Brodie Van Wagenen certainly has made a lot of highly questionable transactions over his two-year reign as the general manager of the New York Mets. He has constantly traded prospects for mostly fringe major league players with the exception of his first big trade. While some of these prospects were not highly ranked, a good number of them were very young and could become useful players. Besides the only player Van Wagenen traded for who has made this team better is J.D. Davis. Van Wagenen will always be remembered for his big blockbuster trade that has not worked out for the Mets thus far.
In two seasons Van Wagenen has failed to deliver a post-season appearance for the Mets. Should it be his fault if a player with a proven track record does not play to their abilities once they become a member of the Mets? Well, it is his fault when better options were available. Here is a look back at some of the bad transactions Van Wagenen made as general manager of the Mets.
Does Brodie Van Wagenen service an ownership change? He has made some good moves. Read about them here.
The Signature Trade
The Brodie Van Wagenen Era will always be judged on the signature trade the Mets made on December 3rd, 2018. The Mets acquired Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and cash from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for two of their top 10 prospects, Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic and outfielder Jay Bruce, and pitchers Gerson Bautista and Anthony Swarzak. Diaz was coming off a monster season with the Mariners and was expected to be the Mets closer for the next decade. As great a season Diaz had in 2018, it was the complete opposite in his first year with the Mets in 2019. His ERA almost jumped four full points from 1.96 to 5.59 and his WHIP rose from 0.791 to 1.379. Diaz also had seven blown saves in 33 chances. In 2018 Diaz only had four blown saves in 61 chances.
The Mets had no choice but to demote Diaz from the closer role and insert Seth Lugo as the stopper. In addition to Diaz, the acquisition of Cano moved Jeff McNeil off of second base which is “his natural position” to right field. McNeil played mostly second and third base, in the minors, and in 2018 McNeil was the everyday second basemen. Cano only played in 107 games in 2019 and had several hot stretches offensively. But those were always derailed by a stint on the injured list. Edwin Diaz single-handedly cost the Mets a playoff spot. He cost his team several wins and was a constant reminder of the two top prospects the Mets traded to get him.
Time Will Tell
Dunn’s 2020 season is a typical one for most rookie pitchers with a 4-1 record, a 4.34 ERA, and a 1.358 WHIP in 45 plus innings pitched. The big fish in the trade for the Mariners is Kelenic. In two minor league seasons, Kelenic is batting .290 with 29 home runs, 110 RBI, and 35 stolen bases. He is currently the 10th ranked prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Diaz did start the season as the closer but was yanked after two appearances. His four blown saves in ten chances are awful for a closer and even worse is his seven inherited runners scored out of 10.
Edwin Diaz is still only 26 years old and there is time for him to turn his career around. Diaz did pitch better late in the season which his numbers do reflect. But when you watch the Mets play every day you can still see Diaz struggle. It is doubtful the Mets trade Diaz as his value is considerably lower than what it was after the 2018 season. Only time will tell how good of a player Kelenic will be. There was a report stating that the Mets initially made the Diaz trade because their division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies were close to acquiring him. It’s never a good idea to trade away top prospects just to block a rival from getting a player. The facts are that the Diaz & Cano trade has not made the Mets any better.
The Fifth Outfielder Debacle
The fifth outfielder spot might have shown the whole baseball world just how much the Mets need a real general manager. As the Mets were going into the 2019 season there was a four-man rotation in place for the first few weeks of the season. Michael Conforto was the mainstay followed by Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares, and Jeff McNeil. Van Wagenen traded for Keon Broxton of the Milwaukee Brewers to be the fifth outfielder.
In the trade with the Brewers, the Mets gave up three young players. Adam Hill who is a 22-year-old starting pitcher with an 8-10 record and a 3.74 ERA in two seasons in Single-A. Felix Valerio who is a 19-year-old second baseman batted .306 for the Brewers in the Arizona Fall League. Bobby Wahl is 28 years old and still has not found any success in the majors despite pitching to a 3.53 ERA in 221 minor league innings.
Despite having a decent 2017 season with the Brewers, Broxton has been a bad Major League player with a career batting average of .209 in 905 at-bats. Nimmo injured his neck in May and was on the injured list until September. Conforto was forced into centerfield with Lagares completely regressing as a defensive player and McNeil became the everyday right fielder. J.D. Davis, who was acquired before the season eventually won the everyday left-field job because his bat was needed in the lineup. Davis is a natural third baseman but struggled defensively and was replaced by Todd Frazier once he came back from an injury. Even Dominic Smith got some starts in left field before he got injured. So that makes the entire outfield playing out of position. So much for defense.
Brodie Van Wagenen could never figure out how to value his minor league players. The biggest amount of damage he did to this franchise might be that he was so willing to trade away prospects instead of signing low-cost free agents. This is where Billy Hamilton comes in. Hamilton is your classic speedy defensive-minded centerfielder who creates havoc on the basepaths but struggles to get on base. The Kansas City Royals signed Hamilton to a pretty hefty contract of 5.25 million dollars for the 2019 season with a mutual option for the 2020 season. Broxton was making a half a million dollars so that’s a pretty significant dollar difference.
Broxton was traded in late May to the Baltimore Orioles for international bonus slot money which can be better than taking an actual player back. The defensive play in the outfield continued to be a problem and when Hamilton was released the Mets made no attempt to sign him. Instead, the Atlanta Braves did and Hamilton proved to be useful.
Fast forward to the next offseason. The Mets find themselves in need of a fifth outfielder once again. Carlos Beltran who was named the Mets manager in January really liked Jake Marisnick from his days as a Houston Astros coach. So Brodie Van Wagenen brought in Marisnick for two more prospects. Kenedy Corona is a 20-year-old outfielder who batted .301 in 219 at-bats in the low minors was one of the players. The other player is 24-year-old Blake Taylor who has become a big part of the Astros bullpen in 2020. Marisnick started the season injured, then played in 16 games where his defense was average, then suffered another injury and will never appear in a Mets uniform again. As for Hamilton, he signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants. Beltran was relieved as manager of the Mets before the start of Spring Training.
Hamilton was not getting any playing time with the Giants. So the Mets worked out a trade for Hamilton who could have been signed for nothing before the season. Jordan Humphreys had a great season in 2017 with a 10-1 record and a 2.01 ERA. But he was injured the next two seasons and only pitched 13 innings. Humphreys was at one time one of the Mets better pitching prospects, but he was traded for Hamilton.
Hamilton Gets Cut
When Hamilton got to the Mets he didn’t play well. He was not as sharp defensively and he made mistakes on the base paths. One of the reasons you bring in a player like Hamilton is for his baserunning. The Mets released Hamilton and the Chicago Cubs quickly scooped him up. Why couldn’t Van Wagenen trade Hamilton for a prospect? Or does every other general manager in the league think he can be fooled? Billy Hamilton is not a great player, but, this illustrates how overmatched Van Wagenen is. So to recap Van Wagenen traded away six prospects for three players who were fifth outfielders and none of those players are still with the Mets.
Starting Pitching Issues
Injuries happen all the time, so Brodie Van Wagenen is not to blame for any injury that any player gets. But he does need to get some criticism for how the 2020 starting rotation was built. But let’s start back in 2019. With the Mets out of the NL East race and six games back of the second place wild card team, Van Wagenen decided to fool the baseball world when the Mets traded two pitching prospects to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. Anthony Kay was one of the prospects sent to the Toronto Blue Jays and he is already in the majors but struggling to find his way. The second prospect is Simeon Woods Richardson who is currently the 98th ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Richardson is a 19-year-old prospect with a 7-10 record and a 3.48 ERA in Single-A.
As for Stroman he made 11 starts in 2019 and went 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA. In 2020 Stroman got hurt in Summer Camp and wound up opting out of the season. So Van Wagenen traded two more top prospects for a pitcher who made 11 starts and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Additionally, Zack Wheeler was not re-signed which may not have been Van Wagenen’s fault. With one open spot in the rotation for the 2020 season, Van Wagenen signed Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Both pitchers are on one-year deals and won’t be back in Queens in 2021.
Amazingly the Mets still had to dip into their farm system and pull out rookie David Peterson who has been a solid addition. The Mets also had to use their one-time closer, Seth Lugo, in the rotation leaving the Mets with a huge hole in the bullpen.
Other Questionable Transactions
On January 10th, 2019, the Mets signed Jed Lowrie to a two-year 20 million dollar contract. Lowrie was coming off a career year and could play any infield position. The Mets and the New York Yankees were both looking to sign an infielder. Both teams were linked to the same two players. The day after Lowrie signed with the Mets, DJ LeMahieu agreed to a two year 24 million dollar contract with the Yankees. Lowrie got injured in spring training and had seven at-bats late in September. He did not play at all in 2020 and his Mets career is over. LeMahieu has become one of the best players on the Yankees and was in the MVP discussion two years in a row. Oh, Jed Lowrie was a former Brodie Van Wagenen client.
Former closer Jeurys Familia was brought back to the Mets for the 2019 season. Brodie Van Wagenen who was bidding against himself signed Familia to a three year 30 million dollar contract. Familia responded by having the worst two seasons of his career. Familia is signed through the 2021 season.
Dellin Betances was signed prior to the 2020 season coming off two major injuries. He missed most of the 2019 season with a right shoulder impingement. In his first game back, Betances partially tore his left Achilles tendon. So it was understandable he would be rusty in 2020. Betances could never get on track and pitched only 10 innings with a 6.10 ERA before being placed on the injured list with a lat injury on August 30th. He came back and pitched in the last two games of the season. His contract has a player option for the 2021 season.
In desperate need of a starter, the Mets traded for Ariel Jurado of the Texas Rangers back in early August. Jurado has solid minor league numbers but has struggled mightily in the majors. The Mets gave him one start where he pitched four innings and allowed five runs. But Jurado is 24 years old and could turn out to be a good pitcher. In exchange, the Mets gave up a 25-year-old reliever with very good numbers in three minor league seasons. Steve Villines has a 10-7 minor league record with a 2.67 ERA and 18 saves.
Trading Deadline Deals 2020
With the Mets at 15-20, Brodie Van Wagenen decided to make some minor trades to jump-start his struggling team. The fact was the Mets had not shown they could play consistent winning baseball and finished the season at 26-34 and eight games under five hundred. The Mets made two separate trades with the Rangers for Robinson Chirinos and Todd Frazier. Chirinos has amounted to nothing and Frazier was brought back to the Mets mainly for locker room stability. In both trades, the Mets gave up a player to be named later.
But the kicker is the trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The Mets acquired 25-year-old relief pitcher Miguel Castro. Castro pitched well in the minors but has yet to duplicate that success in the majors. In 282 innings Castro has a 4.27 ERA and a 1.426 WHIP. Castro has been described as a pitcher with upside. In exchange for Castro, the Mets traded a 22-year-old pitcher named Kevin Smith. Smith was the 2019 Minor League Player of the Year. Smith had an 8-7 record in 23 starts with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.256 WHIP between Single-A and Double-A. Additionally, the Mets are also trading another player to be named later or cash. So that could be three more prospects that Van Wagenen has dealt to try to make this Mets team better.
Brodien Van Wagenen has certainly not valued his minor league players. But if your able to win championships those trades would be well worth it. Instead, the Mets are not playing postseason baseball for the second straight year under Van Wagenen despite this season having an expanded playoff format. Van Wagenen has done some things well but the bad has massively outweighed the good. Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson set to take over, Van Wagenen’s days could be numbered.
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