Mets owner, Steve Cohen, wasted little time making a loud impression. In his first move, he fired much of the front office. Most notably, he dumped GM Brodie Van Wagenen.
Two years ago, I wrote a piece in which I referred to Brodie as The Mystery Box. His hiring made little sense. The Wilpon’s took Brodie over Chaim Bloom, the whiz kid in the Rays from office. Brodie got to work by making lots of moves. Two playoff-less years later, we can say that most of these moves didn’t pan out. Now that his tenure has ended, let’s have a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
1) In January 2019, the Astros are considered to be one of the smartest organizations in baseball. With a highly analytical from office, few could fool them. Somehow, Brodie pulled a fast one. The Mets got JD Davis for three low ranking prospects. Unless the names Ross Adolph, Scott Manea and Luis Santana become household names, Brodie got the better end of the deal.
2) Most experts agreed that Brodie was good at the draft. In 2019, the Mets didn’t have any high picks, supplementary picks nor compensation picks. Nevertheless, with their top 3 selections, (12th, 53rd and 89th overall) the Mets took three players who were ranked 36 or higher. The pick that Brodie gets the most credit for is Matthew Allen in the third round. Allen was widely regarded as the top high school pitcher in the draft. After not being taken in the first two rounds, most assumed that he’d just go to college. Brodie gambled and selected him in the third round. This is a risky move since he would clearly demand a high signing bonus, which would come at the expense of the previous picks. Allen signed a $2.5 million deal. It was a work of art. Of course, it will take some time to know if Brodie really struck gold, but he clearly went into the draft prepared.
3) Prior to 2019, Brodie gave deGrom a 5-year $137.5 million extension. Being that recently teams have completely broke the bank on aces like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, this move was fantastic. One can argue that the real test is actually from 2021 onwards. Afterall, the Mets had control over deGrom through 2020. Nevertheless, this was a brilliant move to lock up a franchise pitcher akin to Tom Seaver.
4) There were several other moves that were made and worked out well in 2019. Wilson Ramos was a good signing, even though he regressed in 2020. Justin Wilson had two very good years in Queens. The late season pick ups of Brad Brach and Joe Panik nearly got the Mets to the playoffs. Possibly the most humorous move was when he traded Jason Vargas to the Phillies to help ruin their playoff chances. Prior to 2020, the Mets got Chasen Shreve who was fairly reliable. So while a lot of attention is given to the busts, Brodie had some hits.
1) Without a doubt the worst move was the Cano/Diaz trade. Without rehashing the entire debate, the Mets traded two first round draft picks for an aging hitter coming off a PED suspension and a closer. Both were terrible in 2019 but bounced back in 2020. It will take a while until we know the true impact, but this was a very bad move with Nolan Ryan level disaster potential.
2) Brodie had a shady habit of bringing in former clients. The most notable was of course Cano. However, he also brought in Jed Lowrie. The Lowrie signing was one of the worst in team history. He only pinch hit 9 times as a Met and never once played the field. Another former client, Todd Frazier, was brought in late in 2020. While Frazier is a good guy, the move made little sense. The Mets were going nowhere, had to trade a prospect and buy out Frazier’s contract after the season.
3) It is hard to forget the backup catcher fiasco of 2019. The plan was for Ramos to start roughly 100-110 games. A serious backup catcher was needed. The Mets had Travis d’Arnaud who was recovering from Tommy John. In addition, they singed Rene Rivera and Devin Mesoraco to minor league deals for insurance. Makes sense, right? It didn’t play out that way. After struggling in April, the Mets released d’Arnaud. Due to a feud over a minor league assignment, Mesoraco retired. For unclear reasons, Rivera spent most of the season in AAA, where he put up an OPS of .820 and hit 25 homers. That meant that Nido was the primary backup catcher. He batted .191 and has an OPS+ of 45.
4) Some teams know when they spot a good reclamation project. Brodie tried that in 2020 and flopped. For the rotation, he added Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello. Both had struggled in 2019 and were far worse in 2020. In the bullpen, he added Dellin Betances, who was coming off a major injury. Sadly, he too floundered and was a shell of his once dominant self.
1) Brodie was a big talker. He talked a good game but didn’t deliver the goods. Prior to the 2019 season he insisted that the Mets were the best team in the division. In December 2018, he told SNY; “Internally, we would argue that we’re the favorites in the division right now.” Less than a month later he had another now infamous statement; “Our goal is to win a championship and it starts with the division. So come get us.” Let this be a lesson in humility.
2) After the 2020 season, it was reported that the Mets have the second smallest analytics department in the MLB. This is completely unacceptable. If you want to know why small market teams like the Rays and A’s make the postseason more often than the Mets, look no further.
3) After the Jacob Blake shooting in August, the big question was how teams would respond… except for the Mets. In Metsland, the big story was the hot mic situation with Brodie. While Brodie didn’t say anything particularly scandalous, he needed to be smarter. When you are in a room with cameras and microphones, NOTHING is off the record.
4) After the Astros and Red Sox scandals broke, three teams lost their managers. The Astros, Red Sox and Mets. Yup… the Mets who had nothing to do with the scandal lost their new manager, Carlos Beltran. While Brodie is not at fault in the scandal, there are some questions to be raised. There was a conspiracy being circulated. Why did he hire Beltran with no managerial experience on any level? Did Brodie know something wasn’t kosher in Houston and want a piece of the action? Former Astros manager AJ Hinch and Brodie were old college friends. This is based on a Tweet from Tim Healy of Newsday. While the conspiracy is preciously that and one shouldn’t just believe everything, the Mets looked terrible.
When all is said and done, we will look back at the Brodie era as a wasted opportunity. The Mets had plenty of talented players but were never able to put it all together. Let’s see what the new front office brings.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)