Let’s hold off on anoint­ing Van Wa­ge­nen

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sports -

Brodie Van Wa­ge­nen’s sign­ings and trades just keep on com­ing this win­ter with the new Mets GM be­ing hailed as the great eman­ci­pa­tor of the Wilpons’ vault by swing­ing it wide open to the tune of some $ 191 mil­lion in spend­ing so far.

There’s no ques­tion Van Wa­ge­nen’s flurry of ac­tiv­ity — the trade for Robin­son Cano and All- Star closer Ed­win Diaz, the sign­ings of Wil­son Ramos, Jeurys Fa­milia and, on Thurs­day, Jed Lowrie — has sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved the Mets around their young and tal­ented ro­ta­tion of Ja­cob deGrom, Noah Syn­der­gaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.

Why, Van Wa­ge­nen him­self has said as much when he de­clared the Mets should now be con­sid­ered the fa­vorites to win the Na­tional League East. But the ac­com­pa­ny­ing na­tional me­dia razz that Van Wa­ge­nen has got­ten the Mets ( i. e. the Wilpons) to fi­nally start act­ing like a large mar­ket team while shed­ding their cheap­skates la­bel is patently un­fair. The most lu­di­crous as­ser­tion in this nar­ra­tive was a re­port last week that Jeff Wilpon is loos­en­ing the fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions in a bid to cast blame on for­mer GM Sandy Alder­son for the Mets’ rel­a­tive in­ac­tiv­ity the pre­vi­ous cou­ple of years.

While Van Wa­ge­nen’s ag­gres­sive style of GM- ing might be a wel­come con­trast to Alder­son’s more con­ser­va­tive ap­proach, did it ever oc­cur to the Mets’ me­dia crit­ics that maybe this win­ter there were a lot more qual­ity play­ers to be had that fit the Mets’ needs, than last year or the year be­fore? Granted, I’m sure it took a lot of con­vinc­ing on Van Wa­ge­nen’s part to get Jeff Wilpon to agree to take on the re­main­ing five years/ $ 120 mil­lion of Cano’s con­tract, but it’s fair to re­mem­ber ev­ery time the Wilpons have had to step up to the plate and make a ma­jor ex­pen­di­ture on a player to keep the team com­pet­i­tive, they have done it.

We’re talk­ing the three­years/$ 39 mil­lion they spent last year on Jay Bruce, who was about the best out­fielder avail­able in a de­cid­edly weak free agent field - and the $ 110 mil­lion they coughed up to re­tain Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes for four years in 2016.

Con­ceiv­ably, Van Wa­ge­nen is not done. The ver­sa­tile switch- hit­ting Lowrie, a grinder who had ca­reer highs in homers ( 23) and RBIs ( 99) last sea­son, would ap­pear to be a much bet­ter of­fen­sive op­tion at third base than Todd Fra­zier, who, as we speak, is al­most cer­tainly be­ing shopped by Van Wa­ge­nen. The fact that Van Wa­ge­nen held onto his two cov­eted out­field­ers, Bran­don Nimmo and Michael Con­forto, along with handy­man Jeff McNeil in all his trade talks, and has Juan La­gares com­ing back to vie for the cen­ter field job, makes this po­ten­tially the deep­est Mets team in years in terms of over­all qual­ity. No dead ros­ter spots.

That’s not to say, how­ever, there won’t be a daily hold­ing of breath and cross­ing of fin­gers in re­gard to the catch­ing, where Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud have both seem­ingly lived on the dis­abled list the past few years. And, of course, the same goes for the oft- in­jured start­ing pitch­ers. Right now, the start­ing pitch­ing, which the Mets’ off­sea­son game plan was all built around, re­mains their one vul­ner­a­bil­ity be­cause if any one of them goes down for an ex­tended pe­riod, there is no net be­low.

Mean­while, de­spite Van Wa­ge­nen’s as­ser­tion about the Mets be­ing the NL East fa­vorites, it is worth not­ing what the Na­tion­als have been do­ing this win­ter around their flir­ta­tions with Bryce Harper. They’ve made sig­nif­i­cant up­grades to their start­ing pitch­ing ( Pa­trick Corbin and Ani­bal Sanchez), their catch­ing ( Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes), at sec­ond base ( Brian Dozier) and even the bench ( Matt Adams). Scott Bo­ras would ob­vi­ously dis­agree, but they don’t need Harper - cer­tainly not at 10 years/$ 350 mil­lion, which would al­most guar­an­tee them the high­est per­cent­ages of lux­ury tax for the fore­see­able fu­ture while also as­suredly pre­clud­ing them from be­ing able to re- sign An­thony Ren­don, who might ac­tu­ally be a bet­ter all- around player. The money they would dole out for Harper would be bet­ter spent on an­other back- end bullpen op­er­a­tive, like Adam Ot­tavino or even Craig Kim­brel.

Seth Wenig / As­so­ci­ated Press

Mets gen­eral man­ager Brodie Van Wa­ge­nen, left, poses for a pic­ture with catcher Wil­son Ramos.

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