We’ve talked at length about the Mets’ refusal to devote the resources necessary to build a true contender in 2019. This is an organization with clear—and some might say unjustified—budgetary restrictions, putting additional pressure on every move they make to be perfect. They’ve been anything but, of course, and two recent moves were a particularly egregious waste of money.
First, Travis d’Arnaud. He certainly had some level of upside coming into the season, having consistently posted strong framing and sporadically demonstrated good offensive potential for a catcher. However, he was also coming back from Tommy John surgery and has an extremely lengthy injury history, making him a questionable backup choice for the injury-prone Wilson Ramos. Moreover, the Mets elected to pay d’Arnaud $3.5 million rather than pay Kevin Plawecki $1.15 million or pay another catcher—Tomas Nido, Rene Rivera, Devin Mesoraco, for example—the league minimum. Then, they cut d’Arnaud anyway after 25 plate appearances, leaving the team liable for his entire salary. So that’s at least $2 million down the drain.
Next, the Mets made the extremely puzzling decision to promote Adeiny Hechavarria, guaranteeing the $3 million he was due as part of his split contract. Hechavarria is regarded as a good defender, but is a total zero with the bat with a career 72 wRC+. In the age of defensive shifts, glove-only utility infielders have disappeared for a reason. Utilizing Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier, or, if healthy, Jed Lowrie as a backup shortstop while leveraging defensive positioning to hide their shortcomings would be a much smarter roster building strategy. Even if the Mets were insistent on carrying a player of Hechavarria’s ilk, Luis Guillorme could serve the same role for the league minimum. That’s another $3 million down the drain.
Combined, that’s a decent chunk of change. Upgrading from Wilson Ramos, who’s a negative defender and currently has a 63 wRC+, to Yamani Grandal, an elite defender with a 114 wRC+, would cost roughly $9 million for a one-year deal, which would be more than half covered by the $5 million they Mets wasted. Similarly, upgrading from Jeurys Familia to Adam Ottavino—assuming he needed roughly three years and $33 million to not sign with his childhood team—would have been totally covered by that amount of money. A smaller but still significant portion of a one-year deal for Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel would also have been covered, as would most of the AAV for Joakim Soria.
Assumptions that the Mets might chip in a couple extra million aren’t even necessary, however. There are plenty of notable players who would help the Mets that signed for much less than $5 million. All of Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley, Matt Shoemaker (pre-ACL tear), Drew Pomeranz, and Martin Perez signed for less than $5 million, and all would be significant upgrades to the Mets’ rotation. The relief options have been less successful, but gambling on any of Tony Sipp, Shawn Kelley, Hunter Strickland, Adam Warren, or Brad Brach would’ve been a much better use of resources.
The Mets are a team with a pitching crisis. Paper thin depth charts in the bullpen and in the rotation have been shredded by injuries and poor performance, issues that were extremely predictable. Yet rather than dedicating just a few more resources to the weakest part of the roster, the Mets chose to light $5 million on fire instead.