Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen did what he believed he could at the Winter Meetings, bringing home two starting pitchers with one hand tied behind his back.
For the Mets, and in particular, Brodie Van Wagenen, these are uncomfortable and complicated times. We’re beginning to understand the announcement of the sale of the team to Steve Cohen is not the same as the execution of the auction.
And no one understands that better than Brodie Van Wagenen. Not only is job potentially on the line, but he is having to operate in limbo with the Wilpon pennies flowing his way while waiting for the dollars sure to come in due time.
Remember, too, that “Stevie” is not exactly Mr. Clean in his past business dealings. He’ll be approved by MLB if only to exile the Wilpons from the team.
And so it is that all Van Wagenen could muster up in the past week are two mid-level pitchers in Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello.
Neither will hurt the Mets, but at the same time, it’s unlikely the combination is enough to push the Mets forward.
In retrospect, Van Wagenen gets a push
It’s only in hindsight I have been drawn to amend my thoughts on Van Wagenen and his seeming sleepwalk through the Winter Meetings in SanDiego.
Perhaps out of jealousy and pure frustration, it’s been hard to observe as the Braves and Phillies added to their arsenal while the Nationals re-upped Stephen Strasburg and the Evil Empire resurfaced across town.
But in his own little way, Van Wagenen has initially solved the Mets bullpen problem by releasing Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman from having to join the starting staff by keeping their rightful and most productive place in the bullpen.
Considering that the Mets now have six starting pitchers led by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard at the top, with Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Porcello, and Wacha in the mix, the job of Carlos Beltran has suddenly been made easier.
Anyone of the bottom four can be summoned to the bullpen if it becomes necessary, with Wacha being the likely first choice given his experience, though limited, with the Cardinals.
For Mets fans and the players as well, this is the way things are until things can get sorted out at the top. Steve Cohen has the option of instilling cash toward his portion of the team that will eventually total eighty percent.
But until that process begins, the best stance for the Mets is to stand still, which may very much what Van Wagenen has come to realize as well.
Do not entertain the idea of trading Syndergaard, Matz, or for that matter, even the very tradeable Dominic Smith. In essence, hold onto all assets until the dust is settling from the sale of the team.
Mets fans on the wait
Regrettably, this translates to Mets fans as yet another year of waiting, and exercising patience based on the belief “better things are yet to come.”
For these fans, the silver lining is the team the Mets will field in 2020 as a group of players who gelled over the second half of 2019 to recover what was heading to a disaster of epic proportions.
There is something intangibly that happens to a team that found themselves buried at one time ten games under .500 that ends their season on one final swing of a bat, defeating the Atlanta Braves on the last game of the season with a walk-off home run.
Every Mets player in the clubhouse remembers that moment, and they remember the incredible season of Pete Alonso, the hit machine abilities of Jeff McNeil, and having Jacob deGrom to anchor their starting rotation.
Depending on the level of play by the Nationals, Braves, and Phillies, the Mets can very quickly wind up in fourth place in the NL East, bettering only the rebuilding Marlins.
But the notion the Mets are in a position to make a play now – or in the near future – to change their circumstance at this time is unrealistic.
Still – With these Mets, You never can tell
In the meantime, the Mets team leaving the field in 2019 is the same team beginning the 2020 season.
And all that’s needed is to repeat whatever it was that prevailed in their clubhouse last September to carry over for the Mets to be a team to be reckoned with any time they take the field.
Steve Cohen and all his billions remain a question mark until we see it. But that camaraderie and the success late in the Mets season we witnessed is not.
For now, Brodie Van Wagenen gets a pass by way of impotence not necessarily deserved. Later, that will be a Cohen matter to change, enabling his GM in the competitive arena of baseball as we know it today.