Dec 20

Just How Much Better Are The Mets?

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed the Mets would compete in 2019, and his early moves dictated his seriousness in following through with that promise. Trading for closer Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano, with whom the Mets will be on the hook for roughly $100 million remaining on the latter’s contract was indeed a big splash.

In addition, the Mets signed catcher Wilson Ramos to fill a significant void, outfielder Rajai Davis to a minor league contract to compete in center field, and brought back former closer Jeurys Familia to fill a set-up role. Combined, they are appreciably better than the team that finished 22 games under .500 last year, but not close enough to be the contender Van Wagenen hopes.

However, the three teams that finished ahead of them in the National League East last season also improved. Atlanta added third baseman Josh Donaldson and brought back catcher Brian McCann; Washington added lefty starter Patrick Corbin, but doesn’t appear to have a chance to bring back Bryce Harper; and Philadelphia added outfielder Andrew McCutcheon and second baseman Jean Segura, and will host Manny Machado today. They are also reportedly interested in Harper.

Should the Phillies land both Machado and Harper it would make them the odds-on favorites to win the East, ahead of the Braves and Nationals, with the Mets slated for fourth place regardless of what they do, and the Marlins last, despite whom they bring in for catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Ramos was a better signing then Realmuto because it enabled the Mets to keep prospects outfielder Brandon Nimmo and shortstop Amed Rosario, or possibly Noah Syndergaard. Dealing Syndergaard was never going to happen, but not surrendering players was essential to the Mets, who are thin in major league ready talent.

I wrote at the time of the Cano-Diaz trade, which enabled the Mets to shed the remaining $26 million left on Jay Bruce’s contract (that would amount to only one year of Cano’s deal). I didn’t like the trade – still don’t – but added we had to wait on the rest of Van Wagenen’s offseason to draw a full conclusion.

I’m not crazy about bringing back Familia, who will go into the set-up role. I would have preferred they make a serious run at Andrew Miller, which would fill the void of a left-handed reliever. Miller was off last year because of inflammation in his right knee which accounted for two stints on the disabled list, including one of 60 days.

Philadelphia is also a player for Miller, as are a half-dozen other teams. With the money earmarked for Cano and Familia, the Mets are on the outside looking in on Miller, who worked 96.2 innings over the past two seasons.

They still have a myriad of questions: Ramos has a long history of injuries; Peter Alfonso is untested at first base; Cano is 36 and on a downward slide; Rosario has offensive issues; Yoenis Cespedes will be out until at least the All-Star break; the bullpen is still thin despite Ruiz and Familia; and the rotation, outside of Jacob deGrom, is more potential than proven performance.

Van Wagenen has talked a good game so far and the Mets have been on their fair share of back pages but have won nothing, yet. The Mets seem more inclined to make lower profile deals than a blockbuster trade or sign a major free agent.

What the Mets have now is what they’ll likely go into spring training with and that isn’t good enough to contend, which we already knew.

Nov 27

Adding Machado, Harper Or Cano Won’t Be Enough To Lift The Mets

New York sports-radio is all for the Mets signing Manny Machado, but that would be one of the worst things the organization could do. Then again, New York sports-talk radio is for a lot of things that don’t make sense.

Signing both Machado and Bryce Harper would set the franchise back over a decade, by which time all those young, vaunted arms would likely be gone.

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed the Mets would be competitive this season, but adding Machado or Harper won’t make that happen because that expensive a power bat doesn’t begin to fill all the holes facing them.

There are numerous questions surrounding the rotation beginning with Jacob deGrom who is coming off a historic season. The thing about historic seasons is they usually happen once. While it is doubtful deGrom will duplicate his 1.70 ERA, but it would be great if he won more than 10 games even if it means having a higher ERA.

Zack Wheeler demonstrated breakout signs, but can he continue to progress? So far, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard have been an uncashed check regarding their potential. Will it ever happen for either of them? The New York papers have been loaded with articles about the Mets shopping Syndergaard, but their asking price is exorbitant.

That leaves another rotation question: Who will be the fifth starter?

The bullpen needs to be completely rebuilt, which means at least six more questions.

The Mets’ best catcher last season regarding defense, game calling and controlling the running game was Devon Mesaraco, but there’s been no mention of bringing him back. There has been talk of trading for the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto, but Miami wants a haul in return. Kevin Plawecki figures to come back but the odds are long for Travis d’Arnaud.

First base is another wide-open position as Dominick Smith hasn’t proven worthy of getting the position long-term. We know the Mets aren’t sold on Wilmer Flores. The Diamondbacks will listen to offers for Paul Goldschmidt. I’d rather have him than Realmuto, but he’s also going to cost plenty, both in terms of prospects and salary.

Seattle is actively trying to trade second baseman Robinson Cano, and in hope of finding a sucker reached out to the Mets. Cano is 36, coming off a PED suspension and with $120 million remaining on his contract through 2023. Cano also has a reputation from his years with the Yankees for not hustling. That hasn’t changed much from his years in Seattle. Do you want that kind of player on the Mets?

Trading for Cano would be a catastrophic deal of monumental proportions, especially since second base isn’t a priority. Personally, I’d rather have Jeff McNeil, who hustles and has a high on-base percentage.

Third base belongs to Todd Frazier unless the Mets can do better, and that doesn’t mean Machado, whose, ”I’m not Johnny Hustle,” quote during the playoffs has come back to haunt him. The only thing worse than saying something so stupid was his trying to walk it back. If you say something like that. at least own up to it.

The Mets are also open for a right-handed hitting outfielder with Yoenis Cespedes out until at least the All-Star break.

Cano at $120 million and Machado and Harper at a reported $300 million each represent a lot of money which can go a long way at answering all their questions, which I have at least 16 at last count.

If the Mets are going to sign anybody to a long-term mega contract, it will go to deGrom, and even that won’t help them. Competitive isn’t what the Mets are going to be in 2019. Not even close.

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.

 

Sep 19

Mets Offense As Bad As The Numbers Say

The Mets were shut out for the 12th time this season tonight in Philadelphia, which along with injuries and their bullpen, accurately defines the Mets’ most serious deficiency this summer.

The offensive breakdowns can be attributed to injuries primarily to Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto.

The rankings, for lack of a better word, are just ugly. With ten games remaining, they rank:

26th in runs scored with 646, with only the Padres, Giants and Marlins in the National League behind them.

27th in hits with 1,212, ahead of the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Padres.

18th in doubles with 246, 52 behind league leader Atlanta.

19th in homers with 164.

21st in RBI with 619.

12th highest with 1,301 strikeouts, which has long been a franchise problem.

22nd with 64 stolen bases.

28th in batting average at .236.

21st in on-base percentage at .312.

24th with a .704 OPS.

24th in total bases with 2,014.

19th in extra-base hits with 442.

It has been said you can make statistics say anything you want, but there’s no way you can make them say the Mets have had a good year at the plate.

WHEELER SHUTDOWN: As suggested here a few days ago, the Mets have shut down Zack Wheeler for the remainder of the season. Manager Mickey Callaway said Wheeler has nothing left to prove.

“We’re really excited about the year he had, and we feel like we’d probably be taking the best care of him we can if we shut him down at this point,” Callaway said.

Corey Oswalt will take Wheeler’s spot in the rotation, beginning Saturday in Washington.

Wheeler didn’t pitch in 2015-16 following Tommy John surgery and had last year cut short with stress on his arm. After a rocky start this year, he has a 9-1 record and 1.68 ERA in 11 starts in the second half.

“[My] body after this long is starting to wear down a little bit,” Wheeler said. “But if I really needed to for the playoff push or something, I could definitely go out there and finish it up. That’s not why I’m stopping. It’s just being smart, really.

“I’ve done some thinking, and I wish the first part of the season was more like the second part. Obviously, I think overall it was a good season for me. A bit of a learning experience at the beginning. I made some adjustments, and I was able to take off the second half.”

TEBOW TO RETURN: Tim Tebow is expected to return to the Mets organization in 2019.

Tebow underwent season-ending surgery on his right hand in July to repair a fractured hamate bone. In 84 games at Class AA Binghamton, Tebow hit .273 with six homers and 36 RBI and started as the DH in the Eastern League All-Star Game.