The Mets have their manager in Carlos Beltran and free agency has officially started. Now, it’s time for General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen to get down to business.
While Van Wagenen was active in his first offseason with the club last year, several of his moves didn’t pan out.
Free agent signee Wilson Ramos provided a solid bat, but his poor defense behind the plate became a key issue when it was part of a feud between Noah Syndergaard and the club. Jed Lowrie only had seven at-bats in an injury-plagued season, Jeurys Familia was abysmal, and big trade acquisitions Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz proved to be utter failures in their first season with the Mets.
It’s time for BVW to prove last year’s offseason was a fluke, and get the Mets on track for a playoff run in 2020. Here are some moves Van Wagenen can make to help the Mets reach the playoffs and compete for a World Series in 2020.
Keep Noah Syndergaard: For much of the last calendar year, the Mets have contemplated trading their No. 2 starter. And with every day they keep him, his value goes down.
One of Syndergaard’s most attractive assets — aside from his talent on the mound — was his affordability and controllable years. Syndergaard has two more years of team control before he can become a free agent. And while he would fetch a nice return, the Mets should look to build around him and their rotation.
They already need to replace Zack Wheeler, who they are likely going to lose in free agency and, after acquiring Marcus Stroman ahead of the 2019 trade deadline, the Mets must keep Syndergaard around to lead what should be a vaunted rotation in 2020.
Add a fifth starter: Speaking of their 2020 rotation, the Mets need to add more depth to their pitching staff. Jacob deGrom will once again head the rotation, followed by Syndergaard, Stroman, and Steven Matz. But they need to add a steady fifth starter, as well as some depth to provide insurance in case of injury.
Forget about Gerrit Cole or Steven Strasburg — they are not coming to Queens. Same could be said for Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-jin Ryu, and likely Jake Odorizzi, who may command more than what the Mets are willing to pay.
That leaves solid, but unspectacular options in Tanner Roark, Kyle Gibson, and Rick Porcello.
Porcello makes sense as a sinker ball pitcher with local ties — he is from Morristown, NJ, and in college he pitched for nearby Seton Hall. He had an up-and-down tenure in Boston that included a Cy Young Award in 2016, but pitched to an ERA over 4.28 every other year with the Red Sox. But a move to the National League should make him a prime target to rebound, and it’s a gamble the Mets could be willing to take.
Roark is another option and he has experience pitching in the National League East, but he may ask for a guaranteed spot in the rotation, something the Mets shouldn’t offer. Nevertheless, he’d be a good depth piece.
Gibson, on the other hand, has pitched as both a starter, an opener, and a multi-inning reliever. His versatility makes him an attractive option and someone the Mets should look to ink to a short-term deal.
Make a splash in the bullpen: To state the obvious, Diaz’s first year in Queens was an utter failure — 7 losses, 7 blown saves, 15 home runs allowed and a 5.59 ERA. His horrific season, coupled with Familia’s struggles, leaves a gaping hole in the back of the bullpen.
Seth Lugo emerged as the team’s top option out of the pen, but he’s best suited as a multi-inning reliever. Justin Wilson also had a strong season, but he’s better as a lefty-on-lefty specialist.
If the Mets are going to seriously contend, they need a reliable closer, and there are few more reliable than Will Smith. The lefty closer may not have the name recognition to match his stats, but he’s clutch and consistent, something the Mets need.
Smith is the top closer on the market and will likely command a lucrative deal, but this is the one player who the Mets should offer a big-money contract.
Adding Smith leaves Lugo available for the sixth and seventh innings. One of Familia or Diaz should bounce back and handle the eighth, while the other and Justin Wilson can fill in the middle innings when needed. Smith can shut the door in the ninth.
That group has potential to wreak havoc on offenses throughout the season, particularly in October.
Making these moves alone are not enough to make the Mets contenders. Van Wagenen still needs to find versatile and reliable bench pieces to fill out the roster. But keeping Syndergaard while adding Porcello and Smith makes the club a much more dangerous threat in 2020.