Carlos Beltran will receive the full celebratory treatment in his return to Queens on Monday, when he is introduced as the 22nd manager in Mets history.
For a third straight offseason, the Mets embarked on a managerial or GM search that landed something of a surprise candidate. Two years ago the surprise was when Mickey Callaway, a former Indians pitching coach, was hired to manage the team. Last offseason, agent Brodie Van Wagenen became the surprise new GM. Now it’s a probable Hall of Fame outfielder who departed the organization on shaky terms with owner Fred Wilpon and team COO Jeff Wilpon as the surprise hired to manage the club.
With the latest new era of Mets baseball about to begin, here are a few questions Van Wagenen (mostly) and Beltran face:
Why gamble on a first-time manager for a team expected to compete for the postseason in 2020?
Van Wagenen had a chance at hiring Joe Girardi and passed, but it’s not as if the former Yankees manager was the only proven winner available, as names such as Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker, John Farrell and Mike Scioscia were on the market.
If the Mets were in a rebuilding phase it might be easier to sell the hiring of Beltran, who spent last season as a Yankees special assistant but lacks field-staff experience. If the idea is to surround Beltran with an improved coaching staff, why not just return Callaway after an 86-win season, bolster the bullpen and take your best shot?
Will the new manager be the Mets’ biggest offseason move?
Unless Beltran can still play outfield and hit at peak level, his arrival alone won’t mean much. The Mets need pieces this offseason, primarily pitching, if they are going to compete with the Braves, Phillies and world-champion Nationals in what should be a difficult NL East challenge.
Zack Wheeler is a free agent, and his departure would leave a significant hole in the rotation. Are the Mets willing to spend what it takes to re-sign Wheeler or will they be searching for a less-expensive option for the rotation’s back end? The bullpen probably needs two arms and then there is the likely need to add another bat somewhere, whether that is the outfield or a super-utility type player who can move around the diamond.
If Beltran is the Mets’ biggest offseason addition, it won’t bode well for 2020.
What is the plan with Edwin Diaz?
Already, Van Wagenen has said he doesn’t anticipate trading the beleaguered reliever. But if the Mets head into spring training with the idea Diaz is the closer and he again flops, then what? Seth Lugo succeeded in the closer’s role over the final two months, but often wasn’t available consecutive days. Justin Wilson was impressive down the stretch, but can the Mets count on that again? The equation becomes less murky if Diaz is even somewhere between the All-Star closer of 2018 and ’19 disaster.
What about the coaching staff?
Beltran will likely need a seasoned lieutenant at his side, and former Mets manager Terry Collins could provide that expertise as bench coach. But if Collins isn’t hired, there are plenty of former managers (think Clint Hurdle, Fredi Gonzalez and John Gibbons) who would fit. Chili Davis received strong reviews as hitting coach, but now seeks a multi-year contract, leaving his status in question. Phil Regan presided over a pitching staff that improved in the second half of last season, but remains in limbo. Gary DiSarcina appears likely to return as infield coach, but it’s unclear what is planned for Luis Rojas, who served as the quality control coach last season and interviewed for the manager’s job.
How much input will Beltran actually have in the daily decisions?
Callaway admitted to ignoring analytics most of the time in his decision-making process, but it’s also known Van Wagenen and his staff had a large say in the lineup, and the GM texted a support staff member during a game last season with instructions for Callaway to remove Jacob deGrom. Beltran was hired to collaborate, but that could also be interpreted as saying he was deemed the most controllable of the managerial candidates.
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