The other day, the Mets had an official conference call with the press, formally announcing the signing of pitcher Rick Porcello. Porcello was snapped up at the tail end of the Winter Meetings, a surprisingly productive week for the club. The Mets also came away from the San Diego conclave with another starter, Michael Wacha, in tow. Previously they were able to swing a deal to pry glove-first centerfielder Jake Marisnick from the AL champion Houston Astros – essentially a carbon copy replacement for the non-renewed Juan Lagares. We are still in the early tenure of GM Brodie Van Wagenen, and even after a year-plus with him at the helm, we are still discovering his tendencies. One is a propensity for signing his former clients – Van Wagenen used to be a player agent, you may have heard. Another is a desire to provide major league depth at most positions, a sensible mind set shared by most general managers, but never simple to execute. But this year, the trait that really jumps out is Van Wagenen’s ability to keep a secret.

1. The Mets added some starting pitching depth at the Winter meetings.
2. Brodie Van Wagenen made some surprise moves.
3. The bullpen still needs improvement, but moves might be afoot.

So far, we’ve seen some of the Mets’ biggest moves just sort of…happen. The Porcello deal was speculated on for a couple of weeks prior to the annual December trade show, but this was the rare transaction that anybody saw coming. In fact, the rule of thumb seems to be the louder, more persistent the speculation, the less likely a move is to happen. As we speak, there is loud, long bleating from the media that relief pitcher Dellin Betances, late of the crosstown New York Yankees, will be the next to join the fold in Queens. At one point very recently, it was reported that the Mets were one of the frontrunners to secure Betances’s services, then within hours, the word was that the Mets were dropping out. Last year, same thing. Catcher Wilson Ramos was a surprise – most assumed Yasmani Grandal would accept the Mets’ lucrative offer – as was reliever Justin Wilson, who turned into a most valuable part of the bullpen. At the trade deadline, Van Wagenen held onto Zack Wheeler and instead of selling, the Mets ended up buying, sending pitching prospect Anthony Kay over to Toronto for the darling of the deadline, pitcher Marcus Stroman. Van Wagenen seemed to make all this happen out of the blue.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the quintessential deal-out-of-nowhere, the franchise changer that Van Wagenen pulled off last year and after which, the ground around Citi Field is still shaking. I speak, of course of the trade that netted second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz. That trade unburdened the Mets of the contracts of Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak, yes, but also cost them mega-prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, not to mention a sizeable chunk of Cano’s odious contract – a dicey proposition for this infamously cash-strapped franchise. Van Wagenen slow-played that one, too. This approach makes the Mets kind of shadowy, a kind of eminence gris in orange and blue. They are impossible to pin down in the offseason, impossible to get a read on. From all appearances, that’s fine with ownership. COO Jeff Wilpon likes nothing more than to have the Mets talked about: winning is nice and all, but it’s more valuable that we’re in the papers. It’s a fun paradox that the less Van Wagenen talks, the more the papers talk about the team. As a result, some speculation turns pretty wild. There was a rumor that a trade for All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa was in the works. Now, you, me, Van Wagenen, Wilpon and the odd peanut vendor all knew that Correa was never coming here, but the speculation ran rampant anyway. Some of that might be simply a product of a long offseason, a dearth of conversation and a slow news cycle, but some can be attributed to the fact that we rarely know what Van Wagenen is doing until he’s doing it. Meanwhile, we’re fifty-odd days away from pitchers and catchers and the bullpen still needs to be fixed. Again, we all know this and for all the bleating and moaning that Van Wagenen needs to do something, we can rest assured that something is being done; we just don’t know what yet.

And when Van Wagenen pulls off a surprise move, to some of us, it won’t be a surprise at all.

5 comments on “Close to the vest: Brodie Van Wagenen reveals little

  • Dan Capwell

    Agreed on this. There was also that flurry of moves right after the holidays last year (Davis for three prospects, the Broxton deal, and Plawecki for Lockett and Haggerty) that just seemed to come out of nowhere.

    The only concern is that the bullpen options have dwindled rapidly. I think only Cishek and Betances are left. They need to do something soon.

    PS: Today (12/19) is the anniversary of the Robert Person for John Olerud deal.

    • Steve S.

      There are quite a few relievers still available, including:

      Will Harris
      Sergio Romo
      Daniel Hudson
      Sam Dyson
      Brandon Kintzler
      Craig Stammen
      Steve Cishek
      Dellin Betances
      Nick Vincent

  • Eraff

    The Mets as Cashed Strapped or Penurious is a bit of a tired Brand. They may be shown to be Dumb about how they spend their money, but the actual inspection of facts puts them into a fairly high level of Payroll

    2019 featured Payroll maneuvers, not cuts…2020 will see a pretty strong advance in Payroll.

    This is now about The talent level of the Baseball Executives who are spending the money

  • MattyMets

    There are still plenty of available players (FAs and trade candidates) who can help improve this team. Sometimes it’s better to sit back and pounce later. I thought Brodie jumped in too quickly last year and overpaid in trade pieces and dollars in many cases. If you’re not in the market for an ace, closer or #3 hitter there’s no rush.

  • TJ

    We fanatics are all guilty of trying to figure things out with just enough information to be dangerous. Baseball is now a 365 day sport, one team and a million GMs someone said somewhere. We are also guilty of rendering judgments move by move, as opposed to waiting for the final result. I try every year to avoid it, but I can’t manage. The media, they have to report something as their job is to generate interest and revenues as well as to provide information. However, the consequence is that when “information” is repeated enough, it becomes accepted regardless of accuracy. We see this all throughout society. So, in Metland, we all have set up these artificial payroll boundaries, these focused needs, these levels of interest, etc.

    Stepping away from the noise as much as possible, the additions of Porcello and Macha are not very surprising. Adding Kole or Strasburg, that would have been surprising. Getting agreement on reworking the Cespedes deal is a tad surprising, but not really given the dubious nature of the injury combined with the complete lack of public commentary afterwards.

    Looking at the Met roster as it currently stands, and specifically at the major league contracts for guys that can’t be optioned, BVW the Mets have room for 1 more big league deal in the pen if they will carry 13 pitchers. None if they carry 12. Despite the flurry of activity so far this off season (compared to last), there is still plenty of time to make improvements, either by signing, trading, or both. To the extent that an off season splash has value, it likely has more value coming closer to opening day than farther. Brodie is up to something, I just hope it is a better something that his 2019 splash.

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