Brodie Van Wagenen has hit the ground running as the new Mets GM, with a headline grabbing trade and several free agent signings. If the season began today, the team would be better than the one that took the field the past two seasons. But if the organization is serious about being in “win now mode,” there’s clearly more work that needs to be done to shape this roster into a playoff contender.
Van Wagenen has said that “ifs” don’t translate to wins and any Mets fan that’s followed this team closely these past few years can certainly get on board with that sentiment. To address this, the Mets will need to add depth in a number of areas. The 40-man roster needs fewer aging veterans, reclamation projects and AAAA players and a few more versatile arms and bats who can step in and step up when needed.
With the additions made thus far, the Mets are already looking at an increased payroll, so we can likely forget more than maybe one more mid-tier free agent signing. According to some reports, the Mets are already up $15 million over last year’s opening day payroll, but there are a lot of variables, such as our mysterious operating budget and how much of David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes salaries will be covered by insurance and how much will count toward payroll and also how much of Robinson Cano‘s salary is allocated. It appears ownership is smitten with their new front office leader. Jeff Wilpon thinks Van Wagenen is the bee’s knees and Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz aren’t getting any younger. They’re not happy with the way the last few seasons played out and they’re anxious to get back to winning too.
One thing everyone here can agree on is that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are not coming to Queens. The Mets have never given out a contract even half what those two are commanding. There are plenty of other available free agents, but if the Mets have room in their budget for just one more, the guy who really screams “sign me” is Marwin Gonzalez. The switch-hitting Swiss Army knife has played every position except pitcher and catcher. Gonzalez has hit for power and average and can provide depth in the infield and outfield. This signing checks a lot of boxes, but not quite all of them.
If the Mets can’t get Gonzalez, they at least need a solid outfielder – either someone who can also play infield or someone on a short-term commitment to make way for Cespedes at mid-season (or next season). Additionally, the roster is missing a solid lefty in the bullpen, another bench bat, and more pitching depth. The current 40-man roster has a lot of possibilities – guys with potential, guys who can compete for roster spots and guys who might someday be contributors. The list is led by a dozen hard-throwing, right-handed twenty somethings who have yet to prove they belong in the show. Surely they can audition in spring training for a few roster spots, but, perhaps a few of them could be used as trade chips, along with one of our three back-up catchers, and two former top prospects without an obvious role on the team – Gavin Cecchini and Dominic Smith.
A package from among that group won’t land us an all-star, but these types of low-cost, high upside players are valued by rebuilding teams, some of whom may have a quality relief pitcher, outfielder or bench bat to spare. Van Wagenen lamented earlier in the off-season that creating a new hole to fill another hole doesn’t solve a problem. Sensibly, he seems to have moved on from the notion of trading Noah Syndergaard or two of our building blocks for a catcher we’re all sick of hearing about. The sensible moves for Van Wagenen to make next involve one more free agent signing and then a couple of shrewd trades. He’s got the chips.