John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Two weeks ago the Mets seemed to have no need for Jed Lowrie. No room, either. Now, suddenly, with the free-agent infielder finally ready to play, his new team is hoping desperately he can provide exactly the type of offensive spark Brodie Van Wagenen had in mind when he signed him.
For that matter, as badly as the slumping Mets need Lowrie to deliver offensively, it's fair to say Van Wagenen might need it even more.
There is plenty of blame to spread around, obviously, as this team has fallen off a cliff in going 4-10 over the last couple of weeks, beset by problems in all phases of the game.
Noah Syndergaard remains an enigma. Michael Conforto can't ever seem to deliver that expected star-level offense with any consistency. Amed Rosario is a nightmare lately defensively at shortstop. Brandon Nimmo has looked overmatched too often at the plate.
Still, it's also hard not to notice that Van Wagenen's batting average isn't very high at the moment, either, if you look at what his most significant off-season acquisitions have produced so far:
- Wilson Ramos has been sub-par defensively, shockingly so at times, and after a hot start offensively -- albeit almost exclusively as a singles hitter -- his bat has gone ice-cold, to the point where Mickey Callaway elected not to have him pinch-hit for Tomas Nido with the tying run on base in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 3-2 loss.
- Jeurys Familia has been awful at the back of the bullpen, and now he's injured, leaving the Mets scrambling for ways to cover the late innings.
- At least Robinson Cano is showing signs of life after a slow start, but the Mets need him to be in-his-prime Robbie to make this offense playoff-worthy, and at age 36 that might be asking too much.
- Prized closer Edwin Diaz has been dominant at times, as advertised, but he's been nicked for a couple of killer home runs and needs to be more automatic for this bullpen to have any chance of being successful.
- And now comes Lowrie, finally, after a spring training knee injury. Like Cano, he is an older former CAA client of Van Wagenen's, both of which the GM wanted personally because he believed in their ability to not only play at a high level but provide leadership.
Suffice it to say Lowrie could do wonders for BVW's first-semester report card by showing up in the No. 2 spot in the lineup and hitting as he did for the A's last season when he racked up 37 doubles and 23 home runs as part of an .801 OPS.
I questioned the move at the time, mostly because I thought the Mets were undervaluing Jeff McNeil, looking at him at the time as more as a part-time outfielder than the hit machine he's proven to be so far.
But I have to admit my oft-voiced idea of signing A.J. Pollock instead, and thereby keeping McNeil in the infield, looks foolish at the moment, as the injury-prone center fielder is out until at least July for the Dodgers with a staph infection in the same right elbow on which he's twice had surgery.
And, as it turns out, Lowrie might be arriving at just the right time for an offense that has been carried by McNeil and rookie Pete Alonso.
We'll see. For the moment, if Van Wagenen could have one do-over, I have to think it would be signing Ramos, who, at age 31 looks like he's lost his power at the plate and his mobility behind the dish, perhaps in part due to the knee surgeries he's had during his career.
And, remember, the Mets only signed Ramos when they became frustrated at trying to complete a trade with the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto, who is hitting .273/.336/.421 in 34 games with the Phillies, while throwing out a league-high 52 percent of base-stealers so far.
The Marlins were asking too much -- or were they? They reportedly wanted two players from the threesome of Conforto, Rosario, and Nimmo.
Think the Mets wouldn't give up Rosario and Nimmo now for Realmuto?
Either that or the Marlins reportedly wanted Syndergaard straight up for Realmuto, an idea the Mets thought was too lopsided on their end. They might have a different thought now, as Thor's 99-mph fastball isn't getting the results it once did -- at least not consistently.
For that matter, Van Wagenen might also wish he'd been more willing to deal Syndergaard in talks with the Padres, since rookie sensation Chris Paddack was reportedly part of a package San Diego was willing to deal.
To be fair, though, I thought the Marlins were asking too much for Realmuto at the time, and applauded Van Wagenen for moving on while Ramos was still available rather than overpay to acquire another former CAA client.
And while Paddack had potential, nobody was predicting this type of early success. So if the Padres weren't willing to include Fernando Tatis Jr., which they weren't, then hanging on to Syndergaard seemed to give the Mets the best chance to win in 2019.
That was Van Wagenen's mantra, of course: win-now. Meanwhile, his "come get us" talk seemed unnecessarily brash in January, more so now with the Mets at 17-20.
Obviously things could change. This team has shown enough flashes of strong play to offer hope it can click more consistently, though it has to be said that so far Callaway hasn't looked to be any more of an inspiring choice as manager than he did during his difficult first season.
At the very least I thought he had to come out of the dugout screaming at the umpire in the ninth inning on Wednesday when Conforto was called out on a pitch at his ankles, and show his team that even at the end of a disheartening road trip he was still fighting for them.
Big picture, though, Callaway isn't the reason the Mets are playing so poorly right. They need players to deliver on expectations up and down the roster, and so if nothing else, perhaps Lowrie is arriving just in time provide a boost where the Mets need it most, feeble as they've been offensively.
If that proves to be the case, perhaps it could have a kinetic effect on a team with so many connected problems. Certainly it could be downright therapeutic for the GM.