There are times when teams make trades they appear bad in hindsight. The classic example of this was the Nolan Ryan trade. Ryan was an enigmatic right-hander the Mets just couldn’t quite figure out, and they were going to get a former All-Star in Jim Fregosi to handle third. At the time, it made sense, but as time passed it looked worse and worse.
Then there is the Robinson Cano trade.
This was a trade deemed flat out dumb at its inception. It wasn’t just that Cano had what many perceived to be an untradeable contract. That was partially because he was already in his mid 30s. Mostly, it was because he was coming off of a PED suspension which should have cast serious doubt over not only his career stats, but also his ability to produce as he aged. Of course, Brodie Van Wagenen was the one person who actually bought the bogus explanation.
Brodie says he's comfortable with Cano and the violation. Said it was a suspension for a diaretic not steroids.
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) December 4, 2018
Despite all the red flags and warnings, Van Wagenen went forward to rescue his former client from Seattle to return him to New York like Cano wanted. In the process, he made what ranks among the worst, if not the worst, trades in all of Mets history. Certainly, it is easily the worst Mets trade this century.
Each and every year which passes, this trade gets worse and worse. To put it in perspective, all we need to do is examine where the pieces of this trade are and will be in 2021:
Gerson Bautista – after dealing with injury issues has signed a minor league deal to return to the Seattle Mariners.
Jay Bruce – Free agent whose $14 million is off the books available for now the Philadelphia Phillies to invest this offseason.
Justin Dunn – projected to be part of the Mariners Opening Day rotation after posting a 104 ERA+ over the past two seasons. Notably, the Mets are looking to build not only a 2021 pitching rotation, but also pitching depth.
Jarred Kelenic – widely seen as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and he may very well make his MLB debut at some point during the 2021 season.
Anthony Swarzak – did not pitch last year after making $8.5 million in 2019.
Edwin Diaz – after a terrible 2019, he rebounded to have a strong 2020 season albeit one with four blown saves in 10 attempts. The question for him in 2021 is whether his good year, bad year pattern continues.
Really, Diaz is it for the Mets return because Cano is not going to play in 2021. There is now a question about whether he actually plays another game again. Certainly, you could argue the Mets would look to buy him out at some point or just flat out release him. Who knows?
The only thing we do know is Cano is out of baseball in 2021. Perhaps, that is a large reason why Van Wagenen and the person who hired him, Jeff Wilpon, will also be out of baseball. In fact, this trio may very well be and probably should be out for good. That will give them all a front row seat to seeing Kelenic and Dunn lead the Mariners organization back to postseason contention.
According to reports, Steve Cohen is bringing Sandy Anderson back to the Mets as an advisor, and he is planning on finding a replacement for Brodie Van Wagenen. Both are excellent and needed decisions.
When it comes to Van Wagenen, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much damage he has done to the well built and talented Mets organization gift wrapped to him from Alderson. Essentially, all that Alderson built needs to be rebuilt.
Van Wagenen was given a starting staff comprised of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. Behind them were well regarded prospects in Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson.
The Mets rotation over the final week of the 2020 season will be deGrom, Rick Porcello, maybe Matz, and who knows what else?
The position player core was remarkably cheap and talented. There was Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith, and Amed Rosario. Behind them was Andres Gimenez and Jarred Kelenic.
Sure, there were some bad contracts, but they were short term in nature, and they were not going to serve as an impediment to either building on or retaining this core.
For example, the Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes contacts were set to expire after this season. That coincided perfectly with having to have the money to re-sign deGrom and to have extension talks with Conforto, Matz, and Syndergaard.
Instead, the Mets no longer have Kelenic giving them a buffet against losing one of Conforto or Nimmo. They also have Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract on the books which already served as an impediment to re-signing Wheeler.
That’s nothing to say of the quality prospect purge in the same of finding a late inning defensive replacement in center for a team who already had Juan Lagares and adding J.D. Davis to a team already overstocked in 1B/DH players.
Couple this with the Mets getting rid of Wilmer Flores for nothing only for him to be more productive than anyone Van Wagenen brought into the organization and signing Jed Lowrie for $20 million to get eight pinch hitting attempts, and the Van Wagenen stint as GM has been an unmitigated disaster.
If you want to point to Van Wagenen’s drafts as a positive, you should. However, in doing that, remember, that was a scouting group built by Alderson and Omar Minaya. The Mets will be keeping both advisors.
When you take everything into account, Alderson built the Mets to be a competitive team in 2019 and 2020. With any luck, he had a deep farm system to make the types of trades he made in 2015 to help get the team over the top.
The real window for this Mets team was supposed to open in 2021. Given the talent on the Major League roster and in the farm system, it promised to be a 1980s like run.
Instead, Alderson is back to figure out how yo fix this mess. Fortunately for him, he won’t have Van Wagenen or Jeff Wilpon standing in his way. Instead, he will have an owner with deep pockets who intends to let smart baseball people like Alderson do their jobs.
When Brodie Van Wagenen took over as GM, the Mets organization had an embarrassment of starting pitching depth. He was gifted a starting rotation which had Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz.
Now, the Mets rotation this week was literally posted as deGrom followed by a bunch of TBAs. The reason? The starting pitching depth is gone. Kaput!
For some reason, Van Wagenen thought the old adage you could never have enough pitching didn’t apply to him. For some reason, he actually thought he improved the Mets rotation and depth with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
Someone will undoubtedly argue the Mets pitching staff suffered a number of injuries, and Marcus Stroman opted out. But that completely misses the point. That’s exactly why you need quality depth. That quality depth is long gone.
Now, at the trade deadline, Van Wagenen could’ve looked at this and pursued another starter. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. What we do know is not only did he not obtain a starting pitcher, but he would also get rid of one.
Van Wagenen traded Kevin Smith for Baltimore Orioles reliever Miguel Castro. He traded a promising left-handed starting pitcher who continues to improve and defy scouting reports for a reliever with a career 4.94 FIP and 1.409 WHIP.
Yes, Castro is talented reliever for sure, but his skills have yet to translate to tangible Major League success. This is the guy you take a flier on in the offseason. He’s not the player you overpay to get as your big time late inning reliever to help get your over the hump. Castro has not been and is not that guy.
As for Smith, he’s the latest starting pitching prospect Van Wagenen needlessly traded away for pennies on the dollar. Van Wagenen explained it away like Smith was a future fifth starter. That’s not too different from how he was dismissive of Dunn’s and Kay’s abilities before being shown how embarrassingly wrong he was.
In what should hopefully be Van Wagenen’s last trade deadline, he traded away his fourth starting pitching prospect. You could form what would’ve been a good Major League rotation with what Van Wagenen traded.
Instead, the Mets will gave zero starting pitching depth and next to nothing in return for all of these trades.
Upon taking over the Mets job, Brodie Van Wagenen has traded prospect after prospect in an attempt to win-now. Last year, the Mets fell short. This year, the Mets are under .500 and are currently on the outside looking in on an expanded postseason.
On that front, his trades have not planned out. Another way to analyze it is to see how the players he traded are faring:
Justin Dunn (-0.2 WAR) 1-0, 5.57 ERA, 1.381 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
Anthony Kay (0.5 WAR) 2-0, 3.14 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 7.5 K/9
Blake Taylor (0.8 WAR) 1-0, 1.38 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 9.0 K/9
Combined this trio of pitchers have accumulated a 1.1 WAR. Due to their absence and Van Wagenen letting players like Zack Wheeler walk, he’s had to replace them with these players:
Walker Lockett (-0.1 WAR) 0-0, 7.50 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 7.5 K/9
Rick Porcello (0.0 WAR) 1-3, 5.76 ERA, 1.640 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
Michael Wacha (-0.1 WAR) 1-2, 6.43 ERA, 1.643 WHIP, 11.6 K/9
Through his series of moves, Van Wagenen replaced 1.1 WAR with -0.2 WAR. That’s before you take into account Wheeler’s 1.6 WAR this year.
First and foremost, Van Wagenen traded away the depth which would’ve helped the Mets withstand those injuries. Furthermore, he was the one who opted to allocate money which could’ve gone to Wheeler with other assets. There’s also the fact the Robinson Cano trade hamstrung the Wilpons financially, or at least that’s what we’re led to believe.
What makes this all the more befuddling is Van Wagenen purportedly opted for this path for the sake of depth. If you follow the timeline, he purged depth, then quality, and then signed replacement level pitchers for the sake of saying the Mets had depth.
Overall, the Mets could’ve had a great pitching staff in 2020. Sandy Alderson has left behind great depth on that front. Instead, Van Wagenen pilfered it for short-sighted ineffective trades. Now, that pitching depth is gone. With the sale of the Mets, he may be gone as well.
For all his bravado, Brodie Van Wagenen has not only stripped the farm system down, but he did it while impinging the Major League roster’s ability to compete for a World Series. To put it in perspective, let’s just look at what the Mets roster would look like right now if Van Wagenen only kept the Mets players in the organization had he not taken the job, or, if he did nothing.
Some caveats here. This assumes free agents were re-signed. Without the Robinson Cano deal, that would’ve been possible. Also, it assumes the same players who are injured for the season would remain injured. Finally, this will eliminate those players not on active 28 man rosters. With that in mind, here’s what the 2020 Mets would’ve looked like.
2B Jeff McNeil
3B Todd Frazier
SS Amed Rosario
CF Juan Lagares
DH Pete Alonso
INF Wilmer Flores
1B/OF Jay Bruce
INF Luis Guillorme
RHP Jacob deGrom
RHP Zack Wheeler
LHP Steven Matz
LHP Anthony Kay
LHP David Peterson
RHP Seth Lugo
RHP Rafael Montero
RHP Justin Dunn
RHP Robert Gsellman
RHP Drew Smith
LHP Blake Taylor
RHP Bobby Wahl
LHP Daniel Zamora
RHP Paul Sewald
RHP Franklyn Kilome
Looking at the team overall, the starting pitching is vastly superior as is the team defense. The bullpen may not be as deep, but they certainly have the arms.
Overall, this non-Van Wagenen impacted roster would’ve certainly been better than the 9-14 team his Mets roster is. This just goes to show you how bad of a GM Van Wagenen is.
He’s made the Mets worse in 2020, and he’s made the Mets future less promising. You could not have done a worse job than Van Wagenen has done.
With Marcus Stroman opting out, Michael Wacha having yet another shoulder injury, and Noah Syndergaard undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets need a fifth starter. Based on what we’ve seen from Brodie Van Wagenen, we should not rule out his emptying the farm for that fifth starter.
After all, this was the same GM who has already traded Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Ross Adolph, Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods Richardson, Blake Taylor, and many more prospects to receive nowhere near value in return. Looking at the cumulative, it’s embarrassing how poorly the Mets have done in these trades.
As we saw last year at the trade deadline, the Mets postseason odds don’t matter. He overpaid for Stroman at the trade deadline last year despite the team being six games under .500 and 12.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the division.
Yes, the Mets went on a run, but in the end, it was Van Wagenen’s half measures which kept the Mets out of the postseason. He moved arguably two of his top prospects remaining in the farm system for another starter, but he didn’t back it up by getting a reliever or another outfielder that the team so desperately needed. That was a major reason the Mets fell short.
Based on his track record, we can assume he’ll ignore reason to make a trade for another player. It’ll be a half-measure, and it will further deplete the farm.
Now, this is where some will say teams are not permitted to trade players not in the player pool. This analysis and hope is very short-sighted.
Technically, that is correct. In 2020, teams cannot trade players unless they are part of their designated 2020 player pool. That should give some relief prospects like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Francisco Alvarez, and Ronny Mauricio won’t be traded.
That is until they’re added to the Mets player pool. As per the rules, the Mets can add players to the player pool as needed. As a result, if a team wants a Mets prospect in exchange for a starting pitcher, all the Mets need to do is add that player to their pool.
It’s only a transaction. There is no requirement the player actually be present at the virtual training site. Much like Jose Bautista two years ago, the Mets can literally pluck a player off their couch and put them on a plane.
So, right now, no prospect is safe. Seeing how the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen don’t remotely care about the future of the franchise as they push to win a World Series before they’re all gone, that goes double.
They’ll grossly overpay for anyone if they think that player gives them even a 1% chance greater of winning the World Series. It’s of no matter to them because they won’t be around while these prospects shine at the Major League level.
In the end, no Mets prospect is safe right now, and the situation grows more dire the longer this team has no fifth starter and languishes in last place in the NL East.
In case you missed it with the Mets making a circus of the Yoenis Cespedes situation, the team once again traded a prospect for a defensive replacement in center. This is the third such trade the Mets have made since Brodie Van Wagenen was hired as the Mets General Manager.
The first trade was trading Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl for Keon Broxton. Broxton played just 34 games with the Mets in 2019. He had a 3 OPS+ and a -0.5 WAR being released. He has signed a minor league deal with the Mariners. Currently, he is part of their 60 player pool, but he has yet to be recalled.
With Juan Lagares departing via free agency, instead of pursuing any one of the cheap defensive center fielders on the fee agent market, Van Wagenen traded Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona for Jake Marisnick.
Marisnick lasted just four games before landing on the IL. Meanwhile, Taylor has been sensational for the Astros. He’s pitched 7.1 scoreless innings over five appearances. Ironically, his 0.8 WAR would lead the Mets this year.
What is maddening about that is the Mets couldn’t just gone out this past offseason and signed Lagares. Last year, Lagares had a very good 5 OAA. This past offseason, he settled for a minor league deal with the Padres, which based upon incentives, could’ve reached $2.4 million.
The Mets not only gave up prospects for Marisnick, but the perpetually cash strapped franchise, agreed to pay him $3.3 million in arbitration.
Instead of Lagares, the Mets could’ve signed Billy Hamilton. This past offseason, Hamilton signed a minor league deal with the Giants.
Considering the Mets only use their defensive players sparingly, begrudgingly letting them bat on occasion, Hamilton was perfect for this team. He’s an elite defensive CF with speed which could be best utilized as a pinch runner.
But, Hamilton only required a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Since that wasn’t coupled with the unnecessary parting of prospects, Van Wagenen wasn’t interested.
However, now, that the Mets were able to give the Giants Jordan Humphreys, who is a very real prospect with a live arm, the Mets were suddenly interested.
They were interested despite Hamilton missing part of summer camp for undisclosed medical reasons. He would not make the Giants Opening Day roster. Instead, he would be part of their player pool.
The Mets made this trade despite having Lagares back. They also had other no-hit defensive replacements like Johneshwy Fargas.
Obtaining Hamilton when you already had reasonable facsimiles is an odd move. Trading an actual prospect for him when you had those pieces is a plain bad move. When you give up pieces for a player you could’ve had for a minor league deal and wasn’t even on a MLB roster at the trade of the trade is pure and simple incompetence.
Parting with five prospects and a MLB reliever for three defensive replacements, two of whom did nothing of value for your team, and the third not even being on a MLB roster, is a fireable offense. That goes double when Lagares has been with the organization.
This is an embarrassing misallocation of resources. Even if you want to make the dumb and highly flawed argument these prospects may not develop into productive major leaguers, the Mets lost the ability to move these players for actual useful pieces.
In the end, we focus on the loss of Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. We can and should look at that to use it to criticize Brodie Van Wagenen. However, if you want a real sign of how Van Wagenen doesn’t know what he’s doing, look no further than his parting with real prospects for the privilege of overpaying players who just could’ve been signed for the league minimum.
In the end, not even comprehending the market and how to properly manage and allocate his resources shows just how much Van Wagenen doesn’t comprehend how to do this job. Whenever the Mets are finally sold we can only hope the new owner has Van Wagenen follow the Wilpons out the door before he inflicts any more damage to the franchise.
Last night, Travis d’Arnaud was 3-for-4 with five RBI. Three of those five RBI came on an eighth inning double which put the Braves ahead 11-10. This was the same d’Arnaud he rage released last year.
You couldn’t help but notice the same game d’Arnaud won, the .208/.269/.250 hitting Ramos flew out with the tying run on second to end the game.
Case-in-point, Ramos called six outside pitches when Marcell Ozuna was up last week, and on a 3-2 pitch, he called the same pitch Ozuna struck out on the previous day. Short of using a megaphone, Ramos couldn’t have made the pitch type and location any more obvious.
This is normally where we go to Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. On that note, the Mets called up Brian Dozier despite his bit really fully preparing for the season and his not taking part in summer camp.
By hastily starting an ill-prepared Dozier, the Mets have admitted Cano is no more than a platoon player making that trade somehow worse.
On the topic of the platoon, you know who was a really good right-handed platoon option? Wilmer Flores.
However, the Mets non-tendered Flores partially because of a knee condition he never actually had. Instead, they replaced him with Jed Lowrie, a player who actually had a knee injury.
That knee injury is the invented condition of PCL laxity. Even better than the conjured up diagnosis was it taking nearly a year-and-a-half to get a second opinion.
While the Mets are getting nothing from the impending free agent Marisnick, and their bullpen has been struggling Blake Taylor has been terrific out of the Houston Astros bullpen.
The list with Van Wagenen goes on and on. He told us he was replacing Zack Wheeler with Marcus Stroman, who was in the same rotation. He then let Wheeler walk and actually replaced him with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha while trying to tell us the pitching improved.
Don’t forget his continuously telling us he wasn’t going to fire Carlos Beltran only to fire Beltran before he managed a game.
It’s like Van Wagenen is George Costanza. Every instinct is wrought with failure. The key difference is Costanza was the assistant to the traveling secretary, and Van Wagenen is the GM.
The other difference is Van Wagenen is real. He’s all too real.
When Brodie Van Wagenen took over as the Mets General Manager, he was gifted an organization with great pitching depth. It was more than just reigning Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. It was a rotation so deep, Steven Matz was a fifth starter.
Behind them was an upcoming group of starters at or near top 100 rankings. Of note, Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay were first round picks putting it together and putting themselves in a position to be Major League ready starters sooner rather than later. Notably, both made their Major League debuts last year.
Now, Matz has gone from fifth starter to the Mets second starter, and the Mets rotation currently goes just three deep. How the Mets got here is purely on Van Wagenen’s shoulders.
Some of this was Van Wagenen’s hubris. He was all too willing to trade top prospects close to the Majors and continue with thin pitching depth. It was something the Mets got away with last year with Mickey Callaway who seemed to have a knack for keeping starters healthy. Of course, Van Wagenen couldn’t wait to fire him.
On the top prospects Van Wagenen traded away, he was all too cavalier about it. In fact, he said he was comfortable doing so because he was confident he’d draft well.
Brodie Van Wagenen said he had this aggressive draft strategy in mind when he traded away prospects.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) June 30, 2020
Speaking of win-now, the Mets just let Zack Wheeler go to the Phillies even though Wheeler wanted to stay and would’ve signed at a discount. Instead, he signed that discounted deal with the Phillies. To make matters worse, Van Wagenen went out of his way to slight and further motivate Wheeler.
Van Wagenen’s master plan was to instead sign Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Porcello is coming off a year where he had the worst ERA in the AL. Wacha has a bum shoulder and a three year decline in FIP, BB/9, K/9, and K/BB.
Again, Van Wagenen’s plan was to dismantle the Mets group of aces and near aces with Major League ready first round picks and replace that with well below average starters in the name of . . . depth. While it’s a sick joke, it wasn’t intended to be funny.
Sure, you can argue injuries hit this rotation. Noah Syndergaard needing Tommy John couldn’t be foreseen. Marcus Stroman tearing his hamstring was bad luck. Conversely, that’s exactly why you hold onto your starting pitching depth, and it’s why you hold onto your top end starters instead of letting them go to a division rival.
These problems have been compounded by the bullpen injuries. This means the Mets are down to three viable starters and no one to fill-in those middle innings when the dubious fourth and fifth starters can’t go deep into games.
However, Van Wagenen will tell us it’s alright because he built depth (he didn’t), and he had a draft strategy (leaving the team with no real MLB ready starters in the minors). Suddenly, the Mets went from a team so needed a couple of tweaks to be a true World Series contender to a team who may now just be the fourth best in the division.
If the Mets fall short this year, make no mistake, it’s all on Van Wagenen and his complete and utter short-sightedness on how he has handled the Mets pitching depth.
Last year, Robinson Cano began the year as the Mets third place hitter, and he’d stay there for a good part of the season. He’d stay there despite many screaming Mickey Callaway needed to remove the washed up second baseman coming off a PED suspension from the middle of the lineup.
Heading into 2020, it seemed like the days of Cano batting third were behind us. At the end of last year, Cano was supplanted by Michael Conforto in the third spot in the lineup, and it stayed that way when Cano returned from the IL.
Couple that with Callaway (and Carlos Beltran gone), the Mets seemed poised to reshape the middle of their lineup without Cano taking a prominent spot. Seeing the lineups in the Yankees series and the comments from Luis Rojas, that will not be the case.
Luis Rojas all but said yesterday that Canó will bat third. That's not to say the situation can't change, but it appears to be the plan. https://t.co/WOaDL1sx62
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) July 19, 2020
Once again, Cano is going to be batting third for the Mets. Apparently, two separate managers looked at Cano and independently determined Cano needs to bat third.
Of course, that’s nonsense. We know that’s not what’s happening here. The truth is the GM, Brodie Van Wagenen, is making this decision.
First off, we know that because that’s how baseball teams now operate. We also know it’s true because we’ve learned Van Wagenen does not respect any boundaries. In fact, despite it being against MLB rules and regulations, he will text game decisions to the clubhouse.
Sources confirms that Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has acted during games, texting to staffers, including to remove Jacob deGrom during that Arizona start earlier this year in which he left early.
It's happened more than once.
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) June 25, 2019
As it pertains to filling out the lineup, we’re well past the days of a manager setting the lineup on his own volition. That doesn’t mean he has no input. One famous story was when Terry Francona told the front office if they wanted him to bench Mike Lowell against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball, they were welcome to tell Lowell themselves (Lowell started that night).
However, that’s Francona, a future Hall of Fame manager with two World Series under his belt.
Callaway was a manager who was on the hot seat before 2019 Opening Day, and he was ducking chairs thrown at him by Van Wagenen. Rojas was the guy the Mets hired only because they fired Carlos Beltran after the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal (only for the Mets to keep J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick). Neither have the presence or footing in the organization to even think about attempting what Francona did.
The Mets can try the smokescreen of saying they’re just trying to get Cano at-bats. On that, we should note, Cano batted third, not leadoff. Cano also came out of both games. He needed at-bats so much, he exited both games early?
No, he batted third because that’s where the Mets, specifically Brodie Van Wagenen, wants him. Maybe the Mets relent now due to the public pressure, but in the end, if Cano bats third look no further than his former agent turned General Manager who gave up a king’s ransom to get him.