The Mets leaving Sin City with Jeurys Familia seems akin to playing Texas Hold ’em for four days and breaking even.
Definitely a positive. Something to feel good about. But not exactly the most thrilling result from a stay on The Strip.
And for Brodie Van Wagenen, the fast-talking, no-sleeping, progress-promising general manager, it’s got to be another step that’s closer to the start than the finish of his offseason makeover.
To recap, the Mets added a closer in Edwin Diaz, a setup man in Familia and a talented- but-aging No. 3-hitting second baseman in Robinson Cano. Very solid acquisitions, but all the more reason for Van Wagenen to keep pushing and, just as important, continue spending after shelling out for Familia’s three-year, $30-million deal.
Van Wagenen gives the impression that he’s constantly hustling to make deals — the default position for him — and his ultra-aggressive pursuit of J.T. Realmuto could end with the All-Star catcher in Flushing before too long. The more Noah Syndergaard pops up in these Marlins three-way trade scenarios — earlier in the week with the Yankees, then Thursday with the Padres — the more we think the Mets eventually can find a configuration that works for them.
That’s because the hard part in trading someone like Syndergaard, a fan favorite who has displayed Cy Young potential, is initially having the willingness to do it. Once the Mets start floating his name in these proposals, that already has him halfway out the door. What team wouldn’t want Syndergaard? He’s 26, throws 100 mph and has three years of team control.
For whatever reason, the Mets see him as possible trade bait rather than an untouchable rotation piece, which is a bit confusing, given that Van Wagenen insists he’s building to win in 2019. If the only route to Realmuto is sacrificing Syndergaard, wouldn’t the Mets be better off simply signing Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos or Martin Maldonado to catch?
Unless, of course, the cash is a major concern, which then would limit the Mets on the free-agent front.
Van Wagenen had no problem sending three prospects to Seattle in the Cano/Diaz swap because none of them figured to be impact players in ’19. That’s obviously not the case with Syndergaard, a lethal No. 2 behind Jacob deGrom, and trading him in a Realmuto deal would leave a hole that’s nearly impossible to fill.
Van Wagenen’s boundless energy for improving the Mets is to be applauded, and plenty of other teams, as well as agents, took notice of that during the winter meetings. One official from an AL club complimented Van Wagenen’s eagerness to shake things up, but the Mets need this next flurry of moves to be more than half-measures in an NL East that’s only going to get more competitive in the coming weeks.
Familia should be a relatively safe investment because he’s a proven performer in Flushing. As for further bullpen upgrades, however, Van Wagenen balked Thursday at diving back into the deep end of the reliever pool, say for a dominant lefthander like Andrew Miller.
“Would we play on multiple high-end arms in the bullpen?” Van Wagenen said. “I don’t think that’s part of our strategy at this point.”
So where will the rest of the money go? Van Wagenen insists he’s searching for outfield help and a catcher. If the Mets have to include Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto in a Realmuto trade, then A.J. Pollock should be an even bigger priority. Or if the cost in talent for Realmuto is too steep, is there any reason why Van Wagenen couldn’t just get Pollock and a catcher with pop in the switch-hitting Grandal?
A shopping spree like that, however, shapes up as too expensive for the Mets’ tastes. When asked if there is plenty of cash left over after Familia, Van Wagenen wouldn’t go there.
“I wouldn’t characterize it based on money,” he said. “I think that we still have a plan, we still have mobility to try to add talent to the roster, and we intend to do that.”
With the upgrades they’ve made, combined with a rotation that still has Syndergaard and the blueprint for a productive lineup, the Mets have a real opportunity here. But Van Wagenen can’t settle for B list modifications now. If he’s really all-in for 2019, what happened in Vegas this past week shouldn’t stay there. It’s got to be a springboard for higher stakes ahead.