Now that Billy Eppler is gone, and has etched his name into forgettable Mets lore, it might be just the perfect time to evaluate Brodie Van Wagenen’s performance as General Manager from October 2018 through November 2020. Yes, you read that right. While it is easy to judge a general manager in the immediate wake of their departure, it is important to look back at the decisions that they made during their tenure that are impacting the current team. Van Wagenen’s time will always be marked by the trade that netted the Mets Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano in exchange for Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. While at first this seemed like a failed trade due to the projected impact of Kelenic and the initial shortcomings of Edwin Diaz in New York, the trade has panned out to be a clear Mets victory. This made me think, are there any other transactions or moves made by Van Wagenen that have a positive impact on this current Mets squad?
The Mets did not make the playoffs while he was in charge, even though the 2019 team finished 86-76 and three games out of a playoff spot. He fired Mickey Callaway after that 2019 season, and hired, then fired Carlos Beltran before landing on Luis Rojas to lead the team. Rojas would go on to have a lackluster tenure with the Mets as well, lasting only through the 2021 season. Suffice to say, Van Wagenen did have the opportunity to make that many management decisions, but he missed on his selection of Rojas.
Looking back again at his trades, there is more than just the aforementioned Diaz deal. He also was responsible for acquiring J.D. Davis and Marcus Stroman, Mets who made their impact in different ways with the team. Davis was received for Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana. While Adolph and Santana are battling their way through the minor leagues, this trade was a win for Van Wagenen, who received a terrific 2019 from Davis. The Stroman trade also worked out for Van Wagenen, as Stroman pitched to a 3.40 ERA with the Mets, and the prospects given up, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson, have not yet made a major impact in the big leagues.
There were some clear blunders made by Van Wagenen as well, with Jed Lowrie leading the charge in that department. Lowrie’s two-year deal saw him have seven at-bats with the team, and lands him on the list of one of the worst signings in team history. Another clear blunder is letting Zack Wheeler leave for the rival Philadelphia Phillies when he was starting to round into his true potential as a starting pitcher. Wheeler was a dynamic pitcher in the second half of 2019, pitching to a 2.83 ERA with 68 strikeouts. Instead of retaining Wheeler, his departure signified the beginning of the end for the once vaunted Mets pitching core, as the injuries began to pile up for Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
In terms of draft picks, Van Wagenen never saw the fruit of some of the picks he made, but some of the picks he made were used to acquire major league talent in later seasons. JT Ginn was a second-round pick in 2020, and was the lead prospect used to acquire Chris Bassitt before the 2022 season began. Bassitt, although he failed to show up in big games like the rest of the 2022 rotation, provided great depth as a starter for the 2022 team. Perhaps though the best-known draft pick of Van Wagenen to be used in a trade is Peter Crow-Armstrong, who was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Javier Baez in 2021. While Baez was actually solid for the Mets in 2021 the trade still was not worth it because the team not only missed the playoffs that season, but Crow-Armstrong is now considered the Cubs top prospect. Overall, Van Wagenen’s draft picks were valuable for temporary gains, but it looks like their impacts will be the greatest spent for other teams.
It is difficult to compile a complete judgement of someone who holds a job with as many responsibilities as the general manager of an MLB team. For Van Wagenen, his job was impacted not only by his performance, but he also had to contend with an unprecedented global health crisis and a new owner in town looking to make changes. Van Wagenen will always be most remembered for the Diaz-Kelenic deal with the Mariners, which he made during his first month on the job. Looking back on his tenure, it absolutely was not sterling, but he made more of a positive impact on the organization than some are willing to concede.