The Mets fired a few coaches on Thursday. Big deal. For the team's rookie general manager, decisions await that are far more consequential.
The reshuffling of pitching coaches -- Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez fired, Phil Regan, Ricky Bones and Jeremy Accardo promoted on an interim basis -- was a small and easy move. Eiland and Hernandez were old-school, not as sensitive to analytics or millennial sensitivities as the Mets needed them to be, and won't be particularly missed.
Over the next weeks and months, Brodie Van Wagenen will confront issues far more complex and meaningful. The direction of his team will flow from his response to the following questions:
Does he go big at the trade deadline?
Executives around the league are wondering if the Mets will be buyers or sellers prior to the July 31 trade deadline. We can report that the Mets are still trying to win, and haven't yet decided how to proceed.
But we can also report that a third lane is possible: An aggressive buy/sell combo approach that sacrifices free-agents-to-be while also acquiring controllable pieces for the future. This might be an easier pill to swallow for a GM who swept into the job with a "win now and in the future" catchphrase.
This approach could involve moving a Zack Wheeler, but replacing him by trading prospects or a Dominic Smith for, say, Detroit's Matthew Boyd. Would the Mets look at Marcus Stroman, under control through next year?
We already know that they've long been willing to trade Noah Syndergaard in the right deal. What if you could do that and acquire pieces that could help next year or in 2021?
It's not hard to imagine Van Wagenen stepping to a podium to discuss Wheeler and Syndergaard trades and saying something like, "This is not a rebuild. We have traded for players that will help us win in the near-term, and in the future."
Speaking of Wheeler, will the Mets offer him a contract extension?
The Mets know that Wheeler's season has been far more consistent than his surface numbers suggest. While the most likely course if they're out of contention is to trade him -- probably netting another club's low-end top 10 prospect -- they could also offer him a contract. That way, they wouldn't have to worry about replacing him for next year.
If the Mets knocked on Wheeler's door with a four-year, $60 million contract today, he'd almost certainly give it strong consideration. The view from here is that it's worth a shot.
When will he hire his own manager?
When the Mets decided against firing Mickey Callaway after being swept in Miami last month, Van Wagenen decided to quiet speculation about his job status by offering a public vote of confidence. On Thursday, he reiterated that.
Sources maintain that Callaway's job is safe in the near term, with one person saying that there is a "95 percent" chance that the manager finishes the season.
But the fact remains that Callaway was not Van Wagenen's choice, and is not seen as the long-term answer. Perhaps the Mets start winning, and the Callaway conversation ends. But as it is now, many in the organization are wondering how the GM will time the inevitable managerial change.
How does he get Jeurys Familia fixed?
As one Mets person put it recently, Jeurys Familia "is a totally different guy than he was even last year."
He's lost the feel for his sinker, thereby removing the pitch that separates him. "If he's throwing the slider this much, he's just another guy," one evaluator said.
Van Wagenen invested significant money in Familia last winter, and needs to find someone in his organization who can help the pitcher. Familia is currently on the injured list and in Port St. Lucie; who there can work to restore his signature pitch? We have seen that classic Familia sinker at times this year -- evidence that it's not gone forever.
If Familia and Edwin Diaz can be reliable at the back end of games, along with Seth Lugo, the 2019 season will not seem as lost as it currently appears.