All Mets fans thought Sandy Alderson’s 2017-18 offseason was a disaster. Then Brodie Van Wagenen arrived on the scene and said, “Hold my beer.” As bad as Alderson’s additions were, at least he didn’t trade away top prospects for the privilege on paying $100 million dollars for the age 36-40 seasons of a second baseman.
While no one would suggest that the 2017-18 additions helped last year’s club in any way, we can see that they are performing significantly better here in 2019. Let’s look at them and see how they did last season and here in the current campaign:
Jay Bruce – posted a .680 OPS a season ago, now has an .848 OPS total for the season, including a .918 mark currently with the Phillies.
Todd Frazier – recorded a .693 OPS last year and sits currently with a .796 mark, including a .931 mark in his last 164 PA.
Anthony Swarzak – notched a 6.15 ERA and a 1.595 WHIP for the Mets last season and now has a 2.61 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. Sure would be nice to have a reliever with those numbers right about now.
Jason Vargas – put up a 5.77 ERA and a 1.413 WHIP in 2018 and now sits with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.281 WHIP.
What would have it been like if the Mets had received this quartet’s 2019 production a season ago? Maybe they wouldn’t have made the playoffs but it seems likely that their record would have been better than 77-85. And perhaps the biggest thing is that we would likely still have Alderson as the GM. Now, many of you may not view that as a positive. But let’s draw up a pros and cons list for Van Wagenen, with an emphasis on if Alderson would have made that type of move for our basis of comparison. To me, signing Jeurys Familia or Wilson Ramos is the type of deal that Alderson would have made. So these won’t be listed as either a pro or a con.
Pros for Van Wagenen:
1. Pete Alonso started the year in the majors and produced right away.
2. It’s hard to imagine the Mets drafting Matthew Allan if Alderson was still around.
3. It’s unlikely that the Mets would have J.D. Davis under the old regime.
4. We’ve seen less of the matchup masturbation with relievers than we saw previously.
Cons for Van Wagenen:
1. The complete 100% train wreck of the Robinson Cano deal. It’s been a failure from the production of the players received, the production of the players dealt away, the salary obligations for the next five years and the forcing of Jeff McNeil to play out of position.
2. Usage of Seth Lugo. When Alderson stepped down on June 26 last year, Lugo had appeared in 26 games with five of those being starts. When two starters went on the DL this year, no thought was given to start Lugo. Additionally, 11 of Lugo’s 21 (52%) relief appearances when Alderson was around were for two or more innings. This year, only nine of his 30 (30%) appearances have been for two or more innings. Under Van Wagenen, they’re trying to make Lugo a one-inning guy who pitches every other day. There have been 11 times this year when Lugo has pitched with zero or one day off and in those games he’s allowed 10 runs.
3. Rope given to Keon Broxton, Cano and Juan Lagares. Yes, absolutely, Alderson loved his veterans. And no one ever accused him of being eager to make a move. But even with those things, when Adrian Gonzalez had a 53-PA streak with a .482 OPS, he was cut loose. Broxton might still be here if he hadn’t popped off about his playing time. Alderson cut ties with Rick Ankiel after 71 PA and a .603 OPS and Eric Campbell after 88 PA and a .511 OPS. Lagares has 152 PA and a .514 OPS and still plays more days than not. Maybe Lagares’ salary makes cutting him not an option but it’s hard to imagine he would have gotten this much playing time at this type of production under Alderson.
4. Signing Jed Lowrie. Maybe Lowrie is the type of player that Alderson would have gone after – a veteran on a short-term deal that doesn’t bust the budget – but it’s hard to imagine that Alderson would have gotten him after he made a big move for a 2B, especially as it wasn’t likely that he would have looked to move on from Frazier right after he just signed him. And yeah, no one could predict that Lowrie would be hurt and miss 3-plus months. But no one thought that Bruce, Frazier, Swarzak and Vargas would all wind up on the DL last year, either.
The Mets didn’t believe enough in McNeil and paid the price for those doubts, both figuratively and literally. Because of the early injuries to Frazier and Lowrie, McNeil got consistent playing time and now not playing him seems unfathomable. Those early injuries also paved the way for Alonso to come north out of Spring Training.
But, what if Alderson was still running the show? Alonso certainly wouldn’t have been up before the club earned the extra year of control. And who would have played first base in the interim? Dominic Smith had a strong Grapefruit League season. What if the Mets had started the year with Alonso in the minors and Smith starting at first base? Smith would have been like McNeil, given a chance to play and then taking advantage of that time to perform. And Alonso likely would have demanded a promotion with his play the first three weeks of the season. And the Mets would have been looking for reasons to keep Smith’s bat in the lineup – much like they did in real life with McNeil – and made the transition to the OF sooner.
So, while promoting Alonso when he did is certainly a pro for Van Wagenen – it’s likely a limited one. Even with the conservative Alderson running the show, it’s hard to imagine Alonso would have been kept down once the extra year of control was assured. So, we have the trade for Davis, the drafting of Allan and three weeks of Alonso versus the list of cons.
And I’d trade those things in a New York minute to have Jarred Kelenic, the CF this club has needed since Carlos Beltran last held down the position on a full-time basis in 2008, still in the organization.
At this point, all we can do is hope that Cano, Diaz, Familia and Lowrie can have the type of seasons in 2020 that Bruce, Frazier, Swarzak and Vargas are having in 2019. And as long as we’re being aggressively optimistic, let’s wish for Yoenis Cespedes’ return, too.