New Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen and other team executives will descend on Carlsbad, California on Monday for MLB's GM meetings, which conclude Thursday.
In addition to voting for and learning about new league business (such as swapping the elimination of trade waivers while moving the trade deadline to mid-August), teams typically use this week as an opportunity to set their plan for the offseason, learn of other organization's wants and needs and basically kick start the Hot Stove Season...
According to reports and his own social media accounts, Van Wagenen has spent the past few days meeting his players and coaching staff, including manager Mickey Callaway, who he essentially said will be back for at least the start of 2019. Here are four storylines to watch this week...
Hi, I'm Brodie, former agent, now GM...
In addition to all of the above, Van Wagenen will also need to use this week's meetings to more or less re-introduce himself to people in baseball, who prior to last week knew of him only as a high-profile baseball agent. Now, he's a colleague. It was one year ago that Van Wagenen was rather vocal making on-record comments about the lack of spending on free agents by MLB teams, going to so far as to intimate collusion was going on. Now, he's one of them...
"He'll be fine," a now baseball executive, former employee of a sports agency told me. "He's social, loves talking the game and he's respected by most of us for being a straight shooter."
The source also said Sandy Alderson often kept his distance from the current crop of young executives in baseball, which likely contributed to him being a bit of out of touch from happenings in the game. However, at least during his days as an agent, Van Wagenen often spent time socializing with team executives, players and fellow agents during the after-hours at the GM and Winter Meetings, which may help reconnect the Mets to how other teams are operating.
Order, order in the roster...
"The need is to try and get the 25 best players on the field that work together and complement each other," Van Wagenen said last week at his introductory press conference. However, he continued, "We need to balance (it) out. We have to try and get better up the middle in terms of offense and defense."
This is true. But, if Van Wagenen took anything away from watching the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox and Brewers in the final two postseason series, I hope it was the importance of depth.
In this day and age, the modern GM is more or less managing a 50-man roster, not 40, because of how pitchers are protected and due to the number of injuries.
Therefore, he and his staff need to be very aware of players expected to be non-tendered by their competition as it will create the low-risk, high-reward free agents likely to accept minor-league deals, compete in spring training and ideally provide depth in Triple-A for the big-league roster.
"Balance up the middle," he said...
I love this, and wholeheartedly agree, especially if 2019 will again center around Jacob deGrom and the team's pitching staff.
The fact is, by upgrading the hit productivity, fielding and reliability at catcher, shortstop, second base and center field, it will make the pitching staff better than it already is.
To do this, Van Wagenen must talk with the Marlins and gather information about how to trade for C J.T. Realmuto, while also feeling out the free agent market for catchers Wilson Ramos, as well as Jonathan Lucroy, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Wieters, Yasmani Grandal and others.
In center field, the Mets could use Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto. However, Van Wagenen's comments suggest he would rather have a tried-and-true, everyday, defense-first glove at that position, as opposed to using it as a spot to rotate his corner outfielders.
A.J. Pollock will be the most prominent free agent, but his history of being injured should push him down on Van Wagenen's wish list. Instead, as I suggested last week, I'd much rather see him pursue a veteran with leadership, such as Adam Jones or Andrew McCutchen, both of whom have terrific reputations as men, players and will not cost much to acquire.
The middle infield is less of concern with Amed Rosario and Jeff McNeil more than worthy of continuing in these spots. This only becomes a hole if Van Wagenen uses one or both players to make a trade that helps upgrade another position.
For the 10th-straight winter, upgrade the bullpen...
There will be lots of talk about helping the bullpen, but the same will be uttered by every team in the league. Thankfully, there are expected to be close to 60 relievers available on the open market, possibly more when teams non-tender arbitration-eligible players.
As we speak, the free-agent market currently includes top-rated closers Craig Kimbrel, Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton and set-up man Brad Brach. But Kelvin Herrera, Joe Kelly, Bud Norris, Adam Ottavino, Brad Ziegler, Tony Sipp, Brandon Kintzler (again) and Andrew Miller will also be available.
The point is, there will be plenty of options and time to ink one of the above to an inexpensive deal, while also baiting others to ink minor league contracts, such as Kintzler or Zach McAllister.
Thankfully, Van Wagenen's bullpen currently includes Tylor Bashlor, Drew Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Anthony Swarzak, so it's not like he's starting from zero. Instead, simply adding one experienced, high-leverage guy, a veteran set-up man and two or three guys inked to minor league deals will be enough to help to stabilize the bullpen while other money is dedicated to improving the lineup.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!