The New York Mets secured a deal with starter Michael Wacha on Wednesday. Brodie van Wagenen also traded for centre fielder Jake Marisnick and they saw Zack Wheeler depart the Big Apple for their division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wacha slots into the fifth spot in the rotation behind Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz. The former Seattle Mariner wasn’t at his best in 2019, but he was excellent in 15 starts in 2018. New York ultimately need Wacha to be healthy and eat innings. A 4.50 ERA would be okay.
With a tight budget, they’re in a tough spot right now. Van Wagenen has work to do over the next few days – perhaps weeks – for the Mets to go into the regular season without any glaring weaknesses.
Here are three things he must do…
Trade bad salary
Freeing up salary is a must. Jed Lowrie barely appeared in 2019, and is owed $10 million in 2020. In a cluttered Mets infield, there’s no need for Lowrie’s contract to be on the books. JD Davis and Jeff McNeil can cover third, Pete Alonso has first base for the foreseeable future. Robinson Cano and Amed Rosario will play almost every game up the middle. They’ll need to attach a prospect, but plenty of clubs will be open to such a deal. The Giants’ trade for Zack Cozart is a recent example.
Another, albeit trickier, option is to move Jeurys Familia. He had by far the worst season of his career in 2019 and is owed $23 million over the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. Getting a team to take that contract will be hard, and the Mets may well be confident he will come good. It’s an option for van Wagenen, though. Trading Familia and Lowrie would free up over $20 million for 2020.
Find a centre fielder
Starling Marte is the flavour of the month on the centre field rumour mill. Marte will have a high prospect cost for the Mets, and may well require them to give up Brandon Nimmo, McNeil or Davis. He’s got a great contract – the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder is owed just $11.5 million in 2020 (only $1.5 million more than Lowrie) and has a team option for the same amount in 2020.
The free agent options are uninspiring in comparison. Kevin Pillar is a sub-par hitter and average defender. Jarrod Dyson cannot play every day. A trade for Jackie Bradley Jr.became a lot less likely when they signed Marisnick. Options are limited – Marte is the best player of the bunch, but it requires some gutsy moves from van Wagenen.
Collect a few arms
Suggestions of a deal for free agent Dellin Betances are one way to address the bullpen issue. The Mets ranked 20th in bullpen wins above average last season. Constructing bullpens is seldom about names, having options and depth is the key. New York aren’t going to spend their way to a formidable ‘pen, so van Wagenen should look to pick up pitchers with upside. Ideally they could find a few starters who could work out of the bullpen and provide cover for their rotation.
Whether it ends up being minor league deals or cheap one-year contracts, pitching depth might be the most important thing about a Major League roster. The Mets should be looking at pitchers like Craig Stammen and Taijuan Walker rather than committing a bucket of cash to Betances.