Entering this offseason, Phillies part-owner John Middleton said the team was going to spend “stupid money” to improve this roster. So far, that has amounted to free agent deals for Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson as well as a trade for Jean Segura. The interesting part of that trade was the Phillies dumped Carlos Santana‘s salary as part of the deal.
This helped the Phillies in two ways. First, it has improved a Major League worst fielding team (-146 DRS) by moving Segura to shortstop in place of Scott Kingery, but also by moving Rhys Hoskins from left field to first base. The next thing it did was to free up a little more money for the team to spend stupidly.
So far, the Phillies efforts have been rebuffed. While they have been rebuffed, the Nationals added Kyle Barraclough, Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Trevor Rosenthal, Anibal Sanchez, and Kurt Suzuki. The Braves added Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson. The Mets have revamped their roster with Keon Broxton, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos.
Looking at all of that, you’d be hard to argue the Phillies would repeat their third place finish. Even with an improved roster, you’d have to wonder if they take a step back from their 80-82 record. Still, the Phillies have one major advantage over their NL East opponents – they have money to spend.
Not only do they have money to spend, they’re in on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While it may be unrealistic for them to add both, they still have the chance to sign one and pair them with multiple players from a group which includes Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, A.J. Pollock, and others. Adding those players to a team which already has Jake Arrieta, Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, Hoskins, Aaron Nola, and Segura makes the Phillies a much more formidable team. Depending on what they add, they could not only be the best team in the National League East, but also the entire National League.
Right now, the Phillies are in perfect position. They are bidding on players when their main rivals appear tapped out financially. Moreover, the deepest pockets in baseball (Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees) do not appear in on the top free agents remaining. Really, the only question remaining for them is what they can do.
If you’re the Mets, the question is what you do in response. This was the same team who put Jarred Kelenic on the table to stop the Phillies from getting Diaz. Diaz is a blip on the radar when compared to players like Harper and Machado. Considering the lengths to which the Mets went to stop the Phillies from getting a closer, you wonder why the inertia on the real difference makers.
And the Mets should make no mistake. The Phillies adding two or three from the remaining top end of the free agent pool is a game changer. If the Phillies strike right, it’s possible it makes everything the Mets have done this offseason completely meaningless. That’s not hyperbole. If the Phillies build a juggernaut to compete with a still up and coming Braves team and strong Nationals team, the Mets could get lost in the shuffle. and they’ll be there without some of their biggest prospects to help in a rebuild.
Keep in mind, the Phillies don’t even have to build a better team than the Mets. They could just build a better team which will make the 19 games against the Mets all the more difficult. Those 19 games could be the difference not just in winning the division, but also being in a position to claim one of the two Wild Card spots.
This is a very dangerous time for the Mets, and as such, it is time for them to step up and start acting like a New York team. Otherwise, they’re probably going nowhere.
As most are aware, the Dustbowl refers to a period of severe drought which destroyed farms across six different states. To boil it down to an overly simplistic point, the situation was created because farmers did not understand how to farm and maintain the land. They sought immediate profit without an understanding of how their actions would have a long term impact.
It’s like what Brodie Van Wagenen is doing with the Mets.
Van Wagenen’s first major move as the General Manager was to trade Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn two former first round picks who are also two top 100 prospects, for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano along with $100 million of the $120 million remaining in his contract.
Also included in the deal was Gerson Bautista who was the prize from the Addison Reed trade. It also so happens Bautista throws near triple digits, and he started to put some of his control issues behind him in the Arizona Fall League.
In terms of the farm system, it was a big hit. Agree or disagree with the trade, the Mets opted for the short term goal of improving the 2019 roster, and the expense was two of your best prospects. While you could disagree with the move, you could understand the rationale.
What you can’t understand is the Mets trade with the Astros.
In J.D. Davis, the Mets obtained an infielder who hit .194/.260/.321 in 181 plate appearances. While he’s put up much better power numbers in the minors, talent evaluators believe he swings and misses often and struggles hitting good fastballs. (Mike Puma, New York Post).
While you may believe he just needs more playing time to succeed, you also have to understand it’s not coming with the Mets. Davis, should he even make the Opening Day roster, will have to fight Peter Alonso, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and whoever else the Mets have on their bench for at-bats. Put simply, he’s not getting the at-bats he needs to succeed.
As for Sam Haggerty, no one truly believes he’s much of a prospect.
In exchange for that, the Mets traded Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana, which is almost universally believed to be an overpay. Santana was the real prize obtained by the Astros as he’s a player many scouts are high on:
11) Luis Santana, 2B, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2016, hit .348/.446/.471 with 27 walks, 23 strikeouts in 204 at-bats in Appalachian League; observers praised pure hitting skills and plate discipline, mixed opinion on power in 5-8, 175 frame
— John Sickels (@MinorLeagueBall) December 20, 2018
Santana is a two-time Sterling Award winner and was considered to be among the top 10 prospects in a much improved Mets farm system.
With respect to Adolph, he was the steal of the draft. The 12th round pick proved the skills which made him the MAC player of the year translated to professional baseball. He hit .276/.348/.509 for Brooklyn, was the MVP of the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, and he was considered by Baseball America to be the best defensive outfielder in the Mets farm system.
With respect to Manea, even with T.J. Rivera making it to the majors, it is difficult to buy in on undrafted players. However, Manea did hit .261/.368/.432, and the old Mets regime noticed with J.P. Riccardi saying, “He has got a chance to be something. He has opened up some eyes this year. He has got power and a pretty good idea of what he is doing behind the plate.” (Mike Puma, Baseball America). The Astros also noticed and are apparently very high on Manea:
Jeff Luhnow called catcher Scott Manea a "key piece" to the deal for the Astros, who are in obvious need of catching depth.
"We need more guys. Manea is a guy that we think can move pretty quickly and has a chance to be a big league catcher. That was a big part of it for us.”
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) January 6, 2019
The Astros are one of, if not the, best scouting organization in baseball. For their part, the Mets have a General Manager with zero front office or player development experience. There was an overhaul of the Mets minor league coaching staff before Van Wagenen was even hired.
Recently, Fangraphs reported, “Several league sources have told us that the Mets don’t scout beneath full-season ball.” As a result, the Mets “simply lack reports on a lot of players,” which will include two of the players they just traded.
Point is, Van Wagenen is flying blind here. He’s making decisions on players with insufficient information, and he’s making important decisions about their and the Mets future. Teams like the Astros are more than happy to take advantage.
This may be a problem created by a team too cheap to keep Wilmer Flores or sign any one of the cheaper free agents available like Mark Reynolds, but it’s also a problem of making bad decisions predicated on little, no, or bad information.
The Mets are destroying the farm, and they’re doing it on bad information. If this team doesn’t start spending, there’s going to be a lot of fallow years ahead for the Mets. It’s going to be a Dust Bowl driving people away from Citi Field.
Right now, the Mets are once again choosing to operate like a mid-market team, which to be honest is a kind characterization. The Mets decision is all the more inexcusable because the team has already mortgaged the future in trading Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn while simultaneously taking back $100 million of Robinson Cano‘s contract.
The Mets have also watched their NL East competition improve their teams to the point where it is entirely possible the Mets finish in third or even fourth place. The team’s chances in 2019 would be significantly improved to the point where they would become division favorites or even World Series contenders/favorites if they went out and signed Manny Machado, which is just not happening, or Bryce Harper, which is not happening but is more likely than Machado.
While the Mets should be chastised for their lack of a pursuit of Harper, they are not the only team immune from cricisim on their front. In fact, almost every team in baseball could use him, and few of them have an excuse:
Red Sox – The defending World Series champions may be one of the few teams with an excuse to not pursue Harper. Arguably, they have the best outfield in baseball, and their DH position is occupied by J.D. Martinez. Still, if Harper is willing to move to first base, you have to question why Mitch Moreland and his $6.5 million should stand in the way.
Yankees – The Yankees need a left-handed power hitter to balance out that lineup. The team seems to have no issue using Giancarlo Stanton as a DH and Brett Gardner as a fourth outfielder. This leaves a team under the luxury tax zero reason to not sign Harper, especially if they do not get Machado.
Rays – The Rays are on the verge of contention and with the moves they’ve made, they’re even closer. Still, that outfield is a disaster, and that lineup as a whole needs a big bat. A team who has issues drawing fans could also use a superstar and gate draw like Harper.
Blue Jays – The argument the Blue Jays are rebuilding does not hold water for the Blue Jays or any other team. Harper is a 26 year old future Hall of Famer. He is a player who not just helps jump the rebuild, but he is also a huge trade piece in the future should you look to move him.
Orioles – For a 115 loss team with not much Major League or even Major League ready talent, the Orioles could sure use some young talent and a player who can draw fans to the ballpark.
Indians – The Indians are a win-now team whose World Series window is closing as Corey Kluber edges towards free agency. With Michael Brantley departing in free agency, they have absolutely nothing in the outfield. Harper would completely change the dynamics of that team and the postseason.
Twins – With Joe Mauer‘s contract coming off the books, the Twins seem to be going for it a bit this offseason, albeit haphazardly. Adding Harper would make it a real division race between them and the Indians, and it could shift the balance of power in 2020 and beyond.
Tigers – Even if you assume the Tigers and their improving farm system are a few years away, how many chances do you get to add a player like Harper? Wouldn’t you be better off having an in his prime Harper with your young players when your team is about to take off?
White Sox – To their credit, the White Sox understand the opportunity present with Harper and Machado, and they are doing what they can to obtain either or both.
Astros – Even with the team having signed Brantley, this team is still a bat short, which was something which hurt them against the Red Sox. If they want to overtake the Red Sox, they need another bat or two, especially with Marwin Gonzalez likely gone. Adding Harper would make them clear favorites to win the World Series.
Athletics – The Athletics were a surprise 97 win team, which meant they only got a Wild Card Game out of it. One and done. While the Athletics don’t normally swim in the deep end of the pool, Harper could keep them not just in contention, but he could become a face of the franchise as the team hopes to move a new ballpark.
Mariners – For all of their talk of rebuilding, the Mariners have been sneakily building a team which could compete this year with players like Jay Bruce, Dee Gordon, J.P. Crawford, Kyle Seager, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mitch Haniger. Harper could push them into the Wild Card mix.
Angels – As Mike Trout moves towards free agency, the Angels need to do everything they can do to get him a chance to win a World Series in an Angels uniform. An outfield of Trout and Harper instantly makes this the best outfield in baseball, and it may change the dynamics of the American League.
Rangers – The Rangers actually have a young outfield core, and where they are as a on organization, they are probably justified passing on Harper to give their younger players a chance, especially because Harper is not likely looking to move to first base for what should be a last place club.
Braves – Right now, Nick Markakis is a free agent leaving a hole in right field. Also, the team had over $50 million in salary come off the books leaving them with around $30 million to reinvest even after signing Josh Donaldson to a one year deal. In what is an increasingly competitive NL East, the Braves lack of a pursuit may be the most inexcusable.
Nationals – The Nationals know what they had in Harper, and they are rumored to have offered him a contract over the initially reported 10 year $300 million deal. The owner met with Harper right before Christmas. They’re doing what they can to re-sign him to recapture NL East supremacy.
Phillies – The Phillies are doing all they can do to land Harper or Machado including making the team around them better.
Mets – There is no justifying their payroll or their inaction here. For as difficult as it is to hit at Citi Field, Harper has excellent numbers there, and he is a young superstar akin to Carlos Beltran, who can take the Mets to a new level. If you’re mortgaging the future, you need to go for it.
Marlins – This team needs to start somewhere in terms of adding talent, and if they are really intent on wanting to keep J.T. Realmuto in a Marlins uniform, and they seem to be considering how they are handling the trade discussions, it would go a long way to have Harper there to convince Realmuto to stay.
Brewers – Ryan Braun is essentially done being a good MLB outfielder. Brewers should cut their losses, make him a backup and/or first base option (behind Jesus Aguilar), and they should add Harper to make that lineup all the more long and dangerous. Doing so insulates them from some regression from some players, and it probably buys some more time for their starting pitching to truly develop.
Cubs – The Cubs still have a young core, albeit one which needs some help. The team could move Jason Heyward to center to accommodate Harper, or they could trade Kyle Schwarber to help address other needs. Overall, they are facing tougher competition, and they are going to have to find some way to improve.
Cardinals – The Cardinals are right in the thick of teams who are projected to be in postseason contention next year. While adding Paul Goldschmidt makes them significantly better, they probably still need to add one more significant player to move ahead of the Brewers and Cubs. Harper could well be that guy.
Pirates – The Pirates made an all-in type of move giving up a lot for Chris Archer, but they have not backed that up by signing a position player. Right now, they have fewer prospects, and they are really on the outside looking in when it comes to postseason contention. Really, if their goal is to matter in a loaded NL Central and increasingly top heavy National League, they need Harper to move them into the discussion.
Reds – The Reds just made an interesting trade with the Dodgers to help them try to win now. While many may be skeptical, the Reds are seemingly of the belief they can contend next year. While they already have a lot of names to sort through in that outfield, none of those players are on the level of Harper, nor will they be over the period in which the Reds intend to contend. Tangentially, adding Harper would free up some talented young players to move them in deals for upgrades at other positions.
Dodgers – The Dodgers barely won the NL West last year and made it back to the World Series. During the year, they had more surprising contributions, but they also saw a player like Cody Bellinger regress. Fact is, they could use a player like Harper to help them stave off a team like the Rockies while also helping them capture their first World Series since 1988. After all, the Dodgers are now essentially a World Series or bust team.
Rockies – The common mistake with the Rockies is assuming that just because they are in Coors Field, they are fine offensively. They’re not. In fact, they’re not very good, and they are especially bad in the outfield. Harper is the guy who could put up superhuman numbers there while helping the Rockies potentially nudge past the Dodgers.
Diamondbacks – Even after trading Goldschmidt and with A.J. Pollock a free agent, the Diamondbacks are not intending to strip it down and rebuild. If they’re not, they can replace Goldschmidt’s production with Harper, which could put them back in contention in the division. After all, the Diamondbacks did lead the NL West heading into September last year.
Giants – It may seem like a new age with a new GM with the Giants, but the team still appears to be going nowhere. They have older players and contract which will be difficult to move, and with Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, they still have the last vestiges of their World Series titles. If the team is not moving towards a rebuild, Harper deepens and lengthens that lineup, and he would put them back in the conversation.
Padres – Much like the Reds, the Padres appear to believe they’ve arrived before everyone else believes they have arrived. Adding Harper to this team may not bear fruit in 2019, but in 2020, when we will see the likes of Fernando Tatis, Jr. and their other top prospects emerge, the team will need Harper. They could have him for what could prove to be an extended period of dominance for the Padres.
So, overall, Harper is an improvement for every team in baseball, and at his age, rebuilding is no excuse. The only excuse is team’s do not want to spend the money, which at the end of the day, is a very lame excuse considering how profitable each one of these franchises truly are.
Seven point five million. That was all. After allowing David Wright to play in one last game, the Mets only had $7.5 million in insurance proceeds for the 2019 season. The accountants went over the numbers three times, but the money remained the same. $7.5 million. Soon, it would be Spring Training.
There was nothing for Brodie Van Wagenen to do put to mortgage the future. So he did.
While Brodie began to toil away, we can look at the home. Citi Field. A ballpark which was helped built by $615 million in public subsidies with $20 million a year coming from Citibank for the naming rights.
In the executive portion of the building was a corner office with a name on the door – Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon.
When the name was first placed there, the team had a top five payroll in the sport. They had a chance to advance up until their final games in each of the past three seasons. Now, after the Madoff scandal, the money was tighter. More creditors. More debt. Less liquidity. He carried this burden as his General Manager entered his office.
As the meeting began, Brodie was looking off in the distance trying to synthesize his thoughts. They each had promised a winner, but there was just $7.5 million in insurance proceeds to spend. He spent all offseason looking for ways to move contracts around, but $7.5 million was just not enough. Every free agent cost more than he expected, and teams wanted more in deals than he anticipated. Being new to the job, he was not quite prepared for that.
Only $7.5 million to build depth, to add a center fielder, mostly just to put this team more firmly in contention. He spent all offseason planning for more, something that would make them the favorites he declared them to be. Something, anything, to justify moving from a lucrative career as an agent to being a General Manager.
During the meeting, Brodie and Jeff took notice of the 2015 pennant banner. They were both very proud of that for different reasons. For Brodie, it was his clients, Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes, who had played key roles in getting the Mets to that point. It gained both them and himself notoriety.
For Jeff, this was one they did on their own. They survived everything, and they actually went to a World Series. He proved he could oversee a team’s rebuild and come out the other end with a winning team. Nothing meant more to him than that team. He could stand in a room with the Steinbrenners, and he could tell them he built that team from pure guts and guile, which is something they could never accomplish with their free spending ways.
After the meeting was done, with not much headway, each went back to the drawing board to see what they could to to put this team over the top.
Brodie began making phone calls. He knew Robinson Cano had a no trade clause and wanted to come back to New York, and the Mariners wanted to rebuild. He tried and tried again. They asked for Justin Dunn. He wasn’t too keen, but he agreed if they took back Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak. They then wanted Jarred Kelenic. He didn’t want to do it, but he wanted to get a World Series for his former clients.
He calculated how he could spend the savings. A catcher like Wilson Ramos. There wouldn’t be room for much more, but they could be better, closer. He pulled the trigger. He was eager for Jeff to come home from safari to tell him the news.
After the deal was done, he began to question himself a little. After all, he just mortgaged the entire future to contend for just two years. He didn’t have the money to address all of the team’s needs. The Braves added Josh Donaldson. The Nationals added Patrick Corbin. The Phillies added Jean Segura, and they were in hot pursuit of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
But still, what could a General Manager do with just $7.5 million.
Brodie, who was usually self assured as most agents are, began questioning himself. Instead of boasting what he had accomplished like he had declaring the Mets frontrunners, with Jeff, he was more measured. He really found himself just praying his decision would be met with approval.
Jeff, fresh from safari, popped into Brodie’s office with a bemused look on his face. He was more quiet than usual, which was something Brodie was unaccustomed. He was not ready for that.
Brodie began explaining himself without so much as a question being asked. “Jeff, we actually saved money on the 2019 payroll. Cano is a Hall of Fame talent. Diaz was the best closer in baseball. You wanted to win, and this is the closest we can get to doing it. If I can’t trade for J.T. Realmuto, I can sign Ramos. He wants to be here. We can figure it out from there.”
Jeff just put out his hand, and he shook Brodie’s hand. He gave an assuring pat on the shoulder. Then from inside his jacket pocket, Jeff took out some papers, and he put it upon Brodie’s desk.
“I gave you marching orders, and it looks like you delivered. I am very proud of the job you just did. But if you open that, you will see why I have not been as enthusiastic as you may have thought I would be.”
Brodie unfolded the papers. Initially, there was a wry smile, and then a look of pure shock and horror.
For there was the extension. Due to his role as the General Manager, he could no longer get that extension for deGrom. As an agent, Brodie wanted nothing more than that extension, but due to the conflict of interest, he was not allowed to go and give it to deGrom. He could not even be a part of those discussions.
Brodie exclaimed, “But with the team being better, there will be more fans! There has to be. More fans and more revenues. It’ll happen. I promise.”
Jeff gave that knowing look and just smiled. Both knew the last years of Cano’s deal was going to stop the Mets from giving deGrom any sort of a contract extension, especially with Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Brandon Nimmo soon to follow. They also knew without deGrom going forward, the Mets chances to being relevant into the future was going to be severely compromised.
Jeff just said, “Lets just put this all aside now, order lunch, and let’s talk as friends like we used to do.”
The Mets, as you know, were once run by devoted, passionate, and smart men, who brought the Mets the 1986 World Series. Frank Cashen, Nelson Doubleday, and Fred Wilpon were the first to deliver Mets fans a World Series in the era of free agency. Being wise, not only did they win the World Series, but they had an era of prolonged success like the Mets have never seen before or since.
And here I have told you about two Mets leaders who were not so wise. Each sold something valuable in order to try to win a World Series, and they go in each other’s way. Somewhere, if people will listen, they will tell us they are building the 2019 Mets to be the best team in baseball, and they are smart enough to win for the next decade. They will tell us no matter how much we all doubt.
They are the Mets.
* Adapted from the short story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
The Mets have been quite busy this offseason, and they have improved their roster. Their bullpen now has Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. Robinson Cano is now the everyday second baseman with last year’s revelation, Jeff McNeil, hopefully becoming a super utility player in the ilk of Ben Zobrist. Wilson Ramos replaces an uninspiring group of Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Lobaton, Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido, and Kevin Plawecki behind the plate.
All told, the Mets are undoubtedly better. In fact, they have gone from being a 77 win team to Fangraphs projecting they will win 85 games. That’s a big eight game improvement, but when you dig deeper, it’s not enough.
Assuming the projections are correct or reasonable, that 85 win mark puts them six games behind the Nationals, and it has them just two games ahead of the Braves for second place in the division. Moreover, it has the Mets capturing the second Wild Card. It is very difficult to believe the Mets are doing this for just the second Wild Card.
Then again, despite Brodie Van Wagenen’s bravado, the Mets may be lucky to capture that second Wild Card.
First and foremost, you’re relying upon a Braves team who signed Josh Donaldson to win eight fewer games. More than that, you’re relying on the Phillies not going out and making significant additions this offseason.
We know the Phillies owner wants to spend a stupid amount of money. He has reached that threshold, but the Phillies have improved the team. The Carlos Santana trade permits the Phillies to move Rhys Hoskins to first base, which is where he belongs, and they replaced Santana’s disappointing production with Andrew McCutchen. In that Santana trade, the Phillies obtained Jean Segura, who presents a massive offensive and defensive upgrade over what the Phillies had last year.
The Phillies are also rumored to be hot in their pursuit of Manny Machado. It’s possible the Phillies will lose out on him to the Yankees or even the White Sox, who made a trade for his brother-in-law Yonder Alonso. If they lose out on him, you can guarantee they will be even more dogged in their pursuit of Bryce Harper. Either player is a game changer.
At a minimum, that makes the Phillies more of a player in the division, and it makes the Mets efforts to win the division or to even capture one of the Wild Card spots all the more difficult. Even the most ardent believer in what the Mets have done this offseason has to admit Machado or Harper on the Phillies severely complicates matters.
If nothing else, this is why the Mets have to stop it from happening. We know they will not be in on Machado, but there they can let the Yankees do their dirty work, but when it comes to Harper, they are going to have to do their own heavy lifting. They are going to have step up and try to sign Harper much in the same way they stepped up and gave up Jarred Kelenic to ensure Diaz did not go to the Phillies.
An outfield of Michael Conforto–Brandon Nimmo–Bryce Harper would be among the best in baseball. For those wringing their hands over Yoenis Cespedes, both Harper and Cespedes have indicated this past year they would be willing to move to first base. Then again, no one should be counting on Cespedes to return at any point in 2019 let alone be the type of player again who can force anyone to the bench.
More than anything, Harper is one of the best players in baseball, and he’s just only 26. He’s one of the more recognizable players in the game, and he could have a Mike Piazza like impact on the field, with attendance, and on the back pages. He could be the next Carlos Beltran. With his talent anything is possible, including not just one but multiple World Series titles.
The main point here is the Mets are far from done building this team into a World Series contender. The same goes for the rest of the division including the Phillies. One team is going to be willing to do everything it takes to win. For the first time in over a decade, it would be nice if that team was once again the Mets.
The Mets made a blockbuster deal with the Seattle Mariners where they gave up two former first round draft picks in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. At the moment, the Mets are in the midst of trying to negotiate a trade to obtain J.T. Realmuto. In those discussions, we have heard the Mets potentially trading any one or a combination of Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, or Mark Vientos.
What is interesting is we have not yet heard Peter Alonso‘s name attached to any rumor. Seeing the power and arguably unprecedented exit velocities combined with his status as a clear-cut T0p 100 prospect, it would be really hard to believe neither the Mariners nor the Marlins would have any interest in Alonso.
This would lead you to believe the Mets are making Alonso untouchable in trade discussions. With the Mets seemingly having penciled him in as their 2019 first baseman, you could understand the idea. On the other hand, why would the Mets make him more untouchable than their other players or prospects?
Looking at the infield right now, you could win by playing Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier, and Rosario in the same infield. Certainly, that infield and lineup would look all the better with Realmuto.
If you don’t want Cano, Frazier, or even McNeil being your everyday first baseman, there are still free agent first baseman available. Mark Reynolds, who has a 103 OPS+ over the last three years, is available. Matt Adams is a platoon bat who has a 119 wRC+ against right-handed pitching over the past two years. This is also a scenario where bringing Marwin Gonzalez aboard makes sense. With first base effectively vacant, you could have sufficient playing time between him and McNeil at first base, second base, third base, and the outfield.
There are also former Mets like Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores, who we know can handle first base and New York. If you are so inclined, you could probably even sign Asdrubal Cabrera the job. He has shown himself to be a different hitter in a Mets uniform, and it is possible playing first over a middle infield position keeps him fresher and healthier.
Arguably, any of these options are better than Alonso. While there may be some flaws, it is notable that Steamer has projected Alonso to hit .241/.318/.458. It is interesting to note Fangraphs Depth Charts comes to the same slash line albeit while giving Alonso a higher projected WAR.
Again, these projections may be flawed, but they may also not be. That’s the risk when you play an unproven rookie at first base.
The bigger risk for the Mets is trading Conforto or Nimmo. This is not an organization blessed with any outfield depth. Beyond them is Juan Lagares, who is injury prone, Yoenis Cespedes, who may not even play next year, and a collection of prospects who will likely not be in a position to contribute at the Major League level. Looking at the free agent class, you see a number of players who have considerable age or health concerns. Mostly, you see a group who will most likely not contribute at the level Conforto or Nimmo will next season.
That brings us back to Alonso. If the Mets haven’t already, shouldn’t they put his name on the table to see if that moves the needle on Realmuto? After all, the Mets window is likely two years, maybe three. While Alonso is very, very intriguing, he’s not a sure thing, and you can go get a first baseman who can produce for you while simultaneously getting production from Conforto and Nimmo while watching Rosario build off his improved second half.
Overall, when you break it all down, you really have to question the Mets seemingly counting on Alonso instead of one of their players who have actually produced and shown an ability to improve at the Major League level. That plan becomes all the more dubious when you consider the free agents available and the depth at certain areas of the Mets farm system.
Based upon all we are hearing and the narratives being pushed, under the guidance of Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets are pursuing each and every path there is to make the Mets a better team. They will do that even if it means trading Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to get back Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and the $100 million due to Cano.
In fact, the Brodie Van Wagenen Mets are willing to trade or move any player to get better. We’ve heard trades where any of Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, or even Noah Syndergaard could be moved to get J.T. Realmuto. We’ve even seen reports where Syndergaard or another Mets pitcher would be traded to the Yankees. For what we don’t know, but we do know it is very clear anyone on the Mets can be traded at any moment.
That’s a good and fair approach if you are making trades to improve the club. Certainly, you could imagine a deal with the Yankees were the Mets could find themselves a better ballclub. You can envision that for the now seemingly abandoned three way deal with the Marlins.
All in all, it is good the Mets are willing to do anything they can do to make the team better. But here’s the thing, they’re not.
Right now, the Mets are aggressively pursuing Realmuto, and they’re not aggressively pursuing Yasmani Grandal. Grandal is an elite pitch framer, who is not that far a drop off offensively. Over the last three years, Grandal has a 113 OPS+ to Realmuto’s 118.
The one thing Realmuto has over Grandal is age with Realmuto being two years younger. Oh, and there’s the matter of Realmuto likely costing far less than what Grandal will receive in free agency.
Free agency. That’s where the Mets seem to stop from going all out to improve their team.
While we can be sure the Mets have been in contact and will eventually sign free agents, it is clear they prefer the trade route. We can surmise our own reasons why. It is also clear the Mets are not going to go all out to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
Arguably, each one of those players completely changes the dynamics of the Mets. If you sign them, you are adding a future Hall of Famer to this team. Either player could very well have a Carlos Beltran type of impact upon this team. That would mean a run of winning seasons the Mets have not had since the final days of Shea Stadium.
If you want to really win, and you want to matter for the next decade, which is something the Mets purportedly want to do, you go out and you sign Harper or Machado. They are game and franchise changers. It also doesn’t hurt that you’d keep them away from the Phillies.
Overall, the Mets can say they are turning every stone to try to improve this team, but until they pursue Harper or Machado the way they are pursuing Realmuto, they’re lying to you.
Do you know what is interesting about the infamous John Smoltz trade? If the Detroit Tigers do not win the American League East in 1987 if they don’t obtain Doyle Alexander. History may forget or overlook this, but Alexander was dominant when he put on a Tigers uniform.
Alexander was 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Tigers. The Tigers won all 11 games he started. He was a 4.4 WAR pitcher. The Tigers won the East by just two games. Long story short, Alexander was a difference maker for the Tigers, and had that trade not happened, it’s very possible the Tigers miss the postseason.
Like the Tigers, the Red Sox won the division by two games. Like Alexander, Anderson was lights out. In his 15 games, he had a 1.23 ERA. He didn’t have the WAR of Alexander, nor did his team have the same success in the games he pitched, but he did not lose one game he appeared. That matters for a team who finished just ahead of the Blue Jays.
But we don’t hear that at all. For starters, we don’t hear that because Smoltz and Bagwell became Hall of Famers. The other reason is because neither the Tigers nor Red Sox actually won. Both teams would lose the ALCS in swift fashion. The Tigers lost to Twins in five games, and the Red Sox lost to the Athletics in a sweep.
That’s the thing. Just making the postseason isn’t enough. In a win-now trade, you actually have to win, and winning here means the World Series. It is ultimately why the Cubs will get a pass one day if Gleyber Torres is a Hall of Famer. The Cubs actually won the World Series with Aroldis Chapman.
That’s the way it works with win-now deals. You are sacrificing the future to win-now. Not winning now means the goal you set to achieve by making the trade failed. It’s a very small margin of error, but that’s what you sign up for when you make such a deal.
And that’s what Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets did by trading Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. The Mets parted with one excellent, one very good, and one wild card for two players who they believe will help them win-now. At least from the Mets perspective, win-now probably means 2019 or 2020 because after that the Mets current core will begin hitting free agency, and Cano will be making $20 million per year.
In the end, if the Mets win the World Series with Cano and Diaz, no one will care if Kelenic, Dunn, and Bautista became perennial All-Stars. However, if the Mets don’t win anything more than a division title, they will be reminded of it each and every time the aforementioned prospects do anything of note.
Any day now, the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets are about to complete a blockbuster deal which will alter the next five to ten years for both franchises.
First and foremost, they will no longer have Jarred Kelenic, who is arguably their best prospect. More than than, Cano’s deal is a complete albatross.
While some are saying the Mets are getting plenty of relief on Cano, it’s not exactly true. Remember, Jay Bruce is only under contract for two more years. Anthony Swarzak‘s deal expires after 2019. After that, there’s no more “offsets.”
Therefore, for the final three years of Cano’s deal, he will be making $20 million per season. Also, we should not forget, even with the Mets trading Bruce and Swarzak, they still owe Cano $100 million over five years. Of course, that assumes the Mariners are providing the $20 million.
With that $20 million figure once being $60 million, we should not be too sure that number won’t change.
An important consideration to this deal is when the Mets are going to deal with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Michael Conforto hitting free agency, the team will be paying Cano $20 million per season. That puts a tremendous strain on the ability to keep those players.
Perhaps that is why Syndergaard is being shopped now.
If we operate under the assumption the Mets are building their team to win-now, which should be painfully obvious by this trade, you really have to question the wisdom of including Justin Dunn in this trade.
No starting pitching staff is immune to injuries, and since 2015, that has gone double for the Mets. With that being the case, the Mets will really need Triple-A depth to pick up the slack. Here are the career MLB numbers for their current projected Triple-A starters:
This is a group who makes Rafael Montero‘s 5.38 ERA not look so bad. For his part, Montero is not an option as he was released.
The numbers from the aforementioned pitchers are from small sample sizes, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue they would be much better than this next year. You’d be harder pressed to believe they would be able to do much better than this over 10, 15, or even 20 plus starts.
With that being the case, the Mets needed Dunn. He was the one pitcher in their system who was close to MLB ready who you could realistically rely upon for a number of starts. With him gone, the Mets really have zero depth.
With that being the case, you really have to question why a Mets team trying to win-now would completely overlook this. That is more problematic when you consider the Mets have been done in more by lack of depth than any other factor.
In the end, the Mets are going all-in now, and they’re doing it with a need to address the bullpen, catching position, center field, and their bench depth. Now, they are also going to have to add 1-2 quality pitchers who are alright spending extended time in the minors waiting for someone to get hurt.
The pitchers who are willing to do that are rarely good, and ultimately, this is why trading Dunn was a giant mistake.
With the Mets reportedly not pursuing Manny Machado this offseason, the Mets have put them in a position where their options to improve their batting order are becoming increasingly limited. That is at least on the free agent market. Instead, the team is going to have to look towards trades to try to improve their roster.
When looking at trades, the team should look much further than any of their oft publicized and discussed needs. Instead, the team should do all they can do to improve their roster. If you are looking to build a World Series contender, that means obtaining Corey Kluber.
If the Mets are able to obtain Kluber, they are going to have the best rotation in baseball, and quite possibly, they could have one of the best rotations of all-time. When you have pitching like that, you win games and postseason series.
Remember, the 2001 Diamondbacks won the NL West and the World Series riding Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. While Luis Gonzalez hit 57 homers that year, the rest of the Diamondbacks team wasn’t great offensively. That team had a 97 wRC+, which was ranked 15th in the majors.
The Mets would have that with Kluber and Jacob deGrom. Kluber has led the Majors in wins over the past three seasons with the second most innings pitched and the third highest fWAR. As for deGrom, he was the best pitcher in baseball last, and we have seen what he can do in the postseason.
As for the Mets offense, well, in the second half of the season last year, they were ranked 11th in the majors. With a 38-30 second half record, the Mets were tied with the Braves for the best record in the NL East. Combining that improved offense with the emerge of Zack Wheeler, and this is suddenly a very scary Mets team, which is something the Mets need to be building.
Notably, Wheeler is a free agent after the 2019 season, and after the 2020 season, deGrom will be a free agent. The biggest hit happens after the 2021 season with Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz becoming free agents. That’s a big chunk of the Mets current core, which means this organization has three years to win a World Series with this group.
It just so happens Kluber is under team control for three years with 2020 and 2021 team options. All told, Kluber is owed just $52.5 million over the next three years giving the team some flexibility to add talent around an ace pitcher.
Now, there will be obvious skeptics as to whether this will work for the Mets. This plan would require buying Amed Rosario making strides. It also requires Jeff McNeil to repeat a second half which was fueled by .368 BABIP. Todd Frazier is going to have to be what he was in April and stay off the disabled list, and Jay Bruce is going to have to learn first base. You are also going to need a full season from Juan Lagares in center.
Then again, maybe you won’t.
Adding Kluber only adds to the possibilities. With Kluber atop the rotation with deGrom, the Mets could look to trade Wheeler at his peak value. Possibly, the Mets could move Wheeler to address other areas of need like their bullpen or a right-handed bat. With Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel being free agents and Lance McCullers missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John, the Astros are certainly a fit. Seeing how Wheeler pitched in the second half, there will obviously be other suitors.
Now, getting Kluber is going to hurt. At a minimum, you are probably talking Peter Alonso, Andres Gimenez, and some other notable Mets prospects. It’s entirely possible, a Major Leaguer will need to be included in the deal. Certainly, giving up your top talent will hurt the system.
However, a more broad based analysis needs to take place here. The Mets window is 2019-2021. After that, the next real wave for the Mets comes a year or two after that as Jarred Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, and Mark Vientos all played in Kingsport this past season. Considering how the talent is structured in the Mets farm system, the time to make a run is right now.
If you’re making that run, the Mets need to go all-out improving this roster. Unless you are spending on the free agent market to get Machado and Bryce Harper, which the Mets aren’t doing, it means trading for big pieces. That means giving up Alonso and Gimenez for a big piece. Right now, there is no bigger piece than Kluber. He’s the real difference maker.
Get Kluber and make a real run at 2019 and 2020. The talent is here, and the Mets have the chips to do it.