By: Michael Bernardo
December 3rd 2018
Some people adjust to their new job position in a new city by testing the waters first and taking their time assessing everything.
Then there’s Brodie Van Wagenen.
Just about one month after being introduced as the General Manager of the New York Mets, the former CAA agent who once represented current Mets Jacob (2018 NL Cy Young Winner) deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard and Tim Tebow made his presence known across the league in a big way to start the MLB offseason. The hiring alone was met with criticism and some skepticism. The Mets had opted to take the alternative route by hiring the former agent to take the helm of baseball operations over the younger, more analytical Chaim Bloom and old school minded former GM Bob Melvin. It of course was met with uncertainty by fans (myself included) and executives around the league. On the surface, it was common nature to wonder what business does a former sports agent have being the head of a team’s baseball operations. The skepticism comes into factor more so with the uncertainty of the futures of deGrom and Syndergaard. If you recall during the regular season, it was Van Wagenen who urged the Mets to either trade deGrom or extend his contract by the season’s end. Now that Van Wagenen is on the other side of that discussion, there has to be a sense of awkwardness among all parties involved; but that’s for another day. As for Syndergaard, we will briefly get into him later once this is all hashed out.
Van Wagenen, in his introductory press conference, made the cliche proclamation preaching the desire and capability to succeed right away. “We will win now. We will win in the future. We’re going to develop a winning culture and a winning mindset, and we will deliver this city and this fanbase a team they can be proud of.” I mean, on one hand, you’re not going to come out and say “We fully expect to suck once again due to our terrible ownership and their lack of accountability for financial mishaps.” But on the other hand, you’re going to make a statement of this sentiment and actually do something about it very quickly. Well, Van Wagenen so far has done the latter.
For the Mets, in order to succeed in this current baseball climate, they certainly need to improve their catching situation, add an arm or seven in the depleted bullpen, and another bat to bolster their embarrassing run support for their stud pitchers. And for good measure, a miracle from any God you wish to choose from.
In the first big move of both his tenure as the Mets GM and this MLB offseason, Van Wagenen has addressed at least one, or two depending on your opinion, of the Mets offseason needs. Barring any disaster during the medical physicals, the Mets have agreed to send OF/1B Jay Bruce, RHP Anthony Swarzak, and prospects OF Jarred Kelenic (#3 Mets, #62 MLB Pipeline), RHP Justin Dunn (#4 Mets, #89 MLB Pipeline), and RHP Gerson Bautista to the Seattle Mariners for 2B Robinson Cano, CP Edwin Diaz, and $20 million.
When you think about it, there’s a lot to unpack in this trade. For the Mets, you are trading two contracts that were had not necessarily panned out like you had hoped for in both Bruce and Swarzak when they were signed during last year’s offseason. Jay Bruce had returned to the Mets in 2018 on a 3 year, $39 million deal after initially being traded to the Cleveland Indians around the 2017 trade deadline. Bruce had hopes of resurrecting his power to where it once was with the Cincinnati Reds, Indians, and in part the Mets. His tenure with the Mets was up and down, showing great power in small surges but never with consistency and a high strikeout rate. Anthony Swarzak, after having a stellar 2017 campaign with the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers in which he managed a 2.33 ERA over 71 innings was signed to a 2 year deal worth $14 million to help the forever struggling bullpen. Here’s where it gets to become a bit sketchy. The most coveted of the three prospects, Jarred Kelenic, was just drafted in June with the 6th overall pick. Many scouts believe he could become a very viable player on offense. But at just 19 years old and coming out of high school, that question may not be answered for at least a few years.
The division of opinion comes with who the Mariners sent over in the deal. Depending on your preference, Robinson Cano or Edwin Diaz can be considered the main chip in this deal. Cano, who was once a fan favorite and perennial All Star for the Evil Empire wearing pinstripes in the Bronx is coming off a 10 year $240 million mega deal signed by the Mariners prior to the 2014 season. Last season, he batted .303 with 10 HR and 50 RBI in just 80 games, but was suspended for half of last season for violating MLB’s steroid policy. He is also 36 years old and only halfway through his mega deal. Edwin Diaz certainly fills the closer hole after the departure of Jeurys Familia, and does so with great success. Coming off a 2018 campaign in which he saved 57 games with a 1.96 ERA over 73.1 innings with a ridiculous 15.2 K/9. What makes this even better is that he, unlike Cano, is a much younger asset at 24 years old and under team control for next season and under arbitration until the end of 2022. The $20 million also included in the deal helps with the burden that comes with Cano’s mega deal as well as give the Mets more flexibility to make another splash.
The uncertainty of opinion for this deal comes from those who believe that the Mets are giving up too much of their already thin farm system. However, on the other end of the spectrum, Brodie Van Wagenen is keeping his word when he said that the Mets are going to make moves in an effort to win now. Does Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz help assure that promise? Well, Diaz is definitely better than anyone that the Mets currently have on their roster for the 9th inning. Although it was widely speculated that a bullpen arm was atop of the priority list this offseason and will still be an area to be addressed according to Van Wagenen. Robinson Cano, regardless of his age and suspension from a season ago, adds a legitimate bat to the offense that desperately needs one with Yoenis Cespedes expected to miss a nice chunk to start the season.
You can argue that the Mets gave up too much to a desperate Seattle team that has clearly hit the reset button hard after a surprising 89 win season last year. But after failing to make the playoffs for the 16th straight season, GM Jerry Dipoto is looking to start all over. Personally, I believe that this deal wasn’t completely necessary to make, given the acquisition of the Cano contract and trading a pick that’s been in the system for only 5 months. But as Van Wagenen made clear, this is not the final move to be made in his effort to improve this team. Rumors have already circulated that there is expressed interest in Indians ace Corey Kluber as well as moving Noah Syndergaard, which may very well be a different story for another day. In any sense, Brodie Van Wagenen has made a big splash very quickly and is not afraid to do what he believes will improve his club.