This past weekend Brodie Van Wagenen made some moves that won’t excite the fan base, but they are moves that will help the major league roster, should anyone get injured throughout the season.
From 2015 through last season the biggest flaws of Sandy Alderson’s rosters were that the backup plans were, well, non-existent. In 2015 the Mets were so starved for Major League depth that a simple trade with the Braves to acquire Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe was a huge move that started a run of success for the team on their road to the World Series.
In 2016 the Mets had to trade for Kelly Johnson again to help out their bench as well as sign James Loney, Jose Reyes, and Justin Ruggiano because they had no backup plans on their AAA roster to help out when someone got hurt.
It is apparent that Brodie, who has said he wants to limit the “ifs” for the 2019 Mets, has seen this the past few years and wants to be proactive instead of reactive.
The Mets traded Bobby Wahl and two low-level prospects for Keon Broxton to be the defensive-minded fourth outfielder that can step in with ease should the Mets be facing a tough lefty, or if Juan Lagares gets hurt again.
After that move, the Mets traded lower-level prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea to the Houston Astros for J.D. Davis, a super-utility player that has dominated in AAA, but has struggled when given an opportunity in the big leagues. This trade also netted the Mets Cody Bohanek, a minor league infielder.
The Mets also moved Kevin Plawecki to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday and in return, the Mets received infielder Sam Haggerty, who reached AAA last season, and Walker Lockett, a starting pitcher that cracked the big leagues with the Padres last year.
Finally, the Mets signed Hector Santiago, a veteran left-hander, to a minor league contract. Santiago has plenty of big league experience as a starter and a reliever and will provide great depth for the Mets starting lineup. These minor moves won’t improve the Mets’ ceiling, instead, their floor will grow.
Now, the Mets have Hector Santiago, Seth Lugo, Corey Oswalt, Walker Lockett, and Kyle Dowdy as legitimate depth should any of the Mets’ 5 starters go down for an extended period of time. All five of those players have either pitched in the big leagues or have had experienced AAA and will have an opportunity to be in the Mets bullpen to start the season.
The Mets have an abundance of pitchers other than the four pitchers above without guaranteed spots that will compete for bullpen spots as well, including Daniel Zamora, Paul Sewald, and others. The Mets pitching staff has plenty of depth and if the Mets sign another major league reliever or two they will be in great position on that front going into Spring Training.
Moving Kevin Plawecki helped improve the pitching and infield depth, but obviously made the catching depth weaker.
Last season the Mets lost Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud within three days of each other and were left with Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton for an extended period of time. At the moment, if AJ Ramos and d’Arnaud were to get hurt, which they have a large history of, the Mets will be in the same situation this season.
There is not a lot of depth catchers out there because of how barren that position is in baseball right now. However, there are guys like Rene Rivera, Caleb Joseph, Stephen Vogt, and Drew Butera that are major league caliber backups, but may need to sign minor league deals because of the lack of jobs available.
The Mets are a great destination to be a depth catcher because of the injury histories of d’Arnaud and Ramos and the great pitching staff the Mets have. As of now the Mets depth chart at catcher is simply Ramos, d’Arnaud, and Nido.
First base is an interesting position for the Mets because they have no set starter going into Spring Training. Peter Alonso has an opportunity to win the job, but if he spends two weeks in the minors to start the season the Mets get an extra year of team control, so that is a likely outcome.
Other options the Mets have are former top prospect Dom Smith who has struggled to this point, but did have a promising September with the bat and glove. Jeff McNeil has played a total of 17 innings at first base in professional baseball but is expected to get an opportunity there throughout the season to get his bat in the lineup.
Beyond those three, the Mets acquired J.D. Davis who has experience at first base, third base, and the corner outfield positions. He figures to provide depth at all of those positions and will compete for a spot on the Mets’ bench but might start the year in AAA.
Don’t forget about TJ Rivera either, he missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery but will be competing for a bench job himself and can spend time anywhere on the infield besides shortstop. The depth chart at first is murky but looks like this: Peter Alonso, Dom Smith, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, and TJ Rivera.
Second base will be held down by Robinson Cano, but at age 36 he probably won’t be expected to play more than 140 games throughout the season. The depth chart here looks something like this: Cano, McNeil, Davis, Luis Guillorme, and Sam Haggerty with the latter three possibly starting the season in AAA.
Third base is another interesting position for the Mets. Right now Todd Frazier is the everyday third baseman and well, that’s not that inspiring. Frazier is on the downslope of his career and had a terrible year last season while spending a large portion of it on the disabled list.
He still has power and a good glove, so he is the best option at the moment. The depth chart at third is Frazier, McNeil, Davis, Rivera, and Haggerty.
Shortstop is held down by Amed Rosario who I think is going to have a breakout season and at 23 years old he should be able to play 145 games or more. However, the Mets do not have a legitimate backup to Rosario. Behind him, they only have Luis Guillorme and Gavin Cecchini. Both have solid gloves with Guillorme’s being elite.
However, I still think the Mets should sign an offensive-minded backup that can handle short but can hit well enough to start consistently if necessary. The best option in my mind is Asdrubal Cabrera with Tim Beckham and Jose Iglesias as other options. Iglesias also has an elite glove.
The outfield is pretty sturdy at the moment. Conforto, Lagares, and Nimmo are the starters going into Spring Training from left to right. Keon Broxton is the fourth outfielder with an elite glove and speed. He will split time with Lagares and probably play right field against tough lefties in place of Nimmo or Conforto.
Behind Broxton, the Mets Have Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, veterans of the game who are past their primes but would be serviceable fourth outfielders that can handle center field later in their careers. Also, J.D. Davis, Dom Smith, and Jeff McNeil can handle left field if need be with Davis having the most experience.
As of now, the Mets have legitimate depth everywhere besides at catcher and shortstop with players that are borderline starter caliber and at least major league talents. As long as the players the Mets acquired this weekend do what they have done in past seasons the Mets are in a better position for this marathon of a season than they have been in a while.
Depth is great but I do think the Mets need another bat as I said earlier this week. Another big bat in the outfield would strengthen the team as a whole but Lagares would probably have to be traded away for that to happen.
The Mets also should add a lefty specialist such as Justin Wilson and/or an Adam Warren type which would improve the depth the team has in pitching. Pitchers and catchers report in about 5 weeks so time is running out, but Brodie seems to have plenty of tricks left up his sleeve.