picks putting it together and putting themselves in a position to be Major League ready starters sooner rather than later. Notably, both made their Major League debuts last year.
Now, Matz has gone from fifth starter to the Mets second starter, and the Mets rotation currently goes just three deep. How the Mets got here is purely on Van Wagenen’s shoulders.
Some of this was Van Wagenen’s hubris. He was all too willing to trade top prospects close to the Majors and continue with thin pitching depth. It was something the Mets got away with last year with Mickey Callaway who seemed to have a knack for keeping starters healthy. Of course, Van Wagenen couldn’t wait to fire him.
On the top prospects Van Wagenen traded away, he was all too cavalier about it. In fact, he said he was comfortable doing so because he was confident he’d draft well.
Brodie Van Wagenen said he had this aggressive draft strategy in mind when he traded away prospects.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) June 30, 2020
Speaking of win-now, the Mets just let Zack Wheeler go to the Phillies even though Wheeler wanted to stay and would’ve signed at a discount. Instead, he signed that discounted deal with the Phillies. To make matters worse, Van Wagenen went out of his way to slight and further motivate Wheeler.
Van Wagenen’s master plan was to instead sign Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Porcello is coming off a year where he had the worst ERA in the AL. Wacha has a bum shoulder and a three year decline in FIP, BB/9, K/9, and K/BB.
Again, Van Wagenen’s plan was to dismantle the Mets group of aces and near aces with Major League ready first round picks and replace that with well below average starters in the name of . . . depth. While it’s a sick joke, it wasn’t intended to be funny.
Sure, you can argue injuries hit this rotation. Noah Syndergaard needing Tommy John couldn’t be foreseen. Marcus Stroman tearing his hamstring was bad luck. Conversely, that’s exactly why you hold onto your starting pitching depth, and it’s why you hold onto your top end starters instead of letting them go to a division rival.
These problems have been compounded by the bullpen injuries. This means the Mets are down to three viable starters and no one to fill-in those middle innings when the dubious fourth and fifth starters can’t go deep into games.
However, Van Wagenen will tell us it’s alright because he built depth (he didn’t), and he had a draft strategy (leaving the team with no real MLB ready starters in the minors). Suddenly, the Mets went from a team so needed a couple of tweaks to be a true World Series contender to a team who may now just be the fourth best in the division.
If the Mets fall short this year, make no mistake, it’s all on Van Wagenen and his complete and utter short-sightedness on how he has handled the Mets pitching depth.