One thing that has become abundantly clear about Yoenis Cespedes in his short time with the Mets is he is prone to leg issues. It’s really not any fault of his own. He does all he can do each and every offseason to address it. After a 2016 season where he dealt with a quad injury, he changed things up, and he went heavy on the Barwis Method. Unfortuantely, it didn’t prevent him from having any leg issues this season.
It may be hard for Mets fans to admit, but Cespedes is far from invincible. The player that dominated in August 2015 could go down any minute with a leg issue. Knowing that, it should be incumbent upon the Mets, who are obviously aware of the issue, to act with precaution with Cespedes. That goes double when you consider Cespedes could very well be the most important player on this team.
Last year, Cespedes was hobbled by the quad. The Mets response to his injury was for him to skip the All Star Game. He did not play in a game for a stretch of 9 games. He returned to the lineup and hit a very un-Cespedes like .205/.302/.318 in 14 games before the team finally acknowledged he had to go on the disabled list. Essentially, the Mets messed around trying to get the bare minimum from Cespedes for about a month before they realized the leg injury wasn’t going to get any better, and he wasn’t going to be able to perform to the normal Cespedes standards.
AFTER THAT, you would think the Mets would treat Cespedes’ leg injury different this year. They saw how it affected the way he played last year. The disabled list has gone from 15 to 10 games meaning Cespedes could have been available five games sooner this year. Before Thursday’s game, he was winching while taking batting practice. Despite this, the Mets ran him out on the field. Putting it plainly, it was a dumb decision.
We all know what happened from there. Cespedes hit an opposite field double, and he aggravated his injury approaching second base. The best hitter on a team struggling offensively had to be helped off the field. At this point, no one knows when, or even if, he will return. All of this so Cespedes could play 13 innings after the Mets discovered he had a hamstring injury.
Every game Cespedes is unavailable to play is another game the Mets offense is compromised. More than any other player, the Mets needed to protect Cespedes, and they didn’t. What is infuriating is Terry Collins‘ comments after the game, where he said, “He did all the things that were required to get in the lineup. It just happens. It’s easy to say you should have put him on the DL. Well you know what? Every time you turn around for every little thing, if you keep putting guys on the DL, we can’t run anybody out there.” (Mike Puma, New York Post).
I’m not sure how a player who winces while swinging the bat during batting practice “did all the things required to get in the lineup.” At this point, it is fair to question is all that was necessary for Cespedes to get into the lineup was his ability to put on the correct uniform combination for the day.
And yes, when you have injured players, you put them on the disabled list. Certainly, you protect someone like Cespedes who is vitally important to your team. We saw it just last year! When Cespedes has an injury like this to his legs, he’s compromised as a hitter. You’re not getting Cespedes out there. It’s an unfortunate truth. You’d be better off letting him sit 10 games than allowing what happened yesterday to happen. Because the Mets did this, they got 13 innings out of Cespedes, which in turn might have cost them a couple of months for Cespedes.
Once again, this team has completely botched an injury situation. This is one everyone. It’s on Cespedes for not asking out of the lineup. It’s on Collins for putting him in the lineup. It’s on Ray Ramirez for being Ray Ramirez. It’s on Sandy Alderson, who is ultimately the one responsible in these situations. Because none of these people made the right decision, the Mets are in real trouble now. And all they got in return for this unnecessary risk was 13 innings.
With the injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Seth Lugo, and Steven Matz, the Mets have not jumped out of the gate quite like we all expected. Entering this three game set with the Nationals, the Mets are 5.5 games out in the division. If they suffer another sweep at the hands of Daniel Murphy and the Nationals, they will fall to 8.5 games out.
And yet, this is not the worst the Mets have ever had it. In each of the six times they have won the division, they have trailed at some point in the season. There are multiple occasions where the Mets trailed in the division by double digit games. Can you name each deficit overcome by the Mets when they have won the division? Good luck!
Tonight is a jam packed sports night. For Mets fans, no matter how bad things are, you are turning into the game against the Braves if for no other reason than to see Noah Syndergaard pitch. For Rangers fans, it is the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Ottawa Senators and their old friend Derick Brassard. However, as we all know the first round of the NFL Draft will get the largest share of publicity. The NFL gets the lion share no matter what it is doing.
The NFL Draft does present someone of an intriguing possibility for Mets fans. One of the top QB prospects in this draft is Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes. He has quite the pedigree with him being the godson of former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes is the son of former Mets reliever Pat Mahomes.
Unlike his son, Mahomes wasn’t really on anyone’s radar heading into the 1999 season. Through six major league seasons, he was 21-28 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.627 WHIP. After a poor 1997 season, where he was only able to pitch in 10 games for the Boston Red Sox, Mahomes found himself pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Leagues. In his eight starts and two relief appearances, he was far from impressive going 0-4 with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP. Still, Mahomes must have done something right in that stint as the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in the offseason.
With Josias Manzanillo struggling to start the year, there was an opening in the Mets bullpen in 1999. Mahomes was called up, and he took complete advantage of his opportunity. Mahomes became the long man in the Mets bullpen, and he thrived in that role. While the long man in the bullpen is an overlooked role on most teams, it was vitally important to that 1999 team.
Al Leiter and Kenny Rogers were the only pitchers who averaged more than six innings pitched, and Rogers didn’t come to the Mets until July. One of the team’s better starters, Bobby Jones, was injured leading to a revolving door of fifth starters. Top options in Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel had the talent, but they couldn’t go deep into games. Overall, the team needed a good long man. Mahomes was that and more.
During the season, Mahomes would make just 39 appearances, but he would pitch 63.2 innings. It should be noted Mahomes was partially able to pitch those innings because unlike most relievers Bobby Valentine could trust him at the plate. During the 1999 season, Mahomes was 5-16 with three doubles and three RBI. However, we all know Valetine kept going to him because of the results Mahomes got on the mound.
In Mahomes’ 39 appearances, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.272 WHIP. As a result of his terrific pitching, he finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record. Considering it was the steroids era, those are truly impressive numbers. Considering where he was just a season ago, they are inspiring.
Mahomes would continue pitching well into the postseason where he had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in eight innings over four appearances. Notably, Mahomes pitched four shutout innings in at epic Game 6 of the NLCS which permitted the Mets to get back into the game. What was once unfathomable when Leiter gave up five innings in the first inning, the Mets took the lead in the seventh inning. While the Mets did not win that game, they were in that position because Mahomes stepped up big in that spot. That was a theme for him during the 1999 season.
So to that extent, we know that big game ability is in the Mahomes gene pool. We also know the ability to play in New York in high pressure situations is as well. To that end, maybe, just maybe, Patrick Mahomes would be a fine fit with either the New York Giants, as Eli Manning’s successor in waiting, or the New York Jets as the latest franchise quarterback.
The talent is there. In a recent Peter King MMQB column, Mahomes was compared favorably to Brett Favre. With talent like that and his background, there should be no doubt Mahomes can thrive in not just the NFL, but also in New York. His name may not get called tonight, but it will likely get called on Friday.
Whatever the future holds for him, the best of luck to Mahomes. His father was one of the players that made one of the most enjoyable seasons in Mets history happen. Hopefully, wherever Mahomes lands, he can provide those fans the same joy his father provided Mets fans. With any luck, that will be with the Giants.
One of the ongoing jokes during yesterday’s rain out was that despite the rain out, Terry Collins had Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas warming up in the bullpen in case the game started on time. As with most jokes, this one did have a twinge of truth to it.
So far this season, the Mets bullpen has been going on an unsustainable rate. Mike Marshall holds the single season record for appearances by a reliever with his making 106 appearances for the 1974 Dodgers. The Mets record for appearances is Pedro Feliciano with 92 appearances in 2010. This was the reason why Gary Cohen dubbed him Perpetual Pedro. Interesting enough, Felicano’s record is tied for fourth all-time with Marshall, who had 92 appearances for the 1973 Expos. Right now, the Mets bullpen is set to challenge these records at an alarming rate.
Blevins is on a pace to make 102 appearances this season. Hansel Robles is on pace to make 94 appearances this season. Addison Reed and Salas are on pace to make 85 appearances this season. Josh Smoker is on pace to make 77 appearances this season. Obviously, this would be career highs for each of these pitchers.
If they are to keep up this pace, Blevins would be second all-time for single season appearances by a reliever, and Robles’ 94 appearances would tie the now standing second place position. Looking over the record list, no one has made more than 74 appearances in a season over the last five years. The bullpen’s usage is unprecedented in terms of how many appearances these relievers are making. It is utterly amazing that the current pace of these relievers would put them at the top five appearances made by a reliever in single season over the past five seasons.
When you combine the appearances with the amount of times these pitchers warm up, they are going to be on fumes. Certainly, we have seen some diminishing returns already from Salas. The rest of the bullpen may not be too far behind him. This bullpen needs a rest and the subsequent rain out helped. However, they need more help.
They may receive some help now that Jeurys Familia has returned from his suspension. Certainly, he is the reliever Collins’ trusts most, and he will likely be the one Collins over uses next. More than Familia, the bullpen can use some length from their starting pitching.
Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom are the only relievers averaging at least six innings per start. Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are averaging just over five innings per start. This means every night the bullpen needs to pick up at least 3-4 innings. With the Mets having already played four extra inning games to start the season, it has been much more than that.
The relative lack of length from the bullpen is understood. Harvey and deGrom are coming back from season ending surgeries last season. Wheeler has not pitched since 2014. Gsellman has not thrown more than 159.2 innings in a season. Really, you’re only workhorse right now is Syndergaard.
However, sooner or later something is going to have to give. The starters are going to have to give more length, or Collins is going to have to trust some of the other guys in the bullpen more. It’s understandable he hasn’t when Josh Edgin is a LOOGY with a 3.68 ERA, and his former long man, Rafael Montero, managed to get worse. The long story short here is someone has to step up. Otherwise, the bullpen may not last very long.
Betsy Helfand of the Review Journal reports utility player Matt Reynolds has flown to New York presumably to join the Mets. As of this moment, the Mets have not announced a corresponding move. Normally, in these situations, you can surmise what the corresponding move will be. However, given the current state of the Mets, we really have no idea what that move will be.
First and foremost. Yoenis Cespedes has been injured, and he has insisted that he could play today. Before letting him do that, the Mets were supposedly going to really make Cespedes test out that hamstring to make sure he is healthy enough to play. It is possible Cespedes is not healthy enough to play, and as a result, the Mets are going to move him to the disabled list.
If not Cespedes, it’s possible the Mets could move Asdrubal Cabrera to the disabled list. The shortstop has been clearly hobbled and limited. After each play on the field, he noticeably winces, and he takes time to get back to his position. Over the last two games, there have been multiple instances where you question if he could continue playing in the game. Given how he’s played, it’s possible he could be headed to the disabled list.
Then again, this is the time of year Travis d’Arnaud usually heads to the disabled list. On Wednesday, he hit his arm on a bat trying to throw out a base stealer. In every game since, Terry Collins has penciled his name in the lineup only to remove him afterwards when d’Arnaud said he couldn’t throw (insert your own joke here). With him not being able to do more than pinch hit for a solid week, it’s possible the Mets move him to the disabled list.
Then again with the way things are going, it’s possible someone got hurt on an off day. It wouldn’t be the first time in franchise history. You never know with this team.
Maybe the aforementioned players are healthy and ready to go, and the Mets are just moving the deck chairs due to some under-performing players. Although he has received limited opportunities, T.J. Rivera is just 1-10 on the season with no extra base hits or RBI. Maybe the move will be for Kevin Plawecki, who once again looked over powered by major league pitching in the one game he played. Save for Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce, you can really make a case for any one of the Mets players to be sent down or designated for assignment. With that said, no one really believes at this juncture that either Jose Reyes or Curtis Granderson will suffer that indignity yet.
It’s also possible Reynolds is here as a precaution. There is so much wrong with the Mets in terms of injury and under-performance. The Mets may look to see how Cespedes, Cabrera, and d’Arnaud respond to the off-day, and if any one of them can’t go, Reynolds will. At this juncture, we just don’t know.
Ulimately, Reynolds getting called-up to the majors is a microcosm of the 2017 season. He’s here because we don’t know who can play. We don’t know who’s too hurt to play, and we don’t know who’s capable of playing at this level. Sooner or later, this is nonsense is going to have to end.
To watch Asdrubal Cabrera play for the New York Mets is to respect him. While he may not have the best range at shorstop, he has shown tremendous instincts, and he is as sure-handed there as anyone in baseball. While his stats don’t jump off the page at you, he is a gamer. He practically willed the Mets to the postseason last year by being the best hitter in all of baseball to close out the season. Mostly, Cabrera is willing to play injured, not just hurt, injured.
We saw it last season with him. He dealt with a knee injury all last year, and it affected both his range and his offense. He never complained or asked out of the lineup. Instead, he went out there and grinded. Eventually, it became to be too much for him. That was evident with his struggles at the plate. From the middle of May until the end of July, he hit a paltry .232/.285/.436. This forced the Mets to put him on the disabled list to rest his injured knee and whatever else ailed him due to his compensating for the injury. As we know, he came back a completely different player. He came back a difference maker.
Right now, Cabrera looks worse than he did at any point last season. Like the pro he is, he is going out there any playing. He’s playing because the rest of the team is injured, and the Mets have limited options. He’s playing because that’s what he does. Cabrera goes out there and plays everyday trying to help his team win. Even in his injured state, he’s doing that. On Saturday, he had the Mets lone RBI. In the field, he’s still showing he has steady hands.
However, with each and every play, it seems Cabrera takes a little longer to be able to get back to the dugout. It takes him a little longer to get to his position. His already limited range has worsened. He’s gone from being a difference maker to a contributor. As his leg worsens, he will likely become further limited and may once again put up numbers like he did before he was placed on the Disabled List.
It doesn’t make sense to handle Cabrera the same exact way he was handled last year. We know he is willing to play through injuries, but we also know he has a limit. At a certain point, he’s not going to be able to contribute much of anything. Playing a player up until that point doesn’t help the player, and it doesn’t help the team. Worse yet, playing injured players creates the chance that the injury could worsen requiring a longer stint on the disabled list. If the Mets were to lose Cabrera for more than a short Disabled List stint, they would lose one of their better players.
The Mets owe it to Cabrera to let him get healthy and contribute the way he is capable of contributing. They owe that to the team as well. It’s time to let Cabrera get healthy because once he is, the Mets are a much better team.
When a team is riddled with injuries like the Mets have been, what most people focus on is how it negatively impacts the lineup. The converse of that is an injury creates an opportunity for another player. With Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores on the disabled list and Yoenis Cespedes unable to play the field, it forced the Mets to play Jay Bruce at first base and put Juan Lagares in center field. This was Lagares’ opportunity to fight for a bigger role on the Mets.
And there was one there. It’s no secret Curtis Granderson has been struggling to begin the season. Through 18 games, he is hitting just .149/.205/.254 with one homer and six RBI. With the Mets being unable to trade Bruce, Granderson is miscast as a center fielder. His -1 DRS ranks him 16th among players with at least 90 innings in center field this year. His -23.0 UZR/150 ranks 23rd among center fielders with at least 90 innings. Long story short, it has not been a good start to the season for Granderson. With him being 36 years old, there have been more than whispers if he’s not the same player anymore.
While it may be only slightly ajar, the door was open for someone to stake a claim for a spot in the outfield. We saw Michael Conforto do just that. On the season, he is hitting .361/.432/.722 with four homers and eight RBI. He’s also made a series of outstanding defensive plays in left and center field. With Granderson and Jose Reyes‘ struggling, Conforto may just have cemented himself as the team’s lead-off hitter.
Lagares did not make a similar push. While it is inarguable that Lagares is by far the team’s best defensive player, he still does not do enough to play every day. In his 2014 breakout season, Lagares had a 102 OPS+. Given his glove, you could keep a player like Lagares in the lineup everyday with league average bat like his. The problem is he’s regressed every season since. Since that 2014 season, Lagares is merely a .250/.289/.356 hitter with a 77 OPS+. There’s really no amount of defense that can keep a bat like that in the lineup. Certainly, not with a National League team.
Yet, we have seen glimpses of Lagares being a competent hitter. We saw it in 2014. We saw it again in the 2015 postseason. In that postseason, Lagares hit .348/.375/.435 with two doubles and two stolen bases. That may not be his true talent level, but it shows you he’s capable of being at least a decent hitter.
Unfortuantely, he hasn’t to begin the year. So far this season, he is 1-18 with his lone hit being a single to break up Gio Gonzalez‘s no-hitter on Saturday. Again, Lagares seems to be regressing, which means once Cespedes returns, Lagares will once again be limited to being a defensive replacement late in games and getting starts against left-handed pitching. Given the comments made post-game, that will happen on Tuesday.
There was an opportunity for Lagares to be more than that. He had an opportunity to show the Mets he could be an everyday player. As an everyday player, he could live on highlight reels and win additional Gold Gloves. That won’t be happening because rather than take advantage of the opporutnity, Lagares reinforced the notion that he isn’t an everyday player.
There are moments when a player introduces himself to the world. For Luis Guillorme, it happened this Spring Training when he did something most people have never seen before at a baseball game:
This play right here showed everyone why Guillorme is THE BEST defensive player in the Mets organization. Yes, better than famed Mets prospect Amed Rosario, who is a future Gold Glover at the position. Guillorme is calm, cool, and collected. He has great hands, reflexes, and an awareness of what is going on around him. He has been working on these traits his entire life.
According to Guillorme’s father, Luis, Sr., his son’s favorite player growing up was fellow Venezuelan Omar Vizquel. For those that don’t remember, Vizquel was widely considered the best shortstop of his generation. His 11 Gold Gloves are the second most all-time at the shortstop position. If you wanted to be a good defensive shortstop, this was the guy you wanted to watch play. Guillorme did more than that.
According to Guillorme’s father, Luis, “repeated the motions (Vizquel’s) time and time again until he was able to do it perfectly. That was the easy to manage, the most difficult part was tolerating the sound of the baseball hitting the walls, inside our house hundreds of times on a daily basis, because in our neighborhood it wasn’t safe for him to play out on the street. He was always practicing and playing inside the house.
Every single day he spent hours throwing baseballs, tennis balls or rubber balls against the wall and then trying to catch them before they touched the floor or before they passed him. He has always been full of energy, sending him to bed was a titanic duty, and sometimes it still is [laughs]. I think his reflexes and quickness escalated to a higher level by doing that. It is funny now, but sometimes it was exhausting.”
Now, the Guillormes moved from Venezuela to Florida, and he attended Coral Springs Charter High School. It was there that the Mets saw how his incredible work ethic and passion for the game of baseball translated on the baseball field. He was widely believed to be the best defensive shortstop in the 2013 draft, and the Mets grabbed him with their 10th round selection.
During Guillorme’s four year, minor league career, he has only gotten better, if that’s possible, as a defender. His high baseball IQ and strong work ethic really show when Guillorme takes the field. He makes all the routine plays, and he gets to some balls even good shortstops can’t. He makes the difficult plays look routine, and he makes the impossible look plausible. While he may not have a great arm, he has a quick release.
As a defender, Guillorme is major league ready. At the plate, he needs some time.
Guillorme does have a good eye and is disciplined at the plate. In his minor league career, Guillorme has a .355 OBP, and he drew a walk in 8.5% of his plate appearances last year. When he swings, he usually makes contact, as evidenced by his low 12.5% strike out rate last year. At this point in his career, Guillorme knows who he is as a hitter. He focuses on getting on base the best ways he knows how which is usually drawing walks, looking for open holes in the infield, or dragging a bunt. It should be noted, Guillorme is a good bunter in a day and age where that is becoming a lost skill.
The hope with Guillorme is that he will continue to mature physically allowing him to mature as a hitter and possibly hit for more power. There is some hope to that end with him hitting a career high in doubles, triples, and homers for St. Lucie last year. In 12 at-bats this Spring, he’s already hit a triple and a home run.
If Guillorme’s bat does start catching up to his glove, the sky is the limit for him. He may go from being the player who was moved to second base to make room for Rosario at shortstop in St. Lucie to a player forcing Rosario to another position so the Mets can put their best defensive infield on the field. With the work ethic we have seen with Guillorme, anything is possible.
Whether Guillorme makes it to the majors as a shorstop or a utility player, he will have completed a long journey that began in his parent’s living room in Venezuela. Just a kid throwing the ball off the walls and trying to catch it. He certainly drove his family crazy at times, and probably some of the neighbors crazy as well. Now? Well as Luis, Sr. says, “Many friends and family use to call us crazy because we allowed him to do that, and now all of them say it was well worth it.”
When you are 36 years old and playing out of position in center field, fans are going to question whether you are done. They are going to call for the younger player to play over you. They will tend to overlook all that you have done for a team and focus on what best helps the team to win now. Baseball is cruel that way, and baseball is being cruel to Curtis Granderson right now.
Through his first 15 games, Granderson hit just .143/.197/.214 with no homers and four RBI. It is an especially slow start for sure, but it isn’t the first slow start of his career. In fact, using OPS+ as a barometer, April has been Granderson’s second worst month of the season. In his relatively short time with the Mets, we have seen that play out:
- 2014 April: .136/.252/.216
2014 Final: .227/.326/.388
- 2015 April: .231/.362/.321
2015 Final: .259/.364/.457
- 2016 April: .247/.347/.471
2016 Final: .237/.335/.464
With the noted exception of last year, Granderson typically grows stronger as the season progresses. Granderson is aware of it himself telling Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, “I’m not sure if it’s the transition from spring to the beginning of the season. If it’s the timing of the games, more day games to more night games. The weather. The inconsistency of playing [time in spring training]. … I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s a different view [when you’re hitting]. You have fewer things out there in spring training and you have more things during the season.”
No matter what the reason, Granderson has always figured things out. More importantly, Granderson has been there when the Mets needed him most. In 2015, when he was really the only major league caliber bat in the lineup, he helped keep the team afloat. In June of that season, Granderson hit .291/.371/.544 with seven homers and 11 RBI.
In the 2015 World Series, when most of the Mets lineup was struggling, Granderson was trying to will the Mets to victory hitting three home runs in that series. All three of those home runs gave the Mets the lead.
Last season, with the Mets desperately fighting to get back to the postseason, Granderson stepped up. He was moved out of the lead-off spot in the order to the cleanup spot where he would finally provide Yoenis Cespedes the protection in the lineup the team was seeking all season. From the cleanup spot, Granderson hit .321/.440/.605 with six homers and 18 RBI. In September, when the Mets were making their real push to claim a Wild Card spot, Granderson hit .302/.414/.615 with eight homers and 21 RBI.
Simply put, the Mets do not make the postseason in 2015 or 2016 without Granderson. Fortunately, the Mets allowed Granderson to fight through his slumps, especially his April ones, to be the contributor they both knew he could be, and more importantly, become the one the Mets needed. Granderson has a well established track record. More to the point, he has been an important part of the Mets that should not be overlooked . . . especially right now.
Yoenis Cespedes has a hamstring problem, and no one knows when he will be able to return to the lineup. Lucas Duda is on the disabled list as is his primary backup Wilmer Flores is as well. This means Jay Bruce will be playing first base for the foreseen future. It also means regardless of Granderson’s struggles, he will play everyday.
Just like in 2015 and 2016, the Mets need Granderson to step up. Last night, he did just that. Granderson had his best game of the season by far. He was 2-4 with a run, two RBI, a walk, and a home run. His first RBI was a two out RBI single. The second was a game tying solo homer to the second deck. On top of his hitting, Granderson had a nice game in the field including making a sliding catch by the wall.
Once again, Granderson is stepping up when the Mets need him, and based upon his Mets career, we can expect Granderson to continue to improve. Come October, it’s likely the Aptil struggles will be forgetten. It’s likely we will be once again thankful Granderson is a Met.
One of the best things to come out of the past offseason was Major League Baseball shortening the stint on the disabled list from 15 days to 10 day. Presumably, that change made it easier for teams to place their players on the disabled list to allow them to recover. Someone should tell that to the Mets.
Last night, with the Lucas Duda injury and Wilmer Flores infection, Jay Bruce was forced to play first base for the first time since he played three games there in 2014. That also put Juan Lagares in the position of being the team’s lone back-up outfielder and middle infielder. Lagares was initially signed by the Mets as a shortstop, but he has not played the middle infield since he played six innings for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats as a 20 yeard old in 2009. To put it in perspective how long ago that was, back in 2009, Citi Field just opened, and Daniel Murphy was considered a left fielder.
When Cespedes had to leave the game with a hamstring injury after running the bases in the fifth inning, the Mets were in trouble. If the game were to go deep into extra innings, the Mets were likely going to have to consider which infield position other than first could Kevin Plawecki handle. They might have followed through with the plan to put Zack Wheeler at first base like it was contemplated during the 16 inning game. If things got bad enough, the team might have had to lean on Jacob deGrom‘s experience as a collegiate shortstop.
Simply put, this is unacceptable. Year-in and year-out the Mets find themselves in this position, and they are more than willing to play with short benches with players not even available to pinch hit. Worse yet, they ask players to do too much.
Last year, the Mets saw Asdrubal Cabrera deal with a knee injury all season. From the middle of May until the end of July, he was hobbled and struggling. Over that stretch, he hit .232/.285/.436. The Mets finally put him on the disabled list so he could rest his knee. He responded by becoming the 2015 Yoenis Cespedes and willing the Mets to the postseason hitting .345/.406/.635 over the final 41 games of the season.
Speaking of Cespedes, the Mets were also stubborn about putting him on the disabled list. On July 8th, he suffered an injured quad. He would not go on the disabled list, and he would not play in another game until July 17th. When he did play, he was noticeably hobbled. From July 17th to August 3rd, Cespedes hit just .205/.302/.318 in 14 games before the Mets finally put him on the disabled list. When he came back, he hit .259/.335/.490 over the final 38 games of the season.
Then there was Michael Conforto. We are not quite sure when he was injured, but we do know that he received a cortisone shot in June of last year. Clearly something was bothering him as Conforto went from the best hitter on the team in April to a guy who hit just .174/.267/.330 for the rest of the year. Instead of a disabled list stint, the Mets treated him to multiple demotions to Triple-A, where he absolutely raked, and being stuck to the bench for far too long stretches. Perhaps if the Mets put him on the disabled list, his second season would have gone much differently, and the Bruce trade might not have been necessary.
You would think the Mets would have learned from that, but they clearly haven’t as they are already repeating the same mistakes.
While it is not ideal with six of the next nine games coming against the Nationals, the Mets can definitively get away with Bruce at first with an outfield of Conforto-Lagares-Curtis Granderson from left to right. While it does not have the offensive punch you would like, that is a really good defensive outfield. On the infield, the Mets could recall T.J. Rivera, who showed the Mets last year he has a place in the major leagues. The Mets could even get bold by calling up Gavin Cecchini to play second and moving Neil Walker to third. At a minimum, it would get a struggling Jose Reyes out of the lineup. It could also allow the Mets to pick and choose their spots with Reyes to allow him to be an effective pinch hitter or pinch runner in late game situations.
The overriding point is the Mets have talent on the 40 man roster even if Duda and Cespedes went on the disabled list. With the Mets throwing Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, and Matt Harvey, the Mets can still win a fair share of those games to keep the team afloat until Duda and Cespedes are ready to return to the lineup. In fact, the team might be better off because you’d rather have two healthy sluggers mashing all season than two injured players trying to find a way to produce to their normal levels.
That is something that didn’t work last year, and we can’t expect it to work this year. It’s about time the Mets learned how to properly utilize the disabled list and field a team of healthy players.