Fred Wilpon, the omnipresent owner of the New York Mets, has declared that 2019 will not be a rebuilding year for his team. But if it’s not that, then what is it?
Fred Wilpon couldn’t stop himself from boasting that not one of the candidates interviewed for the Mets GM job called for a rebuild. What escaped Wilpon, though, is that word splashes down quickly from interviewee to interviewee about the nature of the questions asked, along with projections about what those “right” answers to questions might be.
It becomes a game in which you or I am interviewing for a job, and we are asked something like, “Are you big on PowerPoint presentations?” So we answer with vim and vigor, “You bet I am, sir,” knowing that based our research before the interview, this is what the man wants to hear.
Presumably, Brodie Van Wagenen has either settled for or bought into Fred Wilpon’s desire to see his Mets going full bore to a spot in the playoffs. The plan is to engineer this with a top-flight rotation headed by Jacob deGrom, winning back-to-back Cy Young awards, together with Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler duplicating their second-half of the season and remaining healthy over the long haul.
This alone could require a miracle, but nothing reaches the depths of reality more than how the Mets are going to support their pitching with run production, the lack of which was the bane of the Mets last season.
Consider this. DeGrom made 32 starts in 2018 with only 19 decisions. Syndergaard, 25 starts but only 17 decisions, and Wheeler 29 made starts with only 19 decisions. This means the Mets sent their best pitchers in to start a game, and on 30 occasions they came away with a game decided by the bullpen.
A bullpen that ranked 28th out of 30 major league teams in 2018 with a 4.96 ERA. So much for starting pitching if there is nothing to back it up, especially given how the game is played today with bullpentis in its veins.
The obvious next question then is, if there’s no rebuild in store by trading away one or two of the Big Three for a boatload of prospects, and the pocketbook of Fred Wilpon remains closed for significant participation in the free agent market, where is the help coming from to improve the run production of their position players?
The Mets need a major league catcher and a right-handed power bat. J.T. Realmuto, the All-Star catcher from Derek Jeter‘s Florida Marlins, fits both those needs. But as soon as you go there, you are out of Wilpon’s “no rebuild” and into trading off a package of players that most surely will include starting pitching. Would Steven Matz and Robert Gsellman satisfy Jeter?
Maybe. But the Mets will never know if they don’t ask. And therein lies the tightrope Van Wagenen must walk in trying to satisfy a frustrated fan base against a dogmatic owner. Daniel Murphy, just as an example, is an unrestricted free agent coming off a year in which he made $17.5 million. A return to where it all began with the Mets might be appealing, but will Van Wagenen even consider bringing a two-year $20 million deal for Murphy to Wilpon? Not likely.
All of which flies in the face of the Mets recovering as much as $33 million this season in insurance money for the now-retired David Wright, and Yoenis Cespedes if his double-surgery keeps him off the field for the entire 2019 season, a prospect by the way the Mets should do everything they can to ensure because of the money involved.
So, if the Mets are honestly “going for it,” how far can $33 million take them this year? Take a peek at Spotrac’s pool of 2019 MLB free agents and have fun playing GM with all that money to spend with no “new money” on the table. But know the Wilpons are already licking their chops at the prospect of lining their pockets with this money.
We always end up here with the Mets, don’t we? All dressed up and nowhere to go with a team of appealing players like Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and of course, the Big Three. We need more boots on the ground if the Mets are (really) going to compete with the Braves and Phillies in the NL East, along with a host of teams in the NL West who will be vying once again for those coveted Wild Card spots.
The genuine wild card, though, is Brodie Van Wagenen. Is he a cream-puff or a maverick? Or (please no), will he play in-between as Sandy Alderson did in his later years as GM, accomplishing nothing but spinning the Mets wheels?
More than anything, Van Wagenen’s action or inaction will decide the fate of the 2019 Mets. As much as you, I’m looking forward to how this plays out for the Mets