Over the last few weeks, the New York Mets have made a number of additions through trades and free-agent signings to shore up their bench, as well as their Triple-A depth. Naturally, the outcry among the fans has been focused on what the team gave up to acquire these cogs. But, alas, there are reasons to celebrate the additions.
We’ll start with centerfielder Keon Broxton, who was acquired in the January 5 trade with the Brewers that sent right-hander Bobby Wahl (acquired from Oakland last season in the Jeurys Familia deal), right-handed minor league hurler Adam Hill, and minor league infielder Felix Valerio to Milwaukee.
Broxton, 28, is a defensive dynamo in centerfield and is pegged to share time with the incumbent middle-man, two-time Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares, as things stand today.
Over his four-year MLB career, Broxton has a total of 15 defensive runs saved over 1,736 innings in the outfield, nearly all spent in centerfield, and a cumulative 7.5 ultimate zone rating. In 2016 he played in just 75 games and racked up nine defensive runs saved and a 1.3 UZR.
While his bat is really nothing to write home about (.221/.313/.421 over 276 MLB games), Broxton’s outstanding defense should provide exactly what Mets’ general manager Brodie Van Wagenen had hoped he would; a more-than-capable option to plug into the lineup if/when necessary.
If his bat plays better than it has over the last couple of seasons (.213/.296/.419, 24 homers, 60 runs batted in since the beginning of 2017), obviously, the more playing time he will see. All in all, Keon Broxton will provide a clear upgrade over last year’s backup-turned-full-time centerfielder, Austin Jackson.
On to the most vilified man of the weekend here in Flushing (through no fault of his own, of course), J.D. Davis. Van Wagenen clearly saw something he liked in the 25-year-old, considering the haul he sent back to Houston in Sunday’s trade (Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea; all lower-level prospects with arguably high-ceilings).
Tim Britton of The Athletic summarized the deal quite well in his recap of the weekend’s activities, alluding to the likely train of thought that Van Wagenen had at the time of the deal.
“Though not much to look at, [Luis Santana] was a borderline top-10 prospect […] with an intriguing hit tool,” Britton wrote. “New York [dealt] from surplus here, given the more highly rated presences of Ronny Mauricio and Shervyen Newton on the middle infield with [Luis Santana] at Rookie-level Kingsport last season.”
While the Mets may have very well overpaid for J.D. Davis, his minor-league offensive exploits, as well as his ability to play multiple corner positions aptly, makes this an alluring — and somewhat intriguing — addition.
Over the course of 101 games (450 plate appearances) at Triple-A Fresno between 2017 and 2018, the California native slashed .335/.400/.589 with 30 doubles, 22 homers, and 99 RBI. There’s a reason he was the ninth-ranked prospect in the Astros’ talent-laden farm system heading into last year, folks.
He likely won’t make more than a few-dozen starts at the big-league level next season unless something goes terribly, terribly wrong. And despite his .175/.248/.223 slash line in 181 plate appearances with Houston last season, clearly, there’s something to be excited about here (see above).
Mets skipper Mickey Callaway can plug him in at third base to spell (presumably) Todd Frazier, first base to give fellow righty Peter Alonso a rest from time to time, or in either corner outfield position.
As for Hector Santiago, signed to a minor-league deal over the weekend, and Walker Lockett, acquired from the Indians in the trade that sent catcher Kevin Plawecki to Cleveland, these two should provide much-needed emergency depth in the Mets’ bullpen and rotation, respectively.
Santiago, 31, is a left-handed non-exclusive reliever (made seven starts in 2018) from Bloomfield, NJ with an All-Star appearance on his resume (2015, Angels). Though his walks ballooned last year (5.3 per nine innings compared to a 4.1 mark over his eight-year career), his 9.1 strikeouts per nine were his best since 2012.
As per Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports, Santiago will receive $2 million in 2019 if he’s on the major-league roster and will earn $25,000 per month if he’s in the minors. That seems like the epitome of a low-risk, potentially high reward, move, and it should be applauded.
Realistically — as long as he performs, of course — he’s going to be replacing one of the inexperienced, not-ready-for-primetime arms that came out of the ‘pen last year; or at the very least light a fire underneath fringe guys like Paul Sewald, Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, or Chris Flexen. These guys are close (some more than others), but not quite there. A little healthy competition should be a great thing.
Lockett, 24, gives the Mets a bit more rotation depth, though likely is going to be spending a great deal of time in Syracuse this season. The right-hander spent last season with the Padres, making three starts (9.60 ERA over 15 innings) with sub-par results. He showed just a smidge more promise with Triple-A El Paso, pitching to a 4.73 ERA over 23 starts (133.1 innings).
As was the case with J.D. Davis, if Walker Lockett sees extended time with the New York Mets this season, the emergency ripcord would have already been pulled. Though, we’ve all seen just how fast injuries can mount and unexpected arms can be thrown into major-league action.
Depth is a good thing, and filling up the Mets’ 40-man roster with capable options (as opposed to some of the replacements we’ve seen this team trot out over the last few seasons) is precisely what Brodie Van Wagenen said he was going to do after bringing the big club up to levels of contention.
After the additions of Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Jeurys Familia, Wilson Ramos, Gregor Blanco, and Rajai Davis to this roster, as well as the other slew of depth additions that Brodie’s made thus far, the Mets are a more talented team, for sure. One or two more pieces could set this thing into hyperdrive, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Whether the future of the organization is better off now than it was just last week is yet to be determined, but the 2019 New York Mets are certainly closer to competing in an extremely tough NL East than they were. That’s a great thing.