July 25, 2020
For any baseball fans that are unaware, the New York Mets are up for sale. Mets fans all around are rejoicing that the Wilpons will soon be gone. Sometimes, when an owner leaves, all or some strings attached to them may be gone as well. Brodie Van Wagenen is one of those strings. This is not because the Wilpons hired him to become Sandy Alderson’s successor, but quite the opposite; he became Alderson’s successor because of his relationship with Fred Wilpon. It is no secret that of the serious candidates for the Mets’ GM position, Van Wagenen was clearly unqualified, and nowhere near the best option. Although, there is one main thing that got Van Wagenen the job, Wilpon wanted to win, and Van Wagenen told him that’s what he would do. Now here’s the thing, of the final three contestants, Van Wagenen, Chaim Bloom, and Doug Melvin, Van Wagenen had no front office experience He also told Wilpon he could build a winning team, but Bloom who rebuilt the Rays into a powerhouse wanted to rebuild the Mets, and Mevlin, who has 20+ years of experience as a GM agreed with a rebuild. Wilpon, who didn’t want to rebuild, went with the only person who didn’t want to either, his friend and golf buddy, Brodie Van Wagenen. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win, but when you say you are going to, you have to make smart moves and address the team’s biggest needs. Mets fans know every move Van Wagenen has made, but I’m going to outline some with my thoughts included as well as explore what could happen if Brodie does not stay with an ownership change.
Being a ‘super agent’, Van Wagenen was the agent of multiple Mets players and other stars in the MLB. One of his first major moves as general manager was one that Mets fans would scratch their heads about. Trading some top prospects to get the best closer in the MLB the previous year but then trading Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak to gain more cap space but receiving Robinson Cano, who would add $20 million to the Mets’ payroll for the following five years. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Cano was one of Van Wagenen’s former clients. In one trade, in his first trade, Van Wagenen derailed future cornerstones of the Mets and spent 10% of the payroll for the next five years on an older veteran who is now a fringe starting caliber player at this point in his career. Many Mets fans took the silver lining in that we received Edwin Diaz, but I was not so thrilled as I knew he was bound to regress, just not nearly as much as he actually did in 2019. If I became the new owner of the Mets and wanted to win, this trade alone would be enough for me to fire Van Wagenen and start a new GM hunt. As Mets fans know, the head scratching moves don’t end there. Van Wagenen brought back Jeurys Familia early in free agency for 3ys/$30 million. A move that did not make sense as Familia really did not deserve that kind of contract, nor had the market for relievers shaped at this point. After this, despite saying he wants to build a winning team, Van Wagenen didn’t address the team’s biggest need, the bullpen and LHP until January 2019 when he signed Justin Wilson which was very needed. Wilson was great in 2019 and just because he was good, doesn’t mean Van Wagenen couldn’t have signed other lefties. With relievers Andrew Miller and Zach Britton on the market both of which were perfect fits for the team. The Wilson Ramos signing was a good move either. He may provide a good bat in the lineup, but he isn’t athletic, he’s old, and has injury history. For a team that is one of the worst in the MLB at controlling the run game, he signs one of the worst options to fix that problem. The Jed Lowrie signing was actually a good deal for both sides, but didn’t make too much sense considering two months earlier, he traded for Cano. The JD Davis trade worked out well for the Mets, but I do not see why it was necessary to include a prospect (Luis Santana SS/2B) who showed great potential along with two other prospects for an MLB ready player that has not produced well in the opportunities given to him. By wanting to win, Van Wagenen traded three very good prospects, received a closer bound to regress from his sensational 2018, and added five 30+ year old players to the MLB 25 man roster and multiple others to smart minor league deals. To me, the foreshadowing was quite clear that this team wasn’t very set to win now; and with some of the moves Van Wagenen made, the Mets were no longer set up to be as successful in the future either.
The Wilpons intend to have a sale of some sort completed between the end of the World Series and the end of the 2020 calendar year. This can be any time in the early stages of the off season, before any or all general manager candidates get hired. One of the bigger names that will potentially be searching for a general manager position this offseason is Billy Owens, the current Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel. If new ownership wants to make a change and hire a new GM that will build up the team for the future, Owens makes the most sense. He is widely regarded as one of the best talent evaluators in the game and who else would you want at the helm of your franchise to bring in the best players and prospects. If the Mets rebuild, they’ll be trading many or some of their MLB players for prospects that will soon come up. Owens is a guy that can see things in players that others don’t, and during a rebuild, you can’t afford to strikeout on trades for prospects. Owens would be able to maximize the talent in the farm system and bring together a cohesive unit. Billy Beane has said that Owens is ready to take the next big step in his career. Some say that if he’s going to do that, he has to take a step away from his passion of scouting and get some administrative experience. That was after the 2018 season and Owens is now entering his second season as Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development. Owens is ready to leap into a general manager position and with an ownership switch coming at the end of the year, the Mets could be just the team that needs him.
For the majority of the 2000s, the Mets have been a middle of the pack team. It’s the worst position to be in because you’re not making the playoffs and you’re not able to select the best talent in the draft. With new ownership might come a new era in Queens. If the Mets don’t win this year, we could very easily see a new group come in and bring in their own people for the front office. Some of you might wonder if the Mets should rebuild and what a Mets rebuild would look like. Be on the lookout because those will be coming soon.