The New York Mets have had one player on their 40-man roster test positive for COVID-19 since March, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen does not expect any players to opt out of the coming 2020 season, he revealed in a media conference call over Zoom on Monday afternoon.
Those two headlines are very much in the forefront as MLB attempts to get its 2020 season going amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and even more so as several players – including two key members of the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals – choose to opt out over concerns about health and safety.
To that end, Van Wagenen said the positive player is recovering and he is “optimistic that player can return before the start of camp,” and the GM believes in the protocols MLB is putting in place and believes in his team to follow any procedures in place – including times when they are not at the ballpark.
"We trust them. They trust us. We trust each other," Van Wagenen said, adding that the Mets do not plan to implement team rules/fines for players who violate those guidelines.
He was also asked how the team has been keeping up with the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in regards to policies and procedures going into the season, including MLB’s mandate to name an Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator.
“We didn’t start it this week – that’s the number one takeaway, it wasn’t something that was sprung on us. Going back to February, there have been countless hours of discussions with our medical staff and state governments to make sure we have the best information possible as fast as we can get it, and then we apply that to our plans and our protocols,” Van Wagenen said. “And, our players have been informed of everything the entire way. We’ll continue to do that; we know it will be an evolution, but we’ll be on top of it. With the (coordinator), we’ve been building that team up, and we’re ready to go here.”
Other news from Van Wagenen’s Zoom presser:
-On the non-COVID injury front, the GM said that Yoenis Cespedes, who was taking live BP when spring training was suspended, “should be closer to being game ready than when we saw him last in March,” and the team is “optimistic” he could be an option at DH on Opening Day. However, on the other side, Jed Lowrie “is still trying to transition out of his leg brace and see some more advanced action."
-On the roster front, the Mets added to their initial 45-player pool on Monday by finalizing minor-league deals with RHP Hunter Strickland, infielder Gordon Beckham, and outfielder Melky Cabrera. The team also added RHP Erasmo Ramirez and outfielder Ryan Cordell to the pool from the group already under contract, and Van Wagenen noted that Tim Tebow is “still a possibility” to be added.
-Van Wagenen’s thoughts on Mets players speaking out about social injustices surrounding the unrest in the country of late: “I’m proud of them, I really am. Our players have a voice, and a platform to influence people and thought. When I heard and saw some of the comments our players made publicly, I let them know that the organization supported them, knowing the impact their words would have on others. We as an organization are happy that our players are willing and able to have a voice, and want to see change taking place.”
-The GM on how this bizarre season may affect a first-year manager like Luis Rojas: “This season is going to be new for everyone. In some ways, Luis may benefit from the fact that his peers are going through something they’ve never dealt with before, either. Luis has spent a lot of time preparing for what this season may look like, and the coaches have been working on hypothetical camp schedules for months. I know he’s very excited about having the depth of talent he does, and I know he’ll be ready for it.”
-The last word from the GM about the Mets’ chances this season: “We feel that we have a group that can contend. This season is going to be like an Olympic track meet – a full sprint.”