Mets fans are counting down the days until Steve Cohen receives approval from the other MLB owners and officially purchases the team from the Wilpon and Katz families. Cohen has already announced that Sandy Alderson will return to the club as the team’s President and the assumption is that Brodie Van Wagenen will be replaced as GM. At the very least, Van Wagenen will be neutered and no longer have carte blanche to acquire his previous clients in trade.

So, let’s take a look at what Jeff Wilpon’s golfing buddy achieved in his tenure as Mets GM. This will be a complete record of his trades, along with big free agent signings, some other moves and even a quote or three. Not every transaction will be listed. If you want the details of every single NRI or options assignment, you can get those here.

2018

10/28/18 – Van Wagenen hired
11/2/18 – Rafael Montero declined assignment and became a free agent
11/30/18 – Non-tendered Wilmer Flores
12/3/18 – Traded Gerson Bautista, Jay Bruce, Justin Dunn, Jarred Kelenic, Anthony Swarzak to the Mariners for Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and cash
12/4/18 – Dismissing the idea that taking Cano was the cost of getting Diaz, Van Wagenen said, “The opportunity to go fill two primary needs was paramount in trying to get this deal done.”
12/14/18 – Signed Jeurys Familia to a 3-year deal
12/17/18 – Signed Wilson Ramos to a 2-year deal

2019

1/5/19 – Traded Adam Hill, Felix Valerio and Bobby Wahl to the Brewers for Keon Broxton
1/6/19 – Traded Ross Adolph, Scott Manea and Luis Santana to the Astros for Cody Bohanek and J.D. Davis
1/6/19 – Traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians for Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett
1/10/19 – Signed Luis Avilan to an NRI
1/16/19 – Signed Jed Lowrie to a 2-year deal
1/28/19 – Signed Justin Wilson to a 2-year deal
2/7/19 – Signed Devin Mesoraco to an NRI
3/25/19 – Placed Mesoraco on restricted list for not reporting to the minors. Mesoraco retired and joined the coaching staff at the University of Pittsburgh.
3/26/19 – Signed Jacob deGrom to a five-year extension
4/28/19 – DFA Travis d’Arnaud
5/6/19 – Traded PTBNL (Neraldo Catalina) to the Rays for Wilmer Font
5/22/19 – Traded Broxton to the Orioles for international bonus slot money
6/15/19 – Purchased Brooks Pounders from the Indians
6/20/19 – Fired Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez
6/24/19 – Fined Mickey Callaway and Jason Vargas for interactions with a reporter
7/17/19 – Sold Font to the Blue Jays
7/28/19 – Traded Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson to the Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman
7/29/19 – Traded Vargas to the Phillies for Austin Bossart
8/8/19 – Signed Brad Brach as a free agent
8/9/19 – Signed Joe Panik as a free agent
10/3/19 – Fired Callaway
11/1/19 – Hired Carlos Beltran as manager
11/1/19 – Panik declined assignment and became a free agent
11/7/19 – Van Wagenen at the GM Meetings said about the on-going Beltran sign stealing case, “At this point, I don’t see any reason why this is a Mets situation.”
12/3/19 – Signed Chasen Shreve to a 1-year deal
12/5/19 – Traded Kenedy Corona and Blake Taylor to the Astros for Jake Marisnick
12/6/19 – Re-signed Brach to a 1-year deal with player option
12/13/19 – Signed Michael Wacha to a 1-year deal
12/16/19 – Traded Rick Porcello to a 1-year deal
12/24/19 – DFA Haggerty
12/24/19 – Signed Dellin Betances to a 1-year deal with player option

2020

1/16/20 – Mutually parted ways with Beltran
1/23/20 – Hired Luis Rojas as manager
1/28/20 – Signed Erasmo Ramirez to an NRI
2/14/20 – Van Wagenen on the deal that Zack Wheeler signed with the Phillies, “it became clear he was going to get more money than we were prepared to give him.”
6/30/20 – Signed Jared Hughes to a 1-year deal
7/22/20 – Signed Brian Dozier as a free agent
8/2/20 – Traded Jordan Humphreys for Billy Hamilton
8/2/20 – Sold Tyler Bashlor to the Pirates
8/5/20 – Traded a PTBNL (Steve Villines) to the Rangers for Ariel Jurado
8/23/20 – Released Dozier
8/28/20 – DFA Lockett
8/28/20 – Claimed Guillermo Heredia off waivers from the Pirates
8/31/20 – Traded Kevin Smith and a PTBNL or cash to the Orioles for Miguel Castro
8/31/20 – Traded PTBNL to the Rangers for Robinson Chirinos and cash
8/31/20 – Traded PTBNL to the Rangers for Todd Frazier
9/4/20 – DFA Hamilton

Now let’s take a look at the ones who got away.

Montero hooked on with the Rangers as a reliever and in 39 games has a 3.09 ERA and he picked up eight saves in 2020.
In 498 PA with the D-Backs and Giants, Flores has a 120 OPS+
Bruce put up a 101 OPS+ in 2019 and hit 6 HR in 96 ABs in an injury-plagued 2020
Dunn went 4-1 with a 98 ERA+ for the Mariners this year.
Kelenic was named the 11th-best prospect in the majors by FanGraphs following the 2019 season.
Swarzak was a league-average reliever for the Braves in 2019.
d’Arnaud put up a 108 OPS+ for the Rays in 2019 and a 138 OPS+ for the Braves in 2020
After posting a 4.25 ERA in Lo-A before the trade, Woods Richardson notched a 2.54 ERA in Hi-A in 2019.
Taylor had a 2.18 ERA out of the pen for the Astros and just won a playoff game.
Wheeler pitched 71 innings and had a 2.92 ERA with the Phillies.

Few were shedding tears over the departure of Montero and Flores but both players would have been useful the past two years and Van Wagenen gave them away for nothing. Ditto for Bruce and Swarzak in 2019.

No one would have blamed Van Wagenen if he non-tendered d’Arnaud. But he gave him a $3.5 million deal and then cut him in a fit of anger after 25 PA. Oh, and he also ticked off Mesoraco in the process, as he allegedly promised the catcher a role in the majors and when one became available when d’Arnaud started the year on the DL, he promoted Tomas Nido, instead. It was just a massive screw-up that hardly gets noticed or critiqued due to the high-profile gaffes of the Cano deal and the Beltran hiring/defending/parting.

The Stroman deal was a calculated risk which worked out about as poorly as possible. Acquired both for the stretch run in 2019 and as a Wheeler replacement in 2020 and in neither case did it work out the way Van Wagenen hoped. And if Woods Richardson reaches his ceiling, this will climb the list of bad moves by the agent turned GM.

The Mets needed a defensive center fielder because there was no one in the system to handle that role. The Marisnick deal seemed reasonable at the time and when healthy, Marisnick hit better/luckier than anyone had a right to expect. But he hardly played, the role could have been filled cheaper with either Hamilton or Juan Lagares – two players Van Wagenen later acquired – and Taylor sure would have helped this year. And is it pouring salt in the wound to suggest that Kelenic could have filled the backup CF role in a 60-game season?

As for the players he brought in, perhaps it’s best to say as little as possible because most of them didn’t really work out. Davis was outstanding in 2019 and then not so great this year. Cano and Diaz rebounded with solid 2020 campaigns. Wilson was a strong move. Shreve did well when used as a long reliever and Heredia filled in nicely down the stretch in 2020. Getting anything for Bashlor was a coup. Castro might be worthwhile.

But the list of positives doesn’t come close to making up for the list of poor moves and tone deaf quotes. In an attempt to compete for the playoffs, the Mets set a franchise record for Opening Day payroll in 2019 and then shattered that mark in 2020 before the pandemic hit. And for that record expenditure, the Mets posted a combined 112-110 record and did not make the playoffs in either year. On top of that, Van Wagenen drained the farm system in the process. Sure, it’s standard operating procedure for a new GM to deal the top prospects from the previous regime. But it was done with a reckless abandon that’s quite shocking.

Of course, Van Wagenen also did a fine job with the two drafts that happened on his watch. We’ll dive into that later in the offseason.

14 comments on “Examining Brodie Van Wagenen’s moves in his two-year GM stint

  • Chris F

    BVW should be fired for malfeasance, and possibly prosecuted for unimaginable stupidity. Its like he’s a Manchurian Candidate sent from Atlanta.

    • TexasGusCC

      LOL, awesome Chris!

  • Terry

    Not sure which I like more, that you wrote this assuming Brodie’s gone or that this was something else besides dreaming up a new roster.

    • Brian Joura

      Sorry to disappoint you but I have a roster piece that I wrote five days ago that’s just waiting for the right spot to publish.

      • Mike W

        Looking forward to your roster piece.

  • TJ

    Brian,
    Thanks for compiling…I was interested in doing so myself but basically too lazy.

    Oh my. Oh my. I don’t think I can express it any better than Chris F, and I count myself as those who was openminded at the time of hire.

    Yes there are few “decent” moves…Davis has value and control which is good. Putting aside the Cano/Diaz move, who most agree was terrible, there are some scary bad moves. There are several “F” grades here, and not every one is with hindsight.

    Lastly, there are clearly some non-moves here as well. Not dealing Wheeler at the deadline and thinking they would be able to penny-pinch him at the end of the year was dopey. Even worse than that, signing his boy Lowrie over LeMahieu to save a couple million bucks was a really bad choice. Even if Lowrie were to remain healthy, he was way beyond his SS years.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks TJ

      I was glad they kept Wheeler. Just wish they had done more earlier to sign him when they could have gotten a discount, not waited until he had a second strong season to boost his value.

  • JimO

    …and not really a move but there was that odd partial video release of his conversation with Wilpon about the team’s BLM boycott this year. I don’t there was ever a definitive reason behind that strange event.

  • Metsense

    BVW doesn’t have a plan. The massive screw-up with the backup catcher when there were four catchers to choose from. Two were just cut and Plawecki trade resulted in losing pre arb Haggerty and pre arb Lockett to waivers. He didn’t have a plan to sign Wheeler.
    BVW has gutted the minor leagues in unnecessary trades for veterans. Cano, Stroham, Marisnick and Broxton were obtained because BVW evaluated too low on Nimmo, McNeil and Wheeler.
    BVW signed unneeded FA like Lowrie and Dozier.
    BVW personality and tiffs cost the Mets four players, (Wheeler, Mesoraco, TDA and Vargas).
    BVW should be fired based on his body of work.

  • Mike W

    Brian, another great article. Looks like an epitaph on BVW’s career as a GM. What struck me was a lot of nothing type deals. He is what he is, an agent posing as a general manager. Heck, he may be on the other side of the table again with Alderson.

    Just feel that he sold the Wilpons a bill of goods on how to keep expenses low and build a winner.

  • John From Albany

    Lots of great comments here. Great job as always Brian.

    Despite the bad roster moves, I had a vision of hope in 2019 when I saw the Brooklyn Cyclones play managed by Edgardo Alfonzo. They stressed fundamentals, played defense but most of all ran the bases with reckless abandon – and it was great to watch. They even won the NYPL championship winning many one run games, scoring runs on outs, and hitting with men in scoring position. Then Brodie fired Fonzie because he was not “his guy”. Loser move from a non-winner.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Of all his bonehead moves, the sins could have been forgiven by just keeping Wheeler and Travis D’Arnaud. That alone would have put Mets in the playoffs, probably ahead of the Marlins and into second place. Look with TDA is doing with Braves!
    Kicked ass today in playoffs also. Brady VW is over his head and needs to go. Right now Omar Minaya would be better working with Sandy.

  • TexasGusCC

    Brian, you left out 11/3/20 – Van Wagenen reassigned by president Sandy Alderson.

    Supposedly, there was a deal with the Yankees for Wheeler which fell apart due to an injury report at the last second. Like the injury report I hoped BVW would respect and kill his infamous brain fart when we found out that Diaz had a frayed ligament that he was pitching with for years, but it was just wishful thinking for a Mets fan.

  • John From Albany

    Gus,

    I like your crystal ball.

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