Like it has been for most of their history, the Mets are currently build on starting pitching. That presents a problem for this organization because they will soon be in the unenviable position of having to rebuild their rotation over the ensuing few offseasons.
The Mets will have to face the same exact situation the ensuing offseason as both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season. That means over the course two years, the Mets are going to have to address how they want to handle 80% of their starting rotation.
Complicating matters is Michael Conforto hitting free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz as well as the shallow upper parts of the Mets farm system. How the Mets choose to address their rotation will be vitally important as Jacob deGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season.
After that 2022 season, Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will be first time arbitration eligible, and Amed Rosario will be heading into his last season under team control. This means the Mets core is going to be quite expensive and on their way out to parts unknown over the next few seasons.
At this point, we should all be wondering what exactly is the plan here.
At times, the Mets seem all-in. We saw that not just with trading away prospects to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but we also saw that with the Mets trading away prospects like Blake Taylor, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Adam Hill for what amounted to be nothing more than complementary pieces.
On the other hand, the Mets don’t see remotely all-in when they fail to address the back-up catching situation and let Zack Wheeler, their second best pitcher over the past two years, leave the Mets to go to the Philadelphia Phillies. Couple that with the Mets not making a push for players like Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado, or being active on the trade market for players like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, this seems more and more like a team without a clear direction.
Now, part of that can just be a result of how ineptly the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen have run this organization. Another aspect can be this team being in a relative holding pattern until Steve Cohen’s purchase of the club is finalized and approved. There may be other factors at play, and really, at this point, we are all just guessing.
What we do know is based on the control over the current core, the Mets window to compete for a World Series is right now, and the team has done little to push the team over the top. We also know that until this core is extended, the Mets window is going to be limited to just these two years.
When you look at things through this prism, you see the need to give extensions to at least some of your core. Certainly, that is the case when the goal is sustained winning and not just short windows. In theory, there is still 10 months to do that, but at the moment, the Mets have missed their biggest and perhaps best opportunity to do it once again leaving the impression this is an organization without a clear direction.
Due to injuries last year, Jed Lowrie was limited to just eight pinch hitting appearances. In those eight pinch hitting appearances, he would strike out half the time and draw just one walk. Obviously, this was a far cry from the player the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him to a two year $20 million deal.
When the Mets did sign Lowrie last year, it looked like a coup. It was a very reasonable deal for the 2018 All-Star. As a leader for the surprise Oakland Athletics, he would hit .267/.353/.448 with 37 doubles, one triple, 23 homers, and 99 RBI.
His 123 wRC+ and 4.8 WAR was the fourth best among Major League second basemen. As a switch hitter who has experience playing three of the four infield positions, he was a versatile, experienced, and mostly good baseball player. His presence was supposed to allow the Mets to rest Robinson Cano and allow the Mets to use Todd Frazier more as a platoon type player and defensive replacement.
Of course, that would never happen.
It started with what was diagnosed as a capsule strain in his left knee during Spring Training. When it was first diagnosed, it was anticipated he would be ready for Opening Day, but the timeline for his return would be pushed back time and again.
There would also be a rehab stint which led to him being shut down before he resumed a late August one. During that second rehab assignment, he was not able to play more than seven innings in the field, and he did not play more than two consecutive days in the field. As we know, he would not play in the field during his very short stint on the active Major League roster.
Jed Lowrie log since promotion to Syracuse
8/28 – 2B (5 innings)
8/29 – 2B (5 innings)
8/30 – off
8/31 – 2B (7 innings)
9/1 – DH
9/2 – 2B (5 innings)
9/3 – DH
9/4 – off https://t.co/Rn5pUQNMo3
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) September 4, 2019
Now, you could chalk this up to one lost year, and if that was the case, you could expect Lowrie to be able to contribute in 2020. After all, if healthy, you have a switch-hitter who can play anywhere in the infield even though ideally he would be limited to second and third at this point in his career. The problem with that line of thinking is the Mets don’t have the best track record dealing with injuries, and worse yet, they don’t know what is actually wrong with Lowrie.
Brodie Van Wagenen on Jed Lowrie: "We've continued to try to diagnose what Jed's issues were that kept them out this season. We'll continue to do that with the plan for him being 100 percent ready to go for spring training."
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 12, 2019
Being well aware of the situation, the Mets are reportedly looking for ways to unload Lowrie. The problem with those efforts is Lowrie will be 36 next year, expensive, and mostly, questionable about his ability to play. Ultimately, this is the biggest reason why Lowrie is still a Met.
It’s gotten to the point with the franchise where we have seen multiple reports indicating the Mets are so desperate to unload Lowrie, they are willing to attach a real asset to entice another team to do that. The name which is mostly connected with Lowrie is Dominic Smith.
It is important to note Smith was the second youngest position player on the Mets last year. In 89 games, he had a 0.7 WAR and a 133 wRC+. For all the talk about his being “blocked,” he was a late inning defensive replacement at first, was able to play capably as a stop gap left fielder, and was a good pinch hitter.
With respect to that last point, Smith hit .286/.459/.571 in 37 pinch hitting attempts. As a reserve, he hit .318/.434/.568. He had a number of big hits in games he came off the bench including his walk-off homer to end the 2019 season. Even if you want to argue he is blocked or would be better served as a starter elsewhere, he has shown himself to be a very effective bench player for the Mets.
More than that, as it stands now, he is the only left-handed bat on the Mets bench. In an era where there are no more LOOGYs, his value in that role is of increased importance. The Mets can ill afford to just part with that for the sake of just getting rid of Lowrie’s salary.
Ideally, the Mets would just eat some or all of the contract to trade him while getting some lottery chip in exchange from a team like the Oakland Athletics or Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, the Mets don’t operate that way. They would rather part with a good player for short term savings.
At the end of the day, if Lowrie can play, you play him and see what happens. However, if he can’t play, the Mets just gave give away players like Smith who are under team control until 2025. That makes zero to little sense, and if that is the direction the Mets are going, they should just designate Lowrie for assignment because the team would be better off in 2020 and in each of the ensuing years.
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.
When you break it all down, it appears the Mets had a high payroll. In fact, Spotrac had the Mets with a $146.3 million payroll which was the 12th highest in the sport.
For starters, David Wright‘s $15 million salary was included. As reported by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, that was renegotiated down to $9 million with deferred money. That drops the payroll down to $140.3 million.
That alone drops the Mets from 12th to 14th in payroll. If you back out Wright’s entire $15 million, the active payroll would be down to $131.3 million, which would rank 16th.
Like with Wright, Yoenis Cespedes was injured and could not play. With him injuring himself on his farm leading the Mets to challenge and renegotiate Cespedes’ contract. All said and done, his $29 million salary in 2019 was reduced to $14.8 million.
Taking that money away from the payroll, which includes Wright’s renegotiated deal, the Mets payroll drops from the original $146.3 million to $126.1 million. That’s a figure moving the Mets to just the 18th best payroll.
Looking at the Spotrac calculations, it actually includes the deferred monies owed to Bobby Bonilla and Bret Saberhagen. When you remove those amounts, the payroll is reduced by $1.4 million. That $124.7 million payroll would drop them down to 19th.
That’s right. In terms of expenditures to players actually with the organization in some capacity, the Mets had the 19th highest payroll. That kept them JUST outside the bottom third.
Of course, if you back out the whole of Wright and Cespedes, who were insured and did not play, the ensuing $102.3 million payroll would rank 25th.
Depending on how you choose to analyze it, the Wilpons pocketed at least $20 million between Wright and Cespedes, perhaps more.
Fact is, the Mets actually spent money in line with the bottom third in the league despite mortgaging the future to try to win in 2019, telling the fans they were all-in, and boasting “Come get us!” to all of baseball.
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.