Last year, Brodie Van Wagenen, in his capacity as Jacob deGrom‘s agent, said if the Mets were not prepared to give his client a contract extension, they should entertain trading him. No, this was not a trade demand, but rather, it was a communication designed to facilitate the two sides agreeing to a contract extension.
Presumably, at that time and in the months that followed, Van Wagenen and deGrom has conversations regarding such an extension. These discussions likely included but were not limited to the type of contract deGrom would be willing to accept. It’s also probably a fair assumption this was a fluid conversation which factored into account how much deGrom’s Cy Young season should affect his negotiating position.
Put another way, when Van Wagenen took over as the Mets General Manager, he knew exactly what it would take to make deGrom a Met for life. By the same token, due to the intimate nature of the agent/player relationship, Van Wagenen May have known reasons why the Mets might not want to extend deGrom.
Because of this, it was no surprise the Mets decided Van Wagenen would not take part in any negotiations with respect to deGrom’s arbitration or extension. This was a reason why the Mets and Van Wagenen would have to settle any conflict of issue issues with the MLB and the MLBAPA. It’s also why at Van Wagenen’s introductory press conference, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said his GM would not handle deGrom’s extension:
“We didn’t discuss specifics on any one player like that,’’ Wilpon said of deGrom’s future. “I think [deGrom] is to be determined and Brodie is going to have to recuse himself from some of those discussions. He will have to set an overall tone for the organization, which way he wants us to go, and then we’ll have to have some others be responsible for doing the actual contract.
“The GM gives some guidance, but he’s not totally involved with every last detail,’’ Wilpon said. “[Van Wagenen] can give us direction. He just can’t be involved in the negotiation. Is it something we are worried about? No. We gave it a lot of thought and obviously I went through the process of making sure that everybody was OK with doing this kind of arrangement, of bringing an agent in to our side.’’
(New York Post) [Emphasis added].
That’s unambiguous. The Mets clearly said Van Wagenen would not be involved in negotiating deGrom’s extension.
That story changed today when deGrom gave the Mets an Opening Day deadline to get an extension done. Shortly after that was announced, Van Wagenen said he has been handling negotiations:
Here's Brodie Van Wagenen on Jacob deGrom's contract deadline. He says it's not a big deal, but a mutual understanding: pic.twitter.com/2KT0XnfENK
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 12, 2019
Despite the Mets assurances Van Wagenen would not be involved in negotiating deGrom’s contract, Van Wagenen is involved in “discussions,” i.e. negotiations on deGrom’s extension.
While the obvious implication here is the Mets lied, it’s also possible both sides waived the conflict to permit Van Wagenen to be a part of discussions. Whatever the reason, Van Wagenen is now involved making it all the more baffling as to why a deal has not been done.
Remember, Van Wagenen knew or should have known what it would take to lock up deGrom long term. With a deal not getting done, and reports deGrom is getting frustrated, many questions need to be asked:
- Does Van Wagenen know something which would cause the Mets to not want to extend deGrom?
- Did deGrom’s new agent prod deGrom into believing he was worth more costing the Mets a chance to extend deGrom to more favorable terms?
- Did Van Wagenen rely too much on his relationship with deGrom to spend his budget to improve the 2019 roster now and look to extend deGrom later?
- Do the Mets have a pre-existing policy which would stand in the way of deGrom getting the contract he wanted?
- Did the Mets have plan to fill-out the 40 man roster first and then turn to deGrom to extend him (with that plan not being effectively communicated)?
There are several possibilities beyond these, but with each possibility that arises there is one overriding theme – the Mets have not handled this situation well.
That’s inarguable when the Mets have had a clear change in policy regarding Van Wagenen’s role in negotiations. That’s inarguable when the Mets best player is frustrated and now publicly setting deadlines for when an extension must be consummated.
In the end, none of this truly matters. What really matters is no matter the outcome of the extension discussions, the Mets do not permit this to become a distraction. Hopefully, when all is said and done, not only will this not serve as a distraction, but the Mets also find a way to keep deGrom a Met for his entire career.
During his interview with Mike Franceca on WFAN, he would speak about the team, and he would be challenged by Mike on a number of issues. As the General Manager, you can understand Van Wagenen trying to sell the fan base about the team. It is part and parcel of his job.
In some ways, he did effectively did that. He touted the combination of Peter Alonso and J.D. Davis as capably hitting 30 home runs combined from the first base position. He also reminded fans of this being a versatile team with Todd Frazier and Robinson Cano being able to play first base if necessary. This would also allow the team to play Jed Lowrie and have him bat second in the lineup every day.
Behind some of the bravado, some of Van Wagenen’s early bravado began to erode away, and you saw someone who is trying to sell an incomplete roster. We saw this through two telling exchanges. The first notable one regards Bryce Harper and Manny Machado:
BVW: "It's not so easy to find spots for all of our good players already."
MF: "You're telling me you don't have room for them?
BVW: "Probably not the best fit for us."
MF: "Are you telling me you don't have room for them in the lineup?"
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) February 11, 2019
Essentially, Brodie is going to have us believe the team has no room for Machado on the infield. Now, you could argue even with Amed Rosario being disappointing thus far, he is primed to break out next season. He can also point to there already being solid to very good veteran infielders. That’s fair. However, he loses us completely at Harper.
This is a team with just two starting outfielders in Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. For all of their defensive prowess, neither Keon Broxton or Juan Lagares can’t hit. As for Jeff McNeil, the Mets apparently believed in him so much they aggressively pursued two other All-Star second baseman to play over him.
The Mets will tell you he’s now going to be an outfielder. That’s all well and good, and we all hope he can make the transition. However, no matter how good he is, he is no Bryce Harper.
That’s important due to the second pertinent exchange. When Mike asked if the Mets were better than the Vegas line of 84 wins, Van Wagenen was sure of himself saying, “I think 84 wins is light.” When pressed on whether this was a 90 win team, Van Wagenen was less assured, and he would not commit to the 90 win figure.
That’s very problematic.
Looking at the history of the Wild Card, the lowest win total for a National League Wild Card was 87 wins. That honor belongs to the 2016 Mets and Giants and the 2017 Rockies. No Mets fan wants to see a repeat of Madison Bumgarner and Conor Gillaspie in a winner-take-all game.
Really, if you are in the 84-89 wins range, you are in the postseason race, but you are towards the bottom of that race. That’s not where you want to be with the Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Rockies boasting good rosters of their own. And don’t forget the Phillies who are still in a position to pounce on a player or two in what is still a bizarrely loaded free agent class.
When you boil it down, Van Wagenen can be boastful all he wants, but he’s essentially admitted this is an incomplete team. Worse yet, he’s admitting after trading away Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, Gerson Bautista, Bobby Wahl, Felix Valerio, Adam Hill, and Scott Manea, his work is not nearly done.
Instead of saying, “Come get us!” to the National League, he should be telling ownership to “Please help us!” because this team is far from complete.
Today, across Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers will officially have to report to Spring Training. Truth be told, many players have already reported with the hopes of helping their teams win a World Series. Of course, there are any number of players who have not reported partially because they do not have a team to report. In shocking fashion, the still pending free agents could comprise a postseason team:
Say what you want about teams thinking they’re smarter than years past. Say what you want about players being unrealistic as to what their real value is. Everyone has their own perceptions, right or wrong. Ultimately, no matter what your perception, having a collection of players like this still being free agents is embarrassing for baseball.
It’s long past the time for teams to step up and do what it takes to bring key free agents onto their rosters to get them closer to a World Series.
As for the Mets, even if you do not support them pursuing a player like Harper or Machado (which is a bizarre stance), it’s hard to believe this is a complete team. A pitcher like Gonzalez or Jackson should be brought in to push Jason Vargas. With two defensive specialists like Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton who can’t hit, they could certainly use a Jones.
For that matter, to make this team even deeper, they could use a Dietrich, Gonzalez, or Harrison to combine with Jeff McNeil and Jed Lowrie. It also couldn’t hurt to have a Romo or Madson to bolster an already good bullpen.
When you boil it down, there are still difference makers in this free agent market. At this point, if you are not signing some of the pending free agents, you are not even trying to take advantage of unique opportunity before you. If that is the case, you are not doing all you can do to win in 2019.
During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
Once again, we have seen Major League Baseball has floated the idea of implementing the Designated Hitter in the National League only to drop the issue again. That said, in some corners there is the perception there will be a universal DH sooner rather than later. In others, it seems as if baseball wants to keep this topic forever as a debate.
To that end, the Mets Bloggers have undertaken the question about whether the National League should implement the Designated Hitter:
he DH sucks. Plain and simple. However, pitchers aren’t hitting a lot in college. They’re not hitting a lot in the minors. Teams don’t even have their pitchers hit in exhibition games until the third week of March. Clubs are telling their pitchers to not invest energy into many of their at bats, they hardly run when they make contact, and quite frankly, most of them can’t bunt. The point is, more and more it has generally become an automatic out and if that’s how the game is evolving, I see no reason to not embrace a change like this.
Generally there is now no investment into that lineup spot in the NL anymore. Teams don’t want to invest there. They’d rather the pitcher strike out three times with RISP and less than two outs and turn in 7 innings of quality pitching. That’s where they see their value. And honestly, it’s fair at these salaries.
Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)
Okay, I am a traditionalist, so not a big fan of the DH, but I understand that it’s inevitably going to be a part of the game in the not-too-distant future. The thought of implementing it for 2019 is downright asinine, because teams are mostly finished constructing their rosters (sorry Bryce Harper and Manny Machado). It’s going to be a sad reality to not see guys like Bartolo Colon have their moments in the sun. I guess with Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes though, we have built-in DH candidates on the roster.
Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)
A little birdie told me that Brodie Van Wagenen was quite aware as to these behind the curtain machinations. I don’t need to have pitchers hit, nor am I going to die on a hill for double switches.
So, I dig the DH.
Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)
Many don’t want a DH in the NL, until they start driving in runs for their team. Another bonus, one less thing for a manager to screw up.
Metstradamus (Metstradums Blog)
I’m not a fan of the DH … but I’m old so that’s to be expected (get off my lawn). But what I’m less a fan of is half the teams in the league having to allocate roster space and salary differently than the other half. AL teams get to spend $20 million on a DH to hit 30/100 and completely ignore their bench, while NL teams actually have to spend on a bench. There’s a reason AL teams have killed NL teams in interleague play until last season. Everything else about the leagues have been homogenized, this very significant rule should be as well. While I would prefer the leagues to get rid of the DH, with every single minor and independent league having a DH, that’s not realistic. So bring it on, in the name of fairness.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
I never asked for the DH and would never ask for the DH. I’d ask for its abolition altogether if possible, but I understand it’s not. Let the AL have its arrhythmic game. Let me have the one that flows naturally, with the pitcher batting ninth, occasionally surprising us with a hit and turning the lineup over until it’s time for the manager to make a decision.
MLB should feel free to add a team to each league, giving us 16 apiece in the NL and AL and eliminate Interleague play and save AL pitchers the intermittent horror of remembering how to approach a fundamental aspect of baseball until the World Series.
Bre S. (That Mets Chick)
I just want what benefits the Mets overall. Cano can fit as a DH, so can Cespedes and Peter Alonso. Tough decision.
Having a DH would certainly make the Mets lineup look better and more versatile. Plus cano is with the Mets until he’s what? 41-42? lol
Tim Ryder (MMO)
Do I want to? I’m indifferent. I don’t think I’d miss “traditional baseball”, though. I’m having a hard time justifying a collective .115/.144/.148 slash line for pitchers in 2018 with a 42.2 K% over 5k+ PA just to save the beautiful strategic aspect of the National League game. Plus, it could be beneficial for a suddenly depth-laden team like the Mets. The hypothetical luxury of plugging, say, Broxton into the OF late and with a lead AND keeping Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo in the game as the DH would be a good thing.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
I don’t like the DH, which I don’t think is a secret. But I would be willing to accept a universal DH if it meant everyone would be satisfied and we could back off these ridiculous pace-of-play proposals. Adding a DH doesn’t actually do much to change the game on the field; it’s just a different person hitting. But almost every pace-of-play proposal out there is a terrible idea. Pitch clock? Bad idea. The dumb thing with automatic runners on second in extra innings? Bad idea. So if a DH in the NL means we avoid those, then I would accept it. But if it’s just the first of a bunch of changes that Manfred is waiting to jam down our throats, then it’s a very bad thing.
I’ve written on my distaste for the National League DH on a number of occasions. Rather than regurgitate it all ad nauseum here, I’ll synopsize it by saying MLB needs to tread carefully. Once you implement the DH in the NL, you have forever changed the game by eliminating the purest style of baseball there is. It is a style many love dearly. Even if the die hards are still going to watch, it does not mean you should snub your noses at them to try to institute something which will likely not accomplish its purported goals.
Once again, I sincerely thank all of these very talented writers for contributing to one of these roundtables, and I encourage everyone reading this roudtables to click the above links and read their excellent work.
Sadly, Frank Robinson passed away yesterday. He was one of the greatest figures in Major League history becoming the first and only player to win an MVP award in both leagues and becoming the first ever African American to manage a Major League team. Robinson is also only one of 10 Major League players who has had his number retired by two teams.
Can you name all 10 players? Good luck!
Specifically, his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen said, “We have discussed Jacob’s future with the Mets at length. Jacob has expressed interest in exploring a long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come. If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”
Since that time, Van Wagenen was hired as the Mets General Manager, and he is thereby prevented from negotiating a contract extension for deGrom due to the existing conflict of interests.
When Van Wagenen was hired, he merely offered, “I’d love to try to keep him if it’s possible. We’ll explore that in the coming weeks.”
A few weeks after Van Wagenen was introduced as the General Manager, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said, “I’m sure at some point we’ll get to speaking to Jake.”
According to reports, discussions have taken place, but no deal has been consummated. Even with deGrom’s arbitration case pending, no extension was consummated. However, it should be noted the two sides agreed to a record setting arbitration raise and $17 million salary for deGrom.
It’s been six months since deGrom’s extension demand and three months since Van Wagenen was hired, and it appears “inertia” has set in. As predicted by Van Wagenen things may be getting complicated.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported, “Eight weeks later and without any substantive talks since has left the deGrom camp, at minimum, disappointed, especially because the public comments of Mets executives matched what the agents were told privately — that reaching an agreement to avoid deGrom becoming a free agent after the 2020 season was vital to the organization.”
Perhaps this is a coincidence, but it should be noted this was reported a day after The Michael Kay Show and Mike Francesca were lockstep against the extension with Francesca going so far as to say, “It would be the dumbest move in the history of mankind.”
While people may or may not think it is a good idea for the Mets to extend deGrom, this is the exact moment deGrom should be seeking an extension, and he should be utilizing the leverage he has to get it.
As noted in the aforementioned Sherman article, deGrom’s new agent, Jeff Barry, sent a memo to players urging them to respond in kind to the way owners have been handling free agency. If owners are going to use analytics to justify not saying players, players should use them to protect themselves. As noted by Sherman, this would mean someone like deGrom demanding he be used under 200 innings in order to keep him healthy heading into free agency.
Certainly, you could understand deGrom wanting to pursue that path after seeing what happened with Matt Harvey. Harvey was supposed to be a prime member of this free agent class. Instead, his career has fallen apart partially because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There are some who wonder what part in Harvey’s health issues his ignoring his agent’s advice and pitching deep into the postseason had on his career.
Taking all this into account, deGrom needs to use all of his leverage to get that deal now.
And deGrom has a lot of leverage. The Mets just lost the face of their franchise with David Wright medically retiring leaving deGrom as the likely heir to that title. The team has spent the offseason going all-in to try to win the World Series this year. It’s a plan which is partially predicated on deGrom being the ace. It’s a plan which begins to fall apart when deGrom has to be replaced in the rotation by one of the Mets other starting pitching options:
|Kyle Dowdy (AA & AAA)||5.15|
|Hector Santiago (as a SP)||6.12|
That’s a massive drop-off, and it is one deGrom may be pressured into exploiting to get his contract. While Barry’s suggestion to the players to set parameters could help, it may not be sufficient. After all, if the Mets fall apart again in May again, any request to hold back deGrom’s innings is not going to have the same force and effect as it would with a competitive team. Even worse, if deGrom gets hurt his leverage goes completely away, and the Mets are left questioning if they should even give deGrom an extension.
Really, anytime deGrom takes the mound in 2019 he is taking a chance. With his having had Tommy John surgery and an ulnar nerve transposition, he knows that as well as anyone. He should realize that all the more after he went on the disabled list after hyper-extending his elbow during an at-bat. Breaking it down, he knows that because he’s a Mets player.
Examining his leverage and what’s at stake, deGrom needs to seriously consider holding out.
To get the deal he wants, deGrom needs to consider telling the Mets he will not take the mound without an extension. If he and his agents truly feel the Mets are not prioritizing him and are dragging their feet on an extension, he needs to stop pitching. Let the Mets get a taste of their lacking starting pitching depth and realize if they are going to win they need deGrom.
Such a maneuver may not be well received, but with the beginnings of a media campaign against it, why should deGrom care? You may believe he may not be the type of player who would consider this, and that’s fine. It’s part of the reason why people love him. However, you do have to question when enough is going to be enough for him.
They hire his agent, and then the team goes ahead and puts him on the back burner. The man who was in charge of his contract is now giving money that could have been given to him to other players. Pitchers and catchers report in a week, and he still has no deal. When you look at the 2020 payroll, the Mets already have $109 million on the payroll before taking arbitration raises and a Zack Wheeler replacement into account. If deGrom waits, the team may not have money, and he is going to find himself in the position Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and others find themselves – extremely talented with few suitors driving down his price tag.
For his own sake, deGrom needs to let the Mets know he is going to hold out if they are not serious about giving him a contract extension. Hopefully, it never comes to this.
According to reports yesterday, it is apparent the topic of adding the Designated Hitter to the National League is once again on the table. For some reason, this is a topic brought up for discussion time and again, and it is not clear why as it really does nothing to the sport of baseball and its intended goals as defined by either the owners or the players.
Putting aside for a moment how there are hardcore fans who prefer baseball without a designated hitter, there is zero proof that the designated hitter creates fan interest.
In fact, last year, nine of the top 15 teams in attendance were National League teams. Correspondingly, eight of the 10 teams with the worst attendance were American League teams. Those top end numbers held true in 2017 with six of the bottom ten teams in attendance being American League teams.
As we have seen with the postseason, fans aren’t any more drawn to National League or the American League style of games. In fact, as Sports Media Watch pointed out in response to the declining postseason ratings, it’s the teams who drive the interest in ratings. There is always going to be more interest in the Yankees in the postseason. That is because they are the Yankees, not because they have a DH. Really, if that were true, fans would be more interested in an ALCS between the Rays and the Twins than they would be a Cardinals/Giants NLCS. We know that’s not the case.
When you break it down, if fans interest in games is not driven by the DH or the supposed corresponding offense, you are then trying to solve a problem which does not exist.
Higher Paid Players
With potential labor strife on the horizon, you will see how the Designated Hitter in the National League would create 15 new jobs thereby placating the players. That is wrong on many levels.
First and foremost, the DH does not come with 15 additional roster spots, and as such, it’s not a new job. Instead, it is a team merely reallocating their internal resources. Also, you may want to argue it is a higher paying job, but it’s not.
In the upcoming season, J.D. Martinez is the highest paid player who was signed to be a team’s designated hitter. The next highest is Edwin Encarnacion. When you see these $20+ million figures, you have the starting of a case being built. However, it should be kept in mind those players are really the exception.
According to Spotrac, the bottom half of designated hitters (as ranked by salary) made an average of $4.4 million. Keep in mind, the Mets just signed Jed Lowrie to a salary with a $10 million average annual value to be a super utility infielder. Breaking it down like this, the Designated Hitter is not adding higher paying jobs to anyone except the elite designated hitters. That is the same for any other position.
Beyond that, teams are simply not expanding their payrolls to sign a DH. No, their budgets and payrolls will remain the same. That means nothing will be solved on the labor front by adding a DH.
Need for Uniform Set of Rules
Since Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate in 1973, the American League and the National League have had a separate and distinct set of rules. According to Parks of Baseball, total MLB attendance in 1973 was 30,108,931 or an average of 1.25 million fans per team. Last year, at a time when teams were upset about declining attendance, the only two teams with attendance figures below that number were the Rays and Marlins. In fact, MLB teams averaged 2.3 million fans last year.
As noted by Baseball Almanac, every Major League team has had their best year in attendance over the past 30 years. As previously noted, the National League teams have been the biggest drivers of attendance.
Put another way, fans apparently have no issue with the different set of rules. In fact, you could reasonably argue the different set of rules could be generating interest and debate among fans. Then again, it could have no effect. As we have seen, implementing the DH doesn’t really do anything to garner interest.
Another point to be made here is the National League being the only league where pitchers hit is a false narrative. The Japanese Leagues have a similar design to MLB where the Pacific League has a DH and the Central League does not.
Putting all of that aside, there is absolutely nothing to suggest there is a need for a uniform set of rules, especially since baseball has fans which prefer baseball played different ways. Overall, there is certainly something to be said for creating a product which interests multiple groups of fans.
According to Roster Resource, there were 190 stints on the disabled list for starting pitchers. Of those 190 players, Jacob deGrom was the only one to land on the DL with hyper-extended elbow. It should be noted the DL stint was precautionary and only cost him one start.
Going deeper, the only time we really see pitchers land on the DL for offense related injuries are flukes. The chief examples are Adam Wainwright and Chien-Ming Wang with leg injuries, which basically amounts to a pitcher hurting themselves running. Put another way, they could have landed on the DL for chasing down a bunt. As for Wang, the real issue with his career was his shoulder.
Going deeper, there is a real debate whether avoiding these one-time freak injuries really protects pitchers more than facing a DH in the lineup.
Let’s assume for a moment, the pitcher is an automatic out. Judging from last year’s stats, that’s a fairly safe assumption. With the pitcher being an automatic out, that gives the pitcher fewer high stress pitches than they would have against a DH. Those higher stress pitches contribute more to wear and tear which can eventually lead to an injury.
But more than any of that, pitchers don’t get hurt batting or running the bases. Invoking the argument is a complete red herring.
No One Wants to See Pitchers Hit
As referenced in the first point, that is false. With the National League garnering higher attendance, people obviously want to see pitchers hit. We also see plays like Bartolo Colon‘s home run endlessly replayed because people love seeing it. They want it because this is partially what makes baseball great – the chance you can see anything. Of course, without pitchers hitting, you don’t get to see just anything.
Beyond that, there is way too much focus on the amount of at-bats a pitcher receives. Last year, Max Scherzer led the majors in plate appearances by a pitcher with 78 over the course of 35 games. That averages out to two at-bats per game.
In essence, we are supposed to believe the cure-all for what ails baseball is eliminating at most two at-bats on average per game from the best pitchers in baseball. We are supposed to believe that is going to increase interest and attendance. It is going to drive salaries through he roof at a time when teams have alligator arms when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are free agents.
No, the fact is there are a significant people who are diehard fans who prefer baseball without the DH. There are also fans who love the DH. It is something that is a talking point which does create interest and debate in the game. Overall, a universal DH does nothing to improve the game or improve player relations. Really, it is no more than pointless and unsubstantiated rhetoric.
Back in 1987, well after Spring Training had begun, a defeated and dejected Andre Dawson went to the Chicago Cubs and gave them a blank contract where they could fill-in his compensation. Dawson was forced to do that because no Major League team, not even the Montreal Expos where he had spent 11 years, had shown an interest in signing him.
At that time, Dawson was 31 years old, and he was coming off a season where he hit .284/.338/.478 with 32 doubles, 20 homers, and 78 RBI. In his then 11 year career, he already had won the Rookie of the Year, six Gold Gloves, and he was a three time All-Star. To think no one wanted his services is beyond ludicrous.
As we would later discover, this was the result of collusion among owners, which continued to sow the mistrust between owners the MLBPA.
Since that time, things have dramatically improved to the point where the last two Collective Bargaining Agreements were ratified without so much as a hint of a work stoppage. Owners, players, and even fans have been able to enjoy the financial success of the sport, and they have seen the sport grow.
However, now, there are the seeds of mistrust being sown again.
This is something which has been building for a while now. It seems each offseason there is increasingly less activity during the Winter Meetings. Seemingly, teams are all individually yet collectively trying to wait out the market. Teams will tell you they are smarter than they have been in the past, and maybe they are, but there is something suspicious about what is transpiring.
Pitchers and catchers have less than one week before they have to report to Spring Training. Typically, this is the time of year where teams are finding their last pieces of the puzzle. They are signing cheaper veterans, and they are looking to hand out minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training to help sure up their bench and depth.
That’s not the case this year. Rather, there are real difference makers still available in free agency in a way that we have never seen before in the history of free agency:
Craig Kimbrel is the active saves leader, and he is coming off his third consecutive All-Star season where he saved 42 games, which was the third most in the Majors last year.
Gio Gonzalez is one year removed from a top six Cy Young finish, and he was 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts for the Brewers as they fought for the Central Division title down the stretch.
Additionally, Mike Moustakas has the third most homers among third basemen over the past two seasons, and Adam Jones is a five time All Starhe has been an above average league hitter in nine of the past 10 seasons including his being just one of 37 outfielders with a wRC+ over 100 over the past two seasons.
While you can make a case for or against each one of these players, the fact these players remain on the free agent market in addition to other valuable commodities is ponderous. There is also the issue with Curtis Granderson and Jerry Blevins needing to accept minor league deals despite having been valuable Major League players for the past few seasons.
As bad as these instances are, there is Jacob deGrom.
Just last summer, his agent said, “We have discussed Jacob’s future with the Mets at length. Jacob has expressed interest in exploring a long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come. If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”
This was as soft a trade demand as you can get. Really, this was a demand for a contract extension. The hope was with a new General Manager in place with a new plan, the Mets could pursue that extension. The only problem is the Mets would hire deGrom’s agent as their new General Manager, and Brodie Van Wagenen has not seemed intent on giving his former client the contract extension he asserted deGrom deserved.
That’s the current state of affairs between the players and owners. The owners are keeping player salaries down, and they are hiring player agents and having those agents not making good on their own demands. Even if you think what the owners are doing is justifiable, it is clear the players are not getting the same deals they once were on the free agent market.
This is why you see players like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt looking for contract extensions with their current teams so as to not be in the same position as this year’s group of free agents. It is why you will eventually see the union striking before the end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.