This Week in the Mets Offseason: What to expect from the Winter Meetings

It has been a while since we have discussed the Mets, so let’s just do a quick roundup of what we have missed since we last talked about the orange and blue.

First, the Mets hired Brodie Van Wagenen to be their new General Manager. This was an outside of the box hire for the Mets as Brodie was previously a top player agent that represented Jacob deGrom, Todd Frazier and many other players throughout the league.

Recap

Van Wagenen promised in his introductory press conference to be aggressive, and form a perennial contender with this team. Well, he has followed through with those statements. He has revamped the Mets front office by promoting Ruben Amaro Jr, the Mets first base coach last season and former Philadelphia Phillies General Manager, to an advisory role in the front office.

Van Wagenen also hired Allard Baird, a former General Manager for the Royals and a high ranking official in the Red Sox front office for over a decade. Baird will be an assistant GM for the Mets focusing on scouting and player development.

Van Wagenen has made other highers to beef up the analytics and scouting departments, but all-in-all he has four former General Managers in his front office that will help him make decisions as he learns on the fly in his new role in a Major League front office.

Now, Wagenen has also made the most headline-worthy trade of the offseason to this point as well. The Mets executed a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Mariners last week in which the Mets received former All-Star Robinson Cano, 20 million dollars, and arguably the best closer in baseball right now, Edwin Diaz.

The Mets did not obtain those two for free though, they dealt Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak. Those two were traded essentially in a salary dump as they were viewed as failed signings from Sandy Alderson this past offseason and they were owed 22.5 million this upcoming season. Bruce was due 14 million in 2020. Also in the deal was Gerson Batista, a young reliever with some upside that appeared in a few major league games for the Mets last season.

The big loss for the Mets in this deal was top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn who were two of the top 5 prospects in the Mets farm system. Kelenic is viewed by many to be a future star, but he isn’t going to be big league ready for at least three more seasons and probably needs four or five more years in the minors to hone his skills. Dunn is viewed as a back-of-the-rotation starter that may eventually be pushed to the bullpen.

This deal filled two holes for the Mets and provided the Mets with some salary relief, which makes Cano’s 120 million dollars due over the next five seasons turn into about 63 million dollars, a more manageable deal. We can analyze who won the trade, but the bottom line is the Mets got better for 2019.

Now, let’s see what is left for the Mets to do this offseason and what they can do at the Winter Meetings.

The Holes

The Mets filled up second base, which, in my opinion, was a position of need because I think having Jeff McNeil as a bench player makes the Mets a better team as he can now fill in for Cano and Frazier a few games a week while being the first bat off the bench each night.

They also filled the closer spot, which was a top priority as the Mets bullpen was atrocious last season when anyone besides Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo came into the game.

The Mets still need to sign 2-3 relievers to make the bullpen into a strength for this team. As of now the only locks in the Mets bullpen are Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and Edwin Diaz, leaving 4 spots up for grabs. The Mets know they need to sign a back-end reliever to allow Lugo and Gsellman to be relievers Mickey Callaway can use earlier in the game for multiple innings if he wants.

Depending on who the Mets like in the reliever market they can sign two back-end relievers, or opt to sign one and two veteran relievers that would cost about the same as a second top-tier reliever, but fill the Jets bullpen up to six guaranteed spots.

Beyond the bullpen, the Mets need a right-handed power bat that can play center field or catcher. Both positions are weaknesses for the Mets but are also the weakest positions in free agency as well and there are not a lot of trade opportunities available there either.

In the center field market, there is really only one player that fits the Mets needs, but he fits them almost perfectly. That player is AJ Pollock. Pollock is a gold glove caliber center fielder who hits for power, a decent average, and gets on base at an average rate. However, Pollock is extremely injury prone, which makes signing him a risk.

At catcher, the Mets really could roll into next season with Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud as their catchers because they are league average catchers, and there are few other options. In free agency, the best options are Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, and Martin Maldonado, in that order.

Grandal is great at offense and a solid defender, but his price tag is expected to be close to 17 million dollars per year, which is a bit high for a catcher when the Mets have a lot of holes to fill with only about 50 million dollars to fill them.

Wilson Ramos is great at offense, but he is a liability at defense, which the Mets cannot afford with the team being built on pitching. However, d’Arnaud is a terrible defensive catcher and a streaky hitter and Plawecki is a solid defender with an okay bat. The big problem with Ramos is that he is injury prone and is on the wrong side of 30.

Martin Maldonado is arguably the best defensive catcher in the game. He would make the Mets so much better on defense because he has a cannon of an arm and has all the intangibles you could ask for in a catcher. However, he cannot hit a lick, if signed he would be a platoon player with Kevin Plawecki taking about 60% of the games.

 

Now, the most intriguing catching option is JT Realmuto. Realmuto is on the Marlins and is the best all-around catcher in the game, above average defender with great output offensively. The Marlins know this and are not giving him up for free. For the Mets to get him they would have to give up some of the following: Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and prospects.

The deal with the Mariners gave up two of the best prospects the Mets have, making a deal for Realmuto impossible without giving up a player from the teams current core.

The final hole the Mets have is a backup shortstop. As of now the only person that can handle short on the Mets roster is Amed Rosario. He is young and could easily play 155 games there this season, but the Mets need someone that can play there when Rosario needs a day off.

There is an abundance of options in free agency to fill that role, so many in fact that the Mets probably won’t even touch that market this upcoming week. Some of the best options in that market are Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Tim Beckham.

Gonzalez can handle basically every position on the diamond and would be a great signing to make the Mets more versatile. Iglesias and Galvis are elite defenders that can handle second, shortstop, and third base, but are likely going to have an opportunity to start elsewhere. Hechavarria makes the most sense as a pure backup to Rosario because of his defensive ability and has proven to be a solid bench option the past few seasons. Beckham is a bat first shortstop that has been a platoon player for the majority of his career

What to Expect This Week

This upcoming week I am expecting the Mets to sign Andrew Miller to be the set-up man for Edwin Diaz, Luis Avilan to be the second lefty in the bullpen, and Brad Boxberger to fill out the bullpen as he is a veteran with experience at the back end of a bullpen.

Miller will command a deal similar to 3 years 33 million. Avilan’s contract will be close to 3 years 24 million, and Brad Boxberger cost something like 2 years 12 million dollars. Now, besides Miller, I don’t know if the Mets will look into signing Avilan and Boxberger, but those are the type of relievers I think the Mets will look at this week.

I think the Mets will take the risk and sign AJ Pollock. When healthy he is an impact bat with a great glove and he can slide right into the cleanup spot in the batting order. Plus, he is from Connecticut making the Mets the closest team to his hometown. A contract for Pollock should look something similar to 4 years 60 million dollars. That would sign him through his age 34 season at an average salary of 15 million per year.

Other Predictions

I think that will be all the Mets address during the Winter Meetings, and in all likelihood, they probably won’t even do that much, but relievers are generally signed during the meetings and I think they will be aggressive on Pollock.

For the catching position, I think the Mets will end up signing Maldonado because Van Wagenen has preached improving defensively as a priority this offseason. A deal for Maldonado would probably be something like 2 years 9 million.

I just don’t see the Mets swinging a deal for Realmuto because trading Conforto, Rosario, and/or Nimmo would create another hole for them. Signing Grandal would be great, but it doesn’t seem like the Mets want to pay a high price for a catcher, and Ramos is too injury prone to take the risk.

For the backup shortstop position I don’t know what direction the Mets will go in, but I think Adeiny Hechavarria and Marwin Gonzalez make the most sense. Hechavarria has been a bench player before, so he can easily take on that role while backing up Rosario and playing third or second base if needed. A contract for him would probably be 2 years 10 million.

Gonzalez makes a lot of sense too because he can play every infield position, as well as left and right field at an average rate. He is a switch hitter with a solid bat that has some power too. The biggest problem for him is simply that he can literally fit on any team in baseball because of his flexibility and he probably wants to sign somewhere that he can start consistently.

 

To sign him the contract would probably be 3 years 27 million and the Mets would have to lay out a plan to show him that he can start 4-5 times per week. In the end, he is a long shot, but someone I think the Mets will look into, especially if they find a way to swing a deal for Realmuto as he could then begin the season as a starter.

If the Mets sign everyone I laid out, for the contracts I predicted, besides Gonzalez, the payroll will be about 179 million dollars, the top of what many expect to be the limit set by Mets owners, but the team would be legitimate contenders and a possible 90 win team.

If the Mets sign Gonzalez instead of Hechavarria it would push the payroll to about 182 million dollars and would make them a much more versatile team.

In his short tenure as GM of the Mets Van Wagenen has proven to be aggressive and willing to take risks, so everything I stated above could happen, some of it could happen, or Van Wagenen could make some crazy moves. One thing is certain though, this next week will be a crazy one for the Mets.

December 9, 2018

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