New York Mets Next Moves
The New York Mets have had an interesting offseason. In typical Mets fashion, the biggest news was not from player additions but from other things. Instead of making headlines by bringing in new players the Mets were in the news for other newsworthy items. Sometimes those newsworthy items were not positive ones.
Mets New Owner
Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon announced he is selling the team to minority owner and hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen. Much to the pleasure of the majority of the Met fan base the Wilpon family won’t be in control of this franchise anymore. However, the sale could take as long as five years to complete. It is not known how much influence Steve Cohen has in the day to day running of the Mets.
The New Manager
The second big news piece was the situation revolving the Mets new manager. One of the biggest to do’s on the list of Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen was to find a replacement for Mickey Callaway who was fired after the season. This was the first time Van Wagenen has ever had to hire a manager in his brief career as a baseball executive. After a long search, Van Wagenen turned to former Mets star player Carlos Beltran passing up veteran managers like Joe Girardi.
Beltran was fired before even managing an exhibition game when he was caught up in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Van Wagenen once again passed up a chance to hire a veteran manager such as Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker and promoted Luis Rojas to the top spot. Only time will tell if this was the right decision. But with a team that is ready to compete now, this might be the only chance Van Wagenen gets to pick a manager for the Mets.
Lastly, there was the Yoenis Cespedes injury news. Cespedes who was rehabbing both his heels from surgery he had in 2018, broke his ankle while on his ranch in 2019 avoiding a boar. Yes, a boar. When the injury happened no details were given but now the story is coming to light. The Mets stopped paying Cespedes his salary after that injury and have also restructured his 2019 salary. This transaction saved the Mets a reported 20 million dollars.
The Mets two biggest needs going into the offseason were to bolster a bullpen that undoubtedly cost the team a playoff spot. The second area that needed to be addressed was the centerfield situation. Neither issue has been resolved. We can get into the centerfield situation later on in this article. But as for the bullpen the only addition made was the signing of Dellin Betances away from the crosstown New York Yankees. The only problem with Betances is that he is coming off a season where he pitched in one inning for the whole season and that was in September. In that game, he ruptured his Achilles tendon.
So Betances now gets added to the other question marks the Mets have in the pen. Edwin Diaz must return to his 2018 form and Jeurys Familia has to at least be a dependable pitcher if the 2020 Mets want to compete. The Mets are basically telling their fan base that we have the guys we need in the pen and signing Betances is the cherry on top.
Obviously the Mets are counting on Betances, Diaz, and Familia to return to form and with Seth Lugo, Brad Brach, and Justin Wilson all coming back this could be a very effective bullpen. The keyword is could. Met fans watched and saw quality reliever after quality reliever not only sign reasonable contracts but with their division rivals.
The most interesting position to look at this Spring will be who gets the starting role in centerfield. Van Wagenen was looking for an upgrade at the position going into the offseason. The Mets were linked to trade rumors for Mookie Betts. While Betts is still on the Boston Red Sox the trade winds are blowing him towards a potential blockbuster with the San Diego Padres.
Starling Marte was another player the Mets were heavily linked with. But the Pittsburgh Pirates traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks. According to a report by Jon Heyman, the Pirates wanted two of the top five prospects the Mets have. This was something Van Wagenen could not do and rightfully so.
Pirates’ request of Mets in Marte talks was for 2 of their top 5 prospects. Mets thought: too steep for them
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 27, 2020
Van Wagenen did trade for Jake Marisnick from the Astros. Perhaps Beltran’s familiarity with Marisnick led Van Wagenen to trade for him. What you get with Marisnick is a player who can play centerfield with the best of them. But Marisnick is not much of an offensive player.
The other player considered for centerfield is Brandon Nimmo. Never has a fan base been as split on a player as the Met fans are on Brandon Nimmo. With the rumors of Nimmo getting swapped for Marte swirling for much of the Winter, the fan base was split in half on this trade. But one thing for sure is all Met fans want Nimmo starting over Marisnick.
As we head into Spring Training the big question is will Rojas be allowed to set his own lineup which would have Nimmo as the starter. Or will Van Wagenen force Rojas to start Marisnick? This could be a power play Rojas can win with the stink of the Beltran situation still lingering.
Aside from Betances and Marisnick, there was not a lot of other moves the Mets made. Rick Porcello was signed to replace Zack Wheeler. Michael Wacha was added as depth to the pitching staff. Two interesting players were signed recently to minor league contracts. Those players can provide depth in case of injuries or perhaps if a trade gets made.
Matt Adams, who plays first base and also has minimal experience in the outfield does have pop and could be useful as a backup. Eduardo Nunez is your prototypical utility infielder who can play second, third and short. Is it a coincidence that these players can be replacements for Jed Lowrie and Dom Smith who have been on the block all Winter?
It’s no secret the Mets are trying to trade both Lowrie and Smith and have even considering packaging them together. Lowrie who is a free agent after the season and is making nine million dollars in 2020 did not play at all in 2019. Smith was once a top prospect and considered the future at first base. He is now a backup player despite showing the Mets he can hit when he is in the lineup.
The problem is Smith has no real position unless the rumors of the DH coming to the National League in 2021 are true. While Smith won’t fetch a star player in a trade he could be traded for a useful piece. Also, there were rumors the Mets were players in a potential Nolan Arenado trade. Lowrie and Smith could be players involved in that trade.
There is a growing belief amongst NL GM’s that the DH will be instituted for NL as early as 2021. FWIW.
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) January 27, 2020
Yoenis Cespedes is another option that could be a reality for the 2020 season. With his contract stripped down considerably the Mets added bonuses to his deal. Cespedes could achieve those bonuses if he does play this year. With this being a contract season for Cespedes the Mets are hoping that is enough motivation to get him back in the lineup. The Mets are simply a better team with Cespedes’ bat protecting Pete Alonso. The offense was not the problem last season but a player like Cespedes can still be a game-changer.
This offseason the Mets saw all of their division rivals make more moves to improve their teams. Most importantly those teams do not have the circus-like atmosphere the Mets seem to attract. On paper assuming the Mets players have the type of seasons they are capable of, this is a team that can win the division. But the same can be said for the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, and the defending champion Washington Nationals.
Perhaps with a much-improved bullpen the Mets will have enough to win the National League East. Will Luis Rojas take charge and be allowed to at least decide who is his starting eight players are? Will Brodie Van Wagenen be eager enough to make a blockbuster trade for Nolan Arenado to wash off the stink of the Carlos Beltran situation? Or will Van Wagenen be savvy enough to make the necessary in-season moves to take the Mets to the top of the division?
These are all good questions. Stay tuned for the answers.