NEW YORK -- As if the Mets needed help making headlines this offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen is about to descend upon Las Vegas for his first Winter Meetings as a general manager. The last time Van Wagenen entered a forum like this, at the GM Meetings in early November in California, he sowed the seeds for the Robinson Cano trade that occurred one month later. There's no telling what might happen next week, when Van Wagenen inhabits the same Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino as 29 other GMs and dozens of agents.
Even after acquiring Cano and Edwin Diaz, Van Wagenen knows his team needs help. The bullpen and lineup are incomplete; to that end, Van Wagenen has spent the past few weeks overturning every stone he can to fix them. His early ideas have been both traditional and unorthodox. His methods have been both creative and aggressive.
The Winter Meetings will give Van Wagenen a chance to showcase those qualities once again, at a time of year that typically sees the Hot Stove begin to boil. With that in mind, here's a look at what the Mets hope to accomplish Monday through Thursday in Las Vegas:
A right-handed bat, a catcher and at least one reliever. The Mets have an outfield vacancy after trading Jay Bruce, and they will look to fill it with a right-handed hitter -- perhaps A.J. Pollock, in whom they've already expressed interest. While J.T. Realmuto trade rumors figure to dominate the catching landscape, the Mets will look into free agent Martin Maldonado as well. As far as the bullpen goes, the Mets know their trade for Diaz wasn't enough. Ideally, the Mets will sign a top free agent to serve as Diaz's setup man -- Andrew Miller, Player Page for David Robertson and Adam Ottavino are just three of the multitude they'll consider.
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Whom might they trade?
If Van Wagenen's opening salvo was any indication, the answer to that is probably "anyone." Realistically, Noah Syndergaard isn't going anywhere. But if Brandon Nimmo or Amed Rosario could go in a deal for Realmuto, as has been rumored, then it's hard to see many in the organization being off-limits.
Prospects to know
After trading away third- and fourth-ranked prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, the Mets have a few gems left in their system. One is top-ranked shortstop Andres Gimenez, a 20-year-old unlikely to make an impact in 2019. It's possible the Mets could look to deal him. Another is first baseman Peter Alonso, who figures to play a significant role in the big leagues next season. Keep an eye also on Nos. 26 and 28 prospects Eric Hanhold and Bobby Wahl, who debuted late this year and could become key bullpen contributors in '19.
Rule 5 Draft
The Mets declined to protect any of their eligible prospects from Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, knowing they aren't at high risk of losing any important long-term pieces. It's possible they could select someone, but while they have a few vacancies on their 40-man roster, the Mets figure to fill those spots quickly with free-agent and trade acquisitions. If they can strike a deal with their insurance company that would allow them to release David Wright, who's currently occupying a 40-man spot, they'll have a bit more wiggle room.
For a hyperactive Mets front office, this is the (multi)million-dollar question. Currently, the Mets are on the hook for about $130 million, using MLB Trade Rumors' arbitration projections. They began this past season with a little more than $150 million in commitments, and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has since said that he considers the payroll "wide open." How high could it go? The Mets are likely to at least match 2018's total. Beyond that, only Wilpon, Van Wagenen and the Mets' highest-ranking staff members know for sure.
One other factor is Wright's $15 million salary, which is included in the figure above. The Mets are recouping around 75 percent of that via insurance, and Wilpon has said they will invest at least some of it back into payroll. Exactly how much remains to be seen, though Van Wagenen has admitted the Mets would need to be extremely creative to find the budget for top free agents Bryce Harper or Manny Machado -- in other words, that's a place they're probably not going.