Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Oct 30

Van Wagenen And Wilpon Gloss Over Conflict Of Interest Issue

Both former-agent and new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon glossed over the conflict-of-interest issue at today’s Citi Field press conference.

As a player agent for Creative Artists Agency, Van Wageman’s responsibility was to negotiate the most lucrative contract for his clients. As the 13th general manager in Mets’ history, his responsibility is to build a team, which isn’t always in the best interests of the players he’s worked for over the past 18 years.

It was one of the first questions asked this afternoon, and before Van Wagenen could answer, Wilpon interrupted and claimed he spoke with the Commissioner’s Office and Major League Players Association chief Tony Clark and said, ”we have provisions in Brodie’s contract to deal with any conflicts of interest.”

What those provisions are, neither Wilpon nor Van Wagenen would say. Van Wagenen, who, as expected, appeared polished and highly professional, said: ”The goals between players and management are more in line than people think.”

How so, Van Wagenen wouldn’t elaborate, leading to speculation there’s still believed to be a cobra-mongoose relationship between the two sides.

This summer, Van Wagenen said the Mets should sign his top client Jacob deGrom to a long-term extension and reiterated that today: “I believe Jacob deGrom is an incredible talent and I hope to keep him for a long time.”

As deGrom’s agent, the pitcher undoubtedly shared highly confidential information with his agent, such as how long he plans to say; what he would sign for; his problems with management and manager Mickey Callaway; issues with his teammates; and issues with playing in New York, all which the player wouldn’t want Mets management and ownership to know.

However, Van Wagenen is now part of Mets’ management, and since he can’t un-hear something, what will he do now?

Oct 29

It’s Official: Mets Name Agent Brodie Van Wagenen As New GM

The New York Mets are rebuilding again and in a most unusual way. The Mets announced today their next general manager will be Brodie Van Wagenen, who is the agent for Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes.

Van Wagenen, the son-in-law of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, will be introduced Tuesday afternoon in a Citi Field press conference. Van Wagenen beat out former Texas and Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, and Tampa Bay senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom.

The Mets get points for creativity, but if this doesn’t work out there’s no telling how far back the organization will fall. Especially if things fall south with deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

”Brodie is an extremely knowledgeable, creative, progressive and collaborative leader, who I’m confident will lead us toward sustainable success,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in a statement released by the team. ”I’m very excited for our fans to hear and see the direction Brodie outlined for us.”

Wilpon’s father, Fred, was reportedly behind Melvin, but ultimately was sold on Van Wagenen, citing his character.

”Jeff brought forward an array of candidates and we all agreed that Brodie’s high character, blend of analytics, scouting and development ideas illustrate why he will be successful in this role,” Wilpon Sr., said.

Van Wagenen is an unknown commodity and admits this will be a challenge.

”I’m beyond excited and motivated to take on this new challenge,” said Van Wagenen, who has a reported four-year deal. ”I want to thank Fred and Jeff for believing in my vision and abilities. I look forward to beginning the progress of getting the Mets to contend for a championship year after year.”

Van Wagenen’s first challenge is to get the Wilpons to spend, notably on his former client, deGrom. During the All-Star break, Van Wagenen said the Mets should offer deGrom a pricey extension. Now, he’ll find himself sitting across the table with one of his former colleagues at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) arguing against a landmark deal.

That change in Van Wagenen’s responsibilities at the negotiating table also raises the potential of a conflict of interest, and that concerns the Major League Baseball Players Association. 

”I won’t tell you how many calls or how many texts I have gotten,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said at the World Series over the weekend. ”I will simply suggest to you that our membership is paying attention.”

So are a lot of people in the industry as this is more than just hiring a new general manager, but the Mets taking a tremendous gamble.

 

Jul 18

DeGrom, Mets At Impasse

Jacob deGrom left the ball in the Mets’ court, where it could stay for the next two years. DeGrom, easily the Mets have to offer, said he wants to remain with the team, but with the qualifier if the feeling isn’t mutual, they should trade him.

While this issue has been brewing for weeks, things boiled over at the All-Star Game when deGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said if the Mets weren’t willing to give him an extension they should explore trade options.

“I think we expressed that we’ve enjoyed it here,’’ deGrom said in Washington. “We’d like to stay. It’s up to the Mets. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and enjoyed winning here. I’d like to get back to that.”

DE GROM: Biding his time. (AP)

DE GROM: Biding his time. (AP)

However, the Mets aren’t close to returning to 2015, when deGrom was brilliant in the playoffs, but they lost to Kansas City in five games in the World Series. The Mets lost the wild-card game to San Francisco in 2016.

Perhaps most distressing, but emblematic of the Mets these days, no one from the Mets reached out to him or Van Wagenen. Also emblematic of the Mets is their propensity to delay until they absolutely have to make a decision.

DeGrom doesn’t anticipate negativity from the Mets.

“I think the way we put it was, we, first of all, would like to stay here,’’ deGrom said. “I have a good relationship with the Mets. We’ve had one my whole career here. We were just expressing that we’d like to stay here and be a part of the future here. So, I think the other thing, that was kind of the option. If they don’t see [us together] in the future, get what you can for me. But our main goal would be to stay here.”

DeGrom said he can live with the Mets neither extending him or trading him and letting this play out until he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. He even envisions the Mets being competitive by that time.

“Look at how many guys got hurt this year already,’’ deGrom said. “[If] you’ve got those guys on the field, they come up in a couple of situations, we probably win a few more ballgames.”

Where have I heard that before? And, haven’t we seen the Mets delay until they had to make a decision, and with deGrom that’s in over two years?

Nov 08

Amazing Alderson Still Needs Clarity On Cespedes

I do not accept the term “undecided,” whether it be at the voting booth today or Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s stance on whether to bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

After all this time, you can’t honestly say you flipped a coin at the voting booth. Just the same, I don’t buy for a second Alderson needs more clarity on whether the Mets should bring back the high maintenance Cespedes.

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

The Mets didn’t reach an agreement with Cespedes last year until Jan. 26, and that resolution meant giving him an opt-out after one season.

Here’s what Alderson told reporters at the start of the general manager’s meetings in Arizona: “I think realistically, from our standpoint this year, things will probably have to resolve themselves a lot sooner than they did last year.

“But it’s hard to predict where things will go. Things could go quickly. Things could linger. But certainly, from our standpoint, between now and the winter meetings, and through the end of the winter meetings, would be the right time to get some of these issues resolved. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.”

What Alderson is saying is so far all the leverage in these negotiations belongs to Cespedes. These meetings will linger if Alderson doesn’t take control of the negotiations.

Alderson admitted he long thought Cespedes would opt out of the contract and test the market. Hell, he should have figured it when he signed him in January. Alderson is a smart guy. If he knew Cespedes was leaving, then he could also forecast the financial market for him and what teams might be interested. Above all, he should know by now whether the Mets can live with Cespedes’ antics and if they can afford him.

Alderson should already know the answers to the following questions:

* One, do the Mets want Cespedes back?

* Two, are they willing to put up with the negatives Cespedes brings to the table, which includes stunting the opportunity for Michael Conforto?

* Three, how much money are they willing to throw at him at the expense of their other issues?

If Alderson doesn’t know the answers by now, he’s not doing a good job. It’s not all that hard to figure out.

Alderson met with Cespedes’ representatives last week, but said salary was not discussed. Why the hell not? Alderson said the meeting was to inform Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, of the Mets’ interest.

Reportedly, the Mets are concerned about giving a contract of more than four seasons because, 1) they aren’t sure Cespedes will give maximum effort after getting the security blanket, and 2) Cespedes’ injury history last year (only 132 games played).

If they are worried about injury and effort, they why are they going through this? Those are serious red flags.

If the Mets really want Cespedes back they have to assume control of the negotiations. They have to play hardball. The $17.2 million qualifying offer given Cespedes and Neil Walker was to assure receiving a compensatory draft pick. That’s the first step and it was to protect themselves.

The key to is for Alderson to get Cespedes’ demands now and not wait for the market to develop. Don’t dance with this guy. Alderson needs to set a deadline, tell the Cespedes camp what his best offer is, and other issues, such as playing center field, receiving rehab and golfing.

The Mets have a myriad of issues to address this winter and dancing with Cespedes into the new year will hamper those efforts. Fixing their bullpen which they must assume will not include Jeurys Familia for at least the season’s first 30 games; upgrading their catching; and ascertaining the health of their young rotation are all more important issues than Cespedes. They can always get a cheaper right-handed bat in the market and figure a refreshed Jay Bruce will fill the offensive void left by Cespedes leaving. That void can also be further filled with Conforto playing more.

Frankly, Alderson’s most important offseason decision is to decide just how good are the Mets. Was the World Series in 2015 a fluke or are they an 87-win team, capable of contending but not going much further than the wild card?

If you think the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, think again.

Cespedes was hot in August of 2015 and surely the Mets wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him. However, it was Daniel Murphy and solid pitching that took them to the World Series.

Cespedes disappeared that posteason, much as he did for much of this September when he hit .214 with a .297 on-base percentage, four homers and 18 RBI. Unquestionably Cespedes had glittering moments, but it must be remembered in the second half of the season, with every game important, he hit .246 with ten homers and 34 RBI.

If you believe the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, ask yourself what have they really won with him? Is getting to the World Series and losing that big of a deal?

So, if Cespedes still is a Met priority, Alderson has to set the financial parameters early, making sure the numbers – both money and years – is in the form of a take-it-or-leave-it format. And, when the deadline date is reached – perhaps at the end of the Winter Meetings – walk away.

Like I said, the Mets have a lot of work to do and they can’t afford to let Cespedes impede what must be done.

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