Hopes Mets Will Spend Dashed With New Islanders Arena

This offseason, the Mets need to address the rotation, bullpen, catcher, third, center, and depth across the board. This becomes all the more complicated when you consider just signing Zack Wheeler will put the Mets over the luxury tax.

Still, there is some small hope. After all, David Wright‘s contract is insured and expiring. Yoenis Cespedes‘ contract is expiring as well. A good portion of Jacob deGrom‘s salary is deferred. Putting this all together, maybe the money is there, and maybe the Mets will take it on the chin one year and resetting the next.

It’s not going to happen.

Aside from the usual pessimism, Forbes reported “Sterling Equities has yet to put in any money for its share” of the “highly leveraged” new Islanders arena. Ultimately, it is unknown how much of the $800 million financing is the Wilpon owned Sterling Equities responsibility, but that’s just axiomatic as the money isn’t there.

If the money isn’t there for the Islanders arena, it does beg the question whether it’ll be there for the Mets. Perhaps, that is the reason why the Mets focused on a cheaper option in Carlos Beltran instead of a Joe Girardi. On that note, the Mets supposedly didn’t discuss the money available for a manager.

At this point, you really have to wonder what money is available. So far, there isn’t $1 available for the Islanders arena. If there isn’t any money available for a project the Wilpons are partially responsible for $800 million, you wonder how much more they’re going to contribute towards their mid market Mets payroll.

Braves Signing Will Smith Doesn’t Move The Needle

The Atlanta Braves should get credit for acting swiftly and signing closer Will Smith before he accepted the qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants. Even with the team winning the National League East by a healthy margin, they really needed to upgrade their bullpen, and Smith was the best reliever available.

They thought they did just that by obtaining Shane Greene at the trade deadline, but with he proved to not be the solution. Still, through it all, believe it or not, the Braves bullpen was not as bad as people believed it to be.

In 2019, the Braves 4.21 bullpen ERA was the 11th best in baseball. Their 22 blown saves were tied for the ninth fewest in the majors. Looking at those numbers, you can see they weren’t a good bullpen. That is further exemplified by their 4.49 FIP (ranked 15th), and their 1.388 WHIP, which was 11th worst.

Having Smith in the bullpen is going to make that bullpen better. However, it should be noted that even with the struggles that bullpen had, they didn’t hold back a 96 win team. If anything, obtaining Smith should help the Braves tread water from their having some of the fewest blown saves in the game. With Smith, they’ll probably be better, but probably not much better.

The real issue for the Braves going forward isn’t going to be about holding onto leads. No, their real issue is getting them.

The Braves had a major hole to address at third base with Josh Donaldson being a free agent. Last year, he hit .259/.379/.521 with 33 doubles, 37 homers, and 94 RBI. Even on a team with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman, his 6.1 WAR led the team. His 15 DRS made him the best defensive third baseman in the National League.

Signing Smith is not going to do anything to offset potentially losing Donaldson on the free agent market. Depending on what happens in the rest of the division, the Braves may not be able to get away with just signing a Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier. No, they need a real difference maker.

On that note, the team also needs to upgrade its catching position, especially with them losing Brian McCann to retirement. On that front, Yasmani Grandal is just about the only catcher who could offset the loss of Donaldson, but whether the Braves have an appetite to go in that direction remains to be seen.

Ultimately, the Braves can be either a significantly improved team from their 96 win team. They can also be significantly worse. All we know is Smith is not moving the needle in either direction at the moment. To that end, no Mets fan should be up in arms over the Braves getting him, especially with some very good relievers remaining on the free agent market.

No, the time for Mets fans to react is when there are other very significant players sign, including but not limited to, Zack Wheeler signing.

 

 

Trivia Friday: Pitchers Who Won Rookie of the Year and Two Cy Young Awards

In the 2019 season, Major Leauge history was set with two pitchers doing something which had only been accomplished once in Major League history – adding a second Cy Young to a Rookie of the Year award. Can you now name the three people who have accomplished this feat? Good luck!


Tom Seaver Justin Verlander Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom And Pete Alonso An Indictment On Brodie Van Wagenen

When Jacob deGrom was officially announced as the 2019 Cy Young Award winner, the New York Mets officially had the Cy Young winner and with Pete Alonso, the Rookie of the Year. With the Houston Astros accomplishing the same feat with Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez, it is something which has only happened 14 times in Major League history.

The 2019 Astros won the pennant. When they pulled off the same feat in 2015 with Dallas Keuchel and Carlos Correa, they won the American League Wild Card Game.

The 1983 White Sox had LaMarr Hoyt, Ron Kittle, and the American League West title. The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers had Fernando Valenzuela and a World Series title. The 1965 Dodgers had Sandy Koufax, Jim Lefebvre, and a World Series title.

That leaves the 1994 Royals (strike shortened season), and the 1976 Padres as the only teams who had a Rookie of the Year and a Cy Young winner to not make the World Series. Digging deeper, things are much worse.

There have been three teams in Major League history who have had a player win a Cy Young and have another player hit 50 homers in a season. The first was the 1961 Yankees who had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford. The next was the 2001 Diamondbacks who had Luis Gonzalez and Randy Johnson. Both the Yankees and Diamondbacks won the World Series.

Basically, if you have a Cy Young winner and a Rookie of the Year, especially one who hits 50 homers, that team goes to the postseason. Not the 2019 Mets. While they made a late season surge, they ultimately came up short. What makes that all the more inexcusable is they went all in on the 2019 season trading away significant prospects in Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, Jarred Kelenic, and Simeon Woods Richardson while taking on the very onerous Robinson Cano contract.

That’s to say nothing of the Mets trading away a full year of control of Alonso for two weeks of games without agreeing to a Scott Kingery type of contract or other form of forward thinking.

Anyway you look at it, the 2019 season was a complete failure for the Mets. It’s a sentiment Van Wagenen himself shares. The Mets had the best pitcher, the top rookie, and a host of other good players who had good years, and yet, they missed the postseason. No matter how you look at it, this is an indictment of Van Wagenen.

With Second Cy Young, Jacob deGrom Looking Like a Hall of Famer

The entire list of pitchers in Major League history who have won a Rookie of the Year award and two Cy Young Awards are Tom Seaver, Jacob deGrom, and Justin Verlander. That’s the entire list, and of the three deGrom is the only pitcher in Major League history to win a Rookie of the Year and consecutive Cy Young Awards.

On the topic of consecutive Cy Young Awards, that is a feat which has been accomplished by just 11 pitchers. Of those 10, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, and Jim Palmer are in the Hall of Fame. Roger Clemens likely would’ve been but for the steroids implications, and we reasonably expect Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer to be inducted when they are eligible.

Ultimately, that means seven of the 11 pitchers who have accomplished this feat are in the Hall of Fame. Looking forward, the question is whether deGrom can be the eighth.

When looking at deGrom’s Hall of Fame chances, the biggest obstacle at the moment is his not having made his Major League debut until his age 26 season. As noted by Beyond the Box Score, Old Hoss Radbourn, Mordecai Brown, Joe McGinnity, and Hoyt Wilhelm are the only four pitchers who debuted in or after their age 26 season inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of those four three of them were starting pitchers.

Looking at the aforementioned three older starting pitchers, they averaged a 54.4 JAWS and a 58.9 WAR7. Even if deGrom were to repeat his 10.1 WAR from 2018, his subsequent 45.0 JAWS/WAR7 would fall short of the mean. However, it would put him in line with Brown.

But that is an important point. The one thing to take a look at is deGrom has only pitched six years in the majors. Even with his hitting the 200 inning mark in each of the past three years, he doesn’t have much mileage on his arm. This has him in the prime of his career with an opportunity to build off of these past two years.

Essentially, what deGrom needs to do is repeat the success Max Scherzer has had.

Entering his age 32 season Scherzer had accumulated a 37.0 WAR in 10 years. Over that time frame, he had two Cy Young awards with two other top five finishes. In the ensuing three years, Scherzer had accumulated a 21.7 WAR with another Cy Young and two more top three Cy Young finishes. At this moment in time, Scherzer is rightfully seen as a future Hall of Famer.

Assuming for a moment, deGrom has similar success over the next three years, he would have a 56.6 career WAR. That number would definitively put him in the conversation with the aforementioned starters, and it would start putting him in the larger conversation as well with his approaching his opt out year in his contract.

If deGrom does pitch that way, he is going to earn another Cy Young award. Winning that award would be of vital importance. While Denny McLain and Tim Lincecum have not and will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Clemens remains the only pitcher with more than three Cy Youngs not in the Hall of Fame, and again, we know there are extenuating circumstances there.

Now, we know the Hall of Fame is not just a WAR exercise. When looking at any position, especially pitcher, we need to dig a little deeper. When doing that, right now, deGrom’s case looks great.

So far, deGrom has the fifth best ERA+ in baseball history putting him ahead of pitchers like Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. His K/9 is 15th best ahead of hurlers like Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan. It’s not his strikeout rate, but his control which stands out. His 4.72 K/BB is eighth best in Major League history putting him ahead of pitchers like Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay.

His 1.053 WHIP ranks ninth bettering the career marks of pitchers like Sandy Koufax and Tom Glavine. His 2.78 FIP is better than the career marks of Cy Young and Bob Gibson.

As you break it down, deGrom stands right there among all the greats, and he has the awards to prove it. He also has the postseason success. When looking at deGrom, we are seeing a Hall of Fame career. All deGrom has to do from this point forward is stay healthy and maintain his greatness.

Whether he can do it is anyone’s guess. Whether he gets there or not, it is going to be fun watching him prove his greatness every fifth day in a New York Mets uniform.

Brodie Van Wagenen Had A Center Fielder

Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said something very interesting to the press during these GM Meetings. Notably, as transcribed by Mike Puma of the New York Post, he said, “Center field is not as easy as waking up in the morning and finding a solution.

This is a sentiment which rings very true, and we have seen teams act accordingly. The Minnesota Twins were very patient with Byron Buxton, who was finally a league average hitter in his fifth Major League season. Previously to Buxton, they had been patient with Aaron Hicks until he was traded for John Ryan Murphy, who at the time was a promising catcher.

When Hicks broke out, the Yankees made sure to extend Hicks to a lucrative contract extension. This speaks to how hard it is to get a center fielder. When a center fielder comes available, teams do spend to get them. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain to a five year $80 million deal.

For the Mets last year, there were no easy solutions. Juan Lagares would have the worst year of his career from both sides of the plate. Brandon Nimmo was hurt for much of the year. Keon Broxton wasn’t the player the Mets hoped he would be leading to his designated for assignment followed by failed hopes in the form of Aaron Altherr, Carlos Gomez, and Rajai Davis.

This led to the Mets once again moving Michael Conforto to center. While he has been a good sport, he has proven himself to be a good stopgap and nothing more. This is not too dissimilar from what we saw with Yoenis Cespedes in 2015.

The lesson is when you have a center fielder, you need to hold onto that player for as long as you can. That is what the best run teams in baseball do.

The Mets did have that center fielder in the minors in the form of Jarred Kelenic. In short order, he proved to be a much better player than even the Mets could’ve hoped he would be when they made him the sixth overall pick in the draft.

He has been so good that at the moment, MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 13th best prospect in baseball. He also rose all the way to Double-A at the end of the 2019 season. His likely beginning the 2020 season in Double-A means his making his Major League debut next year is not out of the question. Barring injury, we should see that happen at least by 2022.

Instead of having patience building this Mets team and allowing them to reap the benefits of having a Kelenic in center for a decade or hopefully more, Van Wagenen trying to shortcut the process. He included Kelenic in a deal for a older second baseman in Robinson Cano and a closer in Edwin Diaz.

Aside from the complications Cano and his contract provide, like re-signing Zack Wheeler, the trade itself cost the Mets a center fielder in Kelenic. With Kelenic, Van Wagenen was going to be in a position where he can wake up one day and have a long term solution in center.

Instead, he cycled through option after option in 2019 to no avail. He enters the offseason with few trade assets and little to no budget to sign a center fielder or to take on salary in a trade. The real shame is he eventually learned his lesson after he was all to rash to swing an ill-advised deal trading away a potentially very good center fielder.

Baseball Embarrassed Itself Yesterday With Houston Astros And Gabe Kapler

At some point, you really have to begin to wonder what exactly Commissioner Rob Manfred is doing. While Atlanta Braves General Manager Alex Anthopolous is fanning the flames of the already tense situation with the Player’s Association by heavily alluded to collusion, his sport has been embarrassing itself left and right.

The first bit of huge news yesterday was Mike Fiers admitted the World Series Champion 2017 Houston Astros cheated by stealing signs with a camera and relaying those signs using different sounds. One of those sounds were whistles like the allegations we heard from the New York Yankees this past postseason. At the time, AJ Hinch mocked those making the accusations, but apparently where they was smoke, there is now Fiers.

This isn’t the first time the Astros were accused of cheating. Based on how they operate their team, it won’t be the last. What is really interesting is Major League Baseball purportedly did investigating into those accusations, and each time they made no public statements of wrongdoing.

This would say either MLB was unable to uncover something, or perhaps, they didn’t want to announce what they discovered. It’s not a cover-up per se, but it does have an air to it.

Now, their World Series title does seem a bit tainted. That’s a real shame for players like Justin Verlander who finally got over the hump with that Astros team and for Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who got that elusive World Series ring in his final ever game. For what it’s worth, Beltran denied the accusations.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the San Francisco Giants hired Gabe Kapler as their new manager.

Keep in mind, while Kapler was fired from the Phillies for being a bad manager, it is much worse than that. This is the same Kapler who is part of an FBI investigation regarding what is alleged to be criminal actions involved with the recruitment of international teenage free agents. At the time, Kapler was the Director of Player Development.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nick Francona spoke with Sports Illustrated about Kapler’s involvement in trying to cover-up sexual assault allegations against Dodgers prospects on multiple occasions. There were other issues including stalking allegations. Each time, Kapler and the Dodgers tried to cover  it up (successfully), and quite notably, on one occasion, Kapler actually met with the victim’s family.

Keep in mind, those are the things we do know, and we only know it because Francona came forward.

Given his actions, there should be no room for Kapler in baseball. Yet somehow, he has another job in the same state where many of his transgressions occurred. This is on the same day the Houston Astros might have finally been nailed for cheating.

Overall, November 12, 2019 was just an outright embarrassing day for baseball. Fans of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers just discovered their teams might’ve been cheated out of a World Series.

On that front, you have to wonder how Joe Girardi, who was fired after that season, and Yu Darvish, who was beat up by the Astros batters, have to feel. The answer is probably nowhere near the emotions of the victims Kapler’s player development program left in his wake.

Seeing Kapler hired and the Astros cheating finally uncovered, you really have to wonder what Manfred is doing. Any commissioner with an interest in the image of his sport would have been proactive on this, and they would have ensured the guilty parties stayed out of baseball. Not Manfred. Once again, he is nowhere to be seen, and he took no action when baseball and really human beings needed it most.

Mets Third Base Solution Is Robinson Cano

With Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson being free agents, you should expect every team who needs an upgrade at third base to be pursuing them heavily. That is everyone expect the New York Mets. The Mets have all but said they’re not pursuing either player, and they are not prepared to exceed the luxury tax threshold.

Getting the obvious out of the way, this is unacceptable. There is really no excuse for the Mets to not at least realistically pursue either player. That said, that is exactly where we are leaving the Mets to find  “creative” ways to find someone to replace Todd Frazier at the hot corner.

Based upon Brodie Van Wagenen’s comments, that replacement is going to be an internal option. Looking at things, that is a scary proposition.

J.D. Davis simply cannot handle the position defensively. In 220.0 innings at third last year, he posted a -9 DRS. To put it into perspective, that is actually worse than how Wilmer Flores played the position, and back then, Mets fans were screaming to move him off third.

The other option mentioned was Jed Lowrie. Even mentioning his name is bizarre. Last year, he was limited to eight plate appearances and was not able to play in the field. At the moment, you are hard pressed to find a reason why the Mets can count on him any more than they can count on Yoenis Cespedes as the Mets readily admit they still do not know what is wrong with Lowrie.

The other name mentioned was Jeff McNeil. Due to his versatility, the 2019 All Star who had a 143 wRC+ and a 3 DRS at third is a very viable option for the position. However, for a moment, lets put a pin in that.

When looking at third base, the one name which hasnt’ been mention, but perhaps should be mentioned is Robinson Cano.

Last year, Cano had a bad year by any measure. Due to multiple stints on the disabled list as he battled hamstring issues, he played a career worst 107 games (in a non-PED suspension season). The 93 wRC+ was the second worst of his career, and the -6 DRS was the worst defensive year he has had since 2015. In fact, this was just the second negative DRS he has had since 2008.

With Cano coming off an injury plagued season and with next year being his age 37 season, we should hardly expect those defensive numbers to improve. With second being a fairly rigorous position, you wonder if it would be better for Cano to switch positions to one which would allow his legs more rest, and in turn, would help him offensively.

Looking back to when Cano came off his PED suspension in 2018, that is exactly what the Mariners did. From August 14 until the end of the season, Cano would play 41 games. His breakdown of those games were: 2B (23), 1B (14), 3B (2), DH (1). Yes, Cano’s primary position was second, but he only mainly played second.

Getting the obvious out of the way, there is no way Cano is an answer at first base as Pete Alonso is firmly entrenched there. As for DH, except for isolated interleague games, there is no long term solution at DH. That leaves third.

At the moment, there is little more than conjecture to see if Cano can handle third on a long term basis. We could look at hit -2 DRS in 2018 as evidence he can’t, but that’s as small a sample size as you get. Moreover, that was with him being thrown at the position with little to no preparation.

Through it all, we should remember Cano is a smart player with good hands and a strong arm. His real issue is his range and durability. This is not too dissimilar from what we saw with Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera wasn’t exactly great at third last year with a -4 DRS in 812.0 innings, but it should be noted it was a lot better than the -17 DRS he put up at second base the preceding season.

When it comes to Cano, you can reasonably expect him to be not just a negative defender at third, but also worse than McNeil. However, that is only part of the equation. Taking a more global view, McNeil at second and Cano at third probably presents the best possible defensive alignment while presenting Cano with a position less strenous on his legs thereby keeping him in the lineup more.

If you think about it more, this is a move which is going to have to be made eventually. Cano is signed through the the 2023 season, and he is signed for a lot of money. Looking at the team, they need his bat in the lineup to be successful. To that end, the Mets need to find the best way to both keep his bat in the lineup and help ensure his contract is not more onerous than it already is.

Looking at everything, the solution is to move Cano to third base. That is unless the Mets are actually going to do the right thing by pursuing Rendon or Donaldson.

It’s Okay Pete Alonso Isn’t A Unanimous Rookie of the Year

Pete Alonso officially joined Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Jacob deGrom as Mets players who have won the National League Rookie of the Year. With Alonso surpassing Aaron Judge‘s rookie record for homers, the honor was not only well deserved, but it made the announcement more of a coronation than anything.

Before Alonso was announced Yordan Alvarez was named the American League Rookie of the Year, and it was unanimous. When the announcement was made, we were all expecting to have two unanimous selections, but that didn’t happen as Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic was the only voter who voted for Mike Soroka.

Now, it should be noted Baggarly had a very sound basis for his decision. In addition to throw away narratives like Soroka being a real contender for the Cy Young Award, he also noted Soroka had a better WPA and WAR. He then explained how he was more impressed with Soroka keeping the ball in the ballpark than he was with Alonso hitting it out in an era of the lively baseball.

Even though Baggarly made the article more about himself and his concerns about Mets fans coming after him noting he had been warned by other writers “Mets Twitter is a special flavor of Twitter.” Still, even with the article being a bit too much “Look at me!” his justification for voting for Soroka wasn’t.

While 29 other voters and every single Mets fan alive disagrees, Baggarly made the determination Alonso was merely the second best rookie in the National League last year. At the end of the day, when decisions like this are made all you can ask from the voter is for due diligence and for their making a good faith argument.

That is exactly what Baggarly did here. Upon reading his article, you can disagree with his conclusions and the evidence upon which he relies. What you cannot disagree with is he didn’t undertake the analysis.

When all is said and done, the real question here isn’t about why Baggarly thought differently than almost everyone. No, the real question is who cares?

In annals of baseball history, there aren’t two separate lists for Rookies of the Year and unanimous Rookies of the Year. In fact, the voting is something which typically fades from memory.

For example, did you know Seaver wasn’t a unanimous choice? Neither was Strawberry or Gooden. The Gooden decision was all the more wrong than Alonso not winning the award unanimously.

In the end, what matters is the honor. Seaver, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame with a higher percentage of the vote than any starting pitcher, is every bit the Hall of Famer Gary Carter (sixth ballot) and Mike Piazza (fourth ballot) are.

The same holds true for Alonso. He is every bit the Rookie of the Year Alvarez is and all those who preceded both players. In the end, all we should care about is he won, and better yet, all the things that are to come.

Yankees Announce They’ll Spend While Mets Won’t

With Major League Baseball’s GM Meetings about to begin, teams are discussing their very preliminary plans with the media. That includes not just a wish list but also the resources available to fulfill their needs.

With respect to the Yankees, a year after not going the extra mile to sign Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, the Yankees are now expected to be going aggressively after Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.

For the Yankees to sign one or both, they’ll need to go past the luxury tax threshold. On that topic, Brian Cashman said there was no directive to stay under the tax meaning

As for the Mets, well, they were typically evasive, which is typically not a forebearer of good news.

When asked if the Mets had the authorization to exceed the threshold, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said the conversation will only happen if he needs to sign a specific player. Essentially, Van Wageneb said the budget and decisions are on a player-by-player basis before declining to answer any more questions about the payroll.

Keep in mind, that decision needs to have already taken place with Zack Wheeler being a free agent. If the Mets did nothing more than sign him, they’re going to be over the luxury tax. If we take Van Wagenen at face value, he’s telling everyone, they haven’t discussed Wheeler, a player who would justify going over that threshold.

In case you had delusions of grandeur, they were quickly dashed when Van Wagenen cited pitching prospect David Peterson as someone who could potentially pitch for the Mets early on in the 2020 season. You don’t even think to look in his direction if you’re going to re-sign Wheeler.

In addition to Wheeler, we know Anthony Rendon is a player worth exceeding the threshold. On that front, Van Wagenen said the Mets were set with internal options at the position.

Sure, you can more than justify Jeff McNeil there. What you can’t justify is J.D. Davis (-13 DRS in 500.2 career innings) or Jed Lowrie (8 PA). The invocation of Lowrie was made all the more hilarious when you consider this happened in the same impromptu press conference where Van Wagenen said they still haven’t diagnosed Lowrie’s injury.

If the Mets are talking about Double-A pitchers in the rotation and players who physically can’t play as an option for third, you really have to wonder if the Mets have any intention to spend. The more you contemplate it; the more you cannot completely rule out the Mets cutting payroll.

But, that’s where we are. Based on how the Mets have operated post-Madoff, we cannot count on them acting like a New York baseball franchise looking to win a World Series. Rather, we expect them to continue half-measures while failing to address the team’s real deficiencies.

Meanwhile, the very same Mets ownership who got caught up in a Ponzi scheme will grumble and declare the Yankees financial model to be “unsustainable.”

Keep in mind, that model is investing in the team and winning leading to higher attendance and the extra revenues which comes from postseason appearances.

Looking at it deeper, everything the Mets do in operating their team has proven to be an unsustainable model for consistently winning baseball games. You’d think this would cause them to do more than obtain Robinson Cano to emulate the Yankees.

They won’t, and once again, there will likely again be disparate results in 2020.