Inactivity has become the norm for the New York Mets while the rest of Major League Baseball is wheeling and dealing during the winter.
Some of it over the years has to do with the general manager tasked with improving the roster, but most of it stems from the frugality of the owning Wilpon family.
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has attempted to buck this trend during his two years at the position, though his moves have come back with mixed results.
He found a diamond in the rough with JD Davis, who was acquired from the Houston Astros for a small price. He also addressed the Mets’ dire need for a catcher by bringing on Wilson Ramos — who delivered an offensive boost during his first year with the team.
But Van Wagenen is also responsible for giving up promising outfield prospect Jerred Kelenic for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, both of whom struggled mightily during their first seasons in Queens. Not to mention Jed Lowrie, who appeared in just nine games last year due to injuries.
It didn’t stop him from staying aggressive this offseason, though. While he didn’t have money to break the bank, Van Wagenen brought in Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello in an attempt to fill the void left by Zack Wheeler’s departure to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Just before Christmas, he attempted to address the team’s biggest need — the bullpen — by signing former Yankees stalwart, Dellin Betances.
With a month left before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, Van Wagenen might not be done yet.
The notion of the team wanting to get Lowrie’s $10 million off the books for 2020 has continued to grow throughout the winter, meaning a trade could be on the horizon.
Given his inability to stay healthy last year, Lowrie would not provide much of a return for the Mets, who could still use a natural, everyday center fielder or additional bullpen help.
To sweeten the pot and improve their return, the Mets might have to throw Dominic Smith into a hypothetical deal.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a breakout season despite running into some injury issues of his own. In 89 games, he slashed .282/.355/..525 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI. Much of the natural first baseman’s statline came in a utility outfield or pinch-hitting role due to the Mets’ logjam of young, impressive bats that include Davis, Jeff McNeil, and Pete Alonso.
With Yoenis Cespedes slated to return in 2020, the Mets’ outfield of him, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto might not be able to support a rotation of Davis, McNeil, and Smith getting regular looks in the corners.
If Lowrie is dealt, McNeil or Davis will get the first crack at the everyday-third-baseman role with the loser of that competition (likely Davis) as the first bat off the bench.
There just won’t be enough opportunities for Smith to get 300-plus at-bats, making him the odd man out and the most logical trade chip to package alongside Lowrie.