There’s No Getting Rid of Rafael Montero

Perhaps no one in the history of the New York Mets has gotten more chances to prove themselves than Rafael Montero.  The fact that is true has continued to baffle and irritate Mets fans who have watched him pitch to a 5.38 ERA and 1.705 WHIP in his Major League career.

But it’s more than that.  The Mets have questioned his competitiveness and his toughness.  They have even had him suffer the indignity to being demoted to Double-A.  Nothing seems to work, and yet he remains on the Mets roster.  Worse yet, he remains while talented pitchers who have produced are sent packing.

If we are being fair, we should pinpoint the 2016 season as the breaking point.  In 2014, Montero acquitted himself well in his limited time, and in 2015, Montero suffered an injury, albeit one the Mets doubted truly existed.  Montero would get a chance again in 2016.  There’s no sugar coating just how poorly he pitched.  About the only place he pitched well was Binghamton, and he wasn’t exactly stellar there going 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA.

And yet, Montero remained a Met.

After the 2016 season, the Mets traded both Gabriel Ynoa and Logan Verrett to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations to help clear up space on the 40 man roster.  The team would lose Matthew Bowman in the Rule 5 Draft. An injured Sean Gilmartinwas designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Because of these moves and because of all the injuries, Montero got another chance in 2017.  He would reward the Mets faith and patience by going 5-11 with a 5.52 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.

In an effort to be as fair as possible to Montero, he did get his first real extended chance to prove he belongs in the majors.  From June 15th until the end of the season, he was on the Major League roster, and he would make 21 appearances and 16 starts.  In that stretch, he was 5-7 with a 4.98 ERA, 1.591 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, and an 8.5 K/9.

Certainly, that was better, but it was not significantly different than his career numbers, which just have not been the caliber of a Major League starting pitcher.  While you may not feel as if the Mets lost much of value in the aforementioned pitchers lost, the healthy pitchers in the group undoubtedly pitched better than Montero last year.

Now, the Mets are repeating their same mistakes.  After the conclusion of the 2017 season, the team drafted Burch Smithin the Rule 5 Draft and sold him to the Kansas City Royals.  To make room for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez on the 40 man roster, Kevin McGowan and Chasen Bradford were designated for assignment.

While McGowan struggled in his time in the majors last year, Bradford certainly did not.  In fact, Bradford was one of the few pleasant surprises last season.  In 28 major league appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and a 7.2 K/9.  Montero would have to significantly improve to match those numbers, and yet, he is the one that remains on the 40 man roster.

At some point, push is finally going to come to shove, and Montero will no longer be a part of the Mets organization.  With Montero being out of options, maybe this year is the year.  Maybe not.  After all, the Mets do have spots open for competition in the Opening Day bullpen, and by now I’m sure the Mets have talked themselves into believing Mickey Callawayand Dave Eiland will turn Montero into the next Dennis Eckersley.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO

Trivia Friday – Mets Second Baseman Since 2015

Despite Daniel Murphy winning the 2015 NLCS MVP, the Mets seemed all too happy to let him depart via free agency.  Instead of Murphy, the Mets first sought after Ben Zobrist, who spurned them for the Cubs, before trading Jon Niese for Neil Walker.

Walker was supposed to stabilize the position, and there was hopes he would be a Met for the long haul with the team offering him the qualifying offer.  Instead, Walker had two injury riddled years before he was traded to the Brewers for minor league right-hand relief prospect Eric Hanhold.

Now, the Mets are once again in the position of finding out who their next second baseman will be.  That task becomes all the more difficult when Ian Kinsler rejected a trade to the Mets, upper management rejected a trade for Jason Kipnis, and the Mets are reportedly not entertaining trading Brandon Nimmo for Josh Harrison.

The end result likely is the second base quagmire will continue.  That quagmire has seen the Mets play 12 different players at second base over the past two seasons.  Can you name them all?  Good luck!


Kelly Johnson T.J. Rivera Wilmer Flores Matt Reynolds Ty Kelly Eric Campbell Jose Reyes Gavin Cecchini Phillip Evans Asdrubal Cabrera Travis d’Arnaud

Jeff Wilpon Ducked The Media At The Jay Bruce Introductory Press Conference

Look, when a team is introducing a player to the media in a press conference, by its very nature it is a promotional event.  The organization is showing off their player to the fans thereby building excitement among the fan base with the hopes this eventually entices the fans to buy tickets for the season.

However, this is supposed to be a quid pro quo of sorts.  A team like the Mets gets to have more publicity surrounding their acquisition of a player like Jay Bruce, and in turn, the reporters are given an opportunity to ask questions about the team.

We did see that as reporters asked Sandy Alderson an array of questions covering topics like Michael Conforto‘s timetable, the first base situation with Adrian Gonzalez and Dominic Smith, the status of the bullpen, the second base situation, and whether the Mets could add another contract this offseason.

That last topic.  That’s one that could have partially been addressed by ownership, specifically Jeff Wilpon.  As the COO of the Mets, Wilpon would have intimate knowledge of that information.  He also possesses the answer to several other burning questions both reporters and Mets fans want to see answered.

The interesting thing was Jeff Wilpon was at that press conference . . .

. . . but not really,  Right after this photo, Jeff Wilpon got off the stage, and he sat in the front row effectively removing himself from the press conference just as the floor was going to be opened to reporters.

Once again, the Mets deftly controlled the press conference with the questions being granted to the following reporters:

  • Garry Apple, SNY
  • Pete McCarthy, WOR
  • Anthony DiComo, mlb.com
  • Lloyd Carroll, Queens ChronicleNot one question from a major media outlet or newspaper that covers the Mets.  Instead, the Mets directed questions to their television network, the “Radio Home of the Mets,” an MLB reporter, and finally a small local Queens newspaper.  If you have watched enough of these, this has become standard operating procedure for the Mets.

Here’s the best part.  When reviewing the SNY video feed, all reporters are directed to the left of the stage to continue asking questions.  If you pay close enough attention to the video, right at the 20:50 mark, you will see this:

That’s right.  Just as the reporters are told to go left, Jeff heads right.  There is really no other way to describe Jeff’s behavior and the Mets control of the press conference as ownership yet again ducking the media. You are almost left in complete awe of the lengths to which the Wilpons will ensure they do not have to interact with the media.  If they put even a tenth of that effort into the Mets, they would be perennial contenders.

Overall, we as Mets fans can get frustrated about both the lack of transparency from the organization, and how the reporters don’t ask the Wilpons the hard questions that need to be asked.  In reviewing this press conference, we see just how much the Wilpons stonewall the media and the lengths they will go to not be accountable to anyone.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO

Mets Handling of Brandon Nimmo Is Inept

In what was really a disheartening 2017 season for the Mets, Brandon Nimmoemerged as a bright spot for the franchise.

The 2011 first round pick, the first one of the Sandy Alderson Era, proved he belonged in the Major Leagues. With him hitting .260/.379/.418 in 69 games, he slowed he could potentially be more than that.

That makes how the Mets have handled him this offseason all the more baffling.

As the offseason began, Nimmo’s name was never truly promoted as a possibility as a starter in center. Sure, there are those who question whether he could truly handle the position in the majors, but the fact remains he played 456 games in center in the minors as opposed to just 92 games in the corners.

Ideally, Nimmo was the perfect platoon partner with an injury prone and defensive wizard Juan Lagares, who appeared to be the early favorite to be the everyday center fielder.

This became somewhat of a moot point when the Mets signed both Jay Bruceand Adrian Gonzalez. With both players in the fold to at least start the 2018 season, this means Michael Confortowill be the center fielder when he returns from his shoulder injury.

Considering Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes are each signed through the 2021 season, Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce should be the outfield alignment over the next three seasons.

This begs the question about where this leaves Nimmo.

Well, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, it could have left Nimmo in Pittsburgh.

First, the Pirates reportedly wanted Nimmo in exchange for former MVP and impending free agent Andrew McCutchen.

With McCutchen averaging a -22 DRS in center the past two years, dropping from a 21.5 WAR player from 2012 – 2014 to a 6.7 WAR the past three years, and his impending free agency, you understand the Mets thought process.

Another consideration is the Mets believe the Pirates could accept Nimmo as a centerpiece for Josh Harrison. Harrison is a versatile player who can handle second, is owed $10.25 million with two succeeding team options, and has asked the Pirates for a trade.

Considering there’s no path for Nimmo to become a regular on the Mets for three years, it would appear moving him for Harrison or another player would make a ton of sense. That goes double when you consider the Mets have a huge hole at second, and the free agent options are quite poor.

But no, the Mets are hesitating on trading Nimmo at all. They not only still believe Nimmo could be a good player for them, but the team is hesitant to trade away good young talent from their depleted farm system.

Even if you take the Mets at face value they see a future for Nimmo, that future is not for another three years. By that time, he will have exhausted all of his options, be 27 years old, and a year away from free agency.

In the end, the Mets are keeping Nimmo in a misguided attempt to hold onto an asset for its own sake. They would rather have him stapled to their own bench than let him potentially thrive somewhere else. That decision isn’t helping Nimmo, and it isn’t helping the Mets.

It really makes you question whether the real reason the Mets won’t trade him is they’re really afraid of looking bad by watching him thrive elsewhere. Why else would the Mets simultaneously refuse to trade him and block his path to playing time?

Curtis Granderson A Blue Jay While Mets Sign His Polar Opposite

In an offseason where the Mets have been consistently linked to all of their former players, and actually signed Jay Bruce, the team was never truly linked to Curtis Granderson.

Well, they won’t anymore as Granderson has signed a one year $5 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

As we learned from his four years in Queens, any team that adds Granderson has done well for themselves. He’s a tremendous person and mentor in the clubhouse. More than that, he’s a good and durable baseball player.

Considering these qualities, it really is surprising the Mets showed no interest in a Granderson reunion. Last year, Granderson was a 1.5 WAR player, who played all three outfield positions. That’s important because the team doesn’t know when Michael Conforto will be able to return.  On top of that, Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares cannot stay healthy.

Instead of looking for a versatile outfielder, the Mets opted to focus on 1B/OF due to the rookie season of Dominic Smith.  In looking to sure that up, the Mets signed both Bruce and eventually Adrian Gonzalez.  Gonzalez is the more interesting signing of the two because he is the anti-Granderson.

For his part, Gonzalez is not a healthy player, has not played well on the East Coast, and he has not been seen as a good clubhouse presence.  Considering the purported issues in the clubhouse late last year, Mickey Callaway managing for the first time in his career, and no one on the coaching staff having any MLB managerial experience this situation seems less than ideal.  Actually, it seems like it could be an impending disaster.

The reason no one is really questioning the Mets thought process here is because we all know why the Mets made the decisions they made.  Mostly, the team would rather have Gonzalez making the minimum than having Granderson for $5 million.  They would also rather bet on a 31 year outfielder for three years instead of a 37 year old one for one year.

On the converse, the Mets opted to try to resurrect the career of an injured soon to be 36 year old first baseman rather than have Bruce at first and Granderson in right.

Whether this proves to be the correct decision remains to be seen.  However, we do know one thing – you are always better off having a player and person like Granderson in your clubhouse.  For that, the Blue Jays are better today, and the Mets aren’t.

Mets Second Base Problems Are On Sandy Alderson

After the 2017 season ended, and the Mets set out to build their roster for the 2018 season, the most glaring need was a second baseman.  Given the options in free agency and the state of the Mets farm system, it also proved to be one of the most difficult holes to fill.

Initially, the Mets did act prudently by looking to obtain Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers.  While he was coming off a down year offensively, he was still a very good defender at the position.  If rumors were true, the Mets stepped up and they made the best offer to the Detroit Tigers.

The problem was Kinsler had a no trade clause to the Mets.  He used that clause to force a deal to the Angels.  Very likely, the reason was all of the gaps in the Mets roster and their limited budget this offseason.

Speaking of the limited budget, yes, we can absolutely blame the Wilpons for not fully investing in this team.  While many will defend them on the concept of finances, it should be noted the Wilpons did have money to invest in an eSports team and the Islanders new arena.

With that said, there was money to be spent.  Yes, it wasn’t enough, but if spent properly, there was enough to at least build a credible roster.  The problem is Sandy Alderson isn’t spending the money wisely.

Certainly, you can justify the Anthony Swarzak signing.  If the Mets have any intentions of competing next year, they needed an extra arm to bring to Jeurys Familia in the ninth.  With Swarzak joining AJ Ramos to set up for Familia, the Mets have a good 7-8-9 tandem.  With Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you can reasonably assume the Mets will be able to find an arm or two to join Jerry Blevins to form a good if not formidable bullpen.

The problem is what Sandy Alderson has done with the money since signing Swarzak at the close of the Winter Meetings.

The first issue was a trade for Jason Kipnis was rejected by someone with the Mets.  The natural culprits are the Wilpons as the reports said someone higher up.  It’s a baffling decision because even if you have your concerns about him, he’s a good fit in the lineup and in the clubhouse.  There’s also the benefit of his knowing Callaway from their days in Cleveland.

But no, someone with enough decision making authority didn’t want him.  So instead, the Mets went out to address the holes in their roster by signing Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez.

Of course, this means three things.  The first is the team is all but done with Dominic Smith, at least for the 2018 season.  The second is Michael Conforto is likely out longer than advertised.  The third is the Mets are effectively punting on second base.

Howie Kendrick, who was a viable second base candidate, is now off the board, and with him went the last reasonable shot at getting a starting second baseman in free agency.  That is, unless, you believe Eduardo Nunez, will now be healthy, capable of playing second, and the Mets have enough to sign him.

If you want someone in a trade, like Josh Harrison, get in line.  Teams with much deeper systems, like the Yankees, have interest in him as well.  As a result, this means the Mets are out on him.

Overall, this means the Mets are going to bring back Jose Reyes to play second alongside Amed Rosario.  This is the same Reyes who was one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year.  He had a -0.6 WAR, a 94 wRC+, and he accomplished the astounding feat of posting a negative DRS at FOUR positions.  One of those was second where he had a -5 DRS in 207.1 innings.

And remember the last time Reyes played second base full time?  That would be the 2004 season when the Mets big acquisition was Kaz Matsui.  When your offseason plan mirrors the plans of your 2004 plans, you know the Mets are in trouble.

And yes, they are.  They’re in trouble because they don’t have the money to spend and because Sandy Alderson isn’t spending it wisely.  Consider for a second, Matt Adams and Kendrick, two versatile players that would have been immensely helpful to the Mets for depth and/or platoons, signed with the Nationals for a combined $11 million.  That’s less than a million more they are paying Bruce and Gonzalez on a team that already had Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores, and Smith.

Overall, the Mets may not have had much money to spend, but whatever money they did have, Sandy Alderson squandered it away on duplicative players.  Remember that when the Mets second base situation holds the team back throughout the 2018 season.

 

Does Bruce Or Gonzalez Play Second Base?

Heading into this offseason, THE major hole on the Mets roster was second base. So naturally, the Mets went out and have made sure to collect a bunch of first base options:

That’s right. The Mets brought in Gonzalez. On a Major League deal to boot. Presumably because teams were beating down the door of a soon to be 36 year old first baseman with back problems who skipped out on a postseason run with the team to go on vacation. 

Clearly, the Mets were enticed by his .242/.287/.355 slash line. 

In all seriousness, this move makes no sense on many levels. 

First, the team already had Bruce to move to first if Smith wasn’t ready. Second, Smith might be ready by Opening Day, and he’s now blocked by a broken down player. Third, there were plenty of options available. 

Matt Adams went to the Nationals for just one year $4 million. Adam Lind and Lucas Duda were still available. Heck, even Mike Naploli and his clubhouse leadership is still there for the taking. 

Nope, the Mets went with the cheapest option available, which is not at all surprising:

While all this tomfoolery was happening, the Mets nixed a deal for Jason Kipnis because, wait for it, he makes too much money. They’ll say not a good value, but essentially, it’s the same thing to the Mets. 

Kipnis is likely the best option available to them at second. Many will say Josh Harrison, but with teams with much deeper minor league systems also pursuing him, it’s not likely the Mets emerge out on top. 

Sure, we’ll hear about Eduardo Nuñez and Howie Kendrick, but do we really believe the Mets will sign them?  Their pursuit of those players is like their pursuit of the non-Gonzalez first base options. 

At this point, with Bruce and Anthony Swarzak likely having eaten up the offseason budget, aside from Gonzalez type deals, it means the 2018 second baseman is likely on this roster. 

With Jose Lobaton already in the fold, every Mets fan should know that the second base plan is for next season. 

That’s right. It’ll be Travis d’Arnaud and Asdrubal Cabrera switching back and forth between second and third depending on the handedness of the batter. 

Mets Insanity At Play With Lagares

Throughout the offseason, we have heard the Mets have been looking to trade Juan Lagares and his bad contract in the hopes of freeing up money to make another move this offseason.  However, after the Mets signed Jay Bruce to a backloaded three year $39 million deal, there was this report:

Just think about that for a second.  Heading into the 2015 season, the Mets gave the starting shortstop job to Wilmer Flores despite everyone knowing he was not defensively capable of handling shortstop for a full season.

With the struggles of Lagares during the 2015 season, the Mets have primarily went with Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson in center, or at least that was the plan in 2015 – 2017.

There are a multitude of other poor defensive choices the Mets have made.  This includes the Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes tandem at shortstop last year over Amed Rosario or even Matt Reynolds.

Now, with the Mets adding Bruce, the likely outfield alignment would place Michael Conforto in center field.

Last season, Conforto posted a -4 DRS in 328.2 innings. That’s dreadful, and it’s not likely to improve with Conforto spending an offseason rehabilitating a major shoulder injury. 

If the outfield is Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce, how can the Mets possibly put up the front they need good defensive players as a justification why they’re keeping Lagares?

If that was the case, the Mets give Lagares another shot to prove he can play everyday, don’t hand an infield position to Cabrera, and they’d focus on adding good defenders like Todd Frazier this offseason. 

The Mets aren’t. Instead, they’re going with the better hitters at all positions while ignoring the defensive ramifications. It’s what Sandy’s always done, and judging from the Bruce signing, it’s what he will always do.

So no, they’re not keeping Lagares to keep good defensive players. They’re keeping him because they can’t move him. 

Trivia Friday – Postseason Second Stint with the Mets

With Jay Bruce returning to the Mets, he is attempting to win a World Series during his second stint with the team.  That is just a feat accomplished just once in Mets history.  In fact, there are only 10 players who have been to the postseason in their second stint with the team.  Can you name those players?  Good luck!


Jim Gosger Lee Mazzilli Bobby Bonilla Josias Manzanillo Jeff Tam Kelly Stinnett Pedro Feliciano Roberto Hernandez Kelly Johnson Jon Niese

Jay Bruce Returns To The Mets – Why?

The free agent market has been stagnant, and to the surprise of many, the Mets made a splash signing Jay Bruce to a backloaded three year $39 million contract.

Whenever a team makes a move, it tells you something about the team. It tells you something about how the team views both its postseason chances and the composition of their roster.

The problem with Bruce is you don’t know exactly what his signing is telling you about the team.

Conforto

Prior to Bruce signing, Michael Conforto was penciled in as the 2018 right fielder. At least, that is the case when Conforto was to return.

While the Mets have been publicly bullish on his return, they readily admit he won’t be ready by Opening Day. Beyond that, we don’t know because there is no timetable.

And even when he returns, we don’t know if he will return to his All Star form.

Are we to read the Bruce signing as Conforto being out longer than anticipated and/or the Mets being uneasy about what Conforto will be when he returns?

Lagares

Last year, Juan Lagares returned to his best defensive center fielder in baseball form with him leading all MLB center fielders in UZR/150.

As if this wasn’t enough to get you at least intrigued about him returning to an everyday role, Lagares is working with the coach who completely changed the course of J.D. Martinez‘s career.

That coaches helped Martinez go from a .250/.272/.378 hitter in 2013 to a .315/.358/.553 hitter the following season. For a point of reference, Lagares hit .250/.296/.365 last year.

If Bruce stays in right, this would mean Conforto would go to center when he comes off the DL thereby forcing Lagares to the bench.

Are the Mets really willing to make Lagares a high paid defensive replacement with him making $6.5 million this year and $9 million the next?  Is it possible the Mets aren’t interested in seeing whether Lagares could become at least an improved hitter thereby bringing him closer to the 5.5 win player they so eagerly extended prior to the 2015 season?

Dom

There’s no doubt Dominic Smith had a disappointing stint in the majors last year posting a -1.2 WAR in 49 games. After that stretch, the Mets let anyone who’d listen know they’ve soured on Smith. Even with them walking it back a bit, they still have been actively looking for a first baseman this offseason.

Here’s the thing – not only has Smith been getting in much better shape this offseason, but he’s also been a player who has gotten better after some early struggles at his new level.

Last year, Smith hit .324/.377/.498 in April in May. After that, he hit .336/.394/.537 until he was called up to the majors.

In Double-A in 2016, he hit .267/.317/.396 in April and May. After that, Smith hit .323/.397/.495.

What if Smith follows a similar path this season? Are you willing to bench him or demote him to Triple-A when he’s playing well?

Defense

One of the biggest issues with the 2017 Mets was their defense.  They did not have a positive defender anywhere across the field.  Things are going to be just as bad, if not worse, with this signing.

Likely, Bruce signing means an outfield of Yoenis Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce.  Last year, Conforto had a -4 DRS in center in just 328.2 innings there.  Based upon those numbers, why would the Mets actively look to put him in center not just this year, but over the next three years?

Also, why would you ask a player coming back from a significant shoulder injury to play a relatively unfamiliar position he has not had an opportunity to prepare to play this offseason?

This is asking for more poor defense from the Mets.  That become all the more puzzling when we are currently playing in an era where batters focus on hitting the ball in the air.

Money

Initially, it was believed the Mets had around $30 million to spend this offseason.  However, after the Anthony Swarzak signing and Sterling Equities getting involved in the Islanders Belmont arena, that number was reportedly lowered to just $10 million remaining to spend in free agency.

If we take a look at Bruce’s backloaded deal, you will notice he is slated to earn $10 million next year.  Is this really an accident?  If it isn’t does this mean the Mets just spent all of their money on a right fielder when they are already had one?  Why would you do that with huge holes on this roster including second base?

Building A Complete Roster

It is quite surprising Bruce was the choice.  Todd Frazier, Mike Moustakas, Howie Kendrick, Lorenzo Cain, and Addison Reed remain free agents.  Each one of those players fills a real need on this roster.  Bruce is a luxury item that based upon budget reports prevents another move.

Such a move would be Jason Kipnis, who Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports reports the Mets nixed a deal for him over money.  Whether that was before or after signing Bruce is not clear.  What is clear is the Mets still have limited resources, and they are now allocating them poorly.

Where to Go From Here

At the moment, the Mets are eventually going to be forced to figure out what to do with Lagares and Smith once Conforto is healthy.  However, that is a little down the road.  At the moment, the question is what do the Mets do to fill their other needs.

They just nixed Kipnis over $30.7 million over the next two years with a third year option.  Are we really to believe Josh Harrison and his being owed $11.5 million with successive options is that much more palatable?  If so, can we really believe the Mets will get him over teams like the Yankees who have a much deeper farm system?

Also, what are the Mets going to do to address the rest of the bullpen and their bench.  Seeing where the finances are, it is not likely the Mets do much.  This likely translates to a Jose Reyes reunion despite him being one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year posting a -1.7 WAR.

And that’s the problem.  Rather that looking to make significant improvements with their payroll constraints, Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons are going with a failed measure.  Add power.  Eschew defense.  Go with guys you like personally.  Hope it works out.  Well, it didn’t work in 2017, and with a worse roster heading into next year, it’s not likely to work again in 2018.

So overall, the Bruce signing really doesn’t address any problems, it creates more issues, and it likely assures the Mets will not be competing for a spot in the postseason next year.