Moments after he introduced catcher Wilson Ramos as his latest offseason acquisition on Tuesday, new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen proclaimed the Mets the team to beat in the NL East.
“Internally, we would argue that we're the favorites in the division right now," Van Wagenen told SNY.
Those internal discussions among Van Wagenen and his cohorts must gloss over the fact that the Mets won 77 games last season and finished fourth in the division. But Van Wagenen’s swagger as a former agent has definitely translated into confidence as a general manager.
Van Wagenen pointed out that Ramos was the “fourth All-Star player we’ve added to our roster this offseason,” a list that includes second baseman Robinson Cano and relievers Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.
"I'm not going to stop," Van Wagenen told SNY. "What we feel good about with these four players is that we can compete in the division right now . . . We've done a lot of what we set out to do this offseason. We shored up the bullpen with two premium arms. We added two middle-of-the-order bats, which was key to us in terms of executing our run-production goals. And now we've added a catcher that can upgrade that position.
“If we mapped out on Nov. 1 that we would be in this position heading into Opening Day, we would be very happy. But now we want to keep eliminating some of those ifs. The beauty of it is that we're not even to the holidays yet and we still have a lot of time to play and get creative and still have some real money to spend to potentially add on to it. We're not done."
They aren’t even done at catcher, although Van Wagenen’s next move could be to use his new surplus at that position in a trade. Ramos will be the No. 1 catcher – health willing – and either Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki could be dealt away to help eliminate an if.
Van Wagenen also said the Mets could carry three catchers and turn d’Arnaud into a super-utility player.
“I think we absolutely can, especially given d’Arnaud’s versatility,” Van Wagenen said. “We’ve talked a lot this offseason about his ability to play first, his desire to play left – or at least willingness to do so – and his belief that he can play third as well. So if we were to carry three catchers, it’s because of Travis’ versatility. But we’ll also be open to exploring other scenarios to give us a chance to get better in other areas, too.”
In Ramos, the Mets got a well-regarded 31-year-old with a big bat who has been hampered by injuries for more than half of his career. Ramos agreed to a two-year, $19-million contract with an option for 2021 that could push the total value to $27.5 million.
"Right now, I feel really happy because I'm working really hard," Ramos said. "It's a good challenge for me to be here and I'm working hard this offseason to be healthy for a full season."
Ramos spent last season with Tampa Bay and Philadelphia and hit .306 with 15 HRs and 70 RBIs in 111 games. But he missed significant time with a hamstring injury that kept him out of what would have been his second All-Star Game. Ramos has also had knee problems and suffered a broken hand in recent years. He has played in 88 games or fewer in four of the last seven seasons.
The Mets turned to Ramos at the winter meetings in Las Vegas after ending trade talks with the Marlins for star catcher J.T. Realmuto. (Brandon Nimmo, who happened to be at Citi Field on Tuesday, said he was happy when he was not traded to Miami in a Realmuto deal.)
"Wilson was the perfect fit for us," Van Wagenen said. "When we had a chance to sit down with him, this guy commanded the room. His poise and his confidence were extremely compelling to us as we sat across from him, and by the end of the week it was clear that we needed to make him a priority for us.”