The Brodie Files series takes a look at the first-year Mets’ GM’s moves. Part I is on the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade. Part II centered around the Jeurys Familia signing . Here’s the final chapter:
The broken 2019 season has provided further instances of dysfunction and an impending fire sale for the New York Mets.
But there is enough controllable talent on the roster to provide a very stable foundation for a future in which rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen might be celebrated, and not castigated -- if he lasts until then.
Just before Opening Day in March, the agent-turned-GM made two moves that, at the very least, worked to appease a fan base. He first signed Jacob deGrom, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and his former CAA client, to a five-year, $137.5 million extension, two full seasons before he was due to hit the market.
Van Wagenen also made the decision to bring Pete Alonso to Washington for the opener, rather than manipulate his service time with an extra minor league stint.
"When players perform and earn opportunities, we as an industry and certainly the New York Mets, will reward those players for those performances," Van Wagenen said in March after the slugger batted .352 with four homers in Spring Training. "[Alonso] showed us and certainly showed his teammates he was one of those 25 guys. He earned it. ...The guys that earned it are here, and I'm happy for them."
How has that worked out?
Alonso, the cornerstone of that foundation, is currently rostered for $555,000 while providing one of the best offensive seasons in team history. He’s been named Rookie of the Month twice, won the Home Run Derby and cemented his name in the all-time rookie record books, with plenty full-season records left in his crosshairs.
Alonso’s 30 homers already broke a franchise rookie record, and he’s 11 shy of the single-season club record. His 68 RBIs snapped Albert Pujols’ 18-year-old rookie record for the most by the All-Star break.
The 24-year-old probably won’t become the first MVP in franchise history this season, but he’ll more than likely finish within the top-10, becoming only the 13th Met to do so in the past 20 years.
He’s a homer shy of Christian Yelich for the MLB lead, third league-wide in RBIs, fifth in slugging (.634), sixth in OPS (1.006), second in extra-base hits (53 -- which also ties the Mets’ rookie record) and fifth in total bases (206).
At his current pace (30 homers in 90 games), Alonso will break the franchise home run record within the next five seasons.
But the argument can be made that the only record that matters is 40-50, the club’s win-loss total entering the break. They’re 13.5 games off the division lead and seven games out of the second wild card spot with the second-worst record in the NL.
It’s easy to, in hindsight, say that Alonso’s personal accolades don’t mean much to a team that won’t make the postseason, let alone compete for a World Series. It’s easy, especially from a financial sense, to determine that 12 games without Alonso is a small price to pay for an extra year of team control.
But bringing Alonso aboard immediately looks to be about the only move that’s helped Van Wagenen work toward accomplishing his mission to “win now, and in the future,” -- with the definition of “winning” in this sense limited to Alonso’s personal accomplishments.
Will appeasing the fan base and the -- to put it bluntly -- ego of the rookie GM, be beneficial to the franchise?
As a former agent, it would be on brand for Van Wagenen to jump in on the player-friendly trend of signing players to a long-term extension before their first year of arbitration eligibility. So the extra year of team control may not even matter.
Prior to this season, the Braves locked up their young core of Ronald Acuna Jr. (eight years, $100 million) and Ozzie Albies (six years, $35 million). The Astros extended MVP candidate Alex Bregman (five years, $100 million) and the Rays paid American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell (five years, $50 million).
Those teams have something in common that the Mets do not -- they’re all in playoff contention. But in terms of individual talent, Alonso certainly looks like he belongs in that company. He proved it this week in Cleveland, collecting a two-run knock and making a few fine defensive plays in the All-Star Game the night after his derby victory.
The Mets have money committed to just deGrom and Robinson Cano beyond 2022, with both players due to come off the books after the following season. They’re closer to dealing away their current controllable assets (Noah Syndergaard, Dominic Smith) than they are to extending anybody.
If he finishes the season on the major league club, which is an almost certainty, Alonso is free agent eligible in 2025. Van Wagenen might not have the job security to afford to be patient with an extension for Alonso.
Jeff McNeil, Edwin Diaz, Steven Matz and Brandon Nimmo will likely go to arbitration before Alonso sniffs the open market. Should the Mets begin to rebuild by selling off assets like Zack Wheeler, Syndergaard or Smith, there will be plenty of players on the active roster making the team-controlled minimum, freeing up some cash flow for a possible Alonso extension.
Alonso’s personality seems to be well-suited for New York, and he’s the type to say all the nice things about the city to the daily media hoard that surrounds his locker.
He also made twice as much money in one night after winning the Home Run Derby as he will this entire season. He’ll get small pay bumps over the next two seasons, but they’ll look more like the $607,425 annual salary with which Diaz was forced to settle after an historic 2018 season.
An extension would provide a lot of guaranteed money in a sport that can be taken away by an injury. He’s been hit by 12 pitches already, which is fifth-most in MLB. He’s not accident prone, but a grisly broken nose in college taught him how much is out of his control.
Alonso wouldn’t have to delay three years of free agency like Acuna. But the Mets would only have to buy one year of free agency to put to rest any questions about whether they should have manipulated his service time.