Van Wagenen all in on 2019 season

With the Sandy Alderson era officially over, the New York Mets introduced former CAA Sports agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, as the 13th general manager in team history yesterday.

Van Wagenen’s hiring is certainly outside the box, as he comes with no experience in an MLB front office. However, he has ample experience dealing with front offices from the other side, and should provide the Mets with a fresh, modern perspective that the team has been without.

Alderson’s time had come. Earlier this year, he announced his cancer had recurred and had stepped down from his position mid-season. His team’s performance had also declined considerably the last two seasons after appearing in the 2015 World Series and making the postseason again the following year. Although the time was right for the Mets to hire a new GM, Alderson should be remembered for his incredibly successful tenure in Flushing.

After R.A. Dickey won the National League Cy Young in 2012, Alderson used him as the centerpiece of a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that acquired Noah Syndergaard, the lone Met to win a game in the 2015 World Series. Alderson is the one who pulled the trigger on the Yoenis Cespedes trade, 10 minutes before the deadline in 2015, that brought the slugger, who single-handedly led the team to consecutive playoff appearances, to Queens. Yes, he then gave Cespedes a contract that hasn’t been lived up to, but after his first year and a half with the Mets, not giving him that contract would’ve led to incredible criticism and scrutiny.

Syndergaard 2015 WS
Syndergaard’s first pitch of game 3 of the 2015 World Series photo: USA Today

The 2015 trades for Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed should all be remembered fondly. Even signing Asdrubal Cabrera, who’s legendary bat flip after a walk-off home run against Philadelphia in the last week of a tight playoff race in 2016, will always be remembered by Mets fans. Like any GM, Alderson had his highs and lows with the Mets, but his time in New York should be looked back on as mainly a success.

Van Wagenen cleared up a few questions early at his introductory press conference yesterday. He assured everyone that the managerial job is Mickey Callaway’s for the 2019 season and spoke highly of his former client at CAA Sports, Jacob deGrom.

“Jacob deGrom clearly has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball,” Van Wagenen said alongside Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, son of the team’s owner, Fred. “You want to try and identify the best players, and you want to keep them as long as possible.”

Van Wagenen is the man who in June, when he was deGrom’s agent and not his GM, demanded the Mets either trade the likely 2018 NL Cy Young winner, or sign him long term. Now he’ll have the opportunity to hopefully do the latter.

He also emphasized that given the talent on the team’s roster already, his objective this year is to “build, not rebuild,” as he put it.

With several high-end relief pitchers available, and the bullpen being this team’s biggest area of concern, Van Wagenen will be expected to do just that.

Familia NLCS clinch
Could Jeurys Familia come back to the Mets this winter? Photo: USA Today Sports

Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria will all officially hit the market on Saturday, when free agency begins.

Expect the Mets to sign one, if not two of the eight names listed above. Outside of the bullpen, every starting position on next year’s roster is essentially accounted for, except for a necessary upgrade behind the dish.

The only two highly attractive catchers available this offseason are Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal, who may have lost himself a lot of money with a dreadful performance this postseason. With the catching market as scarce and as competitive as it is, it’s far from a guarantee one of those two land in New York. However, one name to watch is J.T. Realmuto.

The best catcher in the game in 2018, Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry, told MLB Network Radio yesterday that Realmuto will, “definitely be wearing a different uniform by the start of spring training.”

The Mets shouldn’t get their hopes up too high, as the likeliness of trading such an impactful player within a division is low and isn’t helped by the fact that Derek Jeter now runs the Miami Marlins. But, if the right package is assembled, Realmuto would be the best catcher in New York since Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who was also acquired via a trade with the Marlins.

This winter will be a big one for the 44-year-old Van Wagenen, who has much to prove after jumping from agent to GM, but his ultimate message at Tuesday’s introductory press conference was that he expects the Mets to win and win now.

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