Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
As soon as Brodie Van Wagenen began work as the Mets' general manager last fall, he set about building roster depth and eliminating as many "ifs" as possible.
Now that several of those "ifs" have been answered one way or another, tough decisions await. This a consequence of some of the redundancies that Van Wagenen and his staff considered necessary in December and January, and one that they are happy to deal with. After all, tough roster decisions mean that at least some of that depth-building project bore fruit.
Consider Keon Broxton, whose roster status is now tenuous. The Mets traded for Broxton as a hedge against several ifs:
What if Jeff McNeil couldn't handle the outfield (turns out he can)? What if Juan Lagares, with his injury history wasn't healthy (turns out he is)?
With those ifs answered, Broxton has become expendable. The Mets are comfortable with that reality because they acquired him at a low prospect cost, and without making him a major part of their plans.
They chose him over a top free agent like A.J. Pollock because they felt that Pollock's injury history created too much of an if for the cost -- and appear validated after Pollock's recent elbow surgery.
Heading into the season, Amed Rosario was another if. What if he struggled defensively, or regressed back to the offensive player he was in the first half of 2018? That's why the Mets signed Adeiny Hechavarria as depth.
Because Rosario has not fully answered his ifs, particularly on defense, Hechavarria remains here for now, but it's easy to imagine that changing before long.
These examples illustrate why roster decisions never happen in a vacuum, and almost always involve considerations for multiple players. They also remind us that the idea of keeping the "best 25" players, in Van Wagenen's phrase, is never simple.
Choosing the best 25 out of spring training is one thing. Players have six weeks of exhibition games to prove they deserve to break camp with the team. During the regular season, it becomes far more complicated. Teams must weigh factors like sample size, peripheral numbers, trade-offs of offense versus defense, who has options and whom the organization would lose by cutting.
Sometimes, time in the minors can also be best for a player's long-term future. J.D. Davis could be an example of this. The Mets intended to give him reps at a variety of positions in spring training, including the outfield. But then Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie were injured, forcing Davis to play third base.
While many fans want to see Frazier released, the Mets are weighing his defensive value and the possible opportunity to get Davis Triple-A reps at other positions. Perhaps Davis' bat will force the Mets to keep him, and try him around the diamond in the big leagues. But he if spends time in Triple-A while technically one of the Mets' best 25, it will be for a purpose.
Also, determining the best 25 players cannot be considered without taking into account guaranteed contracts. The Mets would be better without any connection to Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Vargas or Frazier -- all players whom Van Wagenen, as an agent, convinced the team to sign. Now he must live with those consequences.
Opening Day is a moment in time, but on every day after, a roster is a fluid work-in-progress. A team addresses some of their ifs and finds itself dealing with new ones. And a phrase like "best 25" fails to capture the complexity of these decisions.