Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is clearly working to set an example of confidence and determination for his team, which he was hired to run just seven weeks ago.
He's setting a tone for his employees...
"Ultimately, I am going to surround myself with people who are best in class," he said at his introductory press conference when asked about building his staff.
He's setting a tone for the team's fans...
"We need to build, not rebuild. ... I'm confident that Mets fans will believe we can bring a championship not only now but in years to come," he said.
And, he's clearly fixed on rising our collective expectations in 2019...
"I think we're in a position right now to go run to the front (of the NL East)," he told WFAN's Mike Francesa the day he was hired. Then, earlier this week after announcing the addition of C Wilson Ramos, he went the final step, standing tall with confidence and saying, "We believe we're the favorites in the division."
There is no question that Van Wagenen's Mets are a better team after trading away Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak and adding Ramos, Jeurys Familia, Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano, as well as signing Rajai Davis to a minor-league deal.
The Nationals, who finished in second place last season, are the only team in the division to keep pace with Van Wagenen. So far, Washington has added 1B Matt Adams, replaced Matt Wieters with Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, and most notably signed pitcher Patrick Corbin.
Last year's division winner, the Braves, have added only 3B Josh Donaldson and reunited with in-decline, 34-year-old C Brian McCann.
The Phillies, who finished third in 2019, lost Ramos to the Mets, traded away Carlos Santana, and added Andrew McCutchen, reliever Jose Alvarez, SS Jean Segura and pitcher Juan Nicasio. They are also still considered heavy favorites to add a top starting pitcher and possibly both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
As a result, according to current team WAR projections by FanGraphs.com, the Nationals are currently projected to top the division with 91 wins, the Mets are second (85), followed by the Braves (82), Phillies (79) and Marlins (68).
These are, of course, projections in December with 106 days to go before Opening Day and plenty of time and players available to improve each squad.
To close the gap with Washington, SNY's Andy Martino reported Tuesday that the Mets are more likely to spread their remaining offseason budget on multiple players, as opposed to acquiring one big-ticket player, such as Machado or Harper.
I'm sure this is correct. However, it may be possible to do both if Van Wagenen continues to be aggressive and creative with his transactions.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Mets are projected to already have a $169 million net payroll in 2019.
To add A.J. Pollock or Mike Moustakas, let alone both, the Mets would be uncharacteristically close to the luxury tax, while making it very difficult for Van Wagenen to acquire players by trade during the summer. Harper or Machado would obviously do the same, even if backloading their deal and trading Todd Frazier and/or Juan Lagares.
For what it's worth, Pollock and Moustakas would each add a projected three wins, according to FanGraphs.com. Harper would add six victories.
By comparison, by adding free agent OF Adam Jones and reliever Andrew Miller, it would likely mean spending $20 or so million and with less commitment, though for less projected wins. But, it would allow for more additions this winter and/or this summer, plus keep Van Wagenen further away from the luxury tax.
Thankfully, the Nationals and Phillies are having the exact same debate about payroll. The Braves have plenty of room before being taxed, but reportedly a significantly smaller budget than their division rivals.
The point is, on paper, the division projects to be tight. In reality, we know a lot can go right and wrong as players get injured and under- and overperform. The key to weathering these storms is depth and experience. And, to date, even if he does nothing else this winter, Van Wagenen has added both to his roster and improved its chance of winning in 2019.
However, the other three teams will continue adding, especially the Phillies. So, when it comes to adding players and spending money, Van Wagenen needs to keep his thinking cap on and not take his foot off the gas until Opening Day.
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!