BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY- Of all teams, the New York Mets kicked off the 2019 Trade Season on July 28th (three days before the deadline) when the Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Marcus Stroman and cash to New York Mets for LHP Anthony Kay and RHP Simeon Woods Richardson. In doing so, the Mets, with their starting pitching-heavy roster, cornered the starting pitching market- was Stroman there to stay or was he there for a quick deadline flip?
After the deadline, Mets’ general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was asked by WFAN afternoon drive host Mike Francesa what New York’s plan was for Stroman. Van Wagenen responded: “Our focus really was not to grab a player and then move a player. We felt like Marcus was somebody we were going to have be a part of here. His local roots, his charisma, I think he’s a perfect fit for us.”
And so, the Mets assembled a lethal starting rotation for the remainder of the 2019 season with the goal of earning a wild card spot: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Zack Wheeler, and JasonVargas/Steven Matz.
That is… until a day later, on July 29, Van Wagenen traded an MLB caliber, input-into-your-rotation-tomorrow pitcher in LHP Jason Vargas to the division rival Philadelphia Phillies for Austin Bossart, a Double-A catcher. Bossart has a .198 batting average and .308 on-base percentage for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. He also is a former college teammate of Bradley Wilpon…. Jeff Wilpon’s son.
Mets take one step forward with acquisition of Stroman yesterday.
Mets take one step backward with acquisition of a AA catcher (for a ready-made MLB pitcher) today.
— Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan) July 29, 2019
All in all, Van Wagenen made the right decision in not shipping off Syndergaard, who is entering his third year of arbitration (and won’t be an unrestricted free agent until the 2022 season). Syndergaard is absolutely vital to the future of this team and should not be dealt in the off-season unless for an outstanding return package which includes a combination of prospects and MLB-caliber impact player(s) who are household name(s).
Zack Wheeler, on the other hand, was a perfect rental player for a team looking to put themselves over-the-top for World Series contention:
Astros, Rays and surprise — Yankees — are talking about Zack Wheeler. NYY skeptical Mets would trade with them but they have been talking at least.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 31, 2019
Van Wagenen did not deal Wheeler, who is set to become a free agent at the end of this season. This, to me, means that the Mets are looking to re-sign him at or before season’s end. Or, the only other option is to send him a qualifying offer that, if he turns it down, the Mets can receive a draft-pick compensation. Furthermore, no reports have come out yet as to what packages teams were offering to the Mets in exchange for Wheeler. Once that information leaks out, a better assessment of Van Wagenen’s decision can be made.
Why didn’t the Mets make a run at Nicholas Castellanos of the Detroit Tigers before the trade deadline? He ultimately was traded within the last minute of the 4pm deadline to the Chicago Cubs along with cash considerations and, in return, the Tigers received two right-handed pitching prospects. Hey, the Mets have those, too.
2020 AND BEYOND
As far as next year for the Mets, with the roster in-tact the way it is now (taking into account free agency and barring any winter trades), the Mets enter the 2020 season with the 11th highest payroll in the league ($123,666,666). Robinson Cano’s full no-trade clause and adjusted $20,250,000 salary has terrorized the Mets all season long and will continue to do so through the end of the 2023 season. Cano, at that juncture, will be 40 years old. Next season, Cano, alone, will freeze 16.37% of the team’s payroll!
What about Dilson Herrera? Will he ever be given a shot to make the big-league club with Cano there? Cano, who is a lock at second base (and at cleanup in the lineup) despite his vastly underperforming season? Cano is batting .063 under his career average and his on-base percentage is .071 below his career average.
Now, depending on how much wider the Wilpons will open up the pocketbook, there are some big-time players the Mets could pick up in free agency that will make them instant NL East contenders (barring any winter trades).
- First, the Mets must buy out Juan Lagares’s $9,500,000 contract for $500,000. Then, they can look to reinvest that money in free agency… namely, an outfielder that carries a big stick.
- Michael Conforto has big league experience in all three outfield positions and his fielding percentages range is only five hundredths of a point. He can play anywhere.
- The Mets should be “all-in” on, for next year marquee outfielder: (unrestricted free agent) Marcell Ozuna.
- Ozuna’s projected market value ($19.6 million) may be too steep for the Mets, so here are my top three “economic” 2020 free agent options for them: Cameron Maybin, Corey Dickerson, and Hunter Pence.
Obviously, next year’s moves are predicated on how the rest of this year plays out. Van Wagenen, in a note he penned to Mets fans, is encouraged: “We’re excited for the rest of this year and to keep this momentum going.” Many fans thought he should have punctuated it with a new rallying call for Mets fans everywhere: “LFGM!” First baseman Pete Alonso, in a similar post, perhaps riled fans even stronger, writing: “The rest of the season is going to be a really fun, wild and memorable ride….Our goal is to make history. We strive every day to be great and nothing less.”
— Athlete Logos (@athletelogos) July 31, 2019