Brodie Van Wagenen believes the Mets already have addressed their primary needs this offseason and have the pieces to contend in and even take the National League East … and that’s without signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
That said, with what he’s lacked in blockbuster signings, Van Wagenen made up for in confidence. For instance, he’s not worried about the Phillies signing Machado or Harper. He encouraged the competition.
“I think that we’re a good team,” he said Wednesday. “I think that we’re a complete team. I think that we’re a balanced team…and I look forward to showing people that we’re a team to be reckoned with. I fully expect us to be competitive and to be a winning team, and our goal is to win a championship and it starts with the division, so come get us.”
The Mets’ new general manager mostly quashed any hope that the team would be in on two of this year’s marquee free agents, saying that the outfield is currently not a top priority, and that the Mets are pleased with who they have in their infield. He did not, however, rule out making further moves, particularly ones that will add to the team’s depth.
“We’ll never rule out looking at great players, and if we can find a way to make deals happen, we’ll be creative with it, but I think from a fit standpoint, both in the outfield and in the infield, I think we’re at a pretty great position,” Van Wagenen said when asked about Machado and Harper, minutes after introducing his newest infielder, Jed Lowrie, at a news conference at Citi Field.
“We’ll continue to look for depth, we’ll continue to look for good players that can improve areas in which we have need,” he said. “I think at this point in the offseason, we feel like we have addressed our primary needs … If we can continue to create a floor that allows us to increase our win total in a worst-case scenario, great, and now if we can add to the ceiling with great players like Jed, then I think we can have a chance to really do some great things.”
The Mets’ payroll is around the $150-million to $160-million range, according to Cot’s Contracts, which is in line with what the team has spent in recent years. Van Wagenen declined to comment on payroll or say whether he had more money to spend, but said he and COO Jeff Wilpon were “on the same page.”
“We’ve known what we’ve been working under and we built this roster with that in mind. I don’t see anything that has come to light in this offseason that has changed or forced me to look down or up in terms of what our resources are.”
Van Wagenen has been busy, trading for Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, and signing Jeurys Familia and catcher Wilson Ramos, among other moves.
The Mets also will be working to transition Jeff McNeil to the outfield, likely at a corner position, Van Wagenen said. And though he wouldn’t give a timeline on Yoenis Cespedes, who will miss significant time after surgery on his heels, it seems the team believes that the slugger will be back this season.
“Potentially, at some point during the summer, you have a really dominating and intimidating lineup,” he said when speaking of Cespedes. “We’ve continued to be patient to him … We need him to be at his best when he comes back.”
Van Wagenen has marked his early tenure by building in contingencies upon contingencies, which is understandable considering the Mets were severely hindered by injuries last year. For instance, he has at least four players who can play centerfield – Keon Broxton, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares – and has stressed the importance of versatile players such as Lowrie. He’s considering using Todd Frazier at first base, he said, depending on health and how well Peter Alonso and J.D. Davis perform.
Asked if he would consider outfielder A.J. Pollock –arguably the best free agent available after Harper and Machado – if the price drops, Van Wagenen demurred.
“I’ve never operated this offseason to wait and see if a market dropped,” he said. “In fact, all of our moves have not been market contingent, they’ve been roster contingent – how do these players fit? Can we acquire them within the constraints of our plan?”