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Now that Brodie Van Wagenen has made his concession speech, admitting that his "come get us" bravado resulted in "they came and got us," the Mets can officially move on to the brainstorming portion of the schedule.
That is, everything they do over the final two and a half months should be with a vision of 2020 and beyond in mind, rather than trying to squeeze the most possible wins out of a lost season.
Mostly that means getting answers to as many questions about the future of this team as possible. I'd start with these 10:
Can Amed Rosario Play Center Field?
More and more it appears Rosario is not the long-term answer at shortstop. For whatever reason, his obvious athleticism has not translated to the high-level defense that so many evaluators predicted for him as he rose through the minors.
Worse, with two full seasons worth of big-league games under his belt, he's a liability at the position, yet his speed and offensive potential make him an intriguing option as a center fielder. Maybe he can be the guy to fill that long-standing void for the Mets, but they can't wait and merely give him several games there in September. Get him out there at least by the middle of August and find out if such a move is a realistic option.
Can Tomas Nido Be The Everyday Catcher?
I've already written a column suggesting Van Wagenen try to unload Wilson Ramos at the trade deadline, but scouts and executives don't see much of a market for him unless the Mets eat most of the $10.25 million he's owed next season, which seems highly unlikely.
But that shouldn't prevent them from giving Nido every opportunity to see if he can hit enough to justify catching, say, 110 games next season, with Ramos in a backup/pinch-hitting role. Nido is a smooth receiver and seems to have a good feel for calling games, which is why pitchers prefer him behind the plate to the defensively-challenged Ramos.
Who Is Noah Syndergaard?
Van Wagenen made it clear the Mets aren't trading Syndergaard this month, nor should they. His value is down, after his inconsistent first half. And if Van Wagenen trades Zack Wheeler at the deadline, which seems likely, dealing Syndergaard only makes sense if the GM is bringing back major league-ready players, which is far more likely in the offseason.
Meanwhile, the Mets need to get Syndergaard to commit to whatever works best for him. They're currently trying to convince him to rely most heavily his two-seamer, or sinking fastball, and live down in the strike zone, while using use four-seamer up in the zone simply to keep hitters honest.
With that in mind, he needs Nido behind the plate because Ramos struggles with balls low or in the dirt. If Syndergaard can dominate with his sinker consistently, the Mets will have a better picture of what he can be as he turns 27 this month, with two more seasons before free agency.
Can Van Wagenen Find Value In Trades?
Van Wagenen failed in his first go-round at acquiring players as a GM, at least in terms of the results from his offseason moves. Now he must prove he can do better at making trades as the July 31 deadline approaches.
It won't be easy, as he'll probably only be looking to deal rental players such as Wheeler, Todd Frazier, and Jason Vargas, but Van Wagenen needs to find a way to bring back players with solid value. If that means getting creative and, say, finding a team that wants both Wheeler and Frazier, the new guy needs to do something to raise his stock as GM.
Is Robinson Cano Done?
Lately, Cano has at least begun to take the outside pitch to left field, but at best he appears to be a singles hitter at age 36, and there's not much value in that for a guy with a .286 on-base percentage. Indeed, the lack of power is staggering: in a season in which everybody is hitting the ball out of the ballpark, Cano has hit one home run since April 21, and four for the season.
In doing a Mets' game on FOX recently, Joe Girardi noted that Cano was once one of the best off-speed hitters in baseball, but because he appears to be cheating - starting his swing early - to catch up to fastballs, he's vulnerable to the off-speed stuff.
So, what do the Mets do? For now, all they can do is let him play and hope something clicks. But if he hits like this for another 10 weeks, the Mets should seriously consider swallowing hard and eating the final four years of his contract. He doesn't help them offensively or defensively, his habit of jogging to first is bound to resurface again as an issue, and suffice it to say the Mets would be much better off with Jeff McNeil playing second base.
Can Anthony Kay Be Counted On Next Season?
The lefty from UConn is the only pitching prospect who has a chance to impact next season's starting rotation, so at some point this season the Mets need to get a feel for what he can do against big-league hitters.
Kay has struggled so far since being promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, telling reporters at the Futures Game that he's had some trouble adjusting to the feel of the major league baseball, which is now used in Triple-A. So, give him more time there, but assuming he has some success, getting him seven or eight starts in the big leagues late in the season would be important.
Who Is Seth Lugo?
All in all, Lugo has been solid in the bullpen, and at times easily their most dependable reliever, but because he needs more rest between outings than most pitchers, maybe the Mets need to think about making Lugo a starter again.
They're going to need starters next season anyway, and with a little more margin for error to throw his curveball as a starter, it might be the best for fit for Lugo. In that case it would make sense to stretch him out and give him some starts in the second half.
Is Dom Smith The Everyday Left Fielder?
In 157 plate appearances this season, Smith has an impressive .939 OPS, and perhaps most notably, it looks like he can at least hold his own against left-handed pitching. It's a small sample size, only 28 plate appearances, but he's hitting .320 against lefties, and he has shown the ability to take a tough pitch to the opposite field.
So, let him play left field every day, against all types of pitching. He's been fine out there defensively, and as he just turned 24 last month, Smith looks like a big piece of the future.
Can J.D. Davis be an everyday player?
If Frazier is traded it might be tempting to move McNeil to third base, but I think the Mets need to give Davis playing time there. He hasn't looked great defensively, but he can hit, and if he shows that he can put up numbers playing every day there, it might be the best way to make us of the Mets' young talent - especially since McNeil has proven he can handle playing the outfield.
Can The Van Wagenen Regime Evaluate Players?
The new GM hired Adam Guttridge as an analytics guru and seems to be relying on him heavily in making personnel decisions - which is what a lot of organizations are doing these days.
But if the Mets are playing meaningless games over the final two months of the season, evaluating players can be as much about deciding what's real and what's not real, which takes a feel for players. At some point Van Wagenen and his lieutenants need to rely on their eyes as well as the cold, hard numbers.