As the Mets embark on the 2020 offseason, there are lots of burning questions, including which free agents they should pursue, which 2019 performances were sustainable, and which players in the farm system (if any) should be untouchable...
Should the Mets sign Josh Donaldson, trade J.D. Davis and make Jeff McNeil a full-time LF?
McNeil, Davis and Jed Lowrie are capable of starting at third base. So, it's difficult to see Van Wagenen shelling out what is likely to be a three-year, $70-80 million deal to get Donaldson.
However, for all of the talk about adding a center fielder or corner outfielder, adding Donaldson would probably be the biggest bang for Van Wagenen's buck.
The fact is, Brandon Nimmo in most comparisons will likely end up being the better option in the field. At the same time, in addition to providing a major upgrade and credibility at the plate, Donaldson will likely be the best option in the field at third base.
It's easy to say, "Improve center field" and "Get a power hitter for left field," etc. However, trading Davis for a pitcher, having Nimmo in center field, McNeil in left and Donaldson's bat in the lineup and glove at third, is probably as good as any combination fitting in to Van Wagenen's needs and budget.
Who in the Mets farm system is an untouchable prospect?
In the right deal, I'd trade any one in their system.
Their top three prospects -- Ronny Mauricio, Brett Baty and Andres Gimenez -- are all in the league's Top 100, according to MLB.com. However, as high as their ceilings may be, Baty and Mauricio are two-to-three years away from being able to help at the big league level. And Gimenez, who I think has Omar Vizquel upside, plays middle infield and -- because he's ready now -- I'm not sure how he fits in to the future.
Again, I hope Van Wagenen keeps them, among others. But, if they're needed to make a trade that brings in a win-now player, I don't think anyone is untouchable.
Do you believe in Amed Rosario given his second half turnaround?
Rosario was a top prospect for a reason and we finally saw him realizing that potential during the entire second half of last season. I expect at least the same production in 2020.
His top-line stats were impressive, batting .319 with an .804 OPS during his final 70 games. However, most encouraging were the significant improvement in his fielding and his decrease in strikeouts. Equally important, he didn't just cut down on swings and misses in the strike zone, he began making more contact.
The trajectory of all of the above, which is in line with what he did in the minor leagues, gives me hope that it will at least maintain throughout next season. If it does, Rosario should end up hitting for a higher batting average and -- with his speed -- more extra base hits.
This level of play will not make him the best shortstop in the National League, but it will get him just shy of Javier Baez and Cory Seager, which is a far cry from where he was during the first year and a half of his career.
What should the Mets do with Wilson Ramos? Can they trade him and sign Yasmani Grandal?
I understand the temptation, but I wouldn't make a change.
The catcher position is tricky and not always a smooth transition for a player switching teams. It often takes guys time to get acclimated -- especially when joining a fairly established and experienced pitching staff, such as with the Mets. It was a rough start for Ramos, but once he settled in and gained the respect of most on his staff, he returned to his typical self at the plate.
Grandal is a better hitter than Ramos. However, let's not forget Ramos is hitting .297 during the past four years, while averaging 15 HR per season. He's often ranked a top four or five catcher in the National League. And, the Mets have him for this season at a fair $10 million, after which the Mets have a $10 million on him (or $1.5 million buyout) for 2021.
Meanwhile, Grandal is again a free agent and seeking a five-year deal. The Mets tried last winter to sign him to a reported four-year, $60 million contract, but he declined in favor of a one-year, $18.5 million deal to join the Brewers.
Ramos' barrel rate, launch angle and contact rates indicate his power will continue to decline. However, though his fielding and framing were weak in 2019, a year learning the staff and a second spring training will almost certainly result in improvement, despite him being a year older.
In a perfect world, Van Wagenen swaps Ramos for Grandal, who is superior in every way. But, it's not that simple. In a winter when the Mets again are not expected to break the bank, I'd prefer Van Wagenen use that the additional $8 million each season needed to land Grandal -- not to mention the four-year commitment -- to improve other positions. Plus, in addition to beating out other teams for Grandal, he would first have to also find a taker for Ramos, which on its own will be no easy task.
Is Jacob deGrom's 2018 and 2019 the most dominant back-to-back pitching seasons in team history?
Doc Gooden's first two years in the league were outstanding, but this debate begins and ends with deGrom and Tom Seaver.
In my view, deGrom's 2018 (9.6 WAR) and 2019 (7.3 WAR) is better than any two consecutive years by Seaver. Don't get me wrong, Seaver's 1968 (6.8 WAR) and 1969 (7.2 WAR) are amazing and more balanced, plus includes a World Championship. Seaver's 1974 (6.1 WAR) and 1975 (7.8 WAR) are in the conversation as well, as is his 1973 (10.1 WAR) and again 1974 (6.1). However, deGrom's floor and two-year total is better than any of the above from Tom Terrific.
That said, if deGrom wants to take the three-year title from Seaver, he's going to have to bring it in 2020. Seaver actually has multiple three-year stretches that would likely top anything deGrom will do next year.