Brodie Van Wagenen promised the first move wouldn’t be the Mets’ last one this off-season.
So what’s the new GM’s next move?
Maybe we’ll find out during baseball’s Winter Meetings, which begin Monday in Las Vegas, also known as Bryce Harper’s hometown. The game’s annual gathering is a prime opportunity for futher roster reshaping, beyond the Mets acquisitions of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
Whatever happens, it’s good to know that Van Wagenen is intent on more action because the Mets need to do more – much more – if they are going to fulfill his mandate to be contenders now.
With that in mind, we present a checklist of sorts for Van Wagenen and his lieutenants in Vegas. They should be busy at least laying the groundwork on moves to address these areas of need.
1. Take some Cys of relief
Diaz is great. But the closer is only part of the solution to a facet of the club that helped wreck 2018.
The Mets bullpen had a 4.96 ERA last season, the worst in franchise history and the third-worst in the majors. Mets relievers gave up 82 homers, tied for the fourth-most of any MLB pen, and allowed an opponent OPS of .776, 49 points higher than the MLB average. With 36 relief losses, the Mets tied the 1980 club for the most by a bullpen in team history.
There’s plenty of inventory out there and the Mets should aim high by adding a top tier hurler from a group that includes Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson and Zach Britton. Dip into the lower tier and ink someone such as former Boston setup man Joe Kelly, too.
2. Get the lineup right (handed)
In a conversation about the Mets lineup following the Cano deal, the first thing a scout from another team said was, “Too many lefties. They need a right-handed bat.” Cano joins Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Dom Smith as prominent Met left-handed hitters and the Mets were 29th in OPS against lefties last year at .649, 71 points below the MLB average.
If first-base prospect Peter Alonso is ready, that will help. The Mets need an outfielder, too, and Van Wagenen has acknowledged interest in A.J. Pollock, a righty hitter with an injury history. Maybe Andrew McCutchen, another righty, makes sense this time. Does switch-hitting utility man Marwin Gonzalez fit? How the Mets resolve their catching issues could impact how un-righty they are, too. Speaking of catching…
3. Don’t get caught just thinking J.T.
The Mets are exploring all potential upgrades at catcher, which includes trade scenarios with the Marlins for their star, J.T. Realmuto. If that doesn’t work out, they have to have other options. The Mets allowed the second-most stolen bases in MLB last season (134), two behind Toronto. While the pitchers deserve plenty of blame for that, getting better behind the plate might help.
“I think they’ve got to get a catcher,” the scout said. “That’s been a problem for a couple of years.” Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy are potential free agent choices who might offer some offense. But Martin Maldonado, a defense-first free agent, might offer value, too, especially to a team with a good rotation. He has a rep as a strong pitch-framer and threw out 48.6% of opposing stealers last year, easily tops in baseball. Do they pair him with one of Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki?
4. Do a Bryce check
This is not a troll job of Mets fans, nor a tweak of Van Wagenen to place him across the table from Scott Boras, the superagent who was critical of Van Wagenen’s move from agent to a front office. It’s simply business. There’s no excuse for not sitting down with the rep for every big-time free agent, especially for a team from New York. Talk is not just cheap – it’s free.
Find out if Harper’s got some heretofore-unknown lust to play in Queens. Maybe that changes the price tag. Based on the interview Nationals’ owner Mark Lerner gave to a Washington radio station Friday afternoon, it doesn’t appear Harper will remain a Nat.
Yes, during a WFAN interview last week, Van Wagenen made it seem unlikely – at best – that the Mets would ink Harper or the season’s other mega-free agent, Manny Machado. But it doesn’t hurt to do some fact-finding in person. Based on the way Van Wagenen talks, he’s willing to consider anything. Good. It’s just information.
As a talent evaluator from an opposing club put it: “At least you’d know the parameters. Then you can walk away.”
5. Depth charges
Van Wagenen has said the Mets don’t want to rely on “ifs” anymore, so he needs to find depth for both the outfield and the rotation in case of injury. Free agent Drew Pomeranz had a lost season in Boston last year. Could he be rotation insurance? Perhaps Rajai Davis or Cameron Maybin can help in the outfield or maybe the Mets seek a reunion with Austin Jackson.
We’ll see what happens next week, but at least it seems like the Mets will be busy.
“I give the guy credit,” the evaluator said. “They made a deal right away. But he has to follow up with it. I really think the Mets are going to be active, because he has to show the fans they’ll try to win.
“You can’t stand pat with the team they’ve had.”