Reese Kaplan -- BVW's Long, Strange Trip (Thus Far)


Hearken all the way back to the 2016/2017 off-season which followed the Mets’ one and done post-season when then GM Sandy Alderson added not a single major league caliber player to the roster.  As I’ve said in the past, if you won four straight in the World Series MAYBE you could have justified such stagnation but anyone with less than a perfect record should have recognized there was room to improve.

Now fast-forward to this off-season of 2018/2019 under the direction of Brodie Van Wagenen.  To say it’s been a busy one is putting it mildly.  Let’s take a look at what’s transpired during the four months of the BVW regime:

The first interesting transaction under the former agent’s stewardship was the decision to non-tender some players who either were becoming expensive or who had simply worn out their welcome and usefulness in a Mets uniform.  Wilmer Flores was the first to meet this fate, followed closely by Rafael Montero. 

There were some minor league player signings that raised a few eyebrows, including Jordan Paterson from the Reds (we hardly knew ye) and former Met Dilson Herrera.  This level of activity was already a welcome change but it was just the beginning.

When the calendar flipped from November to December the Mets finalized a deal with the Seattle Mariners in which they sent Jay Bruce (and his two remaining years of financial obligation), Anthony Swarzak (and his final year of financial obligation), plus minor leaguers Gerson Bautista, Justin Dunn, and Jared Kelenic to bring back future Hall of Famer Robinson Cano and the major league’s Saves leader, Edwin Diaz.  All of the sudden the porous bullpen looked markedly better, particularly with Diaz being pre-arbitration.  However, some questioned displacing rookie sensation Jeff McNeil to get the final five years of Cano’s expensive deal (even with Seattle kicking in some salary relief). 

Midway through the month BVW knew he needed some more bullpen depth and brought back the highly successful Jeurys Familia on a three-year deal.  All of the sudden the Mets had arguably the best 1-2 bullpen punch in all of baseball.  That’s a far cry from Robert Gsellman closing games as he did in 2018. 

That same day the Mets did something they hadn’t tried since the Sean Gilmartin experiment – they actually took someone in the Rule V draft.  This time it was Kyle Dowdy, former Detroit Tigers farmhand.  He started off quite well in his initial season in the Tigers’ organization, sporting a 10-3 record with a tidy 2.84 ERA.  Unfortunately, he’s been trending in the wrong direction, each year posting numbers worse than the one prior.  It’s possible they’ve uncovered a diamond in the rough but on paper it appears more like a genuine cubic zirconia pretending to be a professional pitcher.  He’ll likely get a long look in Spring Training and perhaps even come north until such time that they want to promote Peter Alonso and then decide whether or not to part ways, offering him back to the Tigers.

A few days after that the Mets abandoned their long rumored quest of J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins and instead signed what appears to be a very fair priced contract for two years of Wilson Ramos who most felt was the 1A choice of two top free agent catchers after Yasmani Grandal.  There was no draft pick nor international money sacrificed, a short term and an AAV of just $9.5 million.  Pretty much everyone across the board applauded BVW for this deal.

A few minor league contracts were extended to major leaguers as well.  Speedy Rajai Davis and former Giant Gregor Blanco both agreed to take BVW up on minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training’s major league camp. 

BVW made an early offer to Travis d’Arnaud that was accepted, securing his services for another season at a rather modest $3.5 million salary.  No one is sure when he will be ready, but at that rate it’s possible to flip him in trade or simply to cut him in Spring Training to avoid the majority of the salary obligation if someone else evolves as a better backup catcher option.

Then came a long lull during the holidays in which nothing more was done to reshape the roster until this past weekend when the floodgates opened.  While no starting caliber talent was obtained, the reinforcements acquired indeed lay the groundwork for subsequent deals of spare parts that also might bring some payroll relief. 

In the first deal the Mets acquired speedy and slugging defensive whiz Keon Broxton from Milwaukee whose skill with the glove actually exceeds that of former Gold Glover Juan Lagares.  The Mets did pay a somewhat hefty price in this deal, sending oft-injured reliever Bobby Wahl and low level prospects Adam Hill and Felix Valerio to Milwaukee.

Almost immediately thereafter it was announced that the Mets were sending more lower level minor leaguers – Ross Adolph, Scott Manea and Luis Santana – to obtain the reigning AAA batting champion J.D. Davis.  As an adequate glove with a strong arm, Davis has played both corner infield positions as well as left field.  There was no room on the roster for him with the Astros and in effect they replaced the soon-to-be $4 million Wilmer Flores with someone pre-arb at minimum wage.  Davis has shown a great ability to hit HRs and drive in runs, though his brief trials in the majors have not been kind to him.  In that deal the Mets also picked up infielder Cody Bohanek who profiles as nothing more than organizational filler. 

Next came the deal sending Kevin Plawecki to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Walker Lockett and infielder Sam Haggerty.  Lockett was a solid contributor to the El Paso Chihuahuas and held his own (ERA in the 4.00’s range) in the hitter-friendly PCL.  He’ll be joining the Chris Flexen and Corey Oswalt types in the Syracuse rotation as insurance should a starter succumb to injury.  Haggerty has shown great pitch recognition and terrific running speed but still not done anything to wow anyone with his bat. 

Then came the shoe we’ve all been waiting to drop since 2016.  David Wright and the Mets reached an end to the charade of his comeback attempt, removing him from the 40-man roster and working out a financial settlement.  This change suggests there’s either another FA signing up BVW’s sleeve or a multi-player trade in the works. 

It's interesting that on Thursday when the Mets announced signing Luis Avilan who I'd advocated securing earlier in the week, it was to a minor league deal with an invitation to the big league camp.  That preserves the David Wright roster spot for another trick up BVW's sleeve.  

Well, we all didn't have to wait long with last night's surprising (and out of nowhere) signing of infielder Jed Lowrie.  Like Daniel Murphy before him, Lowrie seems to have found an adjusted swing which has him delivering two straight years of 4.0+ WAR which, if you quantify it, is worth $28 million plus.  Consequently, signing him for $10 million per year for two years seems like a value signing, yet it opens more questions than it answers.  Does it mean Amed Rosario is on the move with Lowrie taking over at SS as a bridge to Andres Gimenez?  Does it mean Todd Frazier and his salary are on the move?  Does it mean Jeff McNeil is a "sell-high" victim of his own success?

So, to recap, the Mets sent away 9 minor leaguers as well as major leaguers Kevin Plawecki, Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak.  They obtained Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and backup players Keon Broxton and J.D. Davis.  Also obtained is starting pitcher Walker Locket and a few organizational players probably not destined for the big leagues.  Add in the name Luis Avilan who will likely make the club out of Spring Training once they figure out what to do with some of the warm bodies occupying spots on the 40-man roster.  Then throw in the last minute addition of Jed Lowrie.  

Some feel the very fact they’re at least TRYING to improve the roster is in itself a victory.  Others insist anytime you can obtain major league talent for unproven prospects you have to do it.  Others bemoan the pillaging of the farm system.  Only time will tell which interpretation is the correct one. 

What is clear, however, particularly after the David Wright resolution, is that there are still moves to be made.  However, anyone claiming to know whether BVW is planning to zig or to zag is probably just indulging in random guessing.  No one saw the Lowrie signing coming nor can anyone predict which domino should tumble next.  


Rustyjr said...

Reese is it safe to say that you might actually like BVD & he’s the anti Alderson ?

Tom Brennan said...

Brodie is a newbie. But very active, and seemingly formidable.

The Sleepy Sandy days are OVER.

Kyle Dowdy...some thoughts on his value in an upcoming article.

My article at 11 AM points out a big problem for him to address, that no one else is bringing up.

Rustyjr said...

You mean the bullpen - or the possible lack of power in the lineup ?

Reese Kaplan said...

BVW is at least trying to improve the team be it for 2019 or beyond. Sandy et al merely tried our patience.

Zozo said...

Do you think BVW feels Lowrie can play CF for us?

Maybe a combination of Mcneil, Nimmo and Rosario in a trade for Kluber?

Going into the offseason our 1 prominent non need of position to fill IMO was 2nd base, and now we have 2 of the best from the AL. Lol with Mcneil, Giminez, TJ, Flores(HeGone), Guillorme and Cecchini waiting in the wings.

What other x-client of his will be coming this way? My guess is Adam Jones?

Tom Brennan said...

RustyJr, the lack of power is related to my 11:00 AM article.

Zozo, it can be a good thing to be OVER stocked with REAL talent for a change.

But as everyone keeps saying, Brodie is not done. We now reside in Brodie's world.

Tom Brennan said...

How about McNeil as our everyday CF, at least against righty pitchers, with Keon against lefties?

Jeff brought great ability to produce HITS on a hit-challenged team. He also brings hustle. I vote for him to stay - and play.

Viper said...

It seems every time we have an exciting player we bury him on the bench. McNeil was one of the reasons along with Rosario as to why the Mets had a great finish. McNeil, Nimmo,Rosario was the reason other than our pitching that I watched Mets games. Now McNeil is buried on the bench, Rosario's time will be cut due to this signing.

We needed a LH reliever, not another 2B/SS.
We needed to add to our up and coming farm system, not dismantle it.
We need to extend both deGrom and Wheeler, maybe he will get to that.

Until this team proves otherwise, I am of the opinion that the 3 Stooges got an agent now in BVW.

Met Monkey said...

IDK, and I like it.

bgreg98180 said...

One way to improve the farm system involves having better players on the major league roster.

This allows for less of a need to trade future minor leaguers and allows the minor league system to increase its overall talent as minor league teams become more competitive, have less filler-type players, and can focus more on development.

Mike Freire said...

I think Lowrie will be Frazier's replacement on the roster, but that's just my two cents.

bill metsiac said...

Whatever else Brodie has accomplished to date, one BIG thing for me is that he seems to have brought Reese over from the Dark Side. I never thought I'd see it, but it's real, if only temporary 🙌

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