For a moment, let’s assume the 2019 season was similar to the 1998 or 2005 season in that it was a stepping stone to real World Series contention.
While we can and should dicker about whether the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team, there is hope for optimism as Carlos Beltran begins his second act in a New York Mets uniform.
Behind that optimism is a cold dose of reality.
We didn’t know it in 1998, but that Mike Piazza led team had two seasons as a contender. That was basically the same case with the David Wright and Jose Reyes led 2005 team we all thought would be good forever. This will likely be the same fate this core faces.
After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents leaving the team to try to scramble to either re-sign them or attempt to sign a starter from a free agent class nowhere as good as the one which saw the Mets lose Zack Wheeler.
After 2021, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. That leaves the Mets looking to invest in four spots in the rotation over the next two years as the farm system is not prepared to provide that help in a way it could’ve if Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson were still with the organization.
Yes, we should see David Peterson grab one of those rotation spots, and a Stephen Gonsalves or Franklyn Kilome may emerge. However, they likely don’t have the same ceiling the 2015 – 2019 rotations had thereby eliminating the key competitive advantage the Mets had.
If you really want a heavy dose of reality look a year past that, and you’ll see Nimmo and Lugo will be a free agents, and deGrom can opt out of his deal. That’s going to happen as Alonso, McNeil, and Rosario are likely getting big arbitration salaries.
This means by 2022 this entire core could be completely gone with Alonso being the player designated to build around much in the same way the Mets opted Wright for that honor.
Overall, this means unless things change dramatically, the Mets have a two year window. That could be opened longer if Steve Cohen flexes some financial muscle, and/or he opts to bring in an actually qualified and competent GM to replace Brodie Van Wagenen.
To that end, there’s hope even if Jeff Wilpon will be running the show. On that point, we can all hope it’s just a title with no real opportunity to drag the organization down.
No matter what the case, it’s imperative the Mets realize this is their shot, and they need to start acting like it instead of making a series of half measures hoping it adds up to a whole competing roster.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the New York Mets are no longer engaged with the Cleveland Indians on Franciso Lindor. In fact, the Mets “backed off because they considered the Indians’ asking price to be too high for a player whose salary might rise to $25 million in 2021.”
Before you even contemplate the merits of such a trade, we all need to remember a little more than a year ago, the New York Mets made a trade with the Seattle Mariners, and none of the issues supposedly now present were present then.
In 2021, the New York Mets are set to pay the 38 year old Robinson Cano $21.25 million. At that point, he will be three years removed from a season where he was suspended under Major League Baseball’s PED policy. He will also be five years removed from his last season over a 3.5 WAR.
When it came to Cano paying him that high a salary didn’t matter to Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets. At this point, it needs to be reiterated again, Van Wagenen represented Cano, and he knew his former client wanted out of Seattle, and he wanted to be back in New York. With the trade which has already blown up in the Mets faces, Van Wagenen obliged.
Ultimately, when it came to Van Wagenen’s former client, paying Cano over $21 million even in his age 38 season was not an issue. An exorbitant asking price was also not an issue. However, when it comes to Lindor, the best shortstop in the sport who is in his prime and can make the Mets real World Series contenders, money owed and asking price was suddenly an issue.
For Mets fans, this is absolutely enraging.
When discussing Zack Wheeler, there are some important things to consider. Aside from being an ace level pitcher the past two years, Wheeler wanted to be a Met.
He called Sandy Alderson to tell him he wanted to stay when the Carlos Gomez fell apart. He also came back to the Mets before accepting a discounted deal with the Phillies. Overall, every chance he got, Wheeler averred how much he wanted to remain in the Mets rotation.
Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t care.
Now, these are always difficult situations, and to be fair, there are very few things you can say to come across well. Still, when you offer comments, the goal is to offer platitudes and leave no room for hard feelings. After all, you’re not only dealing with a player who spent many years with the Mets, but you’re also going to have to face him over the next five years.
Van Wagenen botched it saying, ““The value for what we thought the investment [was] didn’t line up. The projections that we had for Zack both short-term and long-term didn’t quite match up to the market he was able to enjoy.” (Tim Healey, Newsday).
Again, this is a player who wanted to be a Met. He was a good Met too. There’s no need to say he wasn’t worth the money. Really, there’s no need to even go there.
It boils down to decency, but beyond that, you don’t want someone with an extra chip on their shoulder to beat you time and again over the next five years.
Well, Van Wagenen decided differently, and Wheeler noticed. As noted in Kevin Kernan’s article in the New York Post, boy did he notice:
“I don’t need any more motivation. I already got it,’’ Wheeler told The Post away from the crush of media. “But that’s his opinion. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but yeah, that may help me out a little bit.’’
Basically, Van Wagenen took a bit of a shot at Wheeler, and Wheeler got the last word. Not only did Wheeler note he’s a little more motivated, but he also took a real shot by following this up by saying, “He watched me I guess when he was watching his other players on the team.”
The “his players” is a barb which hits home with Mets fans.
Jed Lowrie got a two year deal worth $20 million, and in the first year, he had only eight pinch hitting attempts.
At a time when the Mets needed a fifth starter, he signed Michael Wacha, who has a bum shoulder, and when you break it down, he needs to prove he’s capable of being a Major League starter again. Instead of the minor league deal he should’ve received, the CAA client got a Major League deal and was told he’d start.
Perhaps, this is what Wheeler meant when he said “his players.” Maybe it was a Freudian slip. It’s possibly Wheeler was just calling his former teammates Van Wagenen’s guys because they’re still there.
Whatever the case, it’s apparent Wheeler feels slighted. Now, he’s in a position to both beat the Mets and needle them like he did when talking about the Phillies’ analytic department and J.T. Realmuto.
In doing that, Wheeler got the last word. If he pitches like he did over the last two years, he’s going to get the last laugh.
Look, when you have a trade with the framework of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn blow up in your face while getting absolutely nothing of value from free agent signings like Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie, and you are still cheered at a Mets game, chances are you believe you are Teflon.
Better yet, you probably believe no matter what you do people will buy whatever you are saying. We’re seeing the effects of that.
Despite Zack Wheeler and Marcus Stroman appearing in the same rotation last year, Van Wagenen is selling Stroman as a replacement for Wheeler in the rotation. Despite touting a rotation of four aces with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Wheeler last year, now with the signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, Van Wagenen is selling the Mets having six starters who are number four or better.
Worse yet, Van Wagenen is now touting the Mets rotation as the deepest in the game. That is despite the fact Wacha has shoulder problems and isn’t really a Major League caliber starting pitcher right now. Porcello has value, and may be in line for a rebound, but he is really no more than a fifth starter. Regardless, overselling this rotation which is clearly worse than the 2019 rotation is evidence of how little Van Wagenen thinks of everyone’s intellect.
It gets worse.
Despite not adding any relievers to the bullpen, Van Wagenen is touting how he improved the bullpen. He has done that by claiming the team has added Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. If you think you are taking crazy pills or have amnesia, you don’t. Both Lugo and Gsellman were in the bullpen last year. Same goes for Brad Brach.
Saying the Mets have addressed the bullpen by adding Lugo and Gsellman is like saying the Mets have improved the lineup by not trading Brandon Nimmo this offseason, or by having Jeff McNeil in it after his late season injury. Fact is, keeping the same players doesn’t upgrade anything. It is treading water, but Van Wagenen doesn’t think anyone is intelligent enough to discover that.
Believe it or not, it gets better. Van Wagenen actually had the temerity to say this, “We’re in a position now where we can only look to make good baseball deals and not feel like we have to do something.”
That’s right. Fifteen months into his tenure as the Mets General Manager, he is boldly saying that now he is only looking to make good baseball deals instead of making moves for their own sake.
Seeing his affinity for his former clients like Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, you’re now free to draw your own conclusions about whether they were good baseball deals, or whether there was a compulsion to something. Really, you can make that about any decision made prior to his next one.
Based on his history, it’ll be a bad one, he’ll think we’re all stupid as evidenced by his nonsense explanation, and we’ll just be sitting around waiting for the Steve Cohen Era to truly begin.
When looking at the Robinson Cano trade, the main focus has been on Edwin Diaz‘s struggles as well as the loss of Jarred Kelenic. Lost in that is just how much this trade has impacted the Mets starting rotation, which has been the strength of this team.
This offseason, the Mets have already lost Zack Wheeler to the rival Philadelphia Phillies. Wheeler desperately wanted to stay a Met, but he was not offered a contract to stay with the Mets despite giving the team the last chance to sign him. That decision was made all the more damning when you consider Wheeler was not taking the largest contract offered to him, and the $118 million deal he accepted was really less than he was worth.
Realistically speaking, the Mets passed on Wheeler because the team is estimated to be roughly $17 million under the competitive balance tax threshold, and indications are the team will be unwilling to raise their budget to those heights. Signing Wheeler would have required them to go over that threshold. Of course, the Mets would have more money to spend if they were not paying Cano $20.25 million per year. Had the trade not transpired, the Mets could have just reallocated that money to Wheeler.
With this being the Mets, the team let Wheeler walk in free agency because the team does not typically like to invest that much money in free agency. Had the Cano trade not transpired, the Mets could have looked to have Justin Dunn replace him in the rotation.
In fact, Dunn made his Major League debut with the Mariners last year. In his four starts, he held his own going 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP. The Mariners had him on a very limited pitch count, so really this served nothing more than to get his feet wet and show he could potentially be a part of the 2020 rotation. Arguably, Dunn did that.
In addition to Dunn, there was Anthony Kay, who was traded along with Simeon Woods Richardson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. As noted by Andy Martino of SNY, one of the reasons the Mets obtained Stroman was to prepare for the eventuality of Wheeler departing in free agency.
There’s some problems with that rationale. First and foremost, Stroman isn’t really a replacement for Wheeler when both were in the same rotation last year. The other issue is Stroman is a free agent after the 2020 season, which just delays the problem by a year.
Looking towards 2021, both Dunn and Kay should be established Major League starters. Like Dunn, Kay would make his debut last year, and like Dunn, he would really show he could be a part of a 2020 rotation with his allowing two runs or fewer in two of his three starts.
Ideally, the Mets could have had both Kay and Dunn in the rotation with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in 2021. That could have proven to be a formidable rotation, and going back to the Cano trade, Kelenic would have been primed to make his Major League debut playing in the outfield between Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto while also appearing in a lineup with Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.
However, by 2021, the Mets will likely have a rotation without Wheeler, Stroman, Dunn, and Kay. They will also be in a similar position to where they are now looking for a way to replace Syndergaard and Matz in the rotation. Sadly, while we all focus on Kelenic, and justifiably so, the real ramifications of the Cano trade will be the impact on the Mets rotation.
The only hope we have at the moment is Steve Cohen’s purchase of the team will allow him to keep this core together and build off of it in free agency. Of course, with Van Wagenen remaining the General Manager, the Wilpons staying in charge for five years, and with the team still on an austerity plan at the moment, the hopes seem to be further out than the near distant future. As such, all that Van Wagenen has wrought is still a significant issue.
You have to almost admire the Mets stubbornness/stupidity. In 2019, Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz combined for a -0.3 WAR, and Jarred Kelenic is currently rated by MLB Pipeline as the 13th best prospect in the game. That trade could not get worse, especially when Cano’s contract will prevent the Mets from re-signing Wheeler, and they don’t have Justin Dunn to replace him in the rotation.
Despite how terrible this trade went, it appears Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets are going to be willing to go down this well again as it is being reported the Mets are at least contemplating obtaining Josh Hader and Ryan Braun.
That’s right. The Mets are looking to obtain a relief pitcher coming off a great year who is nearing his arbitration years and a mid 30s former All-Star who has had a PED suspension. Seeing how the Mets have conducted business since Brodie Van Wagenen was named the General Manager, it should come as no surprise that both players are represented by CAA.
The script is even following the same pattern with Jeff McNeil‘s name being dangled out there as someone who may be included in the trade. When you break it down, it is really quite bizarre just how similar the script for the Cano trade and a potential Hader trade are following one another.
What is scary about this isn’t just that the Mets are contemplating this trade, but it is the fact is shows Van Wagenen isn’t even learning on the job. Really, it is one thing to make a mistake as bad as he made with the Cano trade, but it is a whole other thing to refuse to acknowledge that as a mistake and change your process.
He is apparently still hunting his former clients, and he is still overvaluing relievers and players on the wrong side of 30. This is a complete dereliction of his duties, and you wonder how the Wilpons can sit idly by and watch this happen again.
Between the Mets not being able to afford free agents and the team looking to basically repeat last offseason, you have to look long and hard to find real hope for optimism that the Mets could truly be World Series contenders in 2020.Ro
The emergence of Pete Alonso could have created a Dominic Smith problem for the Mets. After all, Smith and Alonso play the same position. With Alonso hitting 53 homers and winning the Rookie of the Year award, it’s clear the Mets view Alonso as not just part, but really, the core of this team.
While Smith is no longer going to get a chance to be the Mets first baseman of the current and future, he proved himself to be a very useful Major League player. In 89 games, he hit .282/.355/.525 with 10 doubles, 11 homers, and 25 RBI. He proved himself to be a good defensive baseman, and he showed he is quite capable of playing left field for some stretches.
He would also prove his mettle as a bench player. In 37 pinch hitting appearances, he hit .286/.459/.571 with two doubles, two homers, and six RBI. In the 34 games he entered as a substitute, he hit .318/.434/.568 with two doubles, three homers, and 12 RBI.
All told, Smith proved capable of doing something very difficult. He proved he could be a productive Major League bench player. Through the years, we have seen that’s easier said than done. More than that, he proved he is a Major League caliber player, and at 24 years of age, he’s showing he is still a very promising player.
There are plenty of Major League teams who could use a young first baseman. To that end, a Mets team who needs a fifth starter, bullpen help, a center fielder, and depth should really consider moving Smith to fill one or more of those needs. What the Mets should not be looking to do is just dumping Smith to do that.
However, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic the Mets are doing just that. Specifically, Rosenthal says the Mets are looking to use a player like Smith to entice teams to take on a bad contract like Jed Lowrie or Jeurys Familia.
This is because the Mets are going to refuse to exceed the luxury tax threshold despite receiving insurance proceeds from the David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes contracts. They are going to do that despite $12 million of Jacob deGrom‘s $25 million salary. That’s literally tens of millions of dollars the Mets are pocketing, and yet they are not going to be willing to take that next step.
This once again emphasizes the Wilpons mismanagement of team resources, and it highlights just how bad the Robinson Cano trade was for the Mets.
The 37 year old Cano is due $24 million in 2020 and in each of the ensuing three years. When you take out the $3.75 million covered by the Seattle Mariners, the Mets are paying Cano $20.25 million. That is essentially the money the Mets are paying to Familia and Lowrie combined.
Really, when you take the trio combined, that is $41.92 million in money the Mets are begging to get out from under. The Mets got almost literally nothing out of Lowrie. In terms of WAR, they got less than that from Familia. That leaves Cano and his injury prone season as the best of the group. That’s good because he and his 0.3 WAR is making more money than Lowrie and Familia combined.
The Cano trade has so far meant the Mets do not get to see Jarred Kelenic play in Queens. It has meant the Mets will not be able to just replace Zack Wheeler in the rotation with Justin Dunn while using their money to fill other needs. One of those needs is now the fifth starter spot, and right now, Wheeler is not going to be a part of that equation.
As if that all wasn’t bad enough, it could also mean the Mets are just going to give Smith away.
The short term ramifications of the Cano trade were quite bad with Cano having a subpar injury plagued year and Edwin Diaz having one of the worst seasons a Mets closer has ever had. The fact that this won’t be the nadir of the trade speaks to just how disastrous that trade actually was and will continue to be.
In his first year on the job as the Mets General Manager, he made a series of ill-advised moves with some of those moves benefiting his former clients. He showed little restraint on that front.
It started right away with his acquiescing to his former client’s wishes by getting Robinson Cano out of Seattle and back to New York. Van Wagenen would obtain him along with Edwin Diaz in what has so far been a complete disaster of a trade. Not only has Cano been injured and Diaz flat out bad, Jarred Kelenic continued his meteoric rise while Justin Dunn made it to the majors.
The Mets pursued Cano even with the emergence of Jeff McNeil, who just a year ago, the Mets insisted was just a second baseman.
The trade keeps getting worse with Cano’s large salary serving as an impediment to the Mets even considering re-signing Zack Wheeler. It will also take them out on a host of other free agents.
Another contract standing in the way is Jed Lowrie who is set to make $10 million in 2020. That’s the same salary he made in 2019 when he was limited to just eight pinch hitting appearances.
That was because Lowrie was dealing with a still unspecified injury. Part of the reason it’s unspecified is the Mets supposedly still don’t know what’s wrong with him. That includes his former agent who was well aware of Lowrie’s injury history and ailments.
On that front, there’s also Yoenis Cespedes, who according to Tim Healey of Newsday, broke his ankle under suspicious circumstances while rehabbing from his double heel surgery. This could be grounds for a grievance like the one the Yankees are pursuing with Jacoby Ellsbury.
It should come as no surprise Van Wagenen was Cespedes’ agent. With that relationship along with the Van Wagenen’s other decisions as the Mets General Manager, it is fair to question the motivations for not pursuing such a grievance even if the assumption is this has more to do with not losing the insurance coverage on Cespedes’ policy.
Now, the Mets could use a reliever of Hader’s caliber. Anyone can. That’s the case even with Hader allowing more homers last year than he had in his previous two years combined. Yes, there were some warnings with his 2019 season, but he was still a great reliever.
The issue with him isn’t a fear of that regression. No, the fear is what lengths Van Wagenen will go to get his former clients on the Mets. Those fears are amplified with his handling of those players in 2019 and with the Mets needing help in the bullpen.
At the moment, we don’t know what lengths Van Wagenen will be willing to go to obtain Hader. What we have seen so far is he’s going to be willing to go past what is reasonable to take care of them, which would suggest nothing is off the table when it comes to obtaining Hader.
That is a very scary proposition.
When Jacob deGrom was officially announced as the 2019 Cy Young Award winner, the New York Mets officially had the Cy Young winner and with Pete Alonso, the Rookie of the Year. With the Houston Astros accomplishing the same feat with Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez, it is something which has only happened 14 times in Major League history.
The 1983 White Sox had LaMarr Hoyt, Ron Kittle, and the American League West title. The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers had Fernando Valenzuela and a World Series title. The 1965 Dodgers had Sandy Koufax, Jim Lefebvre, and a World Series title.
That leaves the 1994 Royals (strike shortened season), and the 1976 Padres as the only teams who had a Rookie of the Year and a Cy Young winner to not make the World Series. Digging deeper, things are much worse.
There have been three teams in Major League history who have had a player win a Cy Young and have another player hit 50 homers in a season. The first was the 1961 Yankees who had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford. The next was the 2001 Diamondbacks who had Luis Gonzalez and Randy Johnson. Both the Yankees and Diamondbacks won the World Series.
Basically, if you have a Cy Young winner and a Rookie of the Year, especially one who hits 50 homers, that team goes to the postseason. Not the 2019 Mets. While they made a late season surge, they ultimately came up short. What makes that all the more inexcusable is they went all in on the 2019 season trading away significant prospects in Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, Jarred Kelenic, and Simeon Woods Richardson while taking on the very onerous Robinson Cano contract.
That’s to say nothing of the Mets trading away a full year of control of Alonso for two weeks of games without agreeing to a Scott Kingery type of contract or other form of forward thinking.
Anyway you look at it, the 2019 season was a complete failure for the Mets. It’s a sentiment Van Wagenen himself shares. The Mets had the best pitcher, the top rookie, and a host of other good players who had good years, and yet, they missed the postseason. No matter how you look at it, this is an indictment of Van Wagenen.
If you were a Mets fan looking to latch onto something to give you hope that Carlos Beltran was the right hire, he gave you the line. Standing on the stage, wearing his old number 15, Beltran said, “I just can’t wait to rewrite our story.”
It shouldn’t be lost on anyone Beltran said that wearing the Mets pinstripe uniform. During his playing days, Beltran did not wear them often. Back then, the Mets mostly wore their black jerseys and the Brooklyn Dodger style jerseys. Going to the 2006 postseason, the Mets would not wear them until Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS. As we know, that series would end with Beltran striking out looking on an Adam Wainwright curveball.
That could be one way Beltran looks to rewrite our story.
But it’s more than that. Late in his Mets career, Beltran had to deal with injuries, and he would clash with the front office over career saving knee surgery. In the ensuing years, it does not seem the Mets have learned from this experience.
Matt Harvey‘s TOS was initially described as a mechanics issue, and he would pitch the ensuing year with what was described as an atrophied throwing arm. Noah Syndergaard was allowed to pitch without an MRI. The team fought with Yoenis Cespedes over his double heel surgery. The list goes well beyond this group.
They could rewrite that story too.
In 2011, Beltran was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Zack Wheeler. Wheeler is now a free agent, and he appears set to get a big free agent deal. For many, this is because Wheeler is the free agent who is most likely going to take off next year. This is not too dissimilar from Daniel Murphy.
Murphy was on the precipice of being an All-Star caliber player, and the Mets opted to let him walk and just take the draft pick compensation. The balance of power in the NL East shifted back to the Nationals when Murphy went there and the Mets thought they could replace him with Neil Walker.
The Mets learning that mistake and investing in their own players is a good place to rewrite the story.
Drawing that Murphy parallel out further, the Mets drafted Anthony Kay with that compensation pick. Kay had a great year in the minors this year leading to his being traded with Simeon Woods Richardson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. Like with the Walker trade and with the team trading Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, the Mets were looking for shortcuts to building a competitive roster while also not spending money.
This is a free agent class with Wheeler, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and a whole host of other players who could significantly improve this Mets team. In signing those players, the Mets will begin to rewrite the story.
Mostly, the Mets can rewrite the story by investing financially in their team, making smart moves to build a complete roster, allowing their injured players to heal, and by allowing their new manager to lead this team. If you look at it, the last time the Mets really did that was building that 2006 New York Mets team.
That team came within an at-bat of a World Series. With this Mets team having Beltran’s experience from that at-bat and all the ensued after, including his finally getting his ring with the 2017 Houston Astros, perhaps things will be much different. Hopefully, it never comes to that. In the end, that’s all the matters. We all want to see Carlos Beltran win a World Series ring with the New York Mets.
If that happens, Beltran will finally get the love and adoration from this fanbase like he always deserved. Sure, there is a significant portion of the fanbase who have and always will. Still, there are those who never let him off the hook for that strikeout or other events. If Beltran leads the Mets to victory, he will be universally beloved.
That would be the best way to end this story. Sorry, rewrite our story.