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Five Key Questions For The 2019 Season

With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.

Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?

Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.

If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.

For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.

Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?

Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?

With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.

The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.

He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.

After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.

Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?

One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.

That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.

However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?

What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?

When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.

It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?

On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.

Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?

With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.

With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.

But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.

When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.

As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.

4 thoughts on “Five Key Questions For The 2019 Season”

  1. OldBackstop says:

    1 Cano isn’t playing first base because he practically demanded he only play second at his introductory press conference and said he had “bad memories” of his brief stint at first. He didnt quitttttte say that it was conditional on the record on waiving his no-trade, but you say that you said it all. He is pretty close to a lot of all time second base records could be part of it.

    https://www.sny.tv/mets/news/watch-robinson-cano-talks-mets-trade-suggests-he-wants-to-play-only-second-base/301431014/

    Also, Lowrie is no spring chicken either, 34, and has a negative dWAR for his career, and Cano is plus 69. He is indisputably the better second baseman defensively.

    That cover that one? 🙂

    2. Twofer. You say there is “insufficient OF depth”, and that “JD Davis not a major league OF.” Davis didn’t play much OF in the minors, but then again he didn’t play much of anything, only two seasons so far. He had 26 innings out there without an error, has a gun, and both Brodie and Callaway has said he is an OF option.

    I’m excited about Davis, PCL batting champ last year, and I’m not sure that he was acquired as a major piece for 2019, necessarily. He was a pitcher until 2014 and maybe needs more time to find himself defensively, but he was out of minor league options in Houston. He isn’t a free agent until **2025** (jaysus) so he may just be a longer term plan. And Brodie talked about a lot about his pitching, for what that is worth.

    Davis was moved all around in Houston and pinch hit late against closers. He only had 181 ABs. Coming off the batting title, if he had like ten more hits spread around in the majors, he be considered a future star. I mean 2018 AAA batting title, elire piwer, three positions and pitches?

    3. Backup catcher. No way when they traded Plawecki they were relying on TDA’s Tommy John arm to be the sole backup, not with Ramos injury history. Plawecki had value so they traded him, but I think the plan was always to get an older veteran who wouldn’t chafe on the bench. And I really like Mesoraco.

    4. It’s not really true that Vargas has struggled since the 2017 AS break. He was injured and missed spring training and sucked the first half of 2018, but he was effective in the second half, 3.81 ERA, (much better than Matz) and en fuego in his last seven starts on the year 6-1, 2.56 ERA, averaged six innings a start, beat the Phillies, the Cubs and the Nats twice.

    I agree whole heartedly that a solid 3-4 guy would be an awesome addition, and I bet there will be an acquisition before opening day…..but frankly Matz worries me more than Vargas. Or, of course, we can look for a strong middle reliever and move Lugo into the starting rotation, Brodie has said a lot recently that Lugo and Gsellman are still rotation possiblities. Lugo is great in the bullpen, everybody seems fixated on that….but we added talent there, and he surely isn’t irreplaceable.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      1. Cano demanding he play 2B is another strike against that trade because I’d much rather Cano 150+ games than 130+ games.

      2. Davis is a Four-A player.

      3. Mesoraco is bad

      4. It’s very true he has struggled since the 2017 All-Star Break. Just look at the stats.

      1. OldBackstop says:

        1. We need another corner IFer like a hole in the head. Maybe we could have an extreme shift, and have Cano, Smith, Alonso, Frazier and Davis all play first, and go with two outfielders. Maybe D’Arnaud at first too.

        From 2007 to 2017 Cano averaged 159 games. *159*. His fielding was above average last year and certainly above Lowrie. You read the article I linked? He is a Hall of Famer, and he doesn’t want to play first, Brodie is his pal, and he waived his no trade after a discussion. You can hate the trade, but this is reality. You asked why he isn’t playing first.

        2. If Davis is AAAA, you changed your viewpoint from above I guess.

        3. Mesoraco is going to be deGrom’s catcher. Caught him today. That’s the plan.

        4. I don’t have to look, I just listed Vargas most recent stats. What did you dislike about his 2nd half? I hope they add another pitcher too, but Matz was the disaster second half of last year.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          1. Cano not wanting to play first costs games now and in the future.

          2. I’ve always had that opinion of Davis.

          3. That’s a bad plan.

          4. You should look at the larger sample.

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