Stop pretending. The Mets 2019 season is over. Still, a rainbow of hope exists for the team with the promise of a better tomorrow. But first…
The 2019 Mets have reached the bottom. At six games below .500, they look up at three teams better than they are in their division, with little or no hope of leaping over six teams ahead of them for a Wild Card spot. The numbers are in and the Mets are out.
The legacy of Brodie Van Wagenen, the team’s GM, is on the line. Additions to the team have not worked out. Laboring under the microscope of Jeff and Fred Wilpon is no excuse. There are deals to be made that can better the team. Unlike the offseason, this time it must be addition by subtraction.
Here are five trades Van Wagenen can and must make. Lightning in a bottle returns should not be expected. Van Wagenen must refrain from accepting rejects from other teams (think Brandon Belt SF, Will Smith SF, Justin Smoak, Toronto, Nick Castellanos, Detroit, Corey Dickerson, and Melky Cabrera, Pirates, etc.) These are all fine players, but none are what the Mets need now, and especially, the future.
So, what do the Mets need then? Bullpen help, for sure. Players who can catch the ball, for sure. More players like Jeff McNeil, a hitting machine, for sure. Pitchers with live arms who are open to instruction and making themselves better, for sure.
To get something, you have to give something. The Mets can get “something” for the following five players. It’s up to Van Wagenen to heighten the return as best he can. This is about changing the culture of the Mets clubhouse as much as it’s about going for the “big splash”. Just keep that in mind…
Several alert readers caught the omission of one player who should have obvious to me. So, make it six, not five. The player is added at the end.
Todd Frazier, 3B, 1B
Todd Frazier does no harm to the New York Mets. He can still hit and he can still play a credible third base. As a free-agent-to-be, though, he is expendable.
Frazier is attractive to a team in the pennant race looking to add a veteran piece to their club and clubhouse. He still plays with the giddiness of a teenager and was instrumental in helping the Yankees when they traded for him two seasons ago.
Now in his tenth big league season, Frazier is a long ways away from his Little League Championship team in New Jersey. As a rental or otherwise, several teams will be in the running for his services.
Go for mid-level prospects.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets Starting Pitcher
Always the subject of trade talk, I said you don’t get something without giving up something. No doubt, Noah Syndergaard is a big piece of the Mets franchise. But he’s been unable to follow-up on last year’s 14-4 3.08 mark.
On some teams, he can immediately jump into their number one slot in the rotation. For pennant-chasing teams, he easily slots into the two slot, where he’s been with the Mets.
At 26, Syndergaard is under team control for the next three years, making him even more attractive to a team looking for starting pitching to put them over the top. The Yankees, Cubs, Brewers, and Twins all qualify as suitors with that in mind.
The return on this one has to be big as when Brian Cashman snared the Cubs number one prospect at the time, Gleyber Torres, for the closer starved Cubs and Aroldis Chapman.
A minimum of two high prospects on this one.
Dominic Smith, Mets 1B, OF
Dominic Smith (pictured left) is not an outfielder. He’s a first baseman who is proving he can hit at this level for the Mets this season. Carrying a W.A.R. of 1.2, Smith is hitting .324 with a well above league average .869 OPS.
Unfortunately for the Mets, he is blocked at first base by Pete Alonso and forced into the outfield as part of Mickey Callaway‘s best effort to construct a run-producing lineup every day.
A notch under Syndergaard in terms of trade value, Smith represents a piece the Mets don’t wish to give up.
Trimmed down now, Smith is not a big power guy. Five home runs and only 11 driven in is something Van Wagenen will need to counteract in his discussion with other teams. Smith’s on-base percentage of .420 might be the tipping point in the Mets favor.
Go for two mid-level prospects or one major league ready reliever or position player.
Jason Vargas, Starting Pitcher
Banish him as the photo above suggests. Exile Jason Vargas immediately based on his street-like behavior during the much-heralded altercation with a Newsday (“I’ll fuck you up, bro”).
Much like Yoenis Cespedes, there’s a reason behind why four other teams have seen fit to part ways with Vargas. This is his second go-around with the Mets, making it one too many chances.
Luckily for the Mets, Vargas has seen fit to pitch rather well in his last few starts. This makes Vargas attractive to a team looking to add a veteran back-end starter as insurance, as well as for a team seeking lightning in a bottle.
Vargas should be looked upon as the poster-boy of the need for the Mets to change their culture in the clubhouse. And there’s no reason for the Mets to keep that a secret after the trade.
Trade him for a bag of peanuts.
Steven Matz, Mets Starting Pitcher
Nothing sums up Steven Matz‘s time with the Mets better than the above photo. Scratching his head, wondering what the hell is going on here, alas, what can I do – Steven Matz confounds not only himself but the entire Mets coaching staff, including Mickey Callaway.
Now in his fifth season with the team, Matz has only been able to conjure up a 5-6 4.85 record. Splendidly, Jerry Koosman one day, and Kenny Rogers the next.
Affixed with that old baseball jinx word, potential, probably hasn’t helped Matz. But at times he appears to be uncoachable and remembering those days on Long Island when he was blowing away hitters as a teenager.
Needing a change of scenery away from his backyard, Matz has the stuff needed to get major league hitters out on a consistent basis.
A deal to Pittsburgh where Ray Serage resides as the Pirates pitching coach might be a first phone call for Van Wagenen to make. But seven years in the Mets system should be long enough to realize – it ain’t workin’.
Trade him for a starter of equal value to a team having a pitcher who also needs a change of scenery.
Updated By Readers: Zack Wheeler, Starting Pitcher
Zack Wheeler joins the procession of Mets starting pitchers not meeting expectations. It looked like Wheeler had figured it out during the second half of 2018.
Posting a 6-5 record with a 4.89 ERA, this is not what the Mets were looking from Wheeler this year. Along with Syndergaard and Matz, inconsistency has been the bane of his season and his career to date.
The sensibility of trading Wheeler stems from his eligibility as an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season. It would be a stretch to think the Wilpons will budget for Wheeler’s expected command on the open market.
As a rental, he would cost a team a pro-rated portion of the $6 million owed for 2019. Any team seeking his services should expect more of what he has been. To his credit, and a selling point Van Wagenen can capitalize on, Wheeler has ten starts this season in which he has completed seven innings.
Trade him for one top prospect and another mid-level prospect.
There will be those who say, “Steve, what are you doing? Who’s gonna pitch? Who’s gonna play?”
Totally of no consequence, my friends. What’s the worse that can happen? The Marlins finish ahead of the Mets? Well, check that. That might be a little embarrassing.
But the salient points remain. The Mets need to engage in a short-term rebuilding process that coincides with the remaking of their clubhouse. The Mets are stale, they are not broken.
Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, and Michael Conforto did not appear from anywhere. They were bred and formed by the Mets organization. Together, they form the nucleus of a team having not only good bats but good heads as well.
Van Wagenen brought on Allen Baird and a host of others to compliment him in the scouting and analytics departments. Make them do their job. Vet players before you leap (Mr. Cano?). Do your due diligence. It can be done.