If you break down the Mets roster, especially the starting lineup, this is a team heavily dependent on left-handed hitters. As of the moment, the core of the Mets offense is Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and even Jeff McNeil. Logically speaking, when you have so many left-handed hitters you are going to be very susceptible to left-handed pitching.
That was a theme throughout the 2018 season. The Mets batting average and strikeout rate against left-handed pitchers was the worst in the National League and second worst in the majors. Their 82 wRC+ was fifth worst in the majors. Breaking down all the of offseason stats, you will see the Mets at or near the bottom five in the majors in most categories.
Seeing how 2018 transpired coupled with the Mets biggest offensive addition to date being Cano, you would have to wonder if the Mets doubling down on left-handed hitters is going to be the team’s downfall. While it is a fair concern on the surface, the concerns may be overstated.
First and foremost, the National League East is very light on left-handed starting pitching. The Braves have Sean Newcomb who did dominate the Mets left-handed batters last year. The Nationals only left-handed starter is Patrick Corbin. Cano, Conforto, and Nimmo have excellent career numbers against him. As of the moment, the Phillies do not have a left-handed starter. Even if they were to sign J.A. Happ, Cano has hit .273/.342/.485 off of him.
Really, breaking it down, the Marlins are the team with the left-handed starters, and those are Wei-Yin Chen and Caleb Smith. While both had their moments against the Mets, neither are particularly imposing, especially with them playing in front of a terrible Marlins team.
There’s also the fact the Mets left-handed hitters actually hit well against left-handed pitching. Last year, Conforto hit .250/.332/.476 off left-handed pitching last year. In his career, Cano has hit .284/.334/.433 off left-handed pitching. While Nimmo has not had great numbers against left-handed pitching, he did have a .351 OBP against them last year. Moreover, McNeil hit .281/.339/.474 against left-handed pitching.
Now, it’s possible these numbers are skewed by short sample sizes and each one of these players could regress to the mean. It’s also true the Mets also have Todd Frazier, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares. Each one of these players have had successful seasons against left-handed pitchers which each could repeat next year.
Of course, the composition of the roster does make the Mets susceptible to a LOOGY or powerful left-handed closer. To that end, it does seem a little curious why the Mets would non-tender Wilmer Flores with his ability to hit left-handed pitching and his ability to pinch hit. That said, there is still plenty of time to sign impact bench players who could hit left-handed pitchers well.
Overall, the Mets goal this offseason should be to fortify their staring lineup with the best players available whether they are right or left-handed. They should not push for a right-handed hitter like A.J. Pollock just because he’s a right-handed hitter. Instead, the Mets should get whoever is the best available player, and if need be, they can help offset any left-handed issues by signing right-handed hitters to fill out their bench.
Based upon all we are hearing and the narratives being pushed, under the guidance of Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets are pursuing each and every path there is to make the Mets a better team. They will do that even if it means trading Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to get back Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and the $100 million due to Cano.
In fact, the Brodie Van Wagenen Mets are willing to trade or move any player to get better. We’ve heard trades where any of Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, or even Noah Syndergaard could be moved to get J.T. Realmuto. We’ve even seen reports where Syndergaard or another Mets pitcher would be traded to the Yankees. For what we don’t know, but we do know it is very clear anyone on the Mets can be traded at any moment.
That’s a good and fair approach if you are making trades to improve the club. Certainly, you could imagine a deal with the Yankees were the Mets could find themselves a better ballclub. You can envision that for the now seemingly abandoned three way deal with the Marlins.
All in all, it is good the Mets are willing to do anything they can do to make the team better. But here’s the thing, they’re not.
Right now, the Mets are aggressively pursuing Realmuto, and they’re not aggressively pursuing Yasmani Grandal. Grandal is an elite pitch framer, who is not that far a drop off offensively. Over the last three years, Grandal has a 113 OPS+ to Realmuto’s 118.
The one thing Realmuto has over Grandal is age with Realmuto being two years younger. Oh, and there’s the matter of Realmuto likely costing far less than what Grandal will receive in free agency.
Free agency. That’s where the Mets seem to stop from going all out to improve their team.
While we can be sure the Mets have been in contact and will eventually sign free agents, it is clear they prefer the trade route. We can surmise our own reasons why. It is also clear the Mets are not going to go all out to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
Arguably, each one of those players completely changes the dynamics of the Mets. If you sign them, you are adding a future Hall of Famer to this team. Either player could very well have a Carlos Beltran type of impact upon this team. That would mean a run of winning seasons the Mets have not had since the final days of Shea Stadium.
If you want to really win, and you want to matter for the next decade, which is something the Mets purportedly want to do, you go out and you sign Harper or Machado. They are game and franchise changers. It also doesn’t hurt that you’d keep them away from the Phillies.
Overall, the Mets can say they are turning every stone to try to improve this team, but until they pursue Harper or Machado the way they are pursuing Realmuto, they’re lying to you.
In what was a complete shock to nearly everyone, Harold Baines was elected by the Today’s Game Era Committe, which is just another name for what we’ve always known to be the Veteran’s Committee, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. What is interesting is Baines never cracked 10 percent in the vote, and one point, he was five percented and left off the ballot all together.
In his 22 year career, Baines hit .289/.356/.465 with 2,866 hits, 488 doubles, 49 triples, 384 homers, and 1,628 RBI. He was a DH more than he played in the outfield, and he amassed a 38.7 career WAR. He was a six time All Star and one time Silver Slugger.
Considering how there is a push to get Edgar Martinez elected into the Hall of Fame, in some circles, the Baines election puts Edgar’s case over the top with voters going so far as to say it’s “ridiculous” to have Baines in the Hall and not Edgar.
The latter goes too far. While many can agree Baines does not belong in the Hall of Fame, it should not mean other undeserving candidates should be elected because there is a worse player already inducted into the Hall of Fame. If we play that game, there is no limit to who gets inducted next. Just look at this year’s ballot.
Last year, Jeff Kent received 14.5 percent of the vote. His high was 16.7 percent in 2017. Kent is stagnating at low levels despite his having the most home runs ever hit by a second baseman. His career 55.4 WAR is the 20th best among second baseman in MLB history. That puts him ahead of renown Hall of Famers like Bill Mazeroski, Johnny Evers, and Tony Lazzeri. It’s also way ahead of Bucky Harris and his 15.2 WAR.
Using the Baines/Edgar narrative wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have Harris in the Hall of Fame but not the all-time home run leader among second baseman?
There’s also Fred McGriff. The Crime Dog is in his last year of eligibility. Considering he only received 23.2 percent last year, it would seem his chances are stark. However, his careeer numbers are far better than Frank Chance, Jim Bottomley and High Pockets Kelly. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have that trio in the Hall of Fame but not McGriff.
You can go up and down this Hall of Fame ballot and make similar assertions for Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Scott Rolen, or Andruw Jones. Each one of these players received under 50 percent of the vote, and each one of these players were arguably better players than Edgar Martinez.
Overall, the point is if you’re going to make one bad decision on Baines, that should not be used to justify the induction of another player. Instead, Baines’ induction needs to be compartmentalized and judged for what it is. A player like Edgar Martinez needs to be inducted or not inducted by his own merits.
Ultimatly, this is the Hall of Fame. This shouldn’t be a race to the bottom. It needs to be the best players to ever play the game . . . even if there is the occasional mistake letting in a player like Baines.
In Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, it would have been hard to believe Oliver Perez would eventually be a pariah. That notion seemed all the more bizarre when you saw Perez have a strong 2007 season and with him doing all he could do to help prevent the Mets from having a second straight collapse in the final game played at Shea Stadium.
But that wasn’t the whole of Perez’s tenure with the Mets. He signed a big free agent deal with the Mets which blew up as every expected it would. The Mets would eventually shut him down in 2010 when he refused a minor league assignment. The final indignity was throwing Perez into the 14th inning of the final game of the season just so everyone could go home.
Perez was released, spent the 2011 season in the minors, and he would re-emerge as a left-handed a reliever. Surprisingly, he’d emerge as a pretty good one.
Over the past seven seasons, Perez has generally had a good reliever. He has made 397 appearances as a reliever pitching to a 3.47 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, 116 ERA+, and an 11.0 K/9. In the relevant time frame, he is in the top 10 among relievers in both K/9 and strikeout rate.
While he struggled to start the year with the Nationals, he rediscovered himself with the Indians. In 51 games with Cleveland, he was 1-1 with a 1.39 ERA, 0.742 WHIP, and 12.0 K/9.
If his name was Oscar Palmer instead of Oliver Perez, Mets fans would be interested in him. Instead of seeing Ollie, they would see a cheap left-handed reliever who could contribute in their bullpen.
But as we saw with Bobby Bonilla returning to the Mets in 1999, Mets fans cannot and will not forget. The shame of it is Perez could actually be a solid option in the Mets bullpen next year. Hopefully, whoever the Mets get instead of Perez is going to be just as cost effective, more reliable, and not going to garner the same visceral reaction from Mets fans.
While the Mets have boasted some quality top of the order hitters like Jose Reyes and Lenny Dykstra (quality players, not people), the Mets have not had many hitters with an OBP over .400. In fact, in their entire history, there have only been 13 instances where the team had a player with an OBP over .400. Can you name the players who accomplished that feat? Good luck!
One of the narratives which has taken hold of late is how the Mets catching situation is what has been holding them back. To a certain extent, there is a point. Travis d’Arnaud cannot stay on the field, and Kevin Plawecki has yet to fully maximize the chances he has been given to establish himself as even a clear-cut starter at the MLB level.
When looking at this offseason, there are plenty of players available who could be upgrades for the Mets. On the free agent front, there’s Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. On the trade front, there is J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli. Even if you argue all of these players are not definitively better than what a healthy d’Arnaud can give you, their ability to stay on the field makes them upgrades. More than that, it provides the Mets with depth at the catching position.
As we saw with the Mets playing Jose Lobaton and Devin Mesoraco, depth is vitally important at the catching position. More than that, the Mets need a real depth of talent on the roster. If you build a roster with talented players, an upgrade at catcher isn’t that desperately needed.
For those who don’t remember, the 2015 Mets were able to make it to the World Series with d’Arnaud behind the plate. There were several reasons why. Daniel Murphy was just beginning to become the feared hitter he would become. Curtis Granderson was a leader on and off the field. David Wright was having that one last great stretch in a terrific career. Yoenis Cespedes was phenomenal. There was real depth with Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Wilmer Flores.
Mostly, it was the pitching, and d’Arnaud played a big part of that with his pitch framing. This path to the World Series isn’t an anomaly either. Just this past season, we saw the Red Sox go to the World Series with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate. Much like the 2015 Mets, the reason the Red Sox were able to do this was because they had great players like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale in addition to terrific situational/platoon players like Steve Pearce and Brock Holt.
The overriding point is there are many ways for the Mets to go back to the World Series, and they don’t have to upgrade at catcher to do it. Instead, they need to look at the best possible players they can add to the roster.
They need to build on a pitching staff which already includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, and Seth Lugo. They need to add to a lineup which already features Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Robinson Cano.
If building up the lineup and roster comes at catcher, great. If it doesn’t, that’s good too because we already know d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate can bring you to a World Series. For that matter, Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Rene Rivera brought the Mets to the Wild Card Game.
In the end, there needs to be much less of a fixation on improving just one roster spot for the sake of another. For example, don’t trade Nimmo for Realmuto. Instead, the Mets just need to focus on getting better players on this team much like how they added Cano even though they already had McNeil.
In the end, if the focus is better players and a deeper roster, you will win games. You see it time and again. The Yankees dynasty had a black hole in left field. The Red Sox had nothing at catcher, second, and third. The 1986 Mets had Rafael Santana. The 2018 Mets can have d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, a tandem we already know can get you to the World Series.
According to recent reports, the Mets are pursuing J.T. Realmuto. Purportedly, the Marlins want a combination of young MLB players under control plus some prospects for Realmuto. The MLB players mentioned were Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Brandon Nimmo. If that’s the cost, especially Nimmo, the Mets should tell the Marlins there’s no deal.
In fact, if anyone approaches the Mets about Nimmo, they should hang up the phone.
Last year, Nimmo was one of the best players in the National League. In fact, if not for the Mets completely falling apart in the May, it is quite possible Nimmo would have been one of the top five in MVP voting. No, this is not hyperbole.
In 2018, Nimmo was second in the National League in both wRC+, OPS+, and OBP. He had the third highest WAR among National League outfielders. He was fourth in the league in triples. He was ninth in walks and first in HBP. Taking all of this into account, Nimmo profiled as the best lead-off hitter in the National League, and if Mookie Betts wasn’t a lead0ff hitter for the Red Sox, you could probably argue Nimmo was the best leadoff hitter in baseball.
When you take Nimmo’s production and you combine it with his not yet being arbitration eligible, you have one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. Nimmo is playing at an All Star level, is still just 25 years old, and he is under team control through the 2022 season. This is the type of asset you build upon, not one you trade away when you can simply sign other players to fill other voids.
Speaking of voids, trading Nimmo leaves a huge one. If you are going to look to replace him, you are talking about injury plagued players like Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock. There’s also veterans on the backside of their careers like Andrew McCutchen or Adam Jones. Past that, and you’re really rolling the dice that Curtis Granderson or Nick Markakis have just one year left in them.
Sure, you can mention Bryce Harper, but if you have the money to sign him, just go ahead and sign him. He is supposedly willing to play first base. If he isn’t, Nimmo can play center. He was a -2 DRS in 350.1 innings there last year, but according to Baseball Savant he has the same spring speed as Juan Lagares, which at least suggests he can make improvements if he were to remain at the position (no, this is not to say he’s going to win any Gold Gloves).
Overall, Nimmo is a cost controlled outfielder who was one of the best hitters in all of baseball last year. He is a driven to get better, and he is versatile in the outfield. With him not yet being arbitration eligible and under team control for four more years, he is as untouchable as any player, pitchers included, on this Mets team.
Do you know what is interesting about the infamous John Smoltz trade? If the Detroit Tigers do not win the American League East in 1987 if they don’t obtain Doyle Alexander. History may forget or overlook this, but Alexander was dominant when he put on a Tigers uniform.
Alexander was 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Tigers. The Tigers won all 11 games he started. He was a 4.4 WAR pitcher. The Tigers won the East by just two games. Long story short, Alexander was a difference maker for the Tigers, and had that trade not happened, it’s very possible the Tigers miss the postseason.
Like the Tigers, the Red Sox won the division by two games. Like Alexander, Anderson was lights out. In his 15 games, he had a 1.23 ERA. He didn’t have the WAR of Alexander, nor did his team have the same success in the games he pitched, but he did not lose one game he appeared. That matters for a team who finished just ahead of the Blue Jays.
But we don’t hear that at all. For starters, we don’t hear that because Smoltz and Bagwell became Hall of Famers. The other reason is because neither the Tigers nor Red Sox actually won. Both teams would lose the ALCS in swift fashion. The Tigers lost to Twins in five games, and the Red Sox lost to the Athletics in a sweep.
That’s the thing. Just making the postseason isn’t enough. In a win-now trade, you actually have to win, and winning here means the World Series. It is ultimately why the Cubs will get a pass one day if Gleyber Torres is a Hall of Famer. The Cubs actually won the World Series with Aroldis Chapman.
That’s the way it works with win-now deals. You are sacrificing the future to win-now. Not winning now means the goal you set to achieve by making the trade failed. It’s a very small margin of error, but that’s what you sign up for when you make such a deal.
And that’s what Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets did by trading Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. The Mets parted with one excellent, one very good, and one wild card for two players who they believe will help them win-now. At least from the Mets perspective, win-now probably means 2019 or 2020 because after that the Mets current core will begin hitting free agency, and Cano will be making $20 million per year.
In the end, if the Mets win the World Series with Cano and Diaz, no one will care if Kelenic, Dunn, and Bautista became perennial All-Stars. However, if the Mets don’t win anything more than a division title, they will be reminded of it each and every time the aforementioned prospects do anything of note.
Any day now, the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets are about to complete a blockbuster deal which will alter the next five to ten years for both franchises.
First and foremost, they will no longer have Jarred Kelenic, who is arguably their best prospect. More than than, Cano’s deal is a complete albatross.
While some are saying the Mets are getting plenty of relief on Cano, it’s not exactly true. Remember, Jay Bruce is only under contract for two more years. Anthony Swarzak‘s deal expires after 2019. After that, there’s no more “offsets.”
Therefore, for the final three years of Cano’s deal, he will be making $20 million per season. Also, we should not forget, even with the Mets trading Bruce and Swarzak, they still owe Cano $100 million over five years. Of course, that assumes the Mariners are providing the $20 million.
With that $20 million figure once being $60 million, we should not be too sure that number won’t change.
An important consideration to this deal is when the Mets are going to deal with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Michael Conforto hitting free agency, the team will be paying Cano $20 million per season. That puts a tremendous strain on the ability to keep those players.
Perhaps that is why Syndergaard is being shopped now.
If we operate under the assumption the Mets are building their team to win-now, which should be painfully obvious by this trade, you really have to question the wisdom of including Justin Dunn in this trade.
No starting pitching staff is immune to injuries, and since 2015, that has gone double for the Mets. With that being the case, the Mets will really need Triple-A depth to pick up the slack. Here are the career MLB numbers for their current projected Triple-A starters:
This is a group who makes Rafael Montero‘s 5.38 ERA not look so bad. For his part, Montero is not an option as he was released.
The numbers from the aforementioned pitchers are from small sample sizes, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue they would be much better than this next year. You’d be harder pressed to believe they would be able to do much better than this over 10, 15, or even 20 plus starts.
With that being the case, the Mets needed Dunn. He was the one pitcher in their system who was close to MLB ready who you could realistically rely upon for a number of starts. With him gone, the Mets really have zero depth.
With that being the case, you really have to question why a Mets team trying to win-now would completely overlook this. That is more problematic when you consider the Mets have been done in more by lack of depth than any other factor.
In the end, the Mets are going all-in now, and they’re doing it with a need to address the bullpen, catching position, center field, and their bench depth. Now, they are also going to have to add 1-2 quality pitchers who are alright spending extended time in the minors waiting for someone to get hurt.
The pitchers who are willing to do that are rarely good, and ultimately, this is why trading Dunn was a giant mistake.
With the Mets rumored to be obtained Robinson Cano in a blockbuster deal with the Mariners, chances are either him or Jeff McNeil will be the Mets Opening Day second baseman in 2019. Whoever takes the field will become the seventh Mets Opening Day second baseman since the team moved to Citi Field.
Can you name the other seven? Good luck!