With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.
Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?
Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.
If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.
For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.
Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?
Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?
With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.
The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.
He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.
After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.
Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?
One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.
That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.
However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?
What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?
When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.
It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?
On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.
Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?
With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.
With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.
But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.
When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.
As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.
Last week, the Mets added Justin Wilson to a bullpen who already had Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. With Wilson previously serving as the Tigers closer in 2017, the Mets can now run out three straight closers in the seventh, eighth, and ninth. If Mickey Callaway wants to be imaginative, it allows him to slot these three pitchers as needed to close out a game.
For instance, if the Braves have Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman due up, he can go with Wilson that inning and deploy Familia and Diaz in the others. That could be mean Wilson in the seventh, eighth, or possibly even the ninth. When you build that type of versatility in the bullpen, your bullpen is even better.
Then again, you don’t even have to go that far as all three of those pitchers are fairly platoon neutral meaning you can just run them out there and let them get batters out. Of course, this means you also get the chance to rest some of your better arms as needed. The fresher the arms are in your bullpen the better your bullpen is.
While we can assume that trio are the three main guys who are set to close out games, it is very possible the best pitcher in the Mets bullpen is actually Seth Lugo, a pitcher who truly emerged as the Mets answer to Andrew Miller last year.
Last year, Lugo was 3-4 with three saves, a 2.66 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, and a 9.1 K/9. Behind those numbers, he emerged as a guy who you could trust in any situation. If you needed a guy to come in and strike a batter out? Bring in Lugo. The starting pitcher knocked out in the first? Bring in Lugo. Middle of the order due up in the late innings? Bring in Lugo. No matter what the situation, if you need big outs, you bring in Lugo.
Right there, the Mets have four top end pitchers in their bullpen. With Familia and Lugo, you know you can trust two of them to go multiple innings. This means when you have the really important games, at most, you really need just five solid innings from your starters. That’s important to note when Jason Vargas is starting games.
When it is Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, you take your terrific six innings, and you don’t need to push them further. Then again, you will because they’re great pitchers. Keep in mind, when they are great for six, seven, or even eight innings, your bullpen looks all the better because you only need one or two of your great relievers.
That’s the key. Few, if any teams, can pair the type of rotation the Mets have with the type of bullpen they have built. Breaking it down and examining it, you realize a strong rotation and a strong bullpen buttresses each other, and it makes them both stronger.
It also allows you to not overuse relievers like Robert Gsellman, Luis Avilan, Daniel Zamora, Kyle Dowdy, Hector Santiago, Drew Smith, Paul Sewald, Jacob Rhame, Tyler Bashlor, or whoever else the Mets run out there with the aforementioned top four relievers. It’s not just overuse, it’s overexposing. Being able to diligently use these arms makes them stronger, and it makes the bullpen better.
That’s the key here. Building a bullpen or pitching staff is not just about the arms you have. It is about where you are opting to deploy them. The Mets have three closers set for the final three innings. They have a pitcher like Lugo who can be used as a weapon who can not just be unleashed at any time but at the most opportune times. You can then have three guys you can match-up as needed. With the Mets starting rotation, they probably will not be needed anywhere as often as other teams need their fifth, sixth, seventh, or even eighth best reliever.
In the end, that is how you truly build a great bullpen. You get the guys, and you put them in the right spots to maximize their skill set. Overall, this is why the Mets have the makings of the best bullpen in baseball.
After an unplanned hiatus, it is time to start the New Year off fresh and to look at everything anew. It is time for change and resolutions to carry us through 2019. Here are the resolutions for each of the Mets players:
Robinson Cano – don’t get caught using PEDs this time
Yoenis Cespedes – find a way to DH in at least two games this year
Jacob deGrom – learn how to hit better so he can finally win some games next year.
Travis d’Arnaud – get the same surgery Wolverine got
Jeurys Familia – convince Callaway Diaz needs to be used in higher leverage situations so he can get his closer job back
Todd Frazier – find a way to sell move boxes of unsold Mets salt and pepper grinders while not falling into the same trap this year.
Drew Gagnon – keep those incriminating photos which have allowed you to survive roster cut after roster cut.
Robert Gsellman – learn how to pitch well for more than just one month out of the season
Juan Lagares – find a way to play at least half a season
Seth Lugo – when he is not given an opportunity to start and is an All Star snub, channel his inner Margot Martindale from BoJack Horseman
Steven Matz – pitch better so his grandfather will begin cheering for him again.
Jeff McNeil – find a way to hit .400 because short of that the Mets are probably not putting him in the lineup
Tomas Nido – sign up for the best travel rewards program there is because by the time 2019 is over he will be able to fly first class to Australia and back at least 10 times a month
Brandon Nimmo – life isn’t that bad, maybe he should smile every once in a while
Kevin Plawecki – hit the occasional ground ball to the left side just to shake things up.
Amed Rosario – take some mommy/baby classes so he can learn how to walk
Paul Sewald – have a print out of his game logs from Baseball Reference to remind the Mets he pitches well in shorter spurts, and that he is not superhuman and cannot handle onerous workloads. Cry when the attempts fail and he finds himself back in Triple-A
Noah Syndergaard – find an open mic somewhere to discover no one actually believes he or his Mr. Met feud is funny.
Jason Vargas – leave the Jeff Goldblum impressions in the clubhouse and stop pitching like him when he takes the mound.
Zack Wheeler – don’t even let a Mets team doctor near his arm in his free agent walk year.
Daniel Zamora – be able to spin his bad outings the way he can spin his slider
Each and every offseason, the common refrain is the Mets are in need of an additional left-handed reliever in the bullpen. Mostly, it is a call for the Mets to add a second left-handed pitcher, but this offseason it is more of a need to add a primary left-handed reliever. Time and again, this call misses the mark because what the team needs, what any team needs, is good relievers regarded of handedness.
While not axiomatic, the 2015 Mets who went to the World Series are a good example of this. Their left-handed reliever situation was a mess. Jerry Blevins injured himself early in the year, and then he would injure himself again. Alex Torres was terrible until he was finally released. They took a flyer on Eric O’Flaherty late in the year, and he was worse than Torres. Their one left-handed pitcher who made the full season was Sean Gilmartin, who was the long man in the bullpen, and he actually had reverse splits.
The reason why the Mets were able to make it work was because the team had right-handed relievers who pitched well against left-handed pitching. In fact, if you just looked at the splits and ignored the handedness of the pitchers, you would believe each one of them was actually a LOOGY:
- Jeurys Familia .214/.291/.325
- Hansel Robles .167/.214/.346
- Erik Goeddel .189/.250/.270
- Logan Verrett .200/.293/.388
- Tyler Clippard .136/.229/.236
When you boil it down, who cares if the pitcher is right-handed, left-handed, or Pat Venditte? The goal is to get batters out, and you want the pitcher most effective at getting those outs on the mound. If you look at the current Mets bullpen, the team has right-handed pitchers who have had success against left-handed hitters:
Right there, your three most trusted relievers are pitchers you trust to get left-handed batters out in pressure situations. Delving into their young right-handed power arms, Tyler Bashlor and Eric Hanhold have also posted good numbers against left-handed hitters. This also overlooks Daniel Zamora who utilized his excellent spin rates to hold left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average against during his brief time in the majors.
Assuming the Mets go with Zamora and one of their young right-handed power arms, the 2019 Mets bullpen will have five pitchers who pitch well against left-handed hitters. Adding another arm to address getting left-handed hitters out is superfluous. Moreover, when you look at how Mickey Callaway uses his bullpen combined with this being an era of increased bullpen use, you really have to question the wisdom of having two of your seven relievers dedicated to getting one batter out a game.
Ultimately, this should be about getting the best relievers you possibly can. If that reliever happens to be left-handed, great. Certainly, someone like a Justin Wilson is good against right and left-handed batters. However, if that guy is Tony Sipp or someone of his ilk, you really have to wonder why this team would limit the manager and tax the better arms in the bullpen to get just two batters out per game. Really, when you break it down, the Mets need better, not more limited, arms.
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.
Brodie Van Wagenen is the agent for Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, Robert Gsellman, Todd Frazier, Tim Tebow, and others. Through his representation of his clients, Forbes pegged his 2018 commissions at $25 million. Now, instead of collecting commissions from these players and pushing management to either pay or play these players, he could be the one making the decisions for the Mets.
The mere idea Van Wagenen would take the Mets General Manager job is fascinating.
First and foremost, Van Wagenen would presumably need to take a paycut to join the Mets front office. He would be doing that to go from one high stress job to the next, and he would presumably need to work the same hours. His job will now come with public scrutiny and much less job stability. Considering all that’s involved, it just begs the question why Van Wagenen is even considering this.
If he gets the job, you then have to consider how his relationship with the Mets players will impact how he runs the team.
This past season, Van Wagenen said the Mets needed to either trade or extend deGrom. Does he do that now, or does he keep deGrom on his current contract and spend the money elsewhere? If the extension talks were ever to occur, how would he handle them? Clearly, he knows what deGrom wants. Does he give it to him in full? If he doesn’t, does the deGrom situation become a problem?
Can he trade Frazier to clear room for another player? Is he willing to keep Tebow in the minors all year, or if the situation presents itself, could he actually cut Tebow?
Go back to Cespedes. The Mets organization rushed him back to DH in the Subway Series. Does Van Wagenen rush Cespedes back from his double heel injury this year, or does he break ranks with how the Mets have handled injuries the past few years? Could his opinion on these matters be swayed by those players he used to represent and those who didn’t?
On that front, do the Mets players see Van Wagenen’s treatment of his former clients as favoritism? What impact would this have on the Mets clubhouse?
Speaking of the clubhouse, what impact would Van Wagenen have on Mickey Callaway‘s authority? Assume for a second Gsellman has an issue, and that issue was not handled by Callaway or Dave Eiland to his satisfaction. Gsellman has a prior relationship with Van Wagenen. Should he ever go behind the coaching staff’s back, how would it be received? Does Van Wagenen take his manager’s side, his player’s side, or does he effectively mediate?
Looking further, what impact does Van Wagenen’s relationship CAA have? Like the Mets have done the past few years, does he go towards them for the free agents, or is he willing to branch out and speak with Scott Boras about Manny Machado? Would Boras or other agents be cautious in their dealings with the Mets? Is there preexisting bad blood which would hamper or even infringe upon negotiations?
But it’s more how he handles the Major League team. He is now responsible for an entire organization. To that end, we know he is capable of running an organization. We don’t know if he can handle running a baseball operation, especially one where the Wilpons are rumored to meddle in even the smallest of decisions.
There are people already in place, and presumably Van Wagenen has a relationship with those people. Obviously, the dynamics of that relationship are about to change. There are many reasons why, including but not limited to the fact, Van Wagenen has people outside the organization he trusts. He will seek out their opinions and may even hire them over existing staff. That is certain to have ripple effects.
Overall, there are many minefields and issues which accompany Van Wagenen. There are the conflict of interests with this players, and the conflicts his relationships could have in the clubhouse and throughout the organization. It is interesting to see how the Mets and Van Wagenen himself handles the whole situation . . . should he get the job.
With the way Yasmani Grandal is outright struggling during the NLCS, he is invariably going to damage his value on the free agent market this offseason. Exactly how much remains to be seen, and you will likely see in some uneducated corners that the Mets should not pursue Grandal this offseason. To a certain extent, it’s absurd to ignore a player’s entire career over a few games.
When looking at Grandal, this is a Mets team built on pitching, and as such, they should prioritize a catcher who thrives at pitch framing. They should also avoid players who are terrible at it. Really, overall, there are a number of players the Mets should absolutely avoid this offseason.
C – Wilson Ramos
In case you have missed the past decade of Mets baseball, the last thing this franchise needs is another injury prone player who is over 30 years old. As bad as their injury issues were previously, they suddenly become worse when they wear a Mets uniform. When you combine that with Ramos having terrible pitch framing numbers and his probably getting a fairly large contract, the Mets should be a hard pass on him.
1B – Marwin Gonzalez
Gonzalez’s reputation seems to be much better than the player he actually is. This is not unusual for a player who is not too far removed from a great year or for a player who is playing for a great team. Breaking down Gonzalez’s career, he is a .264/.318/.419 hitter with just one good offensive season under his belt. He’s a versatile player whose best position is LF. He’s going to be 30 and overpaid. Mostly, he’s a complimentary piece which helps a great team like the Astros but will not be a significant contributor to a team like the Mets.
2B – DJ LeMahieu
With the emergence of Jeff McNeil, the Mets are not likely in the market for a second baseman, but then again, due to McNeil’s versatility, they could opt to sign a second baseman and move McNeil elsewhere. If they do so, they need to avoid LeMahieu. While very good defensively, this is a guy who just can’t hit outside of Coors Field, and for what it’s worth, he doesn’t hit all that well at Coors Field either as evidenced by his career 96 wRC+ there.
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
When he was with the Mets, Cabrera was a clutch second half player. Despite all the injuries, he tried to play everyday. He was a popular player, and he was much better than anyone could have anticipated he would be when the Mets signed him. That said, he’s no longer an everyday player, and it’s questionable just how much he’d be willing to accept a utility role.
SS – Jose Reyes
Over the last two seasons, he was just about the worst player in baseball, and he was a malcontent who was not above going to the press to try to lobby for more playing time. His team in a Mets uniform or really any MLB uniform should be over.
LF – Rajai Davis
As we saw with Jackson with season (more on him in a minute), the Mets are likely looking for a cheap right-handed hitting veteran who can play CF. After Davis hit that incredible game tying homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, he has not done much since. He may come cheap, but the 37 year old will be cheap for a reason. The Mets need to do much better than this to fill out a bench.
CF – A.J. Pollock
Back in 2015, Pollock was a superstar in the making. He was a Gold Glover, and he was probably the third best center fielder in all of baseball. Since that time, Pollock has been injury prone, and he has not played more than 113 games in a season. He’s no longer a big bat in the lineup. While his defense is still good, it has been in decline, and there is a fair question over how long he can stay there (whether due to injuries or regression). He’s going to get a big contract, but it should not be by a Mets team with a horrendous history of dealing with over 30 year old injury prone players.
RF – Austin Jackson
The Mets signed Jackson late in the season presumably to see if he should be part of the mix next season. In 57 games, Jackson was a bad hitter and an equally poor fielder. Especially with Juan Lagares coming back from injury (again), the Mets should steer well clear of Jackson.
SP – Bartolo Colon
We get it. Fans love him because he’s fat, old, has been suspended for steroids, and didn’t pay child support to his second family. When you strip down the whole contrived lovable gimmick, he’s a bad MLB pitcher who should either be retiring, fighting for a bullpen spot, or rounding out a terrible team’s rotation just like he did with the Rangers this past year.
RHP Reliever – Cody Allen
Like with Bryan Shaw last year, there will likely be a call for the Mets to reunite some of the Indians bullpen with Mickey Callaway. While the urge is understandable, the Mets should resist as the wear and tear of his workload seemingly took a took a toll on him this season. After posting very good numbers in the first six years of his career, Allen had a career worst 4.70 ERA, 93 ERA+, and a 4.56 FIP. While he may be salvaged to be a good reliever, with how the market has gone insane with relievers the past few years, it’s not likely Allen will be paid as the rehabilitation project he just might be.
LHP Reliever – Jerry Blevins
Look, Blevins has had a good career, and his best years were clearly with the Mets. His numbers were skewed this year by a bad April and an equally bad September. More troubling than that is Blevins really struggled getting left-handed batters out this season. While it’s possible that issue will iron itself out, the real issue is his walks. For three straight seasons, his walk totals have gone up while his K/BB ratio has gone down. With the emergence of Daniel Zamora and with other relievers available this offseason, it’s time to turn the page.
There are a number of indications the Mets General Manager search is a complete and utter farce. The fact the team knew of this opening in June and has just now even contemplated conducting a search was a big indicator. However, there are even bigger signs beyond that, and they are just now coming to the surface.Perhaps the biggest indication come from Jon Heyman, who recently reported for Fancred:
There’s a split on Mickey Callaway within the Mets’ front office, so expect him to have a short leash in 2019. The Mets have consistently said Callaway will return to manage next year even before hiring a GM. However, some within the Mets’ hierarchy see it as a work in progress that may not work out.
Think about it for a second. The Mets have no hired a new GM to replace Sandy Alderson. Presumably, when you hire that GM, you are going to permit him to actually build a front office. Maybe that includes John Ricco and Omar Minaya, who Jeff Wilpon reportedly wants to keep, and maybe it doesn’t. The point is the people who are there now should be there on an interim basis until such time as the new GM constructs his new front office.
And yet, reports are there’s a split on the manager in the front office, which is s clear indication the new GM will be brought in to execute a plan instead of creating one of his or her own. Other news reports bear this out.
Mike Chernoff, who has the opportunity to return home and get somewhat of a soft hand from the press with his dad being station director at WFAN, has declined the Mets job. Others who have declined include Twins GM Thad Levine, Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Josh Byrnes, and Blue Jays Vice President of Baseball Operations Ben Cherington. There are likley more names which have not been reported.
As Mike Puma of the New York Post reports, there “is the perception that team COO Jeff Wilpon will run the baseball operations department, with the new hire as the real No. 2 in the organization.”
There are other reports Jeff Wilpon blatantly lied about how the team operates according to the recommendations of the General Manager. In fact, Tim Healey of Newsday reported not just how this is untrue, but also how it has led to the organization bleeding talented people. As Healey reports, “Multiple sources disputed Wilpon’s statement, saying ownership denied repeated requests in recent years from Alderson’s baseball operations department to add to the analytics staff.”
What is downright absurd about Healey’s report is Omar Minaya “badly wanted” to keep now Brewers GM David Stearns once his internship ended. The Wilpons did not approve the extra headcount, and Stearns, someone who grew up a Mets fans, went to Milwaukee. Now, Stearns has built the Brewers into a World Series contender while the Wilpons are interested in the man he replaced.
This whole search is a joke, and in the end, it’s not going to be about who can do the best job, but who can carry out Jeff Wilpon’s plans. That’s not a search for a GM. It’s a search for a figurehead. This is a farce.
When the Mets hire a new General Manager, one of his, or in the case of Kim Ng getting the job, her, first duties is to decide if they want to retain Mickey Callaway as the Mets manager. Given how Callaway may come attached at the hip with Dave Eiland and seeing how this pitching rotation took off this year, you’d be inclined to keep Callaway on the job.
However, seeing Aaron Boone in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS, we know a General Manager needs to look at much more than that. Basically, the new General Manager needs to assess not just if Callaway is the guy who can bring the Mets to the postseason, but he needs to assess if Callaway would stand as an impediment to the Mets winning a World Series.
In the regular season, we have seen some really good and really terrible things from Callaway and his coaching staff. The question is what is fixable and what are flaws which stand in the way.
The negatives have been oft discussed. There was the lineup card incident. Callaway had real difficulty handling the media. We saw him exhaust the bullpen, especially Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, early in the season. He was also not above continuing to go back to that well even with them being overused. At times, the lineups were outright baffling, and unlike some of his other issues, this was something which seemed to get worse (more traditional?) as the season progressed.
On the positive, the Mets players did progress. According to wRC+, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League. Michael Conforto returned to his All Star form. Amed Rosario went from potential bust to improving young player. Jeff McNeil emerged as an everyday second baseman. Lugo became a dominant reliever. As noted previously, the rotation improved. Mostly, this team did not quit even after the season was over after a 5-21 June.
We have also seen Callaway use analytics to inform his decisions. In April, he was started Juan Lagares because Jacob deGrom was a flyball pitcher, and the Cardinals starter, Michael Wacha, had reverse splits. Essentially, he is well versed in analytics, and he’s able to use them to inform his decision making.
He’s also an aggressive manager. On multiple occasions, he brought in a reliever to force the other managers hand. Instead of being reactive to another manager’s pinch hitting choice, Callaway ensured he brought in his better pitcher to get a worse hitter up at the plate thereby ensuring himself of the better match-up.
Essentially, there’s enough here to suggest Callaway is the right guy for the job, but make no mistake, it is not a clear-cut decision. While he was strong in motivating and developing players as well as being aggressive in his pitching decisions, his position player choices left something to be desired and arguably got worse as the season progressed.
In the end, if the Mets are going to keep him or replace him, they better be right.
For years, we have heard rumors about how much Jeff Wilpon interferes with baseball operations. The famous quote along these lines came from Peter Gammons who once said of the Mets hierarchy, “Ask the general manager, Jeff Wilpon.” Judging from the rumors we have heard over the years, things have not changed much, if at all, from the days Omar Minaya was the Mets General Manager.
Of course, Jeff Wilpon says otherwise. In fact, on the topic of the Mets spending the past few seasons, Jeff Wilpon had the audacity to pin the blame on Sandy Alderson saying the team not signing top free agents was based on Alderson’s recommendations. Notably, Jeff would not answer questions about the team’s willingness to spend this offseason.
While he would not address the budget, Jeff would certainly address personnel decisions. While Jeff gave some lip service to the notion he would give the new General Manager final say on everything, he also offered he wants to see the triumvirate of General Managers (Omar Minaya, J.P. Riccardi, John Ricco) as well as Mickey Callaway and the entire coaching staff return.
Given what we’ve seen the past few years, we should expect Jeff to get his way.
Considering Jeff wants to be the guy, much like he was at the trade deadline when he made himself the team’s General Manager, Jeff should just make himself the guy. Drop all the pretext. If Jeff thinks he’s smart enough to run an entire organization, he should go out and do it.
Stop hiring shields and figureheads. Stop sending out General Managers and managers to deliver confused and clearly false messages to the media. Instead, be the guy. Get in front of a microphone and tell everyone why you made this trade or signed this guy instead of that guy.
If Jeff is being honest, that’s what he wants. He wants all the credit. He wants us all to believe he is the smartest guy in the room. For that to happen, he’s going to have to pull back the curtain and make himself accountable.
The hope for Mets fans is if Jeff does actually make himself the General Manager, the person with whom praise or blame befalls, if he is the guy who has to answer to all the organization does, the team will open the pocketbooks. He will be motivated to sign Manny Machado because he wants to look like the genius. Mostly, he is not going to want to fail.
So go ahead, Jeff. Do it. Drop the charade and finally make yourself the General Manager. Show us all you really do know more than everyone and that you are up for the job. In the end, if you do it, and the Mets are successful, we will all love you for it. Seriously.
But, if you’re not going to do it, knock it off. Stop interfering and sabotaging the front office and manager. Give them a budget, and give them the freedom to do their jobs. Let them build the Mets next World Series winner.
There’s no other course. Either do the job or let someone else do it. The nonsense has to stop, and it has to stop now.