The emergence of Pete Alonso could have created a Dominic Smith problem for the Mets. After all, Smith and Alonso play the same position. With Alonso hitting 53 homers and winning the Rookie of the Year award, it’s clear the Mets view Alonso as not just part, but really, the core of this team.
While Smith is no longer going to get a chance to be the Mets first baseman of the current and future, he proved himself to be a very useful Major League player. In 89 games, he hit .282/.355/.525 with 10 doubles, 11 homers, and 25 RBI. He proved himself to be a good defensive baseman, and he showed he is quite capable of playing left field for some stretches.
He would also prove his mettle as a bench player. In 37 pinch hitting appearances, he hit .286/.459/.571 with two doubles, two homers, and six RBI. In the 34 games he entered as a substitute, he hit .318/.434/.568 with two doubles, three homers, and 12 RBI.
All told, Smith proved capable of doing something very difficult. He proved he could be a productive Major League bench player. Through the years, we have seen that’s easier said than done. More than that, he proved he is a Major League caliber player, and at 24 years of age, he’s showing he is still a very promising player.
There are plenty of Major League teams who could use a young first baseman. To that end, a Mets team who needs a fifth starter, bullpen help, a center fielder, and depth should really consider moving Smith to fill one or more of those needs. What the Mets should not be looking to do is just dumping Smith to do that.
However, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic the Mets are doing just that. Specifically, Rosenthal says the Mets are looking to use a player like Smith to entice teams to take on a bad contract like Jed Lowrie or Jeurys Familia.
This is because the Mets are going to refuse to exceed the luxury tax threshold despite receiving insurance proceeds from the David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes contracts. They are going to do that despite $12 million of Jacob deGrom‘s $25 million salary. That’s literally tens of millions of dollars the Mets are pocketing, and yet they are not going to be willing to take that next step.
This once again emphasizes the Wilpons mismanagement of team resources, and it highlights just how bad the Robinson Cano trade was for the Mets.
The 37 year old Cano is due $24 million in 2020 and in each of the ensuing three years. When you take out the $3.75 million covered by the Seattle Mariners, the Mets are paying Cano $20.25 million. That is essentially the money the Mets are paying to Familia and Lowrie combined.
Really, when you take the trio combined, that is $41.92 million in money the Mets are begging to get out from under. The Mets got almost literally nothing out of Lowrie. In terms of WAR, they got less than that from Familia. That leaves Cano and his injury prone season as the best of the group. That’s good because he and his 0.3 WAR is making more money than Lowrie and Familia combined.
The Cano trade has so far meant the Mets do not get to see Jarred Kelenic play in Queens. It has meant the Mets will not be able to just replace Zack Wheeler in the rotation with Justin Dunn while using their money to fill other needs. One of those needs is now the fifth starter spot, and right now, Wheeler is not going to be a part of that equation.
As if that all wasn’t bad enough, it could also mean the Mets are just going to give Smith away.
The short term ramifications of the Cano trade were quite bad with Cano having a subpar injury plagued year and Edwin Diaz having one of the worst seasons a Mets closer has ever had. The fact that this won’t be the nadir of the trade speaks to just how disastrous that trade actually was and will continue to be.
With the news the Mets may be pursuing Josh Hader, there have been some who have been quite vocal about his comments when he was 17 years old. For those who have forgotten, and it does not seem to be many, Hader had made racist, sexist, and homophobic comments.
The important note here is those comments came when he was a 17 year old high school student. Now, he is a 25 year old man and a two time All-Star. That makes him an older and hopefully more mature person. It also makes him a very visible part of the sport.
Sports Illustrated reported about his remorse, and how he cried while apologizing to his teammates. With this being put out there by the Brewers to report, it is fair to be skeptical as to how apologetic he is and how much it resonated with his teammates. On that note, it’s notable the only Brewers quoted in the article, other than Hader, were Brett Phillips and Craig Counsell, both of whom are white.
For their part, Major League Baseball had assigned Hader to sensitivity training, and they had him speak with Billy Bean, MLB’s vice president for social responsibility and inclusion. On that point, Bean did speak to Hader’s remorse.
It has been approximately a year-and-a-half since those comments surfaced, and people are still bringing it up whenever Hader’s name in mentioned. This is indicative of how Major League Baseball failed to really take advantage of what should have been an opportunity.
Before going further, we should revisit when Hader made those comments. He was a teenager who was a high school student at Old Mills High School in Millersville, Maryland. According to School Digger, this is actually a culturally diverse high school with a white student like Hader being in the plurality. Put another way, we can’t quite say his ignorant comments came from a place of pure ignorance.
From there, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 MLB Draft. Notably, this was a year after some of his most offensive comments. During his minor league career in the Orioles, Astros, and Brewers farm systems, he would play for managers like Ramon Sambo, Omar Lopez, and Carlos Subero. That left him answering to and learning from the very people he offended and insulted.
On that 2018 Brewers team, he was teammates with players like Lorenzo Cain, who was not only African America, but a real leader. Not only did Hader get to know him and many other minority players on the team, but he also had to answer to them once his comments became public.
This was baseball’s chance to meet this challenge head-on and show how the sport itself makes players better people, and they completely whiffed.
It’s very possible Hader has grown as a person, and it is possible he has shown real remorse. It’s also very possible he hasn’t. Those tears he was reported to shed could have been remorse, or they could have been fear or being upset he was caught. We don’t know, and baseball has really failed to control that narrative.
This is on Rob Manfred. As the commissioner, he needed to speak about the legacy of Jackie Robinson. He needed to embrace what Hader said, and he needed to speak about how the multi-cultural aspect of baseball has made Hader a more mature, tolerant, and better person. He also needed to have Hader prove it.
Hader should have been a part of the RBI program. He needed to very publicly visit schools, YMCAs, and other places. Essentially, Hader needed to meet with people, speak about how he became a better person and encourage others to be better than he was.
Instead, Major League Baseball tried to sweep this under the rug. As a result, whenever Hader’s name comes up in trade rumors, this is going to arise. When he moves to another team, this will potentially alienate part of the fanbase of his new team. This is not remotely good for baseball.
No, Manfred needed to be a true leader. He needed to make Hader show his remorse and prove he’s a different person. He didn’t do that, and now, we don’t know if Hader is any of those things. Jackie Robinson and his legacy deserve much better than that.
In his first year on the job as the Mets General Manager, he made a series of ill-advised moves with some of those moves benefiting his former clients. He showed little restraint on that front.
It started right away with his acquiescing to his former client’s wishes by getting Robinson Cano out of Seattle and back to New York. Van Wagenen would obtain him along with Edwin Diaz in what has so far been a complete disaster of a trade. Not only has Cano been injured and Diaz flat out bad, Jarred Kelenic continued his meteoric rise while Justin Dunn made it to the majors.
The Mets pursued Cano even with the emergence of Jeff McNeil, who just a year ago, the Mets insisted was just a second baseman.
The trade keeps getting worse with Cano’s large salary serving as an impediment to the Mets even considering re-signing Zack Wheeler. It will also take them out on a host of other free agents.
Another contract standing in the way is Jed Lowrie who is set to make $10 million in 2020. That’s the same salary he made in 2019 when he was limited to just eight pinch hitting appearances.
That was because Lowrie was dealing with a still unspecified injury. Part of the reason it’s unspecified is the Mets supposedly still don’t know what’s wrong with him. That includes his former agent who was well aware of Lowrie’s injury history and ailments.
On that front, there’s also Yoenis Cespedes, who according to Tim Healey of Newsday, broke his ankle under suspicious circumstances while rehabbing from his double heel surgery. This could be grounds for a grievance like the one the Yankees are pursuing with Jacoby Ellsbury.
It should come as no surprise Van Wagenen was Cespedes’ agent. With that relationship along with the Van Wagenen’s other decisions as the Mets General Manager, it is fair to question the motivations for not pursuing such a grievance even if the assumption is this has more to do with not losing the insurance coverage on Cespedes’ policy.
Now, the Mets could use a reliever of Hader’s caliber. Anyone can. That’s the case even with Hader allowing more homers last year than he had in his previous two years combined. Yes, there were some warnings with his 2019 season, but he was still a great reliever.
The issue with him isn’t a fear of that regression. No, the fear is what lengths Van Wagenen will go to get his former clients on the Mets. Those fears are amplified with his handling of those players in 2019 and with the Mets needing help in the bullpen.
At the moment, we don’t know what lengths Van Wagenen will be willing to go to obtain Hader. What we have seen so far is he’s going to be willing to go past what is reasonable to take care of them, which would suggest nothing is off the table when it comes to obtaining Hader.
That is a very scary proposition.
With yesterday being Black Friday, people ran out to stores and websites looking for deals, and today, they’re assessing what they got and still need to get. Being Mets fans, we expect the team to spend most of the offseason diving through the discount bins.
To a certain extent, every team needs to do that. The player signed to a minor league deal or on the cheap emerges to be much better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. Many times, when that happens, your team takes it to the next level. In honor of Black Friday, here are some of the best bargain signings the Mets have made in their history.
For this list, we are only looking at players signed to minor league deals, and as this is the Mets we are talking about, it’s being run on Small Business Saturday.
C Todd Pratt – he went from delivering Dominos to being signed to a minor league deal with the Mets. Three years later, Pratt would hit a walk-off homer off of Matt Mantei clinching the first NLDS in team history.
1B James Loney – in 2016, the Mets were left without a first baseman due to Lucas Duda‘s back injury as well as a host of other injuries on the team. Loney would step in and help the team hitting .305/.367/.463 over his first 22 games to help keep that team afloat and make that push for the Wild Card.
2B Jose Valentin – the Mets signed Valentin to be veteran depth only for him to fill the vacuum left at second base by Anderson Hernandez‘s offensive struggles and Kazuo Matsui‘s injuries. In addition to his 3.6 WAR in 2006, he would hit two homers in the NL East clincher.
3B Matt Franco – signed a minor league deal with the Mets entering the 1996 season. He’d emerge as a good pinch hitter who hit a game winning single off Mariano Rivera clinching the Mets first series win in the Subway Series.
SS Omar Quintanilla – the Mets let Jose Reyes go due to a mixture of the Madoff scandal and the belief Ruben Tejada was ready to be the every day shortstop. When Tejada wasn’t Quintanilla was a pleasant surprise with a career year before being traded for cash considerations.
LF Melvin Mora – Mora signed a minor league deal coming out of Japan. In the 162nd game of the 1999 season, he scored on a wild pitch enduring the playoff game. In the Grand Slam Single game, he hit the cut off man leading to Keith Lockhart getting cut down at the plate. In that postseason, he hit .400/.500/.600.
CF Endy Chavez – signed as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, a season where he’d have the greatest catch in NLCS history. He’d also have other defensive gems and game winning bunts in his Mets career.
RF Marlon Byrd – back in the cavernous Citi Field days, Byrd came to the Mets on a minor league deal in 2013 and hit 21 homers before getting traded to the Pirates in a deal which netted Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
RP Pedro Feliciano – soon dubbed Perpetual Pedro due to his rubber arm, he’d be a key piece of a great 2006 bullpen, and he’d emerge as the best LOOGY in franchise history.
SP R.A. Dickey – this is the gold standard. Dickey was signed to a minor league deal in 2009, and a few short seasons later, he would become the biggest surprise Cy Young winner in Major League history. The Mets then selling high on him and getting Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for him makes signing Dickey all the more legendary.
As the Mets plan to build a World Series winner in 2020, they are going to need someone to take the next step. One of the ways that could happen is either Pete Alonso or Jacob deGrom becoming the 27th player in Major League history to win both a Rookie of the Year Award and an MVP.
Can you name those other 26 players? Good luck!
Jackie Robinson Don Newcombe Willie Mays Frank Robinson Orlando Cepeda Willie McCovey Pete Rose Dick Allen Rod Carew Johnny Bench Thurman Munson Fred Lynn Andre Dawson Cal Ripken Jr. Jose Canseco Jeff Bagwell Albert Pujols Ichiro Suzuki Ryan Howard Justin Verlander Ryan Braun Dustin Pedroia Buster Posey Bryce Harper Mike Trout Kris Bryant Cody Bellinger
With today being Thanksgiving, it is time to go around the Mets roster and say things we are thankful for:
Pete Alonso – he’s been better than even the highest and most absurd expectations anyone could have of him both in terms of his on the field play as well as the type of teammate and person he is
Carlos Beltran – for coming home
Robinson Cano – showed some late positive exit velocities showing there is some hope for a 2020 rebound
Yoenis Cespedes – for everyone questioning the drive of a man severely injured and needing career saving surgery, he is out there in the cold taking batting practice
Michael Conforto – re-established himself as one of the best young corner outfielders in the game, and with his talent, he’s on the verge of an MVP caliber season
J.D. Davis – quickly became a fan favorite and like few others seemed to really enjoy being a New York Met.
Jacob deGrom – best pitcher in baseball and starting to etch his likeness on the Mets Mt. Rushmore
Edwin Diaz – he survived the season, made no excuses, and he is doing what he needs to do to be the pitcher he was in 2018.
Jeurys Familia – he stopped using “Danza Kudro” meaning we no longer go to very bad places when that music begins blaring
Luis Guillorme – proved if given a chance he is a Major League caliber player giving the Mets some real needed middle infield depth
Chris Flexen – his move to the bullpen gives the Mets an interesting upside option in the bullpen
Robert Gsellman – he is one of those throwback type reliever who is always willing to take the ball no matter what
Sam Haggerty – it’s not often a player comes out of nowhere to provide real value to an organization the way Haggerty did with this speed
Jed Lowrie – to his credit, he did everything he could just to get those pinch hitting appearances late in the season
Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball who now gives Beltran a reliever who can break knees with his curve
Steven Matz – took that step forward and put to bed the unfair and wrong mentally weak narrative
Jeff McNeil – the man just does it all. He hits, plays everywhere, and he saves puppies.
Tomas Nido – became the defensive minded back-up catcher many believed him to be, and he played a part getting Mets pitchers head in the right place during different parts of the year.
Corey Oswalt – he put behind some injuries and gross mishandling by the organization to show he is a viable depth starting option for the organization
Wilson Ramos – drove in a number of big runs last year, and he has promised to be better behind the plate in 2020.
Amed Rosario – just a tireless worker who seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling the immense potential we all saw he had in the minors
Paul Sewald – he keeps proving himself to be better than the narrative, and he finally got his first Major League win to put an exclamation point on what is one of the better stories of the Mets farm system
Dominic Smith – that walk-off homer was a beautiful exclamation point on a season where he proved everyone who ever doubted him to be very wrong
Marcus Stroman – few have fully embraced being a Met like he has and fewer have been ready to thrive on the New York stage
Noah Syndergaard – not just a great pitcher, but also a guy who wants to be a New York Met.
Justin Wilson – was terrific in 2019, and with the LOOGY rules, he becomes an even more valuable bullpen piece in 2020
In terms of the talent still here, there is a lot to be thankful for. Hopefully, we will see the return of Zack Wheeler giving us all the more to be thankful for in 2020 and beyond.
Six years ago, I was up for literally awake for 21 hours straight, and I was scared out of my mind as I rushed to the NICU. In short order, I went from the most scared I’ve ever been to the happiest I’ve ever been.
In those moments, I never knew you’d throw out a first pitch at a baseball game. You’d be playing in a hockey tournament, or that you’d have the highest test scores of anyone in town.
To my buddy, the smartest, most handsome, warmest, nicest,and special person I know, Happy Birthday!
One thing is abundantly clear – the Mets love them some Jeremy Hefner!
The Mets drafted him not once, but twice. After he didn’t sign with the team after the 2004 or 2005 draft, the Padres drafted and signed Hefner in 2007.
When he was designated for assignment by the Padres in 2011, he was claimed by the Pirates. When the Pirates did the same a month later, there was the Mets pouncing and finally getting their man.
A year later, Hefner would finally make his Mets debut. It would be quite notable as Hefner would become the first 26th man in Major League history when he entered in relief in the first game of the April 23rd doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants.
Hefner showed real promise in 2013 with a 1.80 ERA in June and a 3.33 first half ERA. Unfortunately, like Matt Harvey, his promising season ended when he succumbed to a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery.
Harvey would return for 2015 glory, but Hefner wouldn’t. While he rehabbed with Harvey, something went wrong, and he would need another Tommy John surgery. He’d be a warning sign for Harvey causing the team to force him to ease up on his rehab. For all we know it also caused the Mets to be smarter with Zack Wheeler, who missed two years with his own Tommy John surgery and ensuing complications.
Like Wheeler, Hefner was a Met in name only as he watched the team won a pennant. Sadly, he’d be released at the end of the year, and his comeback attempt with the Cardinals didn’t lead to another shot in the majors.
Hefner landed on his feet as a member of the Twins organization as a scout, and this past year, he was the assistant pitching coach. He’s become very well regarded in the game in very short order. Once again, the Mets pursued him.
This time, it was much easier. Following a theme with their hiring Carlos Beltran, the team brought back Jeremy Hefner. Once again, he’s home with the Mets where he belongs. Once again, the Mets finally got Hefner in a Mets uniform.
As we saw last offseason, there is usually discussion about the need to extend the team’s best players, and to the Mets credit, they did what they needed to do in order to agree to a contract extension with Jacob deGrom. With him winning the Cy Young Award last year, the team is so far very happy with their decision.
In the ensuing years, the team has real decisions to make on contract extensions for their other starters. Marcus Stroman is a free agent after the 2020 season. After the 2021 season, both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents. Unless the Mets move to extend one or all of them, they stand in danger of losing them all to free agency like they are currently facing with Zack Wheeler.
While the immediate need is Stroman, and the focus is mostly centered around Syndergaard, now is a very good time for the Mets to entertain extending Matz.
In 2019, Matz arguably had the worst season of his career. Overall, he was 11-10 with a 4.21 ERA, 1.341 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9. Looking at all the numbers, the ERA, WHIP, BB/9, and K/9 were the second worst of his career. The same can be said for the H/9. When considering most of his career worsts came in a 2017 season where he had a massive bone spur, this was his worst season.
Still, there were some real positives which emerged during the 2019 season which should have the Mets looking to extend him. As a point of demarcation, Matz moved to the middle of the pitching rubber before his July 16 start against the Minnesota Twins.
Prior to that start, Matz struggled mightily, and he would be demoted to the bullpen heading into the All-Star Break. In his 16 starts and two relief appearances, he was 5-6 with a 4.89 ERA, 1.481 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. As he was coming out of the bullpen, Matz was limited in his pitch count, but he fared well against the Twins allowing just two earned over four innings. After this start, his season would turn the corner.
From July 21 until the end of the season, Matz would make 13 starts going 6-4 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.181 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. Over this stretch, he had a 3.65 FIP. It’s a small sample size, but it is notable his FIP over this stretch was better than what Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin had.
Looking at the numbers, Matz pitched like the Mets fourth best starter, which honestly, is all the Mets expect him to be. On another team, he could be a three or even a number two, especially for teams who have begun to de-emphasize starting pitching.
In addition to the improved stats Matz had since he moved his position on the rubber, there were some other promising signs. For a pitcher who has dealt with injury problems, he has made 30 starts for consecutive seasons, and his 160.1 innings were a career high. The exit velocity and barrel percentage against him was the lowest it has been since 2016.
Really, when you break it all down, Matz is a pitcher in his prime, and he appears to be getting stronger the further away from 2017 he gets. He is making the adjustments he needs to make. He is also going to start getting expensive.
In 2019, his first year of arbitration, he made $2.625 million. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Matz is slated to essentially double his salary to $5.3 million. If he is the pitcher he was from the middle of July to the end of the season, that number is going to skyrocket in 2021.
At the moment, the Mets have a very low baseline with Matz, and it’s very possible this will be the cheapest he will ever be. By seeking to lock him up now, the Mets will have some cost certainty on someone who has been getting stronger and promises to improve. They’re securing a spot in their rotation at a time when they could potentially lose 4/5 of their rotation over a three year span.
Moreover, by extending Matz now, the Mets are getting some cost certainty. Locking up Matz on the lower end should allow them to turn their attention to the rest of the rotation as well as a player like Michael Conforto, who will hit free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz.
Overall, Matz is a homegrown Met who grew up a Mets fan. While he has not been the pitcher many expected when his grandfather was jumping up and down in the stands, he has proved himself to be a useful Major League starter, and he is someone who could well be part of the equation over the next five years. With him likely being at his cheapest now, this is the right time to look to extend him.
There’s no nice way of putting this. Wilson Ramos was terrible behind the plate in 2019. As noted by Baseball Prospectus (and the great Rey Brutal), Ramos was near or at the bottom of nearly every catching statistic. That is before you consider Noah Syndergaard‘s struggles and frustrations, which was emblematic of the struggles the vast majority of the pitching staff had with Ramos behind the plate.
This led to a discussion about the Mets facilitating a transition away from Ramos. To that point, the Mets were very supportive of Ramos publicly. Considering that, it is of little surprise the Mets were not players for Yasmani Grandal, who signed a huge deal with the Chicago White Sox.
Still, the Mets acknowledged they needed an upgrade at the catching position. This does mean they are going to move on from Tomas Nido for another catcher. With the Mets being linked to catchers like Robinson Chirinos, it seemed like the team was looking more for a timeshare than a pure backup.
Travis d’Arnaud was perfect for that role.
As we know the Mets completely botched the handling of d’Arnaud in 2019. They needlessly rushed him back before he was ready, and he really had just about the worst game we’ve ever seen a catcher have. It was embarrassing for him, and it was hard to watch as a fan. In Mets fashion, they rage cut him from the team.
After a very brief P.J. Conlon like stop with the Los Angeles Dodgers, d’Arnaud would find himself with the Tampa Bay Rays. There, he would get the opportunity to play himself not only back into playing shape, but also into being the type of player he was with the 2015 Mets. On that front, he would appear in the postseason like he did with the 2015 Mets.
In 2019, he showed he was still a very good pitch framer capable of handling a pitching staff. He was also a good hitter with some pop in his bat. Essentially, he showed when healthy (and given real time to heal), he was a very good catcher. He was the sort of catcher who would help any Major League team, especially those interested in some form of a time-share.
Now, you could argue with the way things ended with the Mets, d’Arnaud was never coming back to Flushing. That may very well be true. That left the Mets in a spot where they need to be looking for another catcher who did not have the success in New York and with this pitching staff like d’Arnaud did. It also left them hoping d’Arnaud signed elsewhere.
Now, d’Arnaud is the Braves catcher. He is an upgrade from what the team had in Brian McCann last year, and he has the bat and framing which will allow the Braves to keep Tyler Flowers as a defensive minded backup. That is a significant improvement for the 97 win Braves team.
No, this is not going to make up for a potential loss of Josh Donaldson. Not in the least. However, it does lower the bar a bit on the type of third baseman the Braves would need to repeat their 2019 season.
Bringing d’Arnaud into the fold makes it more difficult for teams to catch the Braves, especially if they address their third base situtation and see continued growth from their young stars like Ronald Acuna Jr. That’s bad for the Mets. It’s even worse when you consider the institutional knowledge he brings with him.
The information he can share with the Braves about Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Syndergaard could be damaging. He could speak not just to pitch tipping and sequencing. He can also speak to what makes them tick, and other factors which would give the Braves hitters more of a chance against that trio and the rest of the Mets pitching staff.
With d’Arnaud signing with Atlanta, the Braves lineup and pitching staff are better. Their game planning against the Mets starters will be as well. Overall, this could prove to be a bad situation for the Mets, and it makes it all the more difficult for the Mets to make up an 11 game gap in the division.