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 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.
It may be every fan base, but it seems like whenever the Mets need to add players via trade or free agency, fans seem to look towards acquiring former players. It may not be just the fans either as the Mets bucked conventional wisdom by signing Jay Bruce and Jason Vargas last year. If the fans and organization wants to go down that road again, there are plenty of options this offseason:
Jose Lobaton – If he’s back, we may actually see fans boycott the team.
Devin Mesoraco – Other than like a one week stretch, he was terrible in every facet of the game. There is no way he should be back in Queens next year.
Rene Rivera – He would be a fine addition on a minor league deal to work with up and comers like Justin Dunn. If there’s an injury or two (ideally three), he could resume his role as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.
Lucas Duda – Fans used to debate at length whether Duda was a good or bad player. The debate is over. He’s now a bad player who has not much to offer anymore.
Asdrubal Cabrera – Unless Cabrera is looking to accept a utility role behind two still largely unproven young players, there would be no reason to bring him back to the Mets.
Daniel Murphy – There is a scenario in which bringing him back makes sense, but that includes the Mets moving at least one bad contract to put him at first base because his knees have made his already poor defense all the worse. There are many other variables past that making this a non-starter.
Jose Reyes – He shouldn’t even be playing for the Long Island Ducks next year.
Neil Walker – Considering he accepted a utility role for the Yankees last year, he could be willing to accept one with the Mets next year. If so, he could be quality depth for the Mets roster which has not had depth on their bench since 2015.
Carlos Gomez – Judging from last year, it does not seem like Gomez can hit much anymore, but he can still play defense. The Mets need a right-handed outfielder or two, and he would be a much better option than Austin Jackson by the simple fact he’s not Austin Jackson.
Chris Young – In 2014, the Mets made a $7.25 million bet Young still had something in the tank. They wound up releasing him, thereby allowing other teams to discover he did have something left in the tank. That something was hitting left-handed pitching, which is something he didn’t do at all last year.
Austin Jackson – He used up all the playing time he should receive in a Mets uniform last year.
Curtis Granderson – With Bruce, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo, you could argue the Mets have no need for another left-handed hitting corner outfielder. Lost in all of that is the fact Granderson is still a productive player who is great in the clubhouse. It would not be the worst idea to bring him back to let him serve as a mentor to the Mets young players.
Bartolo Colon – If you want him back, you deserve to see the Mets go under .500 again.
Matt Harvey – Harvey has basically said he doesn’t want to return. If you ask the Mets, the feelings are probably mutual.
Chris Beck – He was terrible for the Mets last year, so if you’re upgrading your bullpen, you should probably avoid the guys who were terrible for you.
Tyler Clippard – He had surprisingly good stats last year, which is all the more incredible when you consider he pitched in the AL East. Signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training is not the worst idea in the world.
Jeurys Familia – Familia is the best right-handed reliever in Mets history, and unlike the other free agent relief options not named David Robertson, none of them have proven they can pitch in pressure situations in New York. If you’re looking to compete, Familia could be a big boost to the bullpen.
AJ Ramos – The main reason Ramos didn’t work out this year was because he was injured. He did have surgery to repair his shoulder, but we don’t know what he will be when he is ready to pitch again. The Mets need far more certainty than that from their bullpen.
Fernando Salas – Salas helped pitch the Mets to the 2016 Wild Card, and the thanks he received was getting over-used by Terry Collins to the point he was released by the Mets in 2017. He returned to a slightly below average reliever last year. The Mets have plenty of those already.
Jerry Blevins – Even with last year’s struggles, Blevins has traditionally been a good LOOGY for the Mets. If Dave Eiland and Mickey Callaway think he can return to form, and he signs a reasonable one year deal, the Mets should bring him back.
Oliver Perez – If Brodie Van Wagenen had a sense of humor, he would work out a contract with either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, but the day before the Mets officially signs either one of them, the Mets would announce Ollie was returning to the Mets organization.
Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom will not just take any job. At 35 years old, he can be selective, and he has. In the past, Bloom has outright refused to even interview for the Diamondbacks position. However, he not only has decided to interview for the Mets job, but he is also a finalist for the General Manager position.
Bloom’s interesting in the position should have Mets fans excited about the future of this team regardless of who the team hires to be the General Manager.
There is a lot to like with this Mets team. Just like 2015, it all starts with the rotation. Jacob deGrom has emerged this season as the best pitcher in baseball. Zack Wheeler looked like an ace himself posting the second best ERA in the second half. Noah Syndergaard had 13 wins in a down year, and he had a strong finish to the season. Finally, somehow Steven Matz actually made 30 starts last year. Now that Matz is able to navigate a full season, he can take the next step much like how Wheeler did this year.
There are also the y0ung left-handed bats on this roster. Using wRC+ as a barometer, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year and in the top 10 of all of baseball. After dealing with the shoulder issues, Michael Conforto hit .273/.356/.539 in the second half. Jeff McNeil emerged from out of nowhere to not just make to the majors but to also claim the second base job for 2019 by posting a 2.4 WAR and 137 wRC+ in just 63 Major League games.
The Mets also have a vastly improving farm system. Andres Gimenez, Peter Alonso, and Jarred Kelenic are viewed by nearly every outlet as Top 100 prospects. After a breakout season, Justin Dunn is on the cusp of cracking those lists as well. David Peterson and Anthony Kay are both left-handers who took steps forward and are not far from the majors.
There are also young players who people have lost enthusiasm but still have talent. Dominic Smith will not turn 24 until August, and there are still many who believe in his talent. For example, Keith Law of ESPN believes Smith could hit better than .262/.346/.459 if given the first base job next year. Before his season ending injury last year, Gavin Cecchini returned to the form he was when he was seen as a future middle infielder for the Mets.
This is before we even consider players like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and even Desmond Lindsay with his retooled swing. The overriding point is the Mets farm system has plenty of talent, and Bloom, a Rays executive with a strong player development background knows this.
Ultimately, this is why Bloom is interested in the Mets General Manager job. This is also why Mets fans should be excited about the future of this team even if Bloom does not get the job because whether or not he gets the job, the talent is already here. It’s now just a matter of that talent continuing their development and winning the World Series.
As a second straight Mets season has completely fallen apart, there has been discussions about whether the Mets should blow the whole thing up. Those discussions have been ramped up with Yoenis Cespedes being out for at least 10 months with his having double heel surgery.
There’s talent present which could make the Mets winners in 2020 or even 2019. However, for that to happen, the Mets will need to add some pieces.
Fortunately for the Mets, this could go down as one of the most consequential free agent classes in Major League history. Teams will be lining up to throw money to Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, Clayton Kershaw, and A.J. Pollock.
Given all that has happened, the Mets will have the money to be competitors on the free agent market. In fact, they are going to be quite flush with cash.
Even if the Mets do not trade anyone who is due money past this season, the Mets will have money freed up because there are a number of contracts expiring after this season:
- AJ Ramos – $9.225 million
- Asdrubal Cabrera – $8.25 million
- Jerry Blevins – $7 million
- Devin Mesoraco* – $5.625 million
- Jose Reyes – $2 million
With respect to Mesoraco, there was an undisclosed amount of cash provided by the Reds when they obtained Harvey in exchange for Mesoraco. While Mesoraco is due $13.12 million this year, it was Harvey’s $5.625 million salary that was part of the Opening Day roster. Therefore, for the sake of calcualting how much money will be available, Harvey’s salary is used as the placeholder.
With the Harvey/Mesoraco caveat, the Mets will have $32.1 million coming off the books just from contracts currently on the books expiring after the season.
Subtotal $32.1 million
With the Mets trading Jeurys Familia, the team not only was able to acquire two prospects in Bobby Wahl and William Toffey, both of whom will be earning de minimis minor league salaries, but the team was also able to remove Familia’s $7.925 million from the books with the team getting some cash savings this season with the Athletics taking on the remainder of Familia’s 2018 salary.
David Wright has not played a Major League game since May 27, 2016. With each passing day and each additional set-back, it becomes increasingly unlikely we will ever see Wright play in another game for the Mets. Now when it comes to Wright, there are two factors at play which would give the team an avenue to spend more money this offseason.
First and foremost, Wright’s salary goes from $20 million in 2018 to $15 million in 2019. Right off the bat, that gives the Mets an additional $5 million to spend this offseason.
Additionally, Wright’s contract is fully insured with insurance paying 75% of Wright’s salary. As a result, the Mets will have an additional $11.25 million available to spend due to Wright’s inability to play.
But Wright is not the only injured player insured. In addition to Wright, Yoenis Cespedes‘ contract is also insured. That’s important in light of the announcement Cespedes will have double heel surgery and will be out at least 10 months. For what it’s worth, the Mets suggested he may be out longer than that.
Remember, Cespedes is out from 10 months from whenever he has the surgery. Not from the date of the press conference. With that in mind and for the sake of being conservative in the estimates, lets assume Cespedes is out for half the season.
With the Mets saying there is insurance that picks up over 50% of the salary owed to Cespedes, that means, the Mets will be able to recoup roughly 50% of a half’s seasons salary. With Cespedes due $29 million next year, insurance will pay at least $7.25 million. With each passing day that number will grow.
When combining the monies covered by insurance for Wright and Cespedes, the team will have an additional $18.5 million available to spend. When you include the $5 million drop in Wright’s salary, that number is $23.5 million.
As noted by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, ownership says it considers Wright’s contract part of the payroll, and the team does not reinvest the money saved into baseball operations. Putting aside what that means in terms of money available for a second, what this does mean is the team has saved and socked away $15 million of the $20 million due and owing to Wright this season.
The same likely applies to whatever the team can and will recover from insurance from Cespedes’ $29 million contract this season.
Additionally, the team saw savings of roughly $3 million for trading Familia, and they will likely see the same savings when other players are traded for the roster. Presumably, since that money is not being invested into baseball operations this season that would make that money available for 2019 and beyond.
For a moment, we can presume for a moment the $3 million saved on Familia can offset the $3 million pay increase due to Jay Bruce next season. Of course, the pay raises due in arbitration and the like will very easily be offset by the money saved on the Wright and Cespedes insurance policies. Really, there should be money to spare.
What This All Means
Looking at the Mets as currently constituted, they have tw0-third of their outfield set with Conforto and Nimmo. On the infield, they have Todd Frazier and Amed Rosario. They will also have Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera, and Jeff McNeil, who could become part of a time sharing at either first or second. If he can get healthy, the team could have Bruce at first or right depending on the development of Alonso, or yes, even Dominic Smith.
All told, this means the Mets have the payroll room and the spots on the roster to add at least one player of significance. Perhaps even two.
With that in mind, with the Mets having $63.525 million to spend this offseason, there is no excuse why this team shouldn’t aggressively pursue Machado and Harper. They should come away with one of them plus an additional piece to help take them over the top like a Kimbrel, Pollock, or yes, even a Daniel Murphy (first base only).
If the Mets do that, this is a potential World Series contender, especially with this starting pitching. If the team goes out and does this, the fans will pack Citi Field to the gills.
The time for excuses is over. It’s time to act like a big market club with a chance to win a World Series.