Trade Rumors

Jonathan Lucroy & Jay Bruce Trades Won’t Fix the Mets

Last year, the Mets were coming off an absolutely brutal loss to the San Diego Padres on the eve of the trade deadline. As the team blew a 7-1 lead, it seemed like all hope was lost. 

However, the Mets front office didn’t share the same sense of diapair. They were active on the phones trying to improve a team that was three games behind the Nationals. They were a team who had an extremely weak August schedule. They were a team in the mend with Travis d’ArnaudMichael Cuddyer, and David Wright expected to return from the disabled list. 

It was a good team getting healthy facing a favorable schedule ready for a three game set at home against the first place Nationals. It was behind this backdrop that the Yoenis Cespedes trade happened. 

Seeing Cespedes hobbled out there is a stark reminder that this year is not last year. This is a Mets team that isn’t getting healthy. In fact, they’re falling like flies. Here is a list of the players currently on the disabled list:

  1. David Wright
  2. Lucas Duda
  3. Matt Harvey
  4. Juan Lagares
  5. Jose Reyes
  6. Jim Henderson

This does not include Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz who both have bone spurs in their pitching elbows that will need to be surgically removed in the offseason. 

This list also does not even include Asdrubal Cabrera who left yesterday’s game with what is initially being described as a strained patellar tendon. He seems as if he’s bound for the disabled list. With Cabrera going down, it will create another hole in not just the lineup, but with the defense. 

With Cespedes’ injury and Lagares’ surgery, the Mets are left scrambling to find a center fielder. They have tried Curtis Granderson out there, and after one game, the Mets saw enough. Against righties, the Mets have tried Michael Conforto in center, and he has held his own. Just recently, the Mets signed Justin Ruggiano, who was playing in AAA before being released by the Rangers.

With Cabrera injured and seemingly bound for the disabled list, it leaves the Mets scrambling to find adequate defenders at the two most important defensive positions. It will also mean Neil Walker, who has hit .234/.316/.343 since May 1st, will be the only starting infielder remaining from the Opening Day Lineup. 

By no means is Walker the only one struggling:

Curtis Granderson

  • 2015 – .259/.364/.457 with 33 doubles, two triples, 26 homers, and 70 RBI
  • 2016 – .234/.326/.431 with 16 doubles, four triples, 16 homers, and 29 RBI

Michael Conforto

  • 2015 – .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles, nine homers, and 26 RBI
  • 2016 – .225/.303/.419 with 14 doubles, or triple, 10 homers, homers, and 30 RBI

Travis d’Arnaud

  • 2015 – .268/.340/.485 with 14 doubles, one triple, 12 homers, and 42 RBI
  • 2016 – .249/.290/.321 with five doubles, two homers, and 10 RBI

All across the diamond, the Mets are dealing with injuries, under performance, or both. According to Baseball Reference, the Mets have the lowest team WAR at shortstop, third base, and right field among National League teams in the playoff hunt. 

Further exacerbating the Mets struggles is their August schedule. There are the four emotionally charged Subway Series games along with series against the Tigers, Giants, Cardinals, and Marlins. There is s short West Coast trip. The combined record of their opponents is 416-369, which is good for a .530 winning percentage. With this schedule and the state of the Mets roster, things can fall apart quickly. 

In reality, neither Jonathan Lucroy nor Jay Bruce help these problems. They do not solve the defensive gap at short or center. They cannot heal the players on the disabled list. They cannot make the schedule any easier. No, the only thing they can do is to join the Mets and play well. 

However, if the Mets don’t get healthy or start playing better, there’s no point in adding Lucroy or Bruce. They don’t solve the Mets real problems, and they likely don’t put the Mets over the top. 

With that in mind, there’s no sense on buying at the deadline. You’re just purging prospects to help acquire players who will most likely not be difference makers. There’s also no sense to selling because this is a talented team that needs to find that next gear. 

With that in mind, as frustrating as it might be, the Mets best option might be to stand pat. 

The Gavin Cecchini Dilemma

There is probably not hotter prospect in all of baseball right now than Amed Rosario. He recently played in the Future’s Game, Keith Law recently ranked him as the number 14 overall prospect in all of baseball, and the Mets have called him untouchable in trade discussions thereby assuring he is going to be the Mets shortstop of the future. Given the fact that he is hitting .405/.471/.568 with six doubles and three triples in 17 games at AA Binghamton after dominating the Florida State League, the natural question arises as to when he will get called-up to AAA, so he can work on what he needs to work on there before taking over as the Mets shortstop for the next decade or more.

There’s one problem with aggressively promoting Rosario right now. Gavin Cecchini is currently the shortstop for the AAA Las Vegas 51s.

The 22 year old Cecchini was the Mets 2012 first round draft choice (12th overall). He is a well regarded prospect in his own right being listed as the 89th best prospect in all of baseball by Keith Law heading into the season. He was also MLB.com’s 87th best prospect. He was ranked so high as he hit .317/.377/.442 hitter with 26 doubles, four tripes, seven homers, and 51 RBI for AA Binghamton last year. His play in AA merited him a promotion to AAA where he has so far hit .319/.395/.447 with 17 doubles, two triples, five homers, and 40 RBI. Overall, Cecchini’s statistics alone establish that he’s a worthwhile prospect that should not yet be pushed aside.

Ultimately, statistics aside, Cecchini projects to be a good to very good major league hitter. He could quite possibly be the best contact hitter in the Mets’ minor league system. Cecchini has a nice compact swing who hits the ball with authority from gap to gap. In many ways, he reminds you of a right-handed younger Daniel Murphy at the plate. When his body begins to fill out some of those doubles may begin to turn into home runs at the big league level. While he may not be an All Star, he could very well be an above average regular.

There is one problem with Cecchini. Since he has been in the Mets system, he has mostly struggled defensively. This season is no different with him having an extremely poor .916 fielding percentage. While he has been willing to put in the work and do extra work on the side with Wally Backman, the results just aren’t there. Given the presence of Rosario, the natural inclination would be for the Mets to just move Cecchini to second base. This would create room for Rosario at shortstop, and the two can begin building a chemistry together as a future double play combination.

However, the Mets cannot do that as the Mets second baseman of the future, Dilson Herrera, is currently Cecchini’s double play partner in Las Vegas. The Mets have long been high on Herrera. Two years ago, the Mets gave him an 18 game cup of coffee due to a number of injuries. Last year, the Mets called him up to the majors rather quickly when both Murphy and David Wright went down with injuries. While Herrera didn’t produce much during either short stint in the majors, the tools are all there to be a very good major league hitter. He is still only 22 years old, and he has hit .302/.356/.487 while playing in AAA. Herrera can very well make an All Star Game or two on the basis of his bat alone.

And yet, there are some warning flags with Herrera. While he has good hands, he does not project to be a plus defender at second base. Additionally, he has seemingly taken a step back in AAA this year hitting only .278/.330/.465 in what has been an injury plagued year. He has become much less patient at the plate seemingly swinging at everything instead of working the count and getting a pitch to drive. It is somewhat troubling, but he is still only 22 years old, and he has shown he can be a terrific hitter. It is way too early to give up on player who can be a terrific hitter who has plus power for a middle infield position. Accordingly, you can’t just move Cecchini to second.

So what do you do with Cecchini? There are no easy answers.

The Mets could try to move him to third base where he could serve as insurance against David Wright‘s back. Given his lateral mobility and his arm, Cecchini could play the position. However, given Cecchini’s lack of true home run power, he doesn’t have the type of bat that could play at a corner infield position. Furthermore, removing Cecchini from shortstop would only serve to diminish his potential trade value.

Indeed, the Mets could look to trade him like they are apparently willing to do with any prospect named Amed Rosario. However, if the Mets were to do that, they would be parting with a player who has shown he could be a viable major league player. If the Mets were to part with Cecchini, they would be losing a big insurance policy. Rosario and Herrera could falter or get injured like some can’t miss prospects do. In the event that happens, Cecchini could prove to be a valuable piece who takes advantage of his opportunity. Mets fans saw this happen as recently as 2013 when Jacob deGrom established himself as a front line starting pitcher while Rafael Montero became an also ran. In essence, it is important to have depth, and Cecchini is certainly that.

Still, there is no doubt that Rosario and Herrera are the better prospects right now, and you cannot have Cecchini blocking their path to the majors no matter how good Cecchini is. The Mets could make him a third baseman or utility player thereby making him a better option for the big league club, but also diminishing his trade value. Overall, there are seemingly no good answers as to what the Mets should do with Cecchini. In some ways, it is a dilemma. In others, it is a good problem to have.

With the Mets looking to improve their roster in the hopes of both making the postseason and winning the World Series this year, the Mets may very well have to include him in a trade to get that player who puts them over the top.  It’s also likely teams will force the Mets to give up Herrera in a trade.  In either event, the problem will have been solved for the Mets.  In the event that neither one is moved at the trading deadline, things will become interesting for the Mets.  Ultimately, it is going to be very interesting to see how this whole situation eventually plays out.

Cozart is a Defensive Option

Simply put, the free agent market for shortstops isn’t good when there is no clear-cut upgrade over Wilmer Flores. Accordingly, the Mets will probably have to get creative if they want a new shortstop. 

With the Reds having a fire sale, there is plenty available. They have quality major leaguers at a number of positions.  Of all of these players, the most expendable and easy to obtain player should be Zack Cozart. Due to his injury last year, the Reds saw their shortstop of the future, Eugenio Suarez, play everyday and earn a spot as the Opening Day shortstop in 2016. 

Cozart would be an interesting addition for the Mets. For a team looking to add offense this season, he’s a player whose value is almost solely derived from his defense. It better be because he’s not a good hitter, not even in a hitter’s park like the Great American Ballpark. He’s a career .245/.284/.375 hitter with an OPS+ of 79. That’s bad. To put it in perspective, Juan Lagares struggled at the plate last year, and his OPS+ was 80. 

So if the Mets are adding Cozart, they will be adding him solely for his defense. During his five year career, his average UZR is 6.5, which means he’s above average. Not great, but above average. If you remove his injury shortened 2015, the average rises to a 7.6, which is better, but it still does not put him in any Gold Glove discussions. 

It’s a risk even before taking his knee injury into account. He’s also a terrible hitter who probably doesn’t have the glove to justify the bat. So why take a risk?  Easy, he’s going to come cheap. That’s important for a team with limited resources

Assuming he’s tendered a contract by the Reds, he’s projected to make $2.9 million. With Ruben Tejada also on the mend, the Mets could carry both of these players into the spring, and see who is healthier and/or better. If Cozart reaches his potential, he may one day become a Gold Glover. If he can’t play, the Mets can simply cut him before the start of the season. It that case the Mets would owe either him or Tejada 30-45 days of salary

Ideally, the Mets should wait for Cozart to be non-tendered. If he’s not, it would be prudent to add him to the shortstop mix. 

Phillips as the Mets Second Option

With the Mets most likely losing Daniel Murphy in free agency, there is a hole at second base. The Mets seem comfortable with Dilson Herrera in his place. With that said, Herrera is 21 and may need some more time before being able to take over the position full time. 

The problem is the second base free agent market is devoid of stopgap options. When that is the case, you can either stick with what you have, or you could look to trade for a stopgap option. Right now, the Cincinnati Reds are conducting a fire sale and have Brandon Phillips. Would Phillips be worth pursuing?

For his career, Phillips has hit .273/.320/.421. Last year, Phillips hit .294/.328/.395. Now, most of these stats come from his hitting at the Great American Ballpark, which is a hitter’s park. His career OPS+ is 96. Last year, it was at 97. Basically, Phillips is around a league average hitter who shows he’s not in decline offensively despite being 34 years old. 

He has an average UZR of 5.8, which makes him an above average second baseman. Like his offense, Phillips has shown that he’s not declining defensively. In the last five years, his respective UZRs have been 11.1, 8.7, 8.6, 8.1, and 2.0. Last year was a drop defensively, but he’s also the best defensive option

There are two hurdles to him becoming a Met. The first is you need to trade for him (I don’t try to guess what’ll take). The next is his contract. He still has two years and $27 million left on his deal. That’s a lot for a team with limited resources, but still less than what the free agent second baseman are commanding. If the Mets want to add a second baseman, Phillips might be the cheapest option. 

Phillips might be the best second option the Mets have right now. 

Playoffs Now, Free Agency Later

With all of Daniel Murphy‘s heroics, everyone is questioning whether the Mets will re-sign him. As the Mets entered the playoffs, the same question surrounded Yoenis Cespedes

They are just two of the pending free agents on the Mets roster. The full list:

  1. Daniel Murphy
  2. Yoenis Cespedes
  3. Kelly Johnson
  4. Juan Uribe
  5. Bartolo Colon
  6. Tyler Clippard

Six free agents. On the one hand, we can all safely assume they’re all gone. They very well might. Their departures may hurt for different reasons. Personally, I’ll miss Murphy most of all. 

However, I’m not focused on that number six. I’m focused on the six wins the Mets need to win the World Series. What happens after that, happens. There’s no control over that. The only thing we can control is our focus. I’m choosing to enjoy this now and worry later. Let’s celebrate first and deal with everything else later. 

Lets Go Mets!

Reading Between the Lines

The New York Times has an excellent piece today on Yoenis Cespedes. There were some things we learned or were reaffirmed:

  1. Cespedes desperately wants to win;
  2. Cespedes was the only OF available for the Mets on the eve of the trade deadline; and 
  3. It’s going to be very expensive to re-sign him. 

In reading the article, there are some things I personally interpreted. 

The Tigers Were Desperate 

The Tigers used Jim Leyland to take advantage of his relationship with Terry Collins to tell him Cespedes was available. I’m not an expert, but I presume trade negotiations are not normally done between a manager and a former manager. 

This was a way to put pressure on the Mets to go get Cespedes, a player with whom the Mets had reservations. Everyone on the planet knew the Mets offense was terrible. Collins must’ve been going crazy filling out a lineup card that included John Mayberry, Jr. in the cleanup spot. I’m sure when Collins found out the Mets could get Cespedes, I’m sure he ran through the Mets offices telling anyone who would listen to get the deal done. 

Again, the Mets were split. Maybe this Leyland-Collins conversation is what finally pushed the Mets to go out and get Cespedes. 

The Mets Have Soured on Juan Lagares

One of the key aspects of the decision to get Cespedes was whether or not he could play CF. This was after the Mets failed attempts to get Carlos Gomez. Remember in that deal, the Mets were pushing to trade the Brewers Juan Lagares and his contract. It’s apparent the Mets didn’t just want a bat; they wanted a CF. 

I’m shocked as the Mets were high on him as long as a year ago when they gave him the extension. Now it seems, they want to move on. That’s a huge fall out of favor for a gold glove CF. 

The Mets Only Saw Cespedes as a Rental

As noted in the article, the Mets knew about the five day clause in Cespedes’ contract. They knew it would be difficult to bring him back to the fold in 2016 and beyond. The article further notes that Alderson doesn’t typically give out contracts to players of Cespedes’ age because Alderson likes his teams to have payroll flexibility. Cespedes will more likely recieve than David Wright‘s $138 million. That really restricts the Mets payroll flexibility when they will have to eventually pay these young pitchers. 

This May Be a Test Case for Future deGrom Negotiations

As luck would have it, Cespedes shares the same agent as Jacob deGrom. Their agent, Roc Nation, and chief negotiator, Brodie Van Wagenen, are known to be tough and to be able to get the maximum value for their clients. The Mets dipped their toes on what it will be like when Robinson Cano was a free agent. The Mets came off as looking like they weren’t serious. 

Whether the Mets eventually re-sign Cespedes or not, they need to put their best foot forward here. It’s possible the Mets will be outbid while still making a real, viable attempt to keep him. Remember there’s always a crazy team out there. Just look at contacts given to Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard

The point here is to look like a serious team that can and will spend money. 

Sandy Alderson Wants to Win Now

There was every reason not to make this trade. Cespedes was not the type of player the Mets sought out under Alderson’s regime: he swings wildly and doesn’t walk enough. The fact that Michael Fulmer could turn out to be the Mets best pitching prospect, current Mets pitchers included. There was dissension within the Mets front office whether to proceed. 

Alderson saw an opportunity, and he went for it. Sure he took advice from his advisors, but he made the final call. It was gutsy and risky. Whether or not you agree with the trade, you have to respect how Alderson made the call. 

There are some other nuances that are there, but these are the main ones in my opinion. In any event, while I disagreed with the trade, I’m loving the Cespedes ride. I’m not so excited about how the offseason will shake out. I’m putting that out of my mind right now. 

I’m just enjoying the ride for now. Lets Go Mets!

Mets Still Aren’t Signing Ce$pede$

Roc Nation initiated talks with the Mets to eliminate the five day window for the Mets to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes after the World Series. I think it’s important to note that it was Roc Nation and not the Mets who initiated these discussions because it further signals that he’s not returning to Flushing. 

The Contract

We have heard that Cespedes wanted a $120 – 150 million contract when he came to the Mets. His play with the Mets and his popularity with the fans is only going to drive that price tag higher. 

Furthermore, Sandy Alderson already had an aversion to second generation contracts like the one Cespedes is going to receive. I imagine his position has only stiffened with David Wright and his spinal stenosis

Outfield Depth

I think we can all agree that Michael Conforto needs to play everyday next year. That locks down LF. Curtis Granderson still had two years and $31 million remaining on his contract. Between that and his good year this year, it means he’s playing RF next year. That locks up the corner OF without even considering Michael Cuddyer and the $12.5 million he’s due next year. 

That leaves CF. The Mets have presumably the best defensive CF in the game in Juan Lagares. He has three years and $20 million left on his contract. I can’t imagine the Mets are going to make him a bench player after one poor, injury plagued year. 

Additionally, it should be added Cespedes has not been a good CF in his career. In fact, he’s been quite bad. True, it appears he’s playing a capable CF with the Mets. However, I’d like to put my faith in two and a half years worth of data over a little more than one month. 

I will acknowledge that the Mets will play him in the unlikely event he re-signs. However, I doubt that will happen as the Mets already have a full OF and needs at SS, the bullpen, the bench, and potentially second base. 

The Warts

Look, I love Cespedes as much as the next Mets fan, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook some of his issues. 

First, he doesn’t get on base. His career .OBP is a paltry .320. Second, he’s not always engaged defensively, and he has some bad habits. This is something you overlook for a two month rental that’s mashing the ball. For a guy with a massive contract, the fans will eviscerate him.  I’d rather not see it get to that point. I’d rather Mets fans enjoy the ride. 

Conclusion

There are many reasons not to sign Cespedes. For $150 million, I’m sure the Mets agree. So, let’s enjoy what has been an amazing year. Let’s continue witnessing this Cespedes Miracle and enjoy it for as long as it goes. 

The Trade We Seem to Forget

The Yoenis Cespedes trade was everything Mets fans could’ve dreamed of and more. The man has been a walking, talking highlight film. Tyler Clippard has locked down the eighth inning. Even though the price the Mets paid for these two players was high, these players have produced well enough that this isn’t the story. 

You know what isn’t a story anymore?  Sandy Alderson’s trade that brought the Mets Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe. Neither one has been spectacular since coming to the Mets. Uribe has gone .200/.288/.410. Johnson has gone .245/.297/.426. However, they’ve had their moments. Yesterday, Johnson hit a homerun to put the Mets up 2-0. On his first day, Uribe got a game winning hit in extra innings. Uribe may not be hitting much, but the hits he has are huge. 

Also, Uribe has been a great clubhouse presence. He keeps things light. He keeps things upbeat. That’s important when the Mets have had some bad beats.  This team gets themselves off the mat. I’m sure Uribe has played a large part in that. 

It’s also important to note with David Wright back and a healthy Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda, they’re bench players. Good, veteran bench players that gives Terry Collins a lot of options. This is a huge upgrade over the Danny Muno‘s of the world. 

Johnson and Uribe have both been been in the playoffs, and Uribe has won a World Series. Their acquisition was the first step towards winning a World Series. However far the Mets go, they will be a big part of it. 

Looking Through the Reeds for a Reliever

After today’s game, the Mets completed a trade for Addison Reed, while not being able to acquire Marc Rzepczynski. While I’m disappointed in my getting Rzepczynski, I’m glad I’m not going to have a repeat of Doug Mientkiewicz, i.e. mastering how to spell his name right before he’s gone. 

I like the addition of Reed. For his career, he has an FIP of 3.45, which suggests he’s a good pitcher. His K/9 is 9.3, which is pretty good. He’s got experience closing games with the White Sox and Diamondbacks the past three seasons. Therefore, he’s used to high leverage situations. 

This year, his ERA is 4.20, which is in line with his career numbers. However, his FIP is 3.12, which suggests he’s been a very good reliever this year. However, his results don’t match the advanced statistics. One possible reason is he’s had a career worst K/9 of 7.5. This means there are more balls in play, and when there are more balls in play, there are more chances for bad things to happen. 

Sure enough, his BABIP is .344. This is well above the league average.  It’s also above his career average of .306. Translation: he’s been unlucky. This means behind a better team, his numbers may improve. The Mets are a better team . . . especially with him on the roster. He’s a great choice for the seventh inning. I expect his numbers will start to come more in line with what his FIP suggests. 

In exchange, the Mets gave up Matt Koch and Miller Diaz. I know nothing about them, which usually indicates they aren’t really prospect. However, the Reed surname caused me to take a step back and realize that’s not a good way of looking at things. You see the Mets once traded Jason Bay and the other Bobby Jones as part of a package for Jason Middlebrook and Steve REED. Note to Mets fans, this was trading Bay before he became a Rookie of the Year and three time All Star. This wasn’t trading the Bay that Mets fans came to know. 
Chances are this Reed trade is much better. First of all, Addison is under team control for two more seasons. Second, the prospect package seems much weaker. For this, I will rely upon Jeffrey Paternostro, who tweeted his analysis of them:

What I can glean from this is that if everything breaks right, either one of these guys can become a reliever the caliber of Reed. If it doesn’t break right, they won’t become major leaguers. This is more the Uribe/Johnson trade than the Cespedes trade

That means this is a very good trade with little downside, even if Reed doesn’t perform. This is a great move by Sandy Alderson. Let’s hope Reed takes over the seventh and sites up the seventh. If he doesn’t, the Mets bullpen is still is in as much trouble as it was in the Reed/Middlebrooks days. 

EY’s Back, Back Again

As I’ve said a number of times, one of the biggest mistakes the Sandy Alderson regime made was acquiring Eric Young, Jr.  Well, he’s back again

My first reaction was: not again. In his two years with the Mets, he slashed a .242/.310/.321. Despite these poor numbers, Terry Collins always batted him leadoff because he is fast and can steal bases. In fact, he lead the league in stolen bases as a Met in 2013.  It was always my impression, Collins always played EY more than he should. 

We always seem to like certain guys and not others. For example, if you really want to hear me go off, ask me about Ramon Castro. Collins likes EY. He also loves batting Juan Lagares in the leadoff spot. You see my problem was never with EY. He seems like a nice guy. He always hustled. He has positive attributes as a baseball player. My problem is with how Collins used EY. 

I hope it won’t be a problem this time around. There’s enough of a glut in the OF for Collins to try to shoehorn EY in there. There’s too many 2B options to try to force EY in there. So naturally, the question is: why bother acquiring him?

The answer may surprise you. He’s a realistic option for the postseason roster. You read that right. Keep in mind, he won’t be anything more than the last man on the bench, but he’s still a viable option. 

For starters, EY can play multiple positions. As per UZR, he’s an average 2B, great in LF, and slightly below average in CF and RF. That pretty much makes him their best defensive 2B and their second best defensive LF. He would be the defensive answer to what the Mets envision Kelly Johnson is offensively. 

Next, let’s not discount the speed. As I already noted, EY has won a stolen base title. He’s successful 81% of the time on SB attempts. This is impressive when you consider an acceptable percentage is 75%. Also, we all remember that it was Dave Roberts who helped propel the Red Sox to overcome the 0-3 deficit with this SB:

So even though I don’t fully trust Collins with EY, I have to admit adding EY this time was a good move. Let’s just get him on the 40 man roster to make him postseason eligible.