At this moment in time, with perhaps a very minor move or two, it would appear the Mets are done adding pieces this offseason. The different holes in the roster have been noted, but what we have not really seen done is an examination of the Mets decision making process. It is something which should be done more earnestly.
Dumping Swarzak’s And Not Frazier’s Contract
Purportedly, one of the selling points of the trade to obtain Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was to move the contracts of Jay Bruce (2 years, $28 million) and Anthony Swarzak ($8.5 million). While moving Bruce was certainly understandable, it was curious the Mets moved Swarzak instead of Todd Frazier ($9 million).
As we have seen relievers tend to be mercurial, and it is quite possible with a healthier season, Swarzak could have been much more productive in 2019. Depending on the moves the team made in the offseason, he reasonably could have been the last man in the bullpen.
As for Frazier, we have seen the Mets make his spot on the roster tenuous. Pete Alonso appears poised to be the first baseman sooner rather than later, and the Mets brought in Jed Lowrie with the purpose of playing him everyone, albeit at different positions across teh diamond.
Seeing there being a multitude of free agents who could play third base, wouldn’t it have been better to move Frazier over Swarzak? As we saw, the Mets could have replaced Frazier with Lowrie. Other options included Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The Mets could have accomplished the same versatility they sought to accomplish by signing multiple players from this group, and they could have had platoon options over Frazier’s bat. It’s noteworthy with the exception of Moustakas these are switch hitters making them more useful bench players than a player who has never played a reserve role in his career.
Why Didn’t McNeil Play Winter Ball?
The very minute the Mets obtained Cano, it was clear Jeff McNeil was going to play some outfield. Now, it could be argued the amount of outfield he played depended entirely on the other moves made this offseason, but nevertheless, the plan was always to have McNeil see some time in the outfield.
Considering McNeil played exactly 17.0 innings in left field in Triple-A last year and just 56.1 innings in the outfield in his six years in the minors, you would have thought the team would have found a spot for him to play winter ball to hone his craft. After all, the team did try to get Dominic Smith time playing outfield in the Dominican Winter League (it didn’t work out).
Now, because the team couldn’t make any moves to improve the outfield, they are going to play McNeil in left all Spring with the hopes he can get up to speed over the course of less than two months worth of games. It should also be noted this decision is moving Michael Conforto from his best defensive position to right, and it is forcing Brandon Nimmo to center, a position the Mets have been reticent to play him at the Major League level.
Why Trade Plawecki if d’Arnaud Wasn’t Ready?
In his four year career, we have all seen Kevin Plawecki‘s warts, but through it all, he has established himself as a viable backup catcher at the Major League level. While the Mets may have felt the need to choose between him and Travis d’Arnaud, that decision would not have been forced upon the Mets until the moment d’Arnaud was ready to play. As we see now, d’Arnaud is not ready to play.
Instead of keeping Plawecki, they traded him for an underwhelming return in the form of Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett. The only player of value in the trade was Lockett, and he had been previoulsy traded for Ignacio Feliz, an 18 year old who signed for an $85,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.
Instead of hedging their bets wisely, the team instead signed Devin Mesoraco. Say what you will about Plawecki, but he is far superior to Mesoraco. He’s a better pitch framer, and he is the better hitter (93 to 92 wRC+). And before anyone invokes Jacob deGrom, you need to explain how Mesoraco was the reason why deGrom was so great.
Where Are the Extensions?
There has been a growing trend in baseball for teams to lock up their young players. For example, the Yankees have already locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they are working on locking up Dellin Betances as well. These actions promise to keep the Yankees core together while keeping them cost controlled to what promises to be a team friendly discount.
At the moment, the Mets have free agency concerns of their own. After 2019, Zack Wheeler will be a free agent. After 2020, deGrom will be a free agent. After 2021, a significant portion of the Mets current Mets core will be free agents with Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be headed to free agency.
We know deGrom has put himself on the front burner, but what are the Mets doing besides him? After all, if CAA is in town, it means the team can negotiate extensions for both deGrom and Syndergaard. There is also nothing preventing them from reaching out to the agents for the other players.
Really, this is the biggest part of the offseason which needs examination. What exactly is the plan going forward? Do the Mets have intentions of building something much sustaining, or is this a one year gamble? Are the Mets playing things out in 2019 and reassessing. At this moment, we don’t know. Hopefully, the Mets do.
As most are aware, the Dustbowl refers to a period of severe drought which destroyed farms across six different states. To boil it down to an overly simplistic point, the situation was created because farmers did not understand how to farm and maintain the land. They sought immediate profit without an understanding of how their actions would have a long term impact.
It’s like what Brodie Van Wagenen is doing with the Mets.
Van Wagenen’s first major move as the General Manager was to trade Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn two former first round picks who are also two top 100 prospects, for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano along with $100 million of the $120 million remaining in his contract.
Also included in the deal was Gerson Bautista who was the prize from the Addison Reed trade. It also so happens Bautista throws near triple digits, and he started to put some of his control issues behind him in the Arizona Fall League.
In terms of the farm system, it was a big hit. Agree or disagree with the trade, the Mets opted for the short term goal of improving the 2019 roster, and the expense was two of your best prospects. While you could disagree with the move, you could understand the rationale.
What you can’t understand is the Mets trade with the Astros.
In J.D. Davis, the Mets obtained an infielder who hit .194/.260/.321 in 181 plate appearances. While he’s put up much better power numbers in the minors, talent evaluators believe he swings and misses often and struggles hitting good fastballs. (Mike Puma, New York Post).
While you may believe he just needs more playing time to succeed, you also have to understand it’s not coming with the Mets. Davis, should he even make the Opening Day roster, will have to fight Peter Alonso, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and whoever else the Mets have on their bench for at-bats. Put simply, he’s not getting the at-bats he needs to succeed.
As for Sam Haggerty, no one truly believes he’s much of a prospect.
In exchange for that, the Mets traded Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana, which is almost universally believed to be an overpay. Santana was the real prize obtained by the Astros as he’s a player many scouts are high on:
11) Luis Santana, 2B, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2016, hit .348/.446/.471 with 27 walks, 23 strikeouts in 204 at-bats in Appalachian League; observers praised pure hitting skills and plate discipline, mixed opinion on power in 5-8, 175 frame
— John Sickels (@MinorLeagueBall) December 20, 2018
Santana is a two-time Sterling Award winner and was considered to be among the top 10 prospects in a much improved Mets farm system.
With respect to Adolph, he was the steal of the draft. The 12th round pick proved the skills which made him the MAC player of the year translated to professional baseball. He hit .276/.348/.509 for Brooklyn, was the MVP of the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, and he was considered by Baseball America to be the best defensive outfielder in the Mets farm system.
With respect to Manea, even with T.J. Rivera making it to the majors, it is difficult to buy in on undrafted players. However, Manea did hit .261/.368/.432, and the old Mets regime noticed with J.P. Riccardi saying, “He has got a chance to be something. He has opened up some eyes this year. He has got power and a pretty good idea of what he is doing behind the plate.” (Mike Puma, Baseball America). The Astros also noticed and are apparently very high on Manea:
Jeff Luhnow called catcher Scott Manea a "key piece" to the deal for the Astros, who are in obvious need of catching depth.
"We need more guys. Manea is a guy that we think can move pretty quickly and has a chance to be a big league catcher. That was a big part of it for us.”
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) January 6, 2019
The Astros are one of, if not the, best scouting organization in baseball. For their part, the Mets have a General Manager with zero front office or player development experience. There was an overhaul of the Mets minor league coaching staff before Van Wagenen was even hired.
Recently, Fangraphs reported, “Several league sources have told us that the Mets don’t scout beneath full-season ball.” As a result, the Mets “simply lack reports on a lot of players,” which will include two of the players they just traded.
Point is, Van Wagenen is flying blind here. He’s making decisions on players with insufficient information, and he’s making important decisions about their and the Mets future. Teams like the Astros are more than happy to take advantage.
This may be a problem created by a team too cheap to keep Wilmer Flores or sign any one of the cheaper free agents available like Mark Reynolds, but it’s also a problem of making bad decisions predicated on little, no, or bad information.
The Mets are destroying the farm, and they’re doing it on bad information. If this team doesn’t start spending, there’s going to be a lot of fallow years ahead for the Mets. It’s going to be a Dust Bowl driving people away from Citi Field.