Van Wagenen, Mets choosing homegrown talent over risky star contracts

Amed Rosario (left) and Jeff McNeil (right) of the New York Mets. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For a second instance this offseason, the New York Mets valued their homegrown talent over making a big, risky splash.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Mets held talks with the Boston Red Sox regarding All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts.

The Mets offered a package involving Brandon Nimmo or JD Davis, along with a choice of shortstop prospects Ronny Mauricio and Andres Gimenez — both of whom are top-five talents within the Mets’ minor-league system.

Boston, however, might have wanted hitting extraordinaire Jeff McNeil, whom the Mets were unwilling to part with.

It’s another example of general manager continuing to invest in their younger, promising players after sending Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz last season.

In his first full MLB season in 2019, McNeil was an All-Star, slashing .318/.384/.531 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI, providing a pure-hitting bat toward the top of New York’s lineup.

His fielding versatility also makes him a valuable asset. Last season saw him play at least 30 games at second base, third base, left field, and right field.

As it stands, the Mets’ official depth chart has McNeil penciled in as the Opening Day starter at third base with Davis starting in left and Nimmo in center.

That could change if Yeonis Cespedes returns early on in the 2020 season, moving Davis to third while McNeil splits his time at four-different positions once again.

The Mets keeping McNeil led to the Red Sox sending Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team deal. The Red Sox received prospects Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong.

Including the up-and-coming hitter would have been a risky decision made by the Mets.

Betts will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2020 season and could receive a $300 million contract in free agency next winter while McNeil is under team control through 2024.

Given the Wilpon family’s stingy ways in doling out huge contracts, it would have been a foregone conclusion that the Mets would have been outbid for Betts even if they wanted to hypothetically retain him.

Van Wagenen was dealt with a similar trade scenario regarding Cleveland Indians star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who reportedly could have been had for Amed Rosario — coming off a promising 2019 — and two top prospects.

While acquisitions of Betts or Lindor would have advanced the Mets’ status as immediate contenders in the National League, it would have been a sizable gamble to part ways with future stars firmly under team control for multiple years.

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