Simeon Woods Richardson
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.
If you were a Mets fan looking to latch onto something to give you hope that Carlos Beltran was the right hire, he gave you the line. Standing on the stage, wearing his old number 15, Beltran said, “I just can’t wait to rewrite our story.”
It shouldn’t be lost on anyone Beltran said that wearing the Mets pinstripe uniform. During his playing days, Beltran did not wear them often. Back then, the Mets mostly wore their black jerseys and the Brooklyn Dodger style jerseys. Going to the 2006 postseason, the Mets would not wear them until Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS. As we know, that series would end with Beltran striking out looking on an Adam Wainwright curveball.
That could be one way Beltran looks to rewrite our story.
But it’s more than that. Late in his Mets career, Beltran had to deal with injuries, and he would clash with the front office over career saving knee surgery. In the ensuing years, it does not seem the Mets have learned from this experience.
Matt Harvey‘s TOS was initially described as a mechanics issue, and he would pitch the ensuing year with what was described as an atrophied throwing arm. Noah Syndergaard was allowed to pitch without an MRI. The team fought with Yoenis Cespedes over his double heel surgery. The list goes well beyond this group.
They could rewrite that story too.
In 2011, Beltran was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Zack Wheeler. Wheeler is now a free agent, and he appears set to get a big free agent deal. For many, this is because Wheeler is the free agent who is most likely going to take off next year. This is not too dissimilar from Daniel Murphy.
Murphy was on the precipice of being an All-Star caliber player, and the Mets opted to let him walk and just take the draft pick compensation. The balance of power in the NL East shifted back to the Nationals when Murphy went there and the Mets thought they could replace him with Neil Walker.
The Mets learning that mistake and investing in their own players is a good place to rewrite the story.
Drawing that Murphy parallel out further, the Mets drafted Anthony Kay with that compensation pick. Kay had a great year in the minors this year leading to his being traded with Simeon Woods Richardson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. Like with the Walker trade and with the team trading Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, the Mets were looking for shortcuts to building a competitive roster while also not spending money.
This is a free agent class with Wheeler, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and a whole host of other players who could significantly improve this Mets team. In signing those players, the Mets will begin to rewrite the story.
Mostly, the Mets can rewrite the story by investing financially in their team, making smart moves to build a complete roster, allowing their injured players to heal, and by allowing their new manager to lead this team. If you look at it, the last time the Mets really did that was building that 2006 New York Mets team.
That team came within an at-bat of a World Series. With this Mets team having Beltran’s experience from that at-bat and all the ensued after, including his finally getting his ring with the 2017 Houston Astros, perhaps things will be much different. Hopefully, it never comes to that. In the end, that’s all the matters. We all want to see Carlos Beltran win a World Series ring with the New York Mets.
If that happens, Beltran will finally get the love and adoration from this fanbase like he always deserved. Sure, there is a significant portion of the fanbase who have and always will. Still, there are those who never let him off the hook for that strikeout or other events. If Beltran leads the Mets to victory, he will be universally beloved.
That would be the best way to end this story. Sorry, rewrite our story.
According to Baseball America, Major League Baseball is considering eliminating 25 percent of Minor League baseball for a number of reasons including the need to pay players a living wage. Part of that is the elimination of stateside short season minor league baseball.
For the Mets, that means no Kingsport Mets or Brooklyn Cyclones. With respect to the Cyclones, there are kinks which could be worked out allowing the Mets to keep them as an affiliate in some fashion.
But Kingsport, they’d be as good as gone.
Instead, they could be a part of a “Dream League.” That would be a league of now unaffiliated teams who catch undrafted college players. That’s a fairly steep drop in cache for affiliates like Kingsport.
For example, in 2018 Kingsport had significant prospects like Jarred Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Mark Vientos. This year, Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty played for Kingsport. That’s a reason to not just go to the ballpark but to also follow the team.
Then again, just having a team in Kingsport, TN is reason to follow the team.
The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves are nearly five hours away. The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are over six hours away. Those are the closest options meaning if you want to see a baseball game live your best bet is the Kingsport Mets.
The question is whether Kingsport can continue operations without an affiliation with the Mets and having a roster of players like T.J. Rivera at the point in Rivera’s career where he was a complete nobody with little to no chance of making it to the majors.
Remember, Kingsport needs a new park. While the Mets would help now, that won’t happen if Kingsport is not part of their system two or three years from now.
Where does that leave Kingsport? Well, it likely leaves them on the brink. They need a new ballpark, and with them needing to help pay player salaries in the new “Dream League,” you wonder just how much longer they can continue operations.
If they’re gone, the State of Tennessee has one fewer professional baseball team. The City of Kingsport loses baseball period. That’s a missed opportunity to grow the game in what is mostly football country.
Really, when you look at things, Baseball is the only league without a Major League team in that state. To that end, you’d wonder why baseball would not want to try to find a way to keep fans engaged in that region as much as they possibly can to grow the game.
In the end, this is about punishing players for not being able to afford living off wages below the poverty line. In doing that, Major League Baseball is going to cut its nose off to spite its face.
On Monday, Jeff Wilpon was at Belmont Park to attend a groundbreaking for the Islanders new arena. Through the Sterling Project Development, the Wilpons are investors and developers of this project. At the event, Jeff Wilpon did not receive, and as a result, he did not have to answer questions about the Mets.
On Tuesday, Jeff Wilpon held an unexpected press conference to announce Jerry Koosman was going to join Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza as the only Mets players to have their numbers retired. As this was a press conference honoring Koosman, there were questions about plans to retire his and other numbers in the future.
That’s two times this week Jeff Wilpon was with the media, and that’s two times he was not subjected to the questions which needs to be asked of him and the franchise.
Despite all the “Come and Get Us!” bravado from Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets best case scenario for this season is a third place finish more than 10 games out in the division. This is after the franchise traded away top prospects in Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson in connection with more interesting and talented prospects.
Those trades come with payroll issues, which is largely created by Robinson Cano being owed $100 million. There are reports about the lack of a real budget to address the deficiencies in the bullpen and the bench in addition to the team needing to make a decision on Zack Wheeler.
Speaking of the payroll, the purportedly all-in Mets who are in the largest market in the world have a $158 million payroll. According to Spotrac, that ranks only eighth in the Majors. It should be noted that includes David Wright‘s $15 million salary which was restructured. It also includes Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary, which Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported, was covered by an insurance policy reimbursing 75% of his salary.
When you back out Wright’s $15 million and the $21.75 million reimbursed to the Mets on Cespedes’ salary, the Mets actual payroll was $121.25 million. That would rank 20th in the Majors. That’s not remotely all-in, and the owners of the team should have to face questions why they aren’t reinvesting money in the team while they also have the money to invest in other ventures.
There are a number of other issues facing the team like the status of Mickey Callaway‘s future as well as what the team plans to do with Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto. There is plenty more beyond that.
The fact is Jeff Wilpon is always there when there is something to celebrate. He’s not there to answer the tough questions facing the team. He and his General Manager have actively denied requests to speak with the media when there have been questions facing the team which need to be answered.
At some point, the media is going to have to stop letting him hide in plain sight. If he is only going to make himself available on limited occasions, those occasions need to be used to get answers to questions which need answering. After all, he’s the Mets COO, and when he attends events, he is attending them as the Mets COO making it more than fair game to ask those questions which should be directed to the Mets COO.
Off the top of my head, I remember discussing Marcus Stroman, Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods Richardson, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Tim Tebow, Dilson Herrera, David Thompson, Danny Espinosa, Rene Rivera, Ali Sanchez, Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano, Zack Wheeler, Ruben Tejada, and others.
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.
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.