New GM Brodie Van Wagenen expects the Mets to win now, he said Tuesday. He doubled down on this statement when later talking to WFAN's Mike Francesa, saying, "I think we've got a lot of talent," and, "We're in a position right now to go run to the front (of the NL East)."
Along those lines, Van Wagenen needs to go all-out to sign Manny Machado (which I wrote about here). Here is the rest of what I'd like to see Van Wagenen do -- which when combined with Machado should only raise the payroll from its already $140 million to around $165 million...
Trade for J.T. Realmuto
Mets C Travis D'Arnaud had Tommy John surgery this past April, which means the starting catcher job for 2019 is wide open.
Earlier this week, Marlins C J.T. Realmuto's agent, Jeff Barry, told the Marlins that his client is not going to sign a contract extension to remain in Miami.
"He will definitely be wearing a different uniform (in 2019)," said Barry, who was a close colleague of Van Wagenen the past five years.
To get Realmuto, the Mets will need to give up an elite, promising, controllable asset and more. The Marlins have nothing going at shortstop and are very thin on infield prospects. I see no reason they will not be intrigued by Amed Rosario, who is 22, under contract through 2023, was considered the best prospect in baseball just 18 months ago and he ended his 2018 on a high note.
SNY.tv's Danny Abriano would rather the Mets sign a free agent catcher than trade for Realmuto. In this scenario, though, they trade for him. And Rosario would be a good starting point.
Realmuto, who at 27 years old was the most productive catcher in baseball last season, is eligible for arbitration each of the next two years before becoming a free agent. He is likely to earn roughly $6 million in 2019. D'Arnaud, who is expected to be out through the first few months of next season, is likely to earn $4 million next season if he isn't non-tendered, after which he'll be a free agent.
Sign Adam Jones to play center field
Jones, 33, has been in steady decline since his peak season in 2013. His power, speed, walk rates and WAR are all dropping year over year during that time. However, it's also possible he's been pretty demoralized having been part of the crashing and burning of his beloved Orioles. He took a hit in the field this past season, but has otherwise remained consistent in center.
People that know him say Jones is a "class act," a "total professional," and, much like Curtis Granderson, he's very accessible, providing leadership and insight to the clubhouse. They also say he's known for not just loving the game, but also loving the work and preparation for each game, which is something Mets manager Mickey Callaway has mentioned being a core tenet for his team.
"If he gets in the right situation, I think he could be like Andrew McCutchen when he went to the Yankees. He still has the tools to reignite his career a bit and have an impact for a winning team," an advanced scout told me earlier this week.
Adam Jones. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Insiders I have talked with see Jones being in a comparable situation this winter to where Jarrod Dyson was last offseason. Dyson, also in decline and 33 at the time, signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the D-backs last winter.
It's also worth noting that there are not a lot of teams looking for a center fielder. And the ones that are will likely turn first to A.J. Pollock, McCutchen, and Jon Jay.
As a result, it's reasonable to think Jones can be had for two years and around $10 million, which I see as a bargain. Remember, with Realmuto and Machado in the lineup, both of whom will help Michael Conforto, Jones doesn't have to be an MVP candidate. He simply needs to remain healthy, be a consistent presence in center field (which will help the pitching staff) and keep showing up as the outstanding leader and hard working class act he's always been in the clubhouse.
Sign two or three relievers
I wanted this to be specific, but it's impossible to predict how any reliever will perform from season to season, especially when switching teams, catchers, routines and stadiums.
There are 30 teams in baseball and roughly 50 relievers set to hit free agency. There is, of course Craig Kimbrel, Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton and Brad Brach. But, there will also be Kelvin Herrera, Joe Kelly, Bud Norris, Adam Ottavino, Brad Ziegler, Tony Sipp, Brandon Kintzler (again) and Andrew Miller, just to name a bunch...
The point is, there will be plenty of options and time to ink one of the above to an inexpensive two-year deal, while baiting two or three others to ink minor league contracts.
For the sake of argument, let's say the Mets add Herrera and get Kintzler and a Zach McAllister to take a minor league contract. These guys, plus current Mets relievers Tylor Bashlor, Drew Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Anthony Swarzak, among others, will give the Mets just as much of a chance to be a terrific bullpen as any other team. Again, it's so hit or miss from year to year that the goal for Van Wagenen should be to add experience and mettle as opposed to over spending on what an out-dated closer did in previous seasons.
So there you have it, we say goodbye to Rosario and add Machado, Jones and Realmuto to the everyday lineup, which creates major support for Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Jay Bruce (and eventually Peter Alonso). Depth and numbers are added to the bullpen and the starting rotation remains intact.
It's also worth noting that, while the Mets would be increasing payroll, guys like Bruce, Frazier, Swarzak, Jones and Zack Wheeler will have trade value this summer. So, if the team again struggles, I'm confident the team can recoup a bit of money by dealing veterans for prospects.
If the Mets make the above moves, the 2019 team will have options and can win right now -- something I don't believe the current roster can do.
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!