Examining Van Wagenen’s Plans to “Get Better Up The Middle”

As Brodie Van Wagenen met with the media after being introduced as the new general manager of the New York Mets, the former agent said all the right things, giving a bright outlook for the future of this organization and really energizing the fanbase.

One of the subjects Van Wagenen touched on was, naturally, free agency. As noted by Matt Ehalt of The Record, the Mets’ new head of baseball operations has every intention of being heavily involved in what is shaping up to be one of the deepest free agent pools in recent memory.

“I intend to be talking to every free agent on the market,” he said. “I expect to be in on every free agent, and if they fit our roster, we’re going to go after him.”

Van Wagenen continued to prop up the Mets’ current roster, signifying a belief and — dare I say — trust in the core that’s already here.

“We have a foundation of starting pitching. We’ve got some good young players on the corners and in the outfield. We’ve got some guys who have performed well in the bullpen […],” he said. “We have to try and get better up the middle in terms of offense and defense.”

Though his direct message may have been a bit blurred by some fine word usage, Van Wagenen is likely referring to shoring up deficiencies behind the plate, the back-end of the bullpen, and in center field.

There has been much speculation regarding this year’s crop of free agent catchers, with Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos being viewed by most as the upper-echelon of this group.

The Dodgers extended a qualifying offer to their 29-year-old catcher Grandal yesterday, a one-year, $17.9 million offer. Some are speculating a return to Los Angeles for the talented backstop, though that will all be determined over the next 10 days, as per MLB qualifying offer guidelines stipulate.

Ramos, 31, made $10.5 million last season and is in line for a modest, if not borderline-substantial, raise during his first running of the free agency gauntlet.

The Venezuelan native hit .306/.358/.487 with a 130 OPS+ last season, split between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, and has a .273/.317/.439 slash line over the course of his nine-year career.

Either of these guys would be terrific additions if they’re available, and there’s always the possibility that the Mets explore a trade to upgrade the position. J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins has made it clear he wants out of Miami and the Mets have been mentioned as an ideal fit for the 27-year-old. We shall see.

The Mets truly have their pick of the litter when it comes to replacing some of their bullpen pieces. Guys like Craig Kimbrel (extended a qualifying offer by Boston on Friday), Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, Jeurys Familia, or Kelvin Herrera would all give this group a significant upgrade.

MLB Trade Rumors tabbed David Robertson and Joakim Soria as the only free agents the Mets would sign in their free agent predictions, adding to the bullpen incumbents, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and youngsters Drew Smith and Daniel Zamora.

While this would beef up the team’s relief corps, one would have to assume Van Wagenen is going to do more damage on the market than this in his first go-round. Once again, we shall see.

As for center field, the pickings are slim. Bryce Harper, if you can still consider him a center fielder, is listed first among Spotrac’s listing of free agents at the position. The 26-year-old will undoubtedly command a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million per season.

Former Orioles mainstay Adam Jones will hit the market this winter though, like Harper, really can’t be considered a full-time center fielder anymore. Former Diamondback A.J. Pollock, 31, will be available, and would imaginably add another dynamic to the group that’s already here.

Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto can play a capable center field, and the return of Juan Lagares will surely improve the position from a defensive aspect. But what the Mets really need is another CF-capable option who can also beef up the middle of their batting order.

Jones has averaged 26 home runs per season during his 13-year MLB career, all with Baltimore, but his power seemed to be sapped last season, only hitting 15 in 145 games. For what it’s worth, he did hit .281/.313/.419. He accepted his qualifying offer after the 2017 season and made $17.3 million last season.

Pollock set a career high in homers last year, hitting 21 dingers in 113 games, eclipsing his previous high-water mark (20, 2015), and slashed a respectable .257/.316/.484 with a 106 OPS+.

He fields his position extremely well, and after making $7.75 million in 2018, adding the 30-year-old likely wouldn’t break the bank. He’s certainly a viable option.

Whether Brodie Van Wagenen chooses to take the route of free agency or move forward with his intentions on Tuesday to explore the trade market as well, the first-time general manager has his work cut out for him. As he mentioned, there is talent here. Now it’s on him to make the moves.

About Tim Ryder 318 Articles
A native of the South Shore of Long Island. Superfan. Family man. Follow me on Twitter at @TimothyRRyder