When it comes to Ronny Mauricio, it’s easy to see why talent evaluators love him. He has all the raw physical tools, and it’s impressive to see it all working.
We are seeing that in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Through 29 games, he’s hitting .316/.353/.483 with 11 doubles, one triple, two homers, and 22 RBI. In his most recent game, he was 2-for-3 with two walks, a double, and three RBI.
The power numbers from the 21 year old shortstop aren’t all that surprising. MLB Pipeline rated him with 60 power (25+ HR) saying “shows the most raw power from the left side, and there should be more pop coming.”
What was really shocking was the two walks. This is just not something Mauricio has done in his career.
Through 123 games for Double-A Binghamton last season, Mauricio had a 4.4 BB%. While the number is disappointing in and of itself, it’s all the more so when you consider it’s the worst mark of his professional career.
In fact, he’d only draw 24 walks all season. His high water mark for the season was six walks in June. This impatience at the plate is a big reason why Mauricio’s offensive numbers doesn’t match the tools.
Last season, he hit .259/.296/.472 with 26 doubles, two triples, 26 homers, and 89 RBI. The .212 ISO is great and speaks to the damage he does when he gets a hold of one.
However, the .296 OBP is the most telling number. It speaks to an over-aggressive approach. It speaks to his poor pitch selection. This is why he only had a 105 wRC+.
This is also why the two walks at the plate were far more important than the double. He needs more patience at the plate. With that, not only will be draw more walks, but we will also see more doubles and homers.
This is why Mauricio is so maddening. In a glimpse like this, you see all he can be. You can envision him being a dynamic offensive threat one day in the majors.
However, if it never comes, it’s hard to see how he could be successful at Triple-A, let alone the majors. At some point, you have to question if it will because there hasn’t been any real signs of improvement on this front.
Mauricio is going to have to figure it out now. If he does, he may make it to the majors in 2023. If he doesn’t, it’ll be hard to see him ever forcing his way to Queens. And that right there is why he is such a maddening prospect.
With the 11th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, the New York Mets selected catcher Kevin Parada out of Georgia Tech. This immediately led Mets fans into speculation Parada was drafted so the Mets could trade for Juan Soto.
It just doesn’t work that way. Put another way, no, Parada was not drafted as a replacement for Francisco Álvarez.
Look, you can understand the Soto excitement. Arguably, the best hitter in the game is on the market after (correctly) turning down a 15 year $440 million extension.
This has led the Washington Nationals to look to trade Soto, who hits free agency after the 2024 season. According to reports, the Nationals see the Mets as a potential trade partner. That should be obvious.
After all, Álvarez is already considered the best prospect in the minors. The Mets also have top 100 prospects in Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio, Alex Ramirez, and Mark Vientos (depending on your list). Additionally, when he returns from his Tommy John rehab, Matt Allan is anticipated to join those ranks.
Simply put, the Mets have the high-end prospect talent selling teams covet at the trade deadline. Arguably, the Mets could acquire Soto even if they make Álvarez untouchable.
Another factor is Jon Heyman’s report in the New York Post wherein the Nationals may force interested teams to take on Patrick Corbin’s terrible contract. That leaves only a handful of teams who could be in a position to make the deal with Steve Cohen having the deepest pockets.
All told, yes, the Mets have what it takes to get Soto. No, Parada has no bearing on such a deal.
As Mets vice president of amateur and international scouting Tommy Tanous told MMO about draft approach, “The boring answer is you still take the best player available but having all those picks and the pool money there’s plenty of different scenarios you can play around with.”
Honestly, this is how almost all teams approach the draft. That goes double for the Mets. They draft the best player available.
The reason why the Mets drafted Parada? He was the best player available. Keep in mind, no one had Parada falling this far.
Ultimately, that’s the reason the Mets drafted Parada. Really, it had nothing to do with Álvarez.
Consider this. In 2019, the Baltimore Orioles made Adley Rutschman the top overall pick in the draft. Rutschman made his Major League debut roughly three years after being drafted. That’s not atypical.
Álvarez is currently playing in Triple-A Syracuse. With James McCann’s injury, it’s entirely possibly Álvarez could be called up the minute he starts hitting. If he’s not traded, we will definitively see Álvarez in the majors by 2023 at the latest.
If Parada is three years away, he’s not an Álvarez replacement. It doesn’t work that way. The Mets drafted Parada because he miraculously fell to him; not to trade Álvarez.
As an aside, the same can be said for Jett Williams. Williams was drafted 14th overall by the Mets because he was the best player available and not so the Mets could trade Ronny Mauricio.
Yes, it’s very possible the Mets trade Álvarez or Mauricio to Soto. It could be them both plus other pieces while absorbing a bad contract. Soto is 23 and that awesome.
However, there’s no cause and effect here. Parada is a Mets draftee because he was the best player available. It’s really just a coincidence he plays the same position as Álvarez, the best and most coveted prospect in the game.
With the collective bargaining agreement stalemate, and Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the first two series of the Major League season will be canceled, minor league baseball appears to be set to be the only baseball left to be played. This was the case on August 12, 1994 until the end of that season, and right now, we don’t know how long it will be until MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement.
This begs the question about how this will affect the minor league season. In many ways, the answer is not at all, but in a more global sense, it is a huge impact due to all of the uncertainty.
40 Man Roster Issues
First and foremost, this lockout impacts players on the 40 man roster. Keep in mind with Major League rosters being capped at 26 players, the 14 players who were supposed to play in the minors are now not permitted to play with their respective organizations.
This past offseason, the New York Mets added Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, Adam Oller, and Jose Butto to their 40 man roster. They’re now not eligible to play in games or participate in Spring Training. The same goes for players like Travis Blankenhorn, Khalil Lee, Patrick Mazeika, and Nick Plummer who were likely ticketed for Triple-A to start the season.
Spring Training Battles
If we look back to the pandemic shortened season of 2020, MLB had a very abbreviated “Summer Camp” with players reporting on July 1 and beginning the season on July 24. In 1995, the strike and lockout meant Spring Training was delayed. When the two sides finally agreed to a deal, Spring Training was just three weeks. We’re very likely to see something akin to that again.
As a result, we are not going to have the opportunity to see Spring Training battles breath. At least at the moment, Tylor Megill and David Peterson appear poised to battle for the fifth starter spot. With no real Spring Training, and both pitchers being shut down because they are on the 40 man roster, it would appear the Mets would be all the more emboldened to sign another starter.
Speaking of Spring Training battles, there are those veterans who signed minor league deals. For example, this offseason the Mets signed Daniel Palka who has played 154 Major League games in his career and Matt Reynolds who has played 130 games. They would be permitted to play in Spring Training, where they would not be paid, and they can then report to play in Triple-A Syracuse regardless of the status of the CBA negotiations.
Rule 5 Draft
As noted, players not on the 40 man roster are permitted to participate in Spring Training, and they can begin their minor league seasons when they are slated to begin. That is an enormous benefit for players like Carlos Cortes, Brian Metoyer, and Hayden Senger. Each of these players were on the bubble for Rule 5 protection, and the Mets opted to expose them to the draft.
This means Cortes, Metoyer, and Senger will get to play and improve. That will also give teams an opportunity to get a better look at those three players in determining whether they should be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, that also works in the inverse with the Mets getting a deeper look into players they might be targeting.
Keep in mind, there isn’t much precedent here for this. In 1994, because there was a strike but not a lockout, teams were able to proceed with their business as usual and hold the Rule 5 draft in December (even if it was delayed twice). For the 2020 season, the Rule 5 draft had already taken place in December 2019 because COVID-19 was not yet a concern.
Another important note here is as MLB cancels games, it becomes easier to carry Rule 5 drafted players. As a result, the risk in selecting a Rule 5 player has been greatly mitigated. Another factor at play here is we may see players get drafted based on early season results who may not have been otherwise considered. To sum up, this is a quagmire.
At the moment, the Mets have their minor league mini-camp. Minor League Spring Training is also set to officially begin this week. As of right now, according to their official schedule, the Mets are slated to play their first Spring Training game on March 12 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, games were supposed to begin February 28, but it was delayed due to the lockout. As of right now, there is no official word if games will be delayed further. That said, there will likely be some form of a Spring Training game schedule even absent a CBA being in place to allow the minor leaguers to prepare for their season. The season for the Mets full season affiliates are set to begin as follows:
- Syracuse Mets – April 5
- Binghamton Rumble Ponies – April 8
- Brooklyn Cyclones – April 8
- St. Lucie Mets – April 8
For those Mets fans who want to attend a baseball game, the Brooklyn Cyclones home opener will be on April 12 at 7:00 P.M. against the Jersey Shore Blue Claws (Phillies).
Right now, the Mets are paying Buck Showalter a lot of money to manage a team which is not set to play. That leaves Showalter with the job of preparing to prepare for the season. In some ways, that’s extremely beneficial for the new staff with new coaches like Eric Chavez to come to work together.
It also gives them an opportunity to work with the minor leaguers in Spring Training, and perhaps, depending on the length of the lockout, to travel to work with some of the minor leaguers. This presents an enormous opportunity for players like Brett Baty, who is battling with Vientos for that future third base job. More than that, it allows some of the more unheralded prospects like a Harol Gonzalez to make an impression in camp and get an advocate from the Major League coaching staff in their corner.
That just speaks to just how different everything will be for minor leaugers. Yes, the players not on the 40 man roster will have no change to their schedule. They will report to Spring Training at the same time, and they will play the games like they normally do.
However, they will also get more exposure to Major League coaching, and they have more of an opportunity to distinguish themselves. Moreover, they will get to prepare for their season and work on their games while fellow minor leaugers who are on the 40 man roster will be at home unpaid and without a chance to work with their coaches to improve their game.
The consensus of people who have done this much longer and better is Francisco Alvarez supplanted Ronny Mauricio as the Mets top prospect. The consensus seems to be they are the top two in the system.
That said, at least here, Matthew Allan should be considered the Mets top prospect. We’re seeing and hearing many of the reasons why this Spring Training.
Matt Allan sets Starlin Castro down on strikes ? pic.twitter.com/U5HC1Nmj5K
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 8, 2021
Before Spring Training, Allan had been at the Mets alternate site at Brooklyn. That’s also where he pitched for the 2019 New York-Penn League Champions.
In that 2019 season, he made a combined six appearances (five starts) for the GCL Mets and Brooklyn. He was 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.452 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9, and a 12.2 K/9.
In the NYPL postseason, he was dominant pitching out of the bullpen. In two games, he pitched 5.0 innings retiring all 15 batters he faced. That included him pitching three innings and picking up the win in the clincher.
⚾️? #Mets NRI Preview: RHP Matt Allan
• Easily the top pitching prospect in the org
• Sat 94-96 mph as an 18-year-old in 2019
• Curve projects as a plus pitch as well
• Improved changeup at Alt. Site in '20
• Could see him at Hi-A Brooklyn in 2021 pic.twitter.com/hwSeBIS922
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) February 16, 2021
In those games, we saw the repertoire and poise which led the Mets to implement their draft strategy to sign him. As per MLB Pipeline, he had a mid to high 90s fastball which he combined with an excellent curve and a change that was a work in progress. He had the size and delivery which portends success as a starter.
As noted by Jacob Resnick of SNY above, Allan improved the change last year. It should come as no surprise that came after getting to work with Jacob deGrom during part of the COVID shutdown last year. In that time, he got to learn from deGrom much in the same way deGrom once got to learn from Johan Santana.
This past offseason, Allan again went to Stetson University to work with deGrom and fellow Stetson alum catcher Patrick Mazeika.
Allan had the opportunity to speak to and learn from the best pitcher in the game. As noted, it helped lead to an improved change. It may also help him in terms of the mental side of the game and preparation. Really with deGrom encouraging him to wear him out with questions, Allan had a real opportunity to hone his craft.
That continued in Spring Training when Allan got to work not only with deGrom but also Marcus Stroman.
Here is Mets prospect Matt Allan, on picking the brains of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and others as a 19-year-old in big-league camp: pic.twitter.com/1xOP8GvR2P
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 25, 2021
With Stroman, Allan discussed grips as well as the mental side of the game. Many forget Stroman is a real student of the game, and he’s someone who works harder than anyone to find ways to improve and get batters out. As noted by Allan, Stroman was genuine in helping him improve as a pitcher.
That’s a huge reason why Allan should be considered the Mets best prospect. Yes, he certainly has the natural talent and pure stuff to earn that consideration. However, it’s more than that.
Allan, himself, is working hard and striving to improve. He’s in a very fortunate situation where he has had the opportunity and will continue to have the opportunity to get mentored by deGrom and Stroman.
Taking everything into account, it’s not just Allan’s change which will make considerable strides. He should also in every aspect of his game. Seeing how he and others are investing in him, he has real top of the rotation potential, and seeing his progress that may come far sooner than originally anticipated.
Overall, it’s very fair to consider Alvarez and Mauricio as the Mets best prospects. Still, seeing Allan’s improvement, maturity, and natural talent, he should probably be considered a step ahead thereby making him the Mets best prospect.
The Cleveland Indians are known to be floating Francisco Lindor, and with this being the Indians, they are looking to probably try to contend while also making any deals. That would make sense given their pitching and their keeping another perennial MVP caliber player in Jose Ramirez.
Still, the Indians want us to believe they are cash strapped and need to move a player like Lindor. Presumably, anyone not named Ramirez or Shane Bieber is available to be traded. If that is the case, the Mets need to push and push hard to get a mega-deal done.
In addition to Lindor, the Indians also have Roberto Perez. He’s a 31 year old catcher who is elite defensively with a still very questionable bat. Perez is a relatively expensive $5.5 million, and he will be a free agent after the season. For a Mets team who needs a starting catcher, Perez would be enticing. He also shouldn’t interfere with the presumed chase for James McCann.
On the pitching front, the Indians have Zach Plesac who was an issue for them in terms of the COVID19 infection. The Indians may be reluctant to move him pre-arbitration, and they should. Still, if there are issues between him and the team, the Mets are in a prime position to grab him.
Looking deeper than Plesac, there are useful bullpen arms like Nick Wittgren and a good fourth outfielder in Delino DeShields. Both players are arbitration eligible and could cost more than the Indians are willing to play them. Depending on a potential deal, the Mets could and should be interested in grabbing them in a potential deal.
In return, well, the Mets have plenty to offer the Indians. Given the glut at first base, the Mets could offer one of Pete Alonso, J.D. Davis, or Dominic Smith. With Davis, the Mets could or should offer both. There is also Brandon Nimmo in the outfield as well as Andres Gimenez, Jeff McNeil, and/or Amed Rosario in the middle infield. Certainly, if you can obtain Perez, the Mets should be willing to move Tomas Nido and/or Ali Sanchez.
If you are going to move from a pool of that Major League talent, thereby freeing up logjams, you can then be in a position to hold onto Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, and/or the other Mets top prospects. That said, if the Mets are given a window to extend Lindor, all bets should be off. Looking at Mookie Betts last year, getting a top five player in his prime is a franchise changer, and it could be what the Mets need to get to the World Series.
All told, the Indians have some pieces the Mets desperately need. Between the Mets need to free up their logjams coupled with the Indians purported need to clear payroll and the Mets newfound financial strength, there is real potential here for a mega-deal. Hopefully, the two sides can get together and get it done.
With Marcus Stroman opting out, Michael Wacha having yet another shoulder injury, and Noah Syndergaard undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets need a fifth starter. Based on what we’ve seen from Brodie Van Wagenen, we should not rule out his emptying the farm for that fifth starter.
After all, this was the same GM who has already traded Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Ross Adolph, Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods Richardson, Blake Taylor, and many more prospects to receive nowhere near value in return. Looking at the cumulative, it’s embarrassing how poorly the Mets have done in these trades.
As we saw last year at the trade deadline, the Mets postseason odds don’t matter. He overpaid for Stroman at the trade deadline last year despite the team being six games under .500 and 12.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the division.
Yes, the Mets went on a run, but in the end, it was Van Wagenen’s half measures which kept the Mets out of the postseason. He moved arguably two of his top prospects remaining in the farm system for another starter, but he didn’t back it up by getting a reliever or another outfielder that the team so desperately needed. That was a major reason the Mets fell short.
Based on his track record, we can assume he’ll ignore reason to make a trade for another player. It’ll be a half-measure, and it will further deplete the farm.
Now, this is where some will say teams are not permitted to trade players not in the player pool. This analysis and hope is very short-sighted.
Technically, that is correct. In 2020, teams cannot trade players unless they are part of their designated 2020 player pool. That should give some relief prospects like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Francisco Alvarez, and Ronny Mauricio won’t be traded.
That is until they’re added to the Mets player pool. As per the rules, the Mets can add players to the player pool as needed. As a result, if a team wants a Mets prospect in exchange for a starting pitcher, all the Mets need to do is add that player to their pool.
It’s only a transaction. There is no requirement the player actually be present at the virtual training site. Much like Jose Bautista two years ago, the Mets can literally pluck a player off their couch and put them on a plane.
So, right now, no prospect is safe. Seeing how the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen don’t remotely care about the future of the franchise as they push to win a World Series before they’re all gone, that goes double.
They’ll grossly overpay for anyone if they think that player gives them even a 1% chance greater of winning the World Series. It’s of no matter to them because they won’t be around while these prospects shine at the Major League level.
In the end, no Mets prospect is safe right now, and the situation grows more dire the longer this team has no fifth starter and languishes in last place in the NL East.
Before going into the weeds on the cost, it should first be noted the Mets are a much better team for getting Marcus Stroman. This is a pitcher who has pitched quite well in the AL East, and he is a pitcher with big game experience being named the World Baseball Classic MVP in addition to some really good postseason performances.
Stroman grew up a Mets fan, and as a result, the Mets are getting a player who should become a fan favorite in short order. Assuming no other moves for a moment, the Mets rotation is very clearly the best in baseball, and you can argue acquiring Stroman makes their chances of making the postseason this year significantly better.
The one ding people will bring up with Stroman is he’s reliant upon a good infield defense to be successful, and the Mets defense has not been good this year. On that note, the Blue Jays have been a below average defensive team this year with a -6 DRS with them having a -4 DRS at first, -9 DRS at second, 1 DRS at third, and a 0 DRS at shortstop. With the Mets having Todd Frazier at third and Amed Rosario playing a to positive DRS in the second half, they fair well in comparison to the Blue Jays. Eliminate the turf, and you can argue this is actually a better situation for Stroman to be even better.
Now, if the Mets were in the position the Braves were in, you understand this trade. Stroman is the piece which arguably puts the Mets over the top. When you roll out Jacob deGrom–Noah Syndergaard–Marcus Stroman–Zack Wheeler–Steven Matz in your rotation, you’re dangerous in both the regular season and post season. As for the bullpen issues, with that collection of five guys, the Mets could take a page out of Alex Cora‘s book last postseason and utilize their starters to dominate the entire series.
Stroman would be an overpay, but it would be one along the lines of the Cubs trading Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman. If you win the World Series, who cares? In some ways, Stroman is even better than that because he is under control for next year as well. This not only gives you the best rotation in baseball right now, but it puts you in a position where you’ve insulated your team from losing Wheeler in the offseason.
The problem with the Mets is they’re five games under .500, and they are six games out of the division and the Wild Card. They are in real striking distance, but they also have many obstacles in their way.
The Mets have three teams ahead of them in the division, and they have four teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. The team just lost Dominic Smith which somehow depletes an already suspect outfield depth even further, and it also stands in the way of the Mets finding some more games for Pete Alonso, who is really struggling so far in the second half.
Speaking of depth, the Mets already suspect starting pitching depth did take a hit. On the one hand, yes, assuming no other moves, acquiring Stroman exponentially improves the depth as he’s a significant upgrade over Jason Vargas, who should now find himself in the bullpen. On that note, the bullpen also looks better. However, that assumes no other moves.
At the moment, it seems the Mets are looking to move Noah Syndergaard in a companion move to help fill out the current roster. Of note, the team still desperately needs a center fielder. It should be noted with the current rumors, Manuel Margot isn’t that guy. He’s yet to be a league average hitter in his career, and he’s a -1 DRS this year in center. On that front, it should be noted he was really good prior to this year with an 8 DRS in 2017 and a 9 DRS in 2018.
If the Mets move Syndergaard, they are again relying on Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt to be their starting pitching depth this year and the next. Aside from one Lockett start this year, that is misplaced faith. This means the Mets need David Peterson to step up instead of hoping one of him or Anthony Kay are ready.
Like with trading Justin Dunn to the Mariners, trading Kay hurt the depth, and it deprived the organization of real starting pitching upside. It also eliminated the possibility of taking either pitcher to send them out there and try to replicate with Seth Lugo or to a lesser extent Robert Gsellman are doing.
Being fair, in the end a package headlined by Kay was a fair return for Stroman. It did make sense to gamble Kay away for the year plus of Stroman, especially if you are really going to go for it as an organization. On that note, they did not do that after trading Jarred Kelenic and Dunn in the trade for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. On the Cano point, the Mets are up against the luxury tax next year, and they seem to be already using it as an excuse not to add despite the team collecting tens of millions of dollars in insurance proceeds on David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes while also deferring $12 million of deGrom’s contract.
From a Mets standpoint, the part of the deal which really hurts is Simeon Woods Richardson. This is an 18 year old pitcher already pitching for a full season affiliate. He is getting his fastball up to 97 MPH with a promising and developing curve and change which could both be plus pitches. Despite being almost four years younger than the competition, he is striking out 11.1 batters per nine while having an incredible 5.71 K/BB. This is a special arm, and the Mets traded him away with a top 100 prospect for one plus year of Stroman.
On the Woods Richardson front, the Mets were beyond loaded with teenage talent heading into this year. In addition to him, the Mets had Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and others along with a pitcher like Thomas Szapucki. This was a group poised to break into the majors around 2022, and when they came up, the Mets could have really had a prolonged World Series window open.
With Brodie Van Wagenen as the General Manager, that is what he has been trading away. He has severely hampered the next window from opening. Of course, that assumes the Mets window is currently open. This is a big reason why many baseball people don’t understand this trade. This seems one of those moments like when they pulled off the Cano deal or Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano the Mets are trying to tell us they are smarter then everyone when they’re really not.
Ultimately, you may not like this trade, but you would have certainly understood it if the Mets were 10 games over .500. They’re not. This trade becomes all the more puzzling when you consider they are supposedly doing this as a precursor to trading Syndergaard. Really, when looking at the entire plan right now, none of this makes sense. It makes even less sense if you are trading Syndergaard for prospects because the Mets just obtained one plus year of Stroman and not five.
Overall, this was an overpay for Stroman, and depending on what the Mets do now, it could be a completely unforced error. Typically in these moments, you like to sit and wait before passing judgment on the total plan, but considering how Van Wagenen has lost every trade he’s made thus far, there shouldn’t be much hope this was the first strike in what is one grand master plan.
In essence, enjoy Stroman while he’s a Met. He’s a fun player and really good pitcher who is coming home to pitch for the team he rooted for when he was growing up. Also, root for another hometown kid in Kay and hope Woods Richardson fulfills his potential. Root for everyone to succeed because it helps the Mets in the short term, and it will also help in the long run to remind the Mets that they’re really not better at this than everyone else. They have been and will continue to be considerably worse until Jeff Wilpon realizes he’s the problem.
After discussing it most of the offseason, the Mets are once again in a position where they are talking with teams about Noah Syndergaard. There are smart teams with interesting farm systems interested in the Mets starter. Depending on the packages offered, the Mets could be very tempted to move Syndergaard.
One of the arguments you hear from some circles is you shouldn’t trade him because his value is at a nadir. With Syndergaard having a career worst ERA, ERA+, FIP, HR/9, BB/9, K/9, and K/BB, this is absolutely true. Seeing studies and Syndergaard’s comments, it is possible these results are reflective of the new ball. The Mets having a National League worst defense doesn’t help either.
Reasonably speaking, you could anticipate Syndergaard to rebound and led the Mets back to contention in 2020. If you trade him, it’s difficult to imagine the Mets contending anytime soon.
Looking at 2020 first, it’s hard to imagine the Mets having that one year turnaround. With Syndergaard traded and Zack Wheeler gone either via trade or free agency, the Mets have two spots to fill in the rotation. That becomes three when Jason Vargas‘ option is declined. Even assuming Anthony Kay is ready to begin the year in the rotation, the Mets still have two spots to fill in the rotation.
Given the Mets budget and historical unwillingness to spend big on starting pitchers on the free agent market, it is difficult to believe the team could build a starting rotation good enough to win in 2020. Theoretically, the Mets could fill in the rotation by making Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo starters again. However, this makes an already terrible bullpen worse, and you will likely be dealing with innings limits.
Long story short, if the Mets trade Syndergaard they will not be able to build the type of pitching staff which would let them compete in 2020. This means the Mets will have to look towards 2021. Notably, Michael Conforto and Steven Matz will be free agents after the completion of that season.
Given the uncertainty of the readiness of David Peterson and/or Franklyn Kilome to join the rotation by then, there is doubt whether the Mets pitching staff would be ready to compete by then. While this is happening, the Mets will be in year three of Robinson Cano‘s contract. That’s a consideration which needs to be accounted for when analyzing the Mets ability to compete in 2020 or 2021.
Realistically speaking, depending on the return the Mets receive for Syndergaard, the team will not be in a position to really compete again until 2022 at the earliest. With that being the scenario, the Mets should also be looking to trade Conforto for a big return as well because the team is not going to win before he becomes a free agent.
By that 2022 season, you will have wasted the first three years of Pete Alonso‘s and Jeff McNeil‘s careers, and they will be arbitration eligible. It will be the same situation for other cost controlled assets like Lugo and Edwin Diaz. This coupled with Cano’s big contract will once again infringe on the Mets payroll flexibility.
Therefore, the Mets ability to win in 2022 will hinge on what the Mets bring aboard in moving Syndergaard and maybe Conforto. It will depend on how quickly players like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Ronny Mauricio, Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty can develop to help the team. While you can be high on them now, it is a completely different situation to count on them to develop in time to make you a winner.
That is the situation you are in if you trade Syndergaard now. You are beginning the dismantling the core to try to compete three years from now. If the prospects don’t develop the way you intended, or players get hurt, everything falls apart. As an organization, you have to ask yourself if that is really worth it when the team is really just a center fielder and 1-2 bullpen arms away from contending next year.
When you look at it through the prism of when the Mets could actually be in a window to contend again, the team cannot trade Syndergaard now. That is, unless, the team either starts spending now, or Brodie Van Wagenen proves himself to be much more adept at trades than he did last offseason. We shouldn’t be hopeful on either development happening.
The New York Mets are five games under .500, which is the lowest point they’ve been at any point this season. As with most teams under .500, everything seems in disarray. This is a pattern for the Mets franchise which exists even in good times. Still, things have been at a higher level of dysfunction lately.
Mickey Callaway didn’t take kindly to what appeared to be an innocuous comment from Newsday’s Tim Healey. The frustration coming from a tough loss, having to answer difficult questions, or whatever else is related to being the Mets manager came flying out. Callaway finally snapped and directed it at Healey, which he shouldn’t have done.
This was an embarrassing course of events which were made all the more difficult when Callaway had to speak with reporters three times before getting the words which people wanted to hear from him out. As bad as you may want to characterize what Callaway did or did not say, it’s nowhere near are terse and sarcastic as what Vargas had to offer:
Jason Vargas' entire statement regarding yesterday's incident: pic.twitter.com/FbiBaSsSYi
— SNY (@SNYtv) June 24, 2019
It should be noted here Callaway was at least man enough to speak with Healey personally and offer an apology. Nowhere was it reported Vargas did the same. Despite that, both were not suspended and were fined $10,000.
Of course, with this being the Mets, that’s not enough. During the game, we were reminded just how bad a job Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager. Jay Bruce would hit a pinch hit home run against Brooks Pounders, a scrap heap guy Van Wagenen had to obtain to try to piece together what was an incomplete bullpen to begin the year. That homer essentially put the game away for good.
In that game, there would be 20 runs scored and 34 hits. The only position player in either starting lineup not to register a hit? Robinson Cano. Cano was 0-for-5 dropping his stat line to .223/.270/.361. So far, he has a -0.8 WAR in year one of a five year $100 million obligation to the 36 year old second baseman.
At the same time, we have seen Edwin Diaz have the worst year of his career while Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn are progressing well in the Mariners system. According to MLB Pipeline, Kelenic is the 24th best prospect in all of baseball, and Dunn is the 67th best.
That means if Van Wagenen did not make the trade, right now, the Mets would have five top 100 prospects (Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Anthony Kay) with more on the horizon. That means the Mets farm system would have been the envy of everyone, and the team could have sold REAL hope for an under .500 fourth place team.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote an article alleging Van Wagenen called the Mets to instruct Callaway to remove Jacob deGrom from a game. The reporting has been confirmed many times over with the allegations going much further than this being an isolated event. On the topic, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post had this to say:
I asked the question to Brodie Van Wagenen this way, a few hours before the Mets would prove to be a splendid tonic for the reeling Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in serving as 13-7 patsies, a few minutes after he feigned ignorance at a subtler version of the inquiry:
“Do you tell Mickey what to do?”
* * * * *
So I asked. And this is what Van Wagenen said: “This organization is about teamwork and collaboration and the ability to trust the manager on an everyday basis.”
This is what he didn’t say: “No.”
It wouldn’t be until after the game Van Wagenen would seek to deny the reports. When he did, he would come across as less than convincing.
This is all coming off the heels of the team scapegoating both Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez while replacing them with an 82 year old Phil Regan and their bringing back Ricky Bones less than a year after he was removed from the position. We’ve also seen Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton scapegoated this year.
On top of all of this, Brandon Nimmo went from neck pain we shouldn’t worry too much about to a bulging disc he tried to play through (both in the majors and in a rehab stint) to being shut down. Jed Lowrie has yet to play this season. Overall, the handling of the medical situations has continued to be inept, and the offseason acquisitions have mostly been a disaster.
At this point, no one has any credibility, and people have long since stopped wanting to hear what Callaway and Van Wagenen have to say.
The Mets have been embarrassed by the actions of his manager and fifth starter. There’s a potential scandal brewing with the General Manager allegedly violating MLB rules. There’s the continued problems with handling injuries, and the payroll remains an issue. Fans are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the team, and they’re staying away from the ballpark. Overall, the team is five games under .500, and they are closer to last place than the division or a Wild Card.
This is the exact time Jeff Wilpon needs to speak with the media. He needs to show everyone the team is not dysfunctional. He needs to support his embattled General Manager and manager. He needs to provide a vision for the future; one which can get the fans reengaged. In the end, this team is run by Jeff Wilpon, and he is the one who has to be accountable for the decisions made.
Speaking now is what a true leader would do. When put that way, we shouldn’t be holding our breath waiting for him to be accountable for the decisions made by him and the people he put in charge.
While Sandy Alderson had his faults as the Mets General Manager, he left the Mets in a very good position. The next General Manager would have at this disposal the assets and core necessary to build a real World Series contender sometime within the next three years. If done, properly, this could have been a stretch akin to the 1980s Mets.
First and foremost, there was a young core still under control. Michael Conforto rebounded from shoulder surgery in the second half, and he appeared ready to return to his All Star form. Brandon Nimmo had a breakout season where he was the second best hitter in the National League. Jeff McNeil emerged to hit .329/.381/.471 in 63 games showing a great contact rate while playing well at second base.
The team still had a very good starting rotation. Jacob deGrom is the reigning Cy Young winner. Zack Wheeler‘s second half was as good as deGrom’s. Steven Matz finally made 30 starts in a season. Noah Syndergaard came back from a finger issue and pitched well. Over his final eight starts of the season, he was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
The team also did not have an onerous long term deal which would stand in the way of really improving the team. After the 2019 season, the contracts of Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Anthony Swarzak, and Jason Vargas were set to come off the books. That was $32.5 million coming off the books. Combine that with Wheeler’s $5.975, and that was $38.475 coming off the books.
With respect to Vargas and Wheeler being pending free agents, the team did have internal options. Justin Dunn had a breakout season, and he re-emerged as a Top 100 prospect with an ETA of last 2019 or early 2020. With a similar 2019 season, you could see him realistically being part of the 2020 rotation or possibly the bullpen.
Behind Dunn, Anthony Kay and David Peterson had an opportunity to make a push to put themselves in a position to have an ETA of 2020. Between the three pitchers, the Mets realistically only needed one more starter via trade or free agency.
Those three pitchers were not the only near Major League ready talent the organization had. Pete Alonso was Major League ready. If he wasn’t, the team still had Dominic Smith who would spend the offseason addressing his medical issues and continuing to get into better shape.
This was all part of a very promising farm system which could have made a charge to the top of the game. In addition to the pitching and Alonso, the team had Jarred Kelenic, who appeared to be a once in a generation talent. Behind him was an impressive collection of teenage talent which included Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and Mark Vientos.
If handled properly, the 2021 or 2022 Mets could have had a rotation with deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and at least one of Dunn, Kay, Peterson, or possibly Simeon Woods Richardson. The infield would been Alonso, McNeil, and two from the aforementioned group of teenage prospects. That’s if Amed Rosario didn’t have a breakout season or move to the outfield. Speaking of the outfield, an outfield of Nimmo-Kelenic-Conforto would have been the envy of the game.
Sure, not all of the prospects would have developed, but you also could have had someone like a Ross Adolph or another prospect emerge much like we saw with McNeil in 2018. There was also the impending 2019 draft class to consider. The overriding point here was the Mets had a deep well of prospects, and they had payroll flexibility.
Whoever was going to be the next General Manager of the Mets was going to be, they were taking over a job in an enviable position. There were difficult decisions in front of them like which players do you extend, and how hard exactly do you push to contend in 2019 or 2020 knowing what was on the horizon. Certainly, you had to do some of that because taking over the job was likely going to require you to sell a vision of contending in 2019.
While players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would have been well worth pursuing, realistically speaking, the Wilpons were not going to green light those signings. On the trade front, the only player available worth the Mets top prospects was probably J.T. Realmuto, but the Marlins have never seemed inclined to be reasonable in a potential deal with the Mets.
With that in mind, whatever the vision for the new General Manager, there needed to be an element of restraint. No matter what the new General Manager did, they needed to maintain that level of payroll flexibility while also not damaging the farm system to pursue short term fixes and/or underselling prospects in order to find ways to circumvent not being able to spend.
Well, in one trade, just one, Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed. In trading Dunn, the Mets lost their lone near Major League ready starter. That was important in case of an injury in 2019, and it was important because with Wheeler and Vargas being free agents, the Mets needed to find at least one cheap option for the rotation.
Worse than that, the team added Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract. Over the next five years, the Mets had $20 million on the books for a player who was going to have a steep decline in one of those five years. That player was coming in at a position already filled by McNeil and at a position which was going to be filled with young talent during the duration of Cano’s contract. You also weren’t moving Cano to first due to Alonso and/or Smith.
Yes, this is where many point out the Mets obtained a cost controlled closer in Edwin Diaz. That’s true. However, he came with a debilitating contract. He also came at the expense of Kelenic. Certainly, a prospect of Kelenic’s level is worth more than a closer both in terms of value in a trade and just in terms of a future impact on a team.
Brodie Van Wagenen would then worsen things. He would trade prospects in Adolph, Adam Hill, Scott Manea, Felix Valerio, and Santana with Bobby Wahl to add J.D. Davis and Keon Broxton (who didn’t last two months with the team). No matter your impression of those players, that’s a big chunk of prospect depth for two players who were really nothing more than bench players.
That’s not a good allocation of your assets, especially when your organization does not have the ability to absorb Cano’s contract in stride and spend their way around losing this prospect depth. Anyone taking over the Mets job knew this, Brodie Van Wagenen included.
However, despite that knowledge he went all-in on 2019. He did not maintain the payroll flexibility needed to address the loss of two rotation spots, a third baseman, and a center fielder in free agency. He traded away not just two top 100 prospects but also quality depth prospects thereby harming their ability to add at this year’s trade deadline (if everything worked out) or to build the 2020 team. Mostly, he lost Kelenic who was a franchise altering prospect, who aside from Darryl Strawberry, the organization has not seen.
Overall, not only did Van Wagenen fail to build the 2019 Mets into a contender, he hamstrung the team’s ability to build that contender in 2020 and beyond. The reason is the team does not have the payroll flexibility or the prospect depth truly needed to overcome the way the Wilpons choose to operate their team.
Consider for a moment if Van Wagenen did nothing, the Mets would have been a fourth place team much like they are now. However, if he did actually do nothing, the Mets would have had a deep farm system and real payroll flexibility to attack this upcoming offseason. That’s all gone now, and seeing what he did to this organization in less than a year on the job, it’s difficult to have any faith he can turn things around and get the franchise back on track.