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Van Wagenen: 'We have a core going forward'

GM talks state of the team, including Callaway, Lowrie, Nimmo
@cdenicola13
July 12, 2019

MIAMI -- Nearly seven months ago, new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told the National League East to "come get us" after a busy offseason. Hours before the second half got under way with Friday night's 8-4 loss to Miami at Marlins Park, Van Wagenen addressed the difficult reality.

MIAMI -- Nearly seven months ago, new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told the National League East to "come get us" after a busy offseason.

Hours before the second half got under way with Friday night's 8-4 loss to Miami at Marlins Park, Van Wagenen addressed the difficult reality. Despite those high expectations, the Mets (40-50) are 13 1/2 games behind the National League East-leading Braves and seven back in the NL Wild Card race. Thus, the GM acknowledged that the Mets are likely to sell, but not to engage in a total teardown, as the Trade Deadline approaches.

"Well, I said it," Van Wagenen said. "I think what you'll learn and what I hope to always be is that I want to say what I believe, and I wasn't shy in the offseason. But they came and got us, and I think that now we view ourselves as the underdogs."

Because of their expiring contracts, trades of third baseman Todd Frazier, right-hander Zack Wheeler and southpaw Jason Vargas appear to be the likeliest moves. When asked whether controllable players like flamethrower Noah Syndergaard and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom would be available, Van Wagenen said, "I would fully expect those guys to be on our roster."

Van Wagenen described the volume of interest in Mets players as "significant," with lots of dialogue and an overwhelming number of incoming calls.

This past winter, the Mets signed free-agent catcher Wilson Ramos and acquired closer Edwin Díaz and second baseman Robinson Canó from the Mariners. But that trio has underperformed. Van Wagenen said that while the organization assesses where it's at on a daily basis, the final 18 games of the first half provided clarity for its future direction.

"The reason why we put some chips on the table this year is because we felt like we had a core of starting pitchers from which we could build around and we wanted to put some pieces around them that would afford them the chance to win more games by producing more runs and pitching of the bullpen," Van Wagenen said. "Right now, as we look at the halfway point, we feel like we have a core going forward, just maybe a different core.

"Pete Alonso has arrived in a big fashion, Jeff McNeil has not only not regressed, but he's progressed as a player. We've got deGrom continuing to pitch the way he is, we've got some other young players that have stepped up in ways we necessarily couldn’t have counted on, Dominic Smith and others. We have a core from which we can compete, and we'll look at our moves with both win now or certainly win in 2020 [perspectives] and looking beyond that. I don't anticipate being in a situation where we'd have a total teardown rebuild at this point."

Van Wagenen addressed a variety of other topics during his nearly 30-minute media scrum.

On Mickey Callaway as the manager the rest of the season:

"Absolutely."

"I think Mickey has done a difficult job very well. I think our results in the standings aren't where we want to be. I know he shows up to work every day with a passion to win and a desire to work and get better, and so I've been very satisfied with that."

"He's managed that clubhouse. It has not been an easy year with the expectations that we had and the shortcomings of our performance. He has held that clubhouse together, and I think that is one of the best characteristics that a manager can have."

On the reported chair incident:

"I was frustrated. I think our fans have been frustrated. I think that there was part of me that allowed emotion to come to light, and I think emotion sometimes is good because it can rattle the cage to a degree in the attempt to find different ways to yield results.

"My goal when I had the meeting with the coaches before the emotion ramped up was to try something different. We have been doing a lot of the same things, and we haven’t been able to change the outcome. The goal was to talk to the coaches about that. It came after another tough loss. I let those emotions get to me. I'm not typically throwing furniture. And I'm sure our fans may have thrown a few remote controls at their TVs throughout the course of the season. I think the coaches understood my emotion, and we're ready to go forward."

The latest on Lowrie and Nimmo:

Van Wagenen was asked whether Jed Lowrie, another winter acquisition, will make his Mets debut this season.

Lowrie, on the 60-day injured list, was first sidelined with a left knee capsule sprain before the season began.

"Well, right now he's not playing. His left side, I talked about the knee and the hamstring and the kinetic chain we were working on. His strength on his left side is really good; unfortunately, he's now battling a lower right calf strain, a low grade calf strain, that he started to feel as his workload was ramped up on his latest recovery," Van Wagenen said. "We're going to take care of that, and hopefully we'll progress within a timeframe to begin the second half. But that's the slowdown with Jed that he's been dealing with the last few days."

Brandon Nimmo's 30-day shutdown from high-workload baseball activity will come to an end on July 18. He has been out since late May with a stiff neck. Nimmo has been playing catch and ramping up his running, according to Van Wagenen.

Worth noting

The Mets recalled right-hander Chris Mazza and designated righty Wilmer Font for assignment. Mazza pitched four relief innings, allowing one run, in his Major League debut on June 29. Font appeared in 15 games after being dealt to the Mets from the Rays on May 6 for a player to be named (Neraldo Catalina). The 29-year-old righty posted a 4.94 ERA, with 24 strikeouts and 13 walks in 31 innings for New York.

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.