Let’s start by saying this: it’s good for any big-league general manager or executive in charge of baseball operations — especially one that’s new to the job — to have an open mind with regard to potential roster decisions. Furthermore, what is actually said publicly to the media is likely only a small snippet of what’s actually going on behind the scenes.
Brodie Van Wagenen’s first official event as the New York Mets’ general manager at the GM meetings sounds a bit confusing based off what he said the week before during his introductory press conference. Here are some of the things we’ve heard from him on both ends of the spectrum:
- He wants to build a culture within the organization that’ll allow them to win right now and also win in the future. One would imagine that involves locking down an elite core group of players. While he can’t be involved in the actual contract negotiations, BVW said he wanted to keep Jacob deGrom for the long-term. A week later in California, Van Wagenen shared that he hasn’t ruled out trading deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, and has shared with other teams that they’re open-minded about anything.
- During that initial presser with the media, BVW also said he was planning on being “in” on every free agent. Heck, he even liked an Instagram comment that had Manny Machado penciled into a hypothetical lineup and are investigating options at the top of the relief pitcher market. But when asked about payroll this week, he was pretty vague, saying he and ownership haven’t had concrete discussions about the actual budget and target payroll figure (sound familiar?). Judging from payroll estimations for 2019 and where the club settled in for Opening Day over the past two seasons, they’re going to need to be super-creative in order to make multiple significant splashes.
- The Mets need to address their catching situation, that much we know. Van Wagenen also noted that New York’s current crop of backstops are getting some interest around the league, meaning it’s possible Travis d’Arnaud gets tendered a contract and then get traded, per the New York Post‘s Mike Puma. Being a jaded Mets fan, this sounds more like “We might just keep Travis, not make any real additions, and hope he stays healthy.” I’d be happy to be wrong here, especially since they’ve shown some initial interest in Yasmani Grandal.
Did Van Wagenen necessarily make any mistakes with his recent comments? Not at all — he didn’t flat-out say yes or no to any question posed to him, effectively remaining in the middle on all potential issues the Mets must address. After all, he’s only been in his new post for a little over a week — he does need some time to assess everything at his finger tips. The two things that caught my attention the most, though, were the comments about deGrom and Syndergaard, along with the non-committal nature when it came to the payroll level.
It was annoying enough to hear the “Will they or won’t they?” rumors about New York considering to trade two of its top starting pitchers leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. Following BVW’s introductory press conference, it seemed rather definitive that these guys weren’t going anywhere. Thinking this was the case for about a week was clearly too long, though, so now we’re right back to where we were towards the end of June.
With regard to the payroll questions, this is a movie we’ve seen way too many times before. Before actually seeing what transpires, this sounds awfully similar to offseasons in the recent past. The idea of being aggressive and making significant upgrades would be communicated publicly immediately following the conclusion of the regular season, only to see the front office’s actions not back up what was initially said.
I want to hope that things will be different, but as many people have said since last Tuesday: words are great, but action is better. Van Wagenen could very well be doing some posturing as he gets his feet underneath himself. The question probably shouldn’t be if the Mets will be active — he was hired for a reason and with his background of being an agent, one would imagine he’s predisposed to be more akin to making deals. Based off what’s been said thus far, though, the question is: How exactly are they going to do this?