The New York Mets have begun assembling their list of managerial candidates, and they are beginning to set up interviews with different candidates. Judging from what we heard when he broadcasted Mets games this year, Joe Girardi really wants this job. Given his being a very good manager, the Mets should be doing all they could do to hire him.
But . . .
Even with Girardi being the best candidate available there are some red flags with him. He was fired from the Marlins for an inability to get along with ownership, and there probably aren’t any more meddlesome owners in sports than the Wilpons. While he has managed in New York, and he has worked in the media, he was never great handling the New York press. No, he wasn’t bad, but he does have a tendency to be a bit cantankerous, which does not play well in the press.
In terms of the fanbase, Mets fans who have loudly criticized Mickey Callaway for not having a feel for the game are going to go berserk with Girardi and his binders. There is also the issue of how things ended poorly with the Yankees in terms of communication with the players.
Taking all that into account, Girardi is still an excellent manager who would make the Mets better. Yet, there is one massive reason why the Mets should not hire him.
In Girardi’s last year managing the Yankees, he was making $4 million a year. Even if he accepts some form of a discount, the Mets are still going to owe Callaway $850,000 in 2020. Being that this is the Mets, that money can be damaging.
Adeiny Hechavarria was cut one day prior to his being owed a $1 million roster bonus. Carlos Gomez was cut as he was about to reach bonus levels. That’s at least $1.25 million the Mets could not afford to spend in-season. Connecting the dots further, it appeared the Mets needed to trade Jason Vargas to fit Marcus Stroman into the budget.
The Mets operate with a shoestring budget. Assuming the combined cost of Girardi and Callaway is $4 million, that is going to cost the Mets at least one player, maybe more.
That salary level is just $1 million less than what Justin Wilson will earn in 2020. That means Girardi will cost the Mets a late inning reliever they so desperately need. That puts more of an onus on Seth Lugo and puts the Mets in a position where they will have to completely rely on an Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia rebound.
In addition to the bullpen, the Mets need to add a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler. That extra couple of million to Girardi could make the difference between a trusted arm and them having to turn to Walker Lockett or Corey Oswalt.
The Mets could use some bench help too. The money to Girardi likely means the Mets are stuck with Tomas Nido and his bat as the backup catcher. That means there Mets are likely stuck looking at a series of minor league deals to league minimums for an everyday center fielder or defensive replacement. That’s if they can afford that.
Overall, a few million may not seem as much to normal teams, but to the Mets that is crippling to their ability to add players to the roster. In the end, the Mets really need to ask themselves if Girardi alone is enough to overcome a fifth starter, one or more arms in the bullpen, and/or bench depth.
While Girardi is good, he’s not that good. No one is. As a result, the Mets should probably be looking to hire another (read cheaper) manager.
In terms of his Major League career, it hasn’t been easy going for Tommy Pham. He would need to overcome a lot just to stand on the field during this ALDS.
Pham had a number of injuries in the minors, but it was keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition, which eventually causes blindness. In fact, Pham is legally blind in one eye. Fortunately, he’d have vision and career saving surgery.
As his surgeon, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler would say of Pham, “If somebody would tell me an individual could play Major League Baseball with keratoconus, I’d say, ‘Absolutely not.’ Only Tommy Pham. I think Tommy is one in a million.” (Derrick Goold, St. Louis Dispatch).
After a terrific 2017, where he had a 6.2 WAR, Pham would struggle in 2018. This led to his clashing with his manager, Mike Matheny, who would eventually be fired for tumult like this. Ultimately, Pham fell out of favor with the Cardinals leading to his getting traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Cardinals loss is the Rays gain. That was all the more apparent with Pham having a strong 2019 season for the Rays.
Pham hit a big homer in the Wild Card Game, and in Game 4 of the ALDS with the Rays facing both elimination and Justin Verlander, Pham’s homer in the top of the first set the tone for the Rays who’d win 4-1.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 8, 2019
After the 4-1 victory, Pham was asked about who he wanted to thank for getting to this point in his career, and he would answer himself for never giving up.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 9, 2019
He talked about throwing a ball to himself and throwing a ball up so he could hit it. Now, these are things we all did as kids. However, unlike many of us, that was Pham’s only option because he didn’t have a dad growing up.
Hearing that shows you the dedication and drive Pham had to get to this point. It also shows you the love of the game for him to do that. It shows how he can overcome all obstacles including not having a dad and a degenerative eye disorder.
This makes Pham both a role model and an inspiration.
He also should serve as a reminder to take time for your kids. We all get you’ve had a long day at work, and you’re exhausted. Dinner needs to be made. Homework needs to get done. There are practices, music lessons, and so much more.
What we also have is plenty of time during the week. At some point during those seven days, we can easily find time to dust off our mitts and have a catch with our kids. If your kid isn’t into baseball, then something else.
Kick a soccer ball. Throw a football. Fly a kite. Play tag. Something. Anything.
Fact is you have an opportunity Pham didn’t. That’s to have that father-son relationship. Cherish it. Take advantage o it.
You can start by throwing some BP.
According to various reports, unless Zack Wheeler accepts the qualifying offer, and he’d be crazy to accept it, he is going to be a part of another organization in 2020. This would be one thing if the Mets believed they should pursue Gerrit Cole or another big name free agent, but as we know, Wheeler is as good as gone with no real replacement coming to the Mets.
Using Nathan Eovaldi as a comp, Wheeler would be owed a deal with an AAV of at least $17 million. Given his strong finish to the season, it’s arguable Wheeler could meet or possibly surpass $20 million. Of course, that depends on the length of the deal.
Now, from some corners you’ll hear the Mets can’t afford to keep Wheeler for that contract. There will be excuses offered with respect to the luxury tax threshold, can’t keep all of your players, and/or the Mets can’t afford him. If any of these are true, this is the latest example of just how much Brodie Van Wagenen has screwed things up in just one year.
The $20+ million deal per year for four years or more which could’ve been given to Wheeler is already on the books. That money is being given to Robinson Cano.
Cano turns 37 this month, and he is coming off an injury plagued year where he had just a 0.3 WAR. He was below average at the plate with a 93 wRC+, and he was bad in the field with a -6 DRS.
This leaves the Mets path to contention vested in a 37 year old getting healthier, more durable, and turning back the clock. Historically, this is a very poor bet. It’s certainly not a bet you’d like to have $80 million riding on over the next four years.
This is money which could’ve been invested in Wheeler. This wouldn’t allowed the Mets to keep this vaunted starting staff together for at least one more year. Possibly two. Instead, the Mets are going to let Wheeler walk because the money which could’ve been given to him is already tied up with Cano.
The obvious retort is if the Mets didn’t have Cano, they’d likely have Jay Bruce still. Putting aside the Mariners were able to trade him, he is only due $14 million in 2020. As such, he didn’t tie up the payroll for the ensuing three years thereby giving the Mets room to negotiate with Wheeler.
So, again, the money which could’ve been spent to keep Wheeler has already been spent.
Initially, when the trade was made to obtain Cano and Edwin Diaz, the focus was on losing Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic. Rightfully so. However, the damage to the team goes beyond that. It’s not just losing two prospects, it’s losing Major League players.
It’s not just this year either with Wheeler likely to depart. It also will hinder the ability to keep players like Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Brandon Nimmo. It’s possible there are more casualties when you consider arbitration raises and the like.
So overall, the Cano Trade didn’t cost just two top prospects. In the long run, it’s going to cost the Mets high-end Major League talent; talent necessary to fulfill the Mets win-now objectives.
Put another way, that trade is only going to get worse.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were staring down a 2-1 series deficit with Max Scherzer set to take the mound in Game 4. With Patrick Corbin on the mound, the Dodgers were in serious trouble. That’s when they put together a huge two out rally capped off by a Justin Turner homer effectively putting the game out of reach:
— #BeatTheNats (@OCDodgerFans) October 7, 2019
This was just the latest big hit from Turner. In his postseason career, he is hitting .316/.414/.518. That includes him being named the 2017 NLCS co-MVP. What is interesting is that wasn’t his best postseason series. In fact, his best postseason series was the 2015 NLDS against the Mets where he hit .526/.550/.842.
When we see the success of players like Turner, Collin McHugh, Hansel Robles, and others, it presents an opportunity to look at the Mets decision making process. We should be looking at why the Mets kept players who did not produce at all over them. We should be asking why these players found success at these levels away from the Mets that they did not here.
Instead, we see the oddest position emerge. Instead of an analysis, we see something akin to good for these players, and that these players could not have had that success here. For some reason, that is offered as a defense of the Mets and not a condemnation.
We can dig deeper into each player and see why they did or did not succeed. With McHugh, he’s with the Astros organization who have found a way of working with pitchers in terms of sequencing and grips to get the most of of pitchers. Robles was really just a matter of a team being more judicious in their use of him.
As for Turner, this was the beginning of a process which began with his working with Marlon Byrd during the 2013 season. Rather than see where that could lead, the Mets non-tendered him over what was $1 million. Turner would go off to the Dodgers where he’s been a very good player.
Even if Turner would not have had the opportunity to play and prove himself in 2014, he would have in 2015 when David Wright succumbed to spinal stenosis. However, that is besides the point. The point is Turner would have at least been a good utility player who still had upside even if he couldn’t play everyday.
That also overlooks the core problem here. The Mets have had an ability to find talented players, and they have found a way to develop that talent. What they haven’t done is find a way to be patient with that talent, and eventually they make penny wise pound foolish decisions. As the case with Travis d’Arnaud, we’ve seen rage cutting decisions.
In the end, saying a player could not have succeeded with the Mets is far from a defense of the team. Rather, it is perhaps the harshest criticism you could levy upon the team.
The last few years there has been discussions about how Andres Gimenez needs to move off of shortstop due to the presence of Amed Rosario. The natural choice was second base, but with the Mets obtaining Robinson Cano, that position is blocked for the next four years.
Early this year, it seemed there was going to be a potential opening at shortstop with Rosario struggling there for the second straight year. It got to the point where he began taking balls in center. However, with Rosario turning things around in the second half both offensively and defensively, he seems cemented as the team’s shortstop for the future. As a result, the plans for him in center have likely been abandoned.
While the plans of moving Rosario to center have been abandoned, the plans of moving a shortstop to center should not be.
Right now, the Mets have two very real problems. First, they have zero Major League ready prospects which will begin the year in Double-A or higher. Second, with Rosario establishing himself as a real Major League shortstop and with Luis Guillorme showing he’s a real option as Major League infield depth, there’s no room for Gimenez in the middle infield over the long term.
With no room for him in the infield, and with the team needing outfielders, the solution seems obvious. That’s only obvious if Gimenez could actually play the outfield. Based upon his skill-set, he should be able to make that transition.
Baseball America calls Gimenez “a quick-twitch athlete with well-rounded skills, a high baseball IQ and leadership qualities” who has a “quick first step.” MLB Pipeline notes Gimenez has a “strong arm, excellent hands, range and plus instincts for the position.” While this was written for him being a shortstop prospect, these are the type of skills you want out of a center field prospect.
As an aside, we saw Juan Lagares make the same transition from shortstop to center when he was a prospect. In 2011, Baseball America said he was best suited in left field due to his fringy speed and below-average arm. The following year, the analysis was updated to indicate he had ” the average range, sure hands and plus arm strength required to play all three outfield posts.” As we know he would become a Gold Glover at the position.
This is not to say Baseball America was wrong at the time on Lagares. Rather, it shows the more a player works at a position the better they get. We saw that with Lagares developing into a Gold Glover. We saw that with Rosario figuring things out at short in the second half this year.
If Gimenez has a real future in the Mets organization, he is going to have to find a new position, and he is going to have to put in the time to improve at it like Lagares and Rosario did with theirs. That position was supposed to be short or second, but he’s hopelessly blocked there.
However, center field is wide open for him. Moving Gimenez to center allows the Mets to help solve their center field depth issues while also solving the problem of finding a spot for their sole Major League ready position player prospect. When you break it down, the question isn’t whether the Mets should try this, but why haven’t they done this already.
There were plenty of reasons to fire Mickey Callaway if you wanted. In fact, his incident with Tim Healey in and of itself was grounds for firing. To the extent it was Callaway and not the front office making some of those curious moves, you certainly have further justification.
However, what you really can’t do is pin the Mets failures to make the postseason at Callaway’s lap, which is what firing him does. That was all the more the case when Brodie Van Wagenen was trying to spin the 2019 season as a positive, including but not limited to noting Edwin Diaz had 26 saves.
Before proceeding, some background is necessary here.
By and large, the Mets were seen as a third or fourth place team in the division with around 85 wins. For example, ZiPS predicted the Mets would finish the year 87-75 in a three way tie for second place in the division. Looking at the 2019 season, the Mets Pythagorean was 86-76, and it just so happened, that was the Mets final record as they finished in third place in the division.
To that extend, the Mets neither over nor underachieved. Rather, you could argue they performed as expected. Of course, lost in that was all that happened during the season.
Pete Alonso had a season greater than anyone could’ve imagined. Jeff McNeil was an All-Star. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half. The Mets got more production from J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith than they could’ve reasonably expected.
Looking at that alone, you would say the Mets should’ve finished much better than they did. After all, when you are getting that level of production from your young players, the Mets should have been in the Braves position. They would fall far short of that.
There were many reasons for that. Brandon Nimmo would miss over three months of the season. Jed Lowrie would record no hits in only nine pinch hitting attempts. Robinson Cano had an injury plagued year, and when he did play he was not up to his typical standards. Aside from Seth Lugo, the bullpen was mainly a mess. Noah Syndergaard would struggle with the new ball and the new catcher.
The Syndergaard point brings up another interesting point. All the moves Van Wagenen made this offseason proved to be a downgrade from what was already on the team.
Ramos’ 1.4 fWAR was lower than Travis d’Arnaud‘s 1.6. Another interesting note is d’Arnaud would have a 107 OPS+ with the Rays, which is the same Ramos would have with the Mets the whole year. The Mets would cut d’Arnaud after one horrible game leaving the Mets with Tomas Nido as the backup for the full season. He’d have a -0.5 fWAR, which is lower than both d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (0.2).
Cano’s 0.3 WAR was lower than McNeil’s 5.0. Worse yet, it was only 0.1 higher than Justin Dunn‘s 0.2 in four games with the Mariners this year. In fact, Dunn’s 0.2 WAR was much higher than Diaz’s -0.6. Things get worse when you consider Anthony Swarzak had a 0.0 WAR.
Long story short, the Mets would have been better off in 2019 if this trade was never made. What makes this all the more scary is this was supposed to be the year the Mets benefited most. Things are going to get much worse as Jarred Kelenic continues his way to the majors.
Now, people will want to say not all of Van Wagenen’s moves were bad with Davis being held up as the ideal. On that note, Davis was terrible in the field. Among players with at least 550 innings in left, his -11 DRS was the worst in the National League. Among third baseman with at least 200 innings, his -9 DRS was the third worst in all of baseball.
All told, Davis had a 1.0 WAR on the season. That’s just 0.2 higher than Wilmer Flores despite his having played 51 more games. All told, the Mets would have been better off keeping Flores over trading for Davis and signing Lowrie. It would have been a much better allocation of resources than what Van Wagenen actually did.
Beyond all of that, the Mets had players like Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez serve as outfield depth. They’d cycle through relievers like Tim Peterson, Stephen Nogosek, Hector Santiago, Brooks Pounders, and the like all season rather than adding that one other arm the bullpen needed. That would make Jeurys Familia‘s season long struggles and Justin Wilson‘s needing to be limited all the worse.
In the end, you can see all the good mitigated against all the bad. In fact, you could argue given all that happened, the Mets probably could’ve been worse than their third place finish. This is all to say the Mets probably did about as well as could have been expected.
That brings us back to Callaway.
Given the Mets did not underachieve, you have a difficult basis to fire him. If you want to argue a better manager could have gotten more from this team, you certainly have a point. If that is the case, the Mets have to now go out and get that guy. That means you hire Joe Girardi or maybe Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker.
But make no mistake here. By firing Callaway, the Mets are essentially pinpointing him as the reason why this team missed the postseason. In the end, if the Mets are going to sell everyone Callaway was the problem, the next manager is going to have to take the Mets to the postseason. That is the bar which has now been set.
If the Mets don’t make the postseason, then we’ll know what we have known since Spring Training. The Mets weren’t good enough not because of their manager. No, they weren’t good enough because the Wilpons didn’t invest enough money into this team, and the General Manager they hired failed to assemble the roster good enough to back up the “Come get us!” hype.
Here’s how bad the National League postseason has shaped up to be. The Washington Nationals, the team who delivered to the Mets a devastating loss when Kurt Suzuki homered off Edwin Diaz, could quite possibly be the lesser of all evils.
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the Mets most fiercest and longest running rivals. There are stories of Terry Pendleton, John Tudor, and others from the 1980s. The rivalry pushed forward into this century with the postseason match-ups. The last one ended with Adam Wainwright‘s curveball striking out Carlos Beltran in what could be argued was the worst loss in Mets history.
Speaking of torment, there is the Atlanta Braves. Since the dawn of the Wild Card, no team has so tormented the Mets. We saw Brian Jordan and the Braves keep the Mets out of the 1998 postseason. Chipper Jones, who was all too happy to chide Mets fans, almost repeated the act in 1999. There’s nothing to say of John Rocker‘s behavior on and off the field that year. Throw in that NLCS ending with Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, you have enough torment to last a lifetime.
That torment continued into this year with the Braves dominating the Mets all year. With that team having Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., and a young and still developing core, this promises to last deep into the future.
Then there are the Dodgers. Any team who willingly takes on and purposefully promotes Chase Utley deserves hatred just for that. But the history of those two teams goes deeper. There was the 1988 NLCS with Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson unofficially ending the Mets 1980s run.
Finally, there is the Nationals. This is a rivalry which only began in 2015 when the Mets and Nationals were good for the first time since the Expos franchise was founded in 1969. Whether it is Bryce Harper‘s hubris asking where his ring was when the team signed Max Scherzer, or it was Daniel Murphy tormenting them after he was the Mets 2015 postseason hero, fans seem to have developed a particular hatred of this team.
No matter how you slice or dice it, choosing a team to root for in the NLDS and eventually the NLCS is an exercise in rooting for the lesser of all evils. Who you think is the lesser of all evils likely depends on your age and your memories of a particular loss here or there.
Instead of looking at things from the perspective of lament, you should realize that three of the teams Mets fans absolutely despise will lose, and they will likely lose in excruciating fashion. That will be quite enjoyable to watch. It should also be enjoyable to watch whichever team win the pennant lose to the Rays, Twins, or Astros in the World Series.
In an alternate universe, a New York Mets team assembled by Chaim Bloom is seeing Travis d’Arnaud catching a pitching staff en route to the postseason. Instead of that future, the New York Mets hired Brodie Van Wagenen, who not only failed to build a complete roster, but he would also rage cut d’Arnaud after one of the worst games you have ever seen a catcher have.
To his credit, d’Arnaud would pick himself off the mat.
It wasn’t immediate. After being designated for assignment by the Mets, he would be released and then signed by his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers. What may have been a childhood dream did not last. After just one pinch hitting appearance, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.
In the span of a week, d’Arnaud had gone from the team where he broke into the majors, his childhood team, and then all the way to the Rays. It would turn out to be the best thing which ever happened to him as he is now the starting catcher for a Rays team who is going to play in the Wild Card Game against the Oakland Athletics.
This is the second time d’Arnaud will be in the postseason. The first time being in 2015. In that postseason, he would hit a number of big home runs with one of them leading the Mets to put a band-aide on the Home Run Apple:
The Citi Field Apple with a band- aid after being injured on Travis D'Arnaud's home run last night. pic.twitter.com/4xZrEMRumn
— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) October 18, 2015
The homer was a solo shot in Game 1 of the NLCS giving the Mets a 3-1 lead in a game they won 4-2. It was the second of two homers he hit in the NLCS and three he would hit in that postseason as he would help the Mets win their first pennant in 15 years.
While he contributed with his bat, d’Arnaud would really contribute with his work behind the plate. With his pitch calling and framing, he helped Jacob deGrom in his two phenomenal NLDS performances. He was there for Matt Harvey starting off the NLCS on the root foot and the Mets almost coming back from 1-3 World Series deficit.
Sure, there would be a sense of unfinished business with d’Arnaud, and that was partially due to the injuries. Still, even with the injuries, he contributed when he was behind the plate, and the Mets pitchers were at their best when he was catching them.
Now, he is catching another staff, and he is in a position to lead them in the postseason. He’s earned this opportunity, and here’s hoping he and the Rays win not just the Wild Card Game but also the World Series.
In the very near future, the New York Mets will be meeting to discuss whether Mickey Callaway will return as the manager in 2020. There are reasons to both keep and fire Callaway, and in making the decision, the Mets will need to determine who is the best person to lead the Mets to their first World Series since 1986.
Like any other decision, there needs to be a balance of the present and the future. Both considerations should include what to do with Luis Rojas.
The Mets thought so much of Rojas they promoted him from the team’s Double-A manager to their Quality Control Coach. He was more than that. He also served a role working with the outfielders. Of note, he helped Jeff McNeil get up to speed in the outfield during Spring Training. During the year, McNeil would have a 2 DRS in 671.0 innings split between right and left.
Rojas’ working with McNeil is not the only impact he has had on this current club. As noted, he was previously a minor league manager. As a result, Rojas has had a hand in the development of many of the players on the Mets roster including Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith. When you have that type of an impact, it is no wonder the Mets see him as a potential future manager.
In fact, as Mike Puma of the New York Post noted, the team views Rojas as a “rising star.”
The question is whether the team views the 38 year old as ready to assume control of the team. While he has managed many of the players on the team, he would have to also be managing players who are, in terms of age, peers to him. These players include Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos.
While it is fair to say he’s not ready from that standpoint, the Mets have to determine if they want to give him the role before he is not yet ready and have him grow into the role, or if they are willing to lose him.
At the moment, we do not know if any of the teams looking to hire a manager would have an interest in Rojas. The chances are they don’t. However, they may look to him as an option to join their new coaching staff. On that note, the San Diego Padres are interested in hiring Moises Alou as their manager. If Alou were to get the job, you do wonder if he would want his brother who is very good at working with young players and has a sharp analytical mind on his own coaching staff.
Really, when you look at it that way, you wonder why the Mets wouldn’t want that themselves. On the front, if they are truly grooming Rojas to be the next manager, they should be taking a proactive step in that direction. What that step is anyone’s guess.
On the front, the minimum the Mets should be considering is moving him up the ladder to be the Mets next bench coach replacing Jim Riggleman, who did not appear to have any real impact this year. If nothing else, Rojas on the bench would prepare him all the more to be the Mets next manager. In fact, you could argue that is what the Mets should do.
The Mets could keep Callaway and have Rojas waiting to take over for him. If nothing else, this would further prepare Rojas to be the manager the Mets want him to be. It would also prevent them from hiring another novice who could potentially hire the next Callaway.
In the end, no matter what the Mets do, they should be making a decision from the perspective of what they want to do with Rojas more than what they want to do with Callaway.