Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Since the end of the season, I've spent a lot of time pondering what it would take for the Mets to be a serious contender - not just to possibly squeak into the playoffs but legitimately contend for a title. When the Mets made it all of the way to the World Series in 2015, it was on the back of a terrific starting rotation. Those days are long gone. This year the Mets starters went 13-22 with a 5.37 ERA. Forget about trying to recapture the dominance of 2015, the Mets are going to need to regain competence and adequacy from their starting pitching in order to contend again.

The Mets have a lot of work to do to fix what's wrong with them. It's assumed that they will be very aggressive in the free agent market this offseason, although we don't know that for sure until we see how things play out. Even assuming that they are, I don't think we're going to see a fully-formed championship caliber Mets team take the field in 2021. They can certainly be good enough to make the playoffs, but it's almost undoubtedly a multiyear process to make the Mets a truly legitimate contender. Whoever will be making the decisions regarding personnel will need to demonstrate patience and long-term vision. Any decision regarding a Mets player, whether a current major leaguer or prospect, needs to be made with short- and long-term goals in mind, and with a full and accurate assessment of the value of that player.

If you were the GM, your task would be simple if the Mets were truly a couple of players away from being a really good team. You'd take whatever attractive prospects you had and turn them into major leaguers. It would be just as easy if the Mets were a disaster. You would trade whatever value there was on your Major League roster for prospects, and pick a time 3-5 years down the road when you wanted to compete again. Because the Mets are not currently in either situation, it becomes a lot harder.

After watching Brodie Van Wagenen in action for a couple of years, it seems pretty clear that he is not the man for the nuanced job of leadership that will be required going forward. It's also pretty obvious that Steve Cohen didn't see Brodie as the right man for the job, either. Cohen wouldn't have announced that Sandy Alderson was coming on in a superior role if he felt confident the Van Wagenen possessed the qualities he was looking for when he described Alderson as a "respected baseball executive who shares my philosophy of building an organization and a team the right way."

I could rehash all of Van Wagenen's mistakes here, but they've been discussed so often this year that I think most of us already get the idea. While his tenure in New York hasn't been an unmitigated disaster, Van Wagenen did not cover himself with glory with the moves he's made since taking over. He's traded away too much of the team's future for too little in return, starting with the trade for Robinson Cano that never really made any sense and has not looked any better in the intervening time. He has a history of giving up too much for too little in return, and didn't do a very good job at all managing the roster during the abbreviated season just completed.

That doesn't really matter any longer, as it's pretty clear that Van Wagenen won't be making personnel decisions going forward. Really, the only question left is does he stay on as GM with limited decision making? The one real strength he's shown so far is his ability to negotiate, which helped the Mets pursue an aggressive draft strategy two years in a row and get everyone sign. Given that Brodie was a successful agent before signing on as GM, this is hardly surprising.

He's under contract with the Mets for 2 more years, and it's conceivable he could serve out that term and prove to be quite useful in negotiations with both current players and future draft picks. I'm not sure if I was him that I'd want to do that. It would be hard not to see it as a demotion, and he doesn't need the job. I'm sure he can go back to being an agent and earn more money, so I'd be surprised to see him stick around. I'm sure however this plays out, it will happen very quickly after Cohen takes over - probably soon after Alderson takes over as team president.

Van Wagenen isn't likely to be the only early front office decision for Cohen and Alderson. I imagine there will be some sort of front office shakeup beyond the GM. Tommy Tanous and Marc Tramuta, who have done very well running scouting and drafting, are likely to stay on as they are Alderson holdovers. Omar Minaya is said to be a friend of Cohen's and seems a likely candidate to stay on in some capacity. It's been widely reported that Cohen wants to strongly beef up the club's Analytic Department, which is tiny right now. Adam Guttridge, who currently heads that department, has been getting rave reviews whenever his name comes up, so he seems a good bet to remain.

Circling back to Van Wagenen, it strikes me that whether he ultimately stays or goes likely would depend how much time Alderson is looking to spend making the baseball decisions. I have a hunch that Van Wagenen is going to wind up leaving as part of a mutual agreement with the club and gets replaced by someone Alderson (and Cohen) would be more comfortable with navigating the narrow path I described at the beginning of this post. I think a more experienced baseball guy replaces him. In any case, the moves Cohen and Alderson make at the start are going to be fascinating to watch.

I'm going to check out for now. I finally have a day off tomorrow, so I hope to get another one posted within a day or two. We'll keep fresh content coming all throughout this consequential offseason.

Please stay safe, be well and take care. Thanks so much for stopping by.


 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

4 comments:

  1. We well know the Wilpon mandate that you don't pay two salaries for anyone, hence you keep what isn't working in order to save a buck. Now that Cohen is in charge (officially in November) it may be that in the attempt to build a winning organization will include ushering out whomever isn't doing the job in order to bring in someone better. That is how it's done in business and baseball is not a hobby, it's a business.

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  2. That's the dream, isn't it? Cohen running the Mets like a real business.

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  3. I would sign Springer and Stroman. Trade Nimmo, Rosario, Cano for a SP, a reliever and a minor leaguer pitcher

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  4. Eat $10 mil of Cano. Pick up option on Ramos and sign 2 pitchers on minor league contracts

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