MIAMI – Brodie Van Wagenen summed up the Mets’ first half rather succinctly Friday.
“They came and got us,” Van Wagenen said.
Yes, the Mets, owners of a 40-50 record entering the second half, have been gotten by every team in the National League except for the Marlins.
A season that started with Van Wagenen telling his NL East foes to “Come get us” has instead turned into a third straight season that will feature selling veterans on expiring deals. The combination of awful defense, horrendous relief pitching and mediocre starting pitching has resulted in the team wasting standout seasons from first baseman Pete Alonso, infielder/outfielder Jeff McNeil and ace Jacob deGrom.
“We have to face our reality to some degree about where we are in the standings,” Van Wagenen said before the Mets opened the second half against the Marlins. “We are going to be open-minded. We are going to be thoughtful and measured as far as what we do as we approach the deadline all with the eyes on trying to improving this club.”
He added: “We’re incredibly disappointed.”
For the Mets to already be open to selling is a punch in the gut to a team that entered the year believing it could contend.
Van Wagenen, in his first year as the general manager, made a bold trade to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, and then invested in other veterans such as Jeurys Familia, Wilson Ramos and Jed Lowrie.
Three of those transactions have backfired in horrible fashion.
Cano is a .240 singles hitter under contract through 2023, and Diaz has regressed from the MLB saves leader to the owner of a 5.50 ERA.
Familia has been even worse, owning a 7.50 ERA.
And Lowrie has yet to play for the Mets this year due to several injuries, the latest being a right calf strain. It’s certainly possible he may miss the entire season.
Only Ramos has lived up to his reputation, but it’s come at a cost since his solid offensive production is negated by his poor defense.
"We have to acknowledge those two players (Diaz and Cano) have not performed up to what our expectations are," Van Wagenen said. "The onus is on us now to support them to be better and regain their talents. Both players are healthy and have 72 games to change the narrative on this season. As far as grading out –our grades are really incomplete at this point because we’re halfway through the season.”
Mets decision makers felt they gave this team a chance to show them that this team should not be pulled apart, but a 10-18 stretch against contenders to end the first half revealed the hard truth. This team now needs to look forward to 2020 and 2021.
The 2019 season is a waste.
Van Wagenen said there has been “significant volume” with regards to the interest in his players, but did not define the seriousness of those calls.
He did say he expects Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to remain in Flushing. The former is set to stay due to his brilliance and contract. The latter has received plenty of interest, per sources, and while the Mets will move him, they are not planning to sell low.
Van Wagenen also clarified that he does not view the Mets in need of a rebuild. It will be labeled as a retooling of the roster.
“We have a core from which we can compete and we’ll look at our moves both to win now and win in 2020 and beyond that,” Van Wagenen said. “I don’t anticipate being in a situation we’d have to tear down rebuild at this point.”
Zack Wheeler is the most likely player to go since he’s a strikeout pitcher who gets ground balls while pitching deep into games.
He’s not having a standout season, but there is reason to think he will flourish if he lands with an analytical team that employs a better defense.
Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas are both in the last years of their contracts and performing well, but there’s industry skepticism about what they could net in a trade.
The Mets are not known for eating money to receive a better prospect, and there is uncertainty if that strategy would even make a difference with those players since neither are difference-making talents.
“No one in that clubhouse is going to concede any of the games as we go forward but at the same point we have to listen to other opportunities,” Van Wagenen said. “We have to be open-minded to offers that are presented to us on players that exist on this roster and be mindful of what next year looks like as well."
Van Wagenen said the team will evaluate is decision-making process that led to them making so many moves that have not panned out.
It’s certainly fair to say that no one could have seen Familia, Cano, Diaz and Lowrie providing as little as they have.
However, the Mets did invest in some older players at a time when the game is trending younger. In acquiring Cano and Diaz, the Mets traded away top prospect Jarred Kelenic, a consensus top prospect who some scouts see as a potential All-Star outfielder.
The Mets are yet again in a familiar spot, and a team that once seemed it had a window to contend a few years ago is now watching that window seemingly close.
Gone are the days of “come get us.”
Now, the Mets are taking the approach of the Marlins.
“I think that now we view ourselves as the underdogs. For the second half of the year, I think we have low expectations for what we can be,” Van Wagenen said. “And I think now we’ll take the underdog role and run with it, and try to prove some people wrong this year, and then certainly try to improve on it next year with that underdog in mind.”