There are always buyers and sellers at the trade deadline. The New York Mets could go either way, which is why they need to fire general manager Brodie Van Wagenen rather than wait for the team’s next owner to do it.
The Mets were already thin on pitching before Marcus Stroman opted out of the pint-sized 2020 season. But they still have a realistic chance at making the watered-down MLB playoffs, which isn’t the great development that Mets fans might think.
The implications of pitcher Marcus Stroman’s opt-out
Pitcher Marcus Stroman hadn’t thrown a pitch this season while recovering from a calf injury. The Mets were counting on him for six to eight starts in what’s left of the 60-game regular season when the 29-year-old right-hander abruptly decided to opt-out. Mets fans are keenly aware of the short- and long-term implications of Stroman’s decision.
First, the Mets’ rotation has been thrown into disarray. They already lost Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery, Michael Wacha has gone on the injured list, and Steven Matz has been ineffective – a euphemism for “atrocious” — in three appearances. Stroman was being counted on to stop the bleeding.
In the bigger picture, there was an expectation that the Mets might be able to sign Stroman to a contract that would keep him off the free-agent market. Stroman is only 51-47 since reaching the majors in 2014 with the Toronto Blue Jays. But his 3.76 ERA and a decent whiffs-to-walks ratio would have made keeping him a priority, particularly after what general manager Brodie Van Wagenen gave up to acquire Stroman for 11 starts last season.
Had Stroman chosen to opt-out over COVID-19 concerns before the season started, he would have lacked the six seasons of service time to qualify for free agency, thus keeping him with the Mets in 2021. Starting the season on the injured list allowed him to accrue the necessary service time to walk after this season.
Brodie Van Wagenen can’t be allowed to gamble again
Eight teams in each league will qualify for the expanded MLB playoffs this fall. The Mets don’t have to do much to stay in the mix and might be tempted to make one or two deals before the trade deadline. And that’s the problem; there’s a big gap between the teams that will slide into the last few spots and those that are good enough to reach the National League Championship Series. The Mets have seventh place written all over them.
Brodie Van Wagenen, who came aboard as the general manager in October 2018 despite a background consisting only of being an agent, is feeling the heat because of some big misses.
Infielder Jeff Lowrie was signed before last season for $10 million a year and has given the Mets seven at-bats thus far. Of course, he might look like a bargain if 37-year-old Robinson Cano (five years, $120 million) doesn’t fully rebound from his worst year in the majors.
Tack on the fact that Van Wagenen got nothing when Zach Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud left, and he certainly has some explaining to do. (We won’t even begin to discuss Yoenis Cespedes.) And that’s why he shouldn’t be left in place for the new owners: They’re unlikely to buy what he’s selling during his performance review … or what he might be trying to buy at the trade deadline to save his job.
New ownership will be coming on board
The Marcus Stroman acquisition will go into the books as a blunder. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen gambled last year, and his short-term rental had an even shorter lease than expected. For that, the Mets gave up two promising pitchers, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson.
Kay, 25, grew up on Long Island and could have been a drawing card for the Mets for a decade. He made the Toronto Blue Jays roster and might never taste the minor leagues again. Woods Richardson is just 19 years old. Throwing against hitters with several more years of experience at each rung of the ladder will make him battle-ready for the Jays in 2023.
The Mets are going to have new ownership by the start of next season – Steve Cohen and Alex Rodriguez are putting together groups, and other prospective buyers are still in play. The next owner will be dealing with enough problems and doesn’t need Van Wagenen adding to the pile by executing another risky trade in a bid to make the bloated 2020 postseason at the expense of 2021 and beyond.