Reese Kaplan -- Is BVW's Honeymoon Already Over?


Most people who have a ceremony of sorts to commit to a significant other take a long and often exotic trip to relish their time together.  During that time you tend to indulge in some extravagances you normally wouldn’t when life returns to normal – fancy restaurants, champagne, nightclubs, designer clothes, etc.  Hence the term “honeymoon period”.  According to Primer magazine, “The honeymoon period tends to last anywhere between 6 months and a year. The relationship still feels fresh and exciting, and you're constantly learning new things about each other and having first experiences together.”

I’ve used that same term myself with cautious optimism that new GM Brodie Van Wagenen will have some time (and budget) to shape the club to match his vision for how to build sustained success.  The Wilpons, of course, have some motivation to allow him the freedom to do so as it will justify this unconventional choice as GM and make them look crazy like a fox instead of merely disconnected with baseball reality. 

With those thoughts in mind I decided to take one more look at the last time the Mets changed GMs and whether or not that honeymoon period was indeed indulged.  Now to be fair, Sandy Alderson was thrust upon the Mets by the MLB front office to help staunch the bleeding of the Madoff era.  An observation of payrolls during his tenure tell a somewhat disturbing story. 

In 2010 the Mets had a $132 million payroll, good enough at the time for 5th in the majors.  During that first season under the Alderson helm, the payroll dropped $12 million to $120 million, good for 7th in the majors.  In 2012 it got worse – a mere $93 million in payroll which put the team in the middle of the pack at 14th in the majors.  In 2013 they busted through what seemed to be rock bottom and took the payroll all the way down to $73 million which ranked them 23rd in all of baseball.  In 2014 it climbed significantly in dollars to $89 million but only one slot in the rankings to 22nd.  In the World Series year of 2015 they jumped again to $101 million but again moved up just one spot to 21st.  After making it to the national stage in October you’d think the club would be ready to invest in 2016 but instead they dropped payroll to $99 million but actually they climbed two rungs on the payroll ladder to 19th.  In 2017 which was the first of the last two unmitigated disasters, the payroll climbed to $120 million and the ranking was 12th.  The 2018 squad also ranked 12th, though the spending (albeit misguided) jumped significantly to $154 million.

So the 2010/2011 offseason was indeed a busy one by anyone’s measure, but the fruits of Alderson’s labor were not prime choice.   On the offensive side of the ledger he obtained catcher Ronny Paulino, outfielder Scott Hairston, pinch hitter Willie Harris, and drafted the immortal Brad Emaus via the Rule V process.  For starting pitchers he secured Chris Capuano, Chris Young and Justin Hampson.  For the bullpen he inked fading former Mets pitcher Jason Isringhausen, headcase Taylor Buchholz, and journeymen Blaine Boyer, Dale Thayer, D.J. Carrasco and Tim Byrdak.  That’s a total of 13 additions to the roster of which you can really only count Scott Hairston as a success.  Now, to be fair, Alderson was under instructions to get the Mets financial house of cards more stable, but trying to prove himself the smartest guy in the room by finding “value” picks did not work out as intended.

So now Brodie Van Wagenen inherits a team with two key players hamstringing the budget and roster on the DL for the 2019 season, expiring contracts of underperformers in Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas and Anthony Swarzak, and some tough tender/non-tender decisions on formerly promising players Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores.  He has another two years of Jay Bruce, as well.

If you look at the Mets payroll going into the 2019 season, it’s not pretty.  As last season ended Baseball Reference purported the 2018 payroll stood at $141 million.  That was down from the $154 figure that they had to start the season and they stood to lose a number of players to free agency, including Jerry Blevins, Jose Reyes, AJ Ramos, Devin Mesoraco and Austin Jackson.  You’d think that would give them some money to spend.

Unfortunately they have quite a few arbitration eligible players who are slated to get big bumps in salary, headed by Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.  By most calculations the Mets committed payroll is about $92 million but then after you add in the estimated arbitration awards to players under contract and modest increases to pre-arbitration eligible players, you have to factor in another $47 million.  That means before ANY changes are made to the roster you are within $2 million of the 2018 season-ending payroll. 

So how much room will BVW have to implement his plan?  Yes, it’s possible that David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes will result in 75% payroll savings after 60 days on the DL.  Together they’re slated to earn $44 million of that $139 million payroll.  If BVW can convince the Mets to spend the insurance reimbursements, then theoretically they will have another $25.6 million to spend factoring in the 60 days of salary they must pay before the 75% return occurs. 

Now there are a number of relatively expensive pieces BVW could try to peddle to other teams to increase his flexibility.  Jay Bruce is slated to earn $14 million each of the next two seasons.  Todd Frazier’s final year is worth $9 million as is what should be the last season of Juan Lagares.  Anthony Swarzak is getting $8.5 million and Jason Vargas is going to be paid $8 million (plus a buyout for 2020). 

If you can believe the rumors about a Noah Syndergaard deal, one would certainly hope they are tying him to one of these albatross contracts much like the Mets were forced to swallow Derek Bell when they obtained Mike Hampton.  (For what it’s worth, two of the three players going to Houston were recognizable – Octavio Dotel and Roger Cedeno – along with minor league suspect Kyle Kessel.)   If, for example, trading Thor also meant ridding yourself of Jay Bruce’s $28 million commitment for this year and next, that would make such a deal a bit more palatable as it would give the Mets the chance to bolster their roster with the saved payroll dollars.

So will there be a honeymoon, or with $139 million + already committed, is the honeymoon over before it already began?


Tom Brennan said...

Boy, this team has brought in a bunch of badly worn retread tires in the past several years, just looking at the names you listed, which are by no means exhaustive.

Fitting, so close to the junk yards near Citifield.

This team needs to be positioned for 2019 to win the division, and for me anything else will not do.

Good luck, BVW.

bill metsiac said...

The "honeymoon period", if it exists at all, will run AT LEAST to OD. We're still 2 weeks away from the Winter Meetings, and 3 months till P & C.

JVW made some bold, aggressive comments at his first Presser, so he certainly deserves the full off-season to show his ability to make moves to improve the roster. Can we give him that much?

Reese Kaplan said...

This is a criticism of the ownership and Alderson's bad contracts tying BVW's hands, not of him.

Rustyjr said...

Still think you’re putting the cart in front of horse .. I will withhold my judgment until they break spring training before I start acting like a insolent Winey fab

bgreg98180 said...

I remember similar calls for waiting until opening day before expressing uneasy thoughts about the front office's work before each of the past 2 seasons.

Soon those calls extended their time frame of patience into May and June. This was followed by cries for patience into the trading deadline and the off season.

In one year, out the other, and then repeat.
An unpleasant cycle.

bill metsiac said...

Reese, whose honeymoon is this? It's surely not JW's, so I thought you were talking about JVW.

Bob, yes, we've heard things in the past, but not from the "new sheriff in town". Does he deserve time to put his plan into place or not?

bgreg98180 said...

After these past few years, No.

Especially when all the fans have heard are conflicting information.

"On on every free agent" & "can't be afraid to win"

When a player like Machado, that fits ALL of the Mets needs (age, health, middle of the order production, good defense, and an obvious desire to win) is written off as "not our type of player"....
Then no.

So far we only have words to go by. Those words conflict with each other, just like they have all of these recent off seasons.

So, no. No benefit of the doubt.
At this point actions are required BEFORE optimism.

Mike Freire said...

I think you laid out a pretty good reason that BVW should be given a longer "honeymoon" period, if anything.

He has inherited a bit of a mess, so it will take some time to fix those issues before we get a true sense of his overall plan. I would LOVE to see the team win in 2019, but that shouldn't be the only measure of success for his early tenure.

I want to see a plan moving forward that includes the future and not just 2019.

bgreg98180 said...

For me, there are 2 choices for VanWagenen to choose from.
1) make the best Met team for the next 3-5 years starting in 2019
2) move the pitchers now to create the best Mets team starting in 2020 for 5-7 years from there.

He spoke the talk of option #1.
Wasting another year of the starting pitchers prime in order to give VanWagenen time, makes no baseball sense. Especially considering their ages and progress toward higher salaries.

If for some reason VanWagenen is unable to capitalize on the starting pitchers now by building the best young team around them now, then it is time to be "aggressive" and "not be afraid of winning" by building the best team possible for the future.

Choosing the hal-way effort ride leads to Frazier and Bruce and Swarzak contracts.

Pablo Grullon said...

Agree with Reese. Alderson and jeff wilpon left a financial mess with the bad free agent contracts they signed the last few years. Realistically I dont see the Mets seriously contending until 2021 after all the bad contracts have expired and u can start with a clean slate. It would be a shame to trade Thor and most likely get an underwhelming package becuz ownership wanted to force contention without actually investing in the top of the free agent market. Every baseball publication I read with possible trade scenarios for Thor has such unimpressive returns for him. I'd rather keep Thor if that's the case

Anonymous said...

Boy, was I ever wrong yesterday...

I thought the Mets rumor floating was a straight trade for Robinson Cano from Seattle. It isn't. The new word floating online is a possible swap of Jay Bruce going into this deal, some money heading back to cover for some of Cano's huge contract, a very favorable young righty Seattle reliever in Edwin Diaz (league minimum contract) and a very promising and proven young homerun hitting outfielder Mitch Haniger, who I assume (if this were to go through) would man a starting outfield spot alongside of Nimmo and Conforto. This would be what I call a "Holy Cow Deal" for these NY Mets.

Currently not sure who all else the Mets might have to throw into this trade, but I guess we'd find out if it happens. It might.

The Mets in this pursuit, are not all alone. The crosstown Yankees are interested in Cano as well. Their deal (online rumors suggest) would have outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (remember him?) heading back home to the Pacific West Seattle.

Interesting but we will have to wait and see if it goes down.

Anonymous said...

On the Mets' Catcher Position

After reading Macks' article post today, I think it is obvious that the Mets need to go out and get another really good catcher for here (2019). I see no one close to being a Mets catcher from that complete listing Mack has given. Patrick Mazeika needs another year in MiLB to learn how to grow his batting average more. And none of the catchers on Macks' list are homerun guys and almost all do not and have not hit for average in their respective careers. Scott Manea "could be one", but he is way too far down in like A Ball for any real life consideration here now or anytime soon. And if you watched the games in 2018, Tomas Nido finally had his batting stance and approach changed, as I had been suggesting since like the minute he came up to the Mets earlier on. It was literally crippling his power generation and motion flow.

By " good match" I mean this...

Let's assume that the Mets were to land another homerun hitter for their middle batting lineup, for example here let's say Seattle's OF Mitch Hanniger I just mentioned above in my last post. He is potentially now a 25+ HR per year batter and would be perfect for this team. In this example they stated online, Seattle would get Jay Bruce and so the Mets would have for certain Peter Alonso on first base in 2019, another homerun batter. So right there the Mets would have added the TWO more homerun bats to their lineup that they need to add in. Excellent.

Now, what this "may do" is deduct pressure on the Mets to add an immediate veteran homerun catcher (like Realmuto) for a lot of money. Now they could consider a catcher like the guy I have been suggesting all along here...Austin Allen (San Diego Padres, age 24), who the scouting reports all seem to think could be a star catcher soon. But for Austin, the problem is clearly that he sits behind newly acquired Francisco Mejia in Padres' Land for starting catcher there.

This would also give the 2019 Mets two solid hitting catchers in Travis d'Arnaud and Austin Allen, and as we all have found out any really good and competitive MLB team needs two really good catchers on their 25-man roster. The day of "deadwood" hitting catchers is over. Pass the beer nuts!

bill metsiac said...

If we add Hannigan and lose Bruce, who do we get rid of when Yo returns? And do we really want to be paying Cano until he's FORTY-TWO, years after he's lost the limited range he has left?

bgreg98180 said...

Cespedes won't be back until August at the earliest.

Can't go into the 2019 season waiting for him.

If/when he returns, good situation to figure out.
Nothing to worry about

Mack's Mets © 2012