Mets Lost Faith in Wilmer Flores

Going into the 2015 season, the Mets told everyone they were comfortable with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop. Going into this offseason, the Mets reminded everyone they made the World Series with Flores as their shortstop. As it turns out the Mets don’t regard Flores as anything more than a bench player. 

With Daniel Murphy being a free agent, the Mets had the option to do the following with Flores: (1) leave him at shortstop or (2) move him to secondbase. The secondbase option became more viable when Ben Zobrist became a Cub. Instead the Mets traded for Neil Walker. After that, they signed Asdrubal Cabrera. In about a 34 hour timespan Flores went from starting middle infielder to a bench player. 

Simply put, the Mets gave up on him. They gave up on a 25 year old baseball player they seemed to really like. They gave up on the idea that a hard worker like Flores would improve. Make no mistake, this has more to do with Flores’ bat than it has to do with his glove. It’s surprising because it was Flores’ bat that earned him the opportunity to play in the big leagues.

Simply put, while Flores showed some power, he was not very good at the plate. Last year, he hit .263/.295/.408. Walker hit .269/.328/.427. Cabrera hit .265/.315/.430. As an aside, Murphy hit .281/.322./.449. Seems important to mention since the Mets were making offensive and not defensive upgrades. 

Last year, Flores had a UZR of 2.0 at secondbase and -2.5 at shortstop.  Walker is coming off consecutive -6.8 UZR seasons at second. Here are Cabrera‘s UZRs at short since 2009: -5.0, -5.5, -11.0, -7.7, -12.8, -6.6, -6.0. Look at those numbers again. I know it’s hard for Mets fans to accept, but Flores is a better defender than Walker and Cabrera. 

The reason it’s so hard is the early season troubles Flores had. He had trouble turning the double play. He had trouble making a play off his backhand.  Here’s the thing. Remember the NLCS and World Series?  Did either of those issues arise once? No. He was very solid at short, even if it was a limited sample size. 

Ultimately, the Mets made these moves because of Flores’ offense, not his defense. They made these moves because they lost faith that Flores could ever improve enough to be an everyday player. Yes, they gave up on him being an everyday player. When you move a 25 year old to the bench, you’ve given up on him. You’ve given up on him when you bring in two weaker defenders in their 30s.  

The Mets made these moves to improve their offense.  It’s up for debate m as to whether it was the right move. What is not up for debate is the Mets giving up on Flores. It’s pretty clear that they did. 

Zobrist & Cabrera Never Would’ve Happened

If you’ve read Andy Martino’s Winter Meetings article, there’s a lot to digest. There’s many ways to go, but first I wanted to address the Asdrubal Cabrera situation. 

As you well know, the Mets acquired Cabrera. Depending on your point-of-view, Cabrera may or may not be an upgrade at shortstop. He’s a weaker defender. You’re relying on a good second half being a sign that he’s ready to overcome his struggles of the past five seasons. For all that, the Mets signed him to a two year $18.5 million contract.  It’s a contract that might’ve depended on what Ben Zobrist did. 

Supposedly, the Mets were willing to sign Zobrist to a four year $60 million contract. That would’ve been an average annual value of $15 million per year. This is what the Mets conveyed to Zobrist’s agent, Alan Nero, who coincidentally represents Cabrera. The Mets talked about both players with the agent. However, pay careful attention to this quote:

Before Zobrist made his decision, [Assistant GM John] Ricco felt he had to approach the pursuit of Cabrera delicately. The Mets needed to appear interested, but not so much that Nero thought they were turning away from Zobrist. Now, with that barrier lifted, Ricco and his group go hard after Cabrera, offering a two year, $18.5 million deal, and landing him that night. The process is simple: Will you take our money?  Yes?  Great, we have a deal. 

I’m sure there are a number of ways to reasonably interpret that statement. Personally, I interpret it as the Mets didn’t have $24+ million in their budget, at least not for the middle infield. From the beginning of their conversations, Cabrera was a fallback option. 

As Mets fans, we were informed if attendance increased than payroll would increase. Well, attendance increased. As a result, the Mets revenue increased somewhere between $45 – 60 million. Now, before the Mets made any moves, their projected payroll was going to be around $92 million. Adding $24 million to the middle infield would’ve increased the payroll to $116 million. 

Keep in mind with that $116 million payroll, the Mets infield and rotation would’ve been locked down. You could’ve justified not pursuing a Yoenis Cespedes because you would’ve shown to everyone, let alone your fan base, that:

  1. The Mets were willing to outbid everyone to get the most coveted free agent on the market;
  2. You were willing to spend to address what you saw as a position of need; and
  3. You would’ve actually increased the payroll. 

After having minimum $45 million in extra revenue, Cabrera should not have been contingent on Zobrist. The Mets should’ve been able to bring in both players. Either they are still facing budget constraints from the Madoff scandal, or the team doesn’t feel compelled to have a league average payroll despite whatever promises were made. 

In any event, the Mets fans have been lied to by this team. It’s not alright. Attendance and revenues significantly increased.  There will be a modest increase in payroll. This should make you question everything they do this offseason. Was Neil Walker really an improvement over Daniel Murphy, or is the team just selling that to us?  Did the Mets trade Jon Niese because it was a reasonable deal, or was it because they needed to shed some payroll to have enough room for Walker and Cabrera?

I just look forward to the next free agent move, if there will be one. I’m curious how they’ll sell it to the fans. I wonder how much there’s left in the budget. These questions are more than reasonable and fair after reading this article. 

Where’s the Murphy & Cespedes Interest?

Look, there are reasons why a team wouldn’t want either Daniel Murphy or Yoenis Cespedes. However, I can’t believe the #3 and #4 hitters for an NL Pennant winner have no market right now. 

At different points this year both of the players showed their value. They showed how they can carry a team for almost one month at a time. Cespedes carried the Mets in August. Murphy carried the Mets in October. They were clutch. They were essential members of their teams. They both seem to have no suitors on the free agent market. 

As for Murphy, the Mets went out to the trade market to get Neil Walker rather than sign Murphy to a deal. The Nationals have seemingly done the same by seeking to acquire Brandon Phillips. The Nationals are going this route despite needing a quality left handed bat. As for other teams, it’s pure conjecture on who would be interested. 

That’s the same situation for Cespedes. The only thing we know about his market is his last two teams are out on him. The Mets aren’t interested in re-signing the CF who helped them go to the playoffs.  The Tigers apparently don’t want their Gold Glove LF to return. 

We know markets for these players should eventually develop, but I’m surprised it’s taking this long. If I were the Mets I would seek to move in quickly with shorter term deals to try to acquire these players. While I wouldn’t be thrilled with Cespedes in CF, I wouldn’t object to him signing a short term deal or a deal with an early opt out. As for Murphy, I still like the idea of bringing him back. I like the idea especially because of David Wright‘s back. 

We’ll see what happens next. I know I’m even more intrigued because I didn’t see either player going unsigned for this long. 

Ryan Raburn Could Help

In looking to fill out their bench, the Mets have shown some interest in Ryan Raburn.  As a right handed bat, you could do worse. 

Last year was the best year of Raburn’s career. He set career highs in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging. It’s odd, but it’s not unusual for a player to have a career year at 34. It’s definitely strange that someone coming off a .301/.393/.543 season didn’t have his $3 million option picked up. It’s strange even if the team was a mid-market team like the Indians. It really makes you question what is happening there. 

What’s happening was Raburn was limited to just 82 games. No, he wasn’t injured. It’s just that the Indians really limited him to playing against lefties. He had 176 plate appearances against lefties and only 25 against righties. It was a decision that makes sense. In his career, Raburn has hit .250/.297/.326 against righties and .264/.339/.487. 

Looking at Raburn, two other players immediately come to mind. The first was Scott Hairston, who had some success in a similar role with the Mets. Where Hairston got into trouble was when a Mets team lacking depth had to play him more frequently than they would’ve liked. The other player was John Mayberry, Jr., who hit .164/.227/.318 in 59 games with the Mets. He was released in July. 

Why was Hairston successful where Mayberry wasn’t?  Who knows?  They’re bench players. Bench players typically can’t be relied upon for yearly consistency. The main reason is you’re always relying on a small sample size. 

Looking at his career numbers, we see Raburn hits lefties well, but nowhere near as well as he hit them last year. We see a player who is a poor pinch hitter with a triple slash line of .184/.309/.368 in 136 plate appearances (small sample size). We also see a player who is predominantly a corner OF. Here’s his games played by position over his 10 year career:

  • 1B – 9 games
  • 2B – 143 games
  • 3B – 27 games
  • LF – 261 games 
  • CF – 28 games
  • RF – 171 games 
  • DH – 93 games 

Last year, he only played left, right, and DH. He was predominantly a DH. It’s surprising because he’s been an average fielder. You know what he isn’t?  A first baseman. You’re not a first baseman if you play 9 games there in 10 years. It doesn’t mean he can’t play there. It means we don’t know. If you remember with Mike a Piazza playing first is easier said than done. 

Raburn would be an improvement over a player like Eric Campbell with his hitting against lefties. Campbell has hit .220/.318/.339 in 149 plate appearances. It should be noted, even if for argument’s sake, Campbell is a slightly better defender, a better bet at first base, and a much better pinch hitter. Campbell is a career .293/.426/.390 pinch hitter in 54 plate appearances. 

So who would I rather have?  Raburn. He’s the better player. However, if signing Raburn stands in the way of the Mets making a significant addition, then I’m alright with the Mets proceeding with Campbell on the bench. Overall, while Raburn is an improvement, he’s not so much of an improvement that he’s worth losing out on another player. 

I’m not so much interested in Raburn as much as I’m interested as in what a Raburn signing would mean for the Mets. 

Trivia Friday

The prevailing thought is the Mets have been active this offseason making shrewd moves. Speaking of moves, are you able to name the first major league players acquired by the Mets under the Sandy Alderson regime?  Good luck!

Mets Star Wars Alter Egos

It’s been an incredible year. The Mets played in the World Series. There was a Rocky sequel. Starting tonight, there’s going to be a Star Wars sequel. My son really is a good luck charm. 

Speaking of which, I was reminded of the first real time in my life when the Mets and Star Wars intersected. It was this Halloween when the Mets played a World Series game and my son went as Yoda for Halloween:

Today, I thought it would be fun to compare current Mets to Star Wars characters:

Noah Syndergaard – Luke Skywalker

  • Both were raw until there were leaders who showed him how to harness that potential. Both eventually became leaders themselves helping bring everyone to the promised land. Also, let’s face it, both can get a little cocky. 

Matt Harvey – Han Solo

  • Mets fans still question if he’s truly on their side, but when the chips are down he comes through. 

Bartolo Colon – Jabba the Hut

  • Both are large and in charge 

Curtis Granderson – Lando Calrissian

  • I know what you’re thinking.  It’s lazy to compare the Mets lone black player to one of the few black Star Wars characters. However, consider that Lando initially aided the Evil Empire only to later join the good guys and blow up the second Death Star. If that’s not Granderson leaving the Yankees to join the Mets to have an incredible postseason, I don’t know what is. 

Jenrry Mejia – Jar Jar Binks

  • They’re supposed to be on your side, but all they do is just ruin everything. You just want them to go away before they do something else stupid. 

David Wright – C3PO

  • Both have been there through everything. Both seemingly fall apart a little too often. Both have helped in more ways than you can count. 

Terry Collins – Obi Wan Kenobi

  • Both were exiled.  Both were called upon to mentor and protect young prospects. Both found redemption in this role. 

Lucas Duda – Wedge Antilles

  • Both survived battles no one expected them to survive. For Duda, it was first base.  For Wedge, it was blowing up the Death Star. Both have seen their roles and contributions to their causes being overlooked and disregarded even if both were vital to the cause. 

Jacob deGrom – Princess Leia

  • Both are rocking the long locks. Both had their abilities overlooked for another. Both were instrumental in all that was accomplished. I just don’t want to see deGrom in the golden bikini. 

Jeurys Familia – Mace Windu

  • Mace Windu constantly appeared in dangerous situations in order to save everyone, much like Familia did this year. Both were successful against all odds until their last chapter. Also, when you’re played by Samuel L. Jackson, you’re just awesome. Familia is awesome.

Wally Backman – Uncle Owen

  • Both are entrusted with the future, but both ultimately will not be the ones that bring everyone to the next level.

Wilmer Flores – R2D2

  • Overall, there’s no getting rid of either. They’re indestructible. They’re in the center of everything. They’re also fan favorites. 

Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Chewbacca
As I think of more, I’ll add to the list or amend the existing list. I didn’t add a Yoda because as you see above, you’re not doing better than that Yoda. If you have a suggestion, I’ll be happy to add it to the list giving you full credit.  For example, here’s Jason Fry’s point-of-view:

Yes, this is the same Jason Fry who wrote The Weapon of a Jedi, which is available for sale now. 

By the way, don’t be that guy.  Keep the spoilers to yourself. Don’t ruin the movie for everyone. 

Interesting Murphy Rumor

While reading up on my nightmare scenario of Daniel Murphy signing with the Nationals, I noticed something interesting. Look at this blurb from MLB Trade Rumors:

At the time of this writing [December 16, 2015], it’s not exactly clear who the leading teams are for the infielder, who turns 31 in April. The incumbent Mets apparently haven’t ruled out a reunion with Murphy, though they would like to sign him to a one- or two-year deal.

(Emphasis added, internal links omitted)

It’s a fascinating scenario. By reintroducing Murphy to the mix, you’re creating even more infield depth and even more versatility. With Neil Walker‘s platoon splits, Murphy can effectively platoon there. When David Wright needs to rest his back, Murphy can play there. Murphy can also play some first base allowing Lucas Duda to sit occasionally against the really nasty lefties. 

Sure, you could argue he’s usurping Wilmer Flores‘ role. However, Murphy is a much better player. You’d rather have Murphy playing over Flores. Furthermore, that frees up Flores to focus on SS and possibly work on learning the OF to give Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto the occasional day off, especially against lefties. 

The move makes sense except for the following reasons:

  1. You’re asking Murphy to accept a reduced role and contract;
  2. You’re expecting Walker to accept a reduced role in a contract year; and 
  3. You’re expecting Flores to be an effective MI and corner OF. 

Unfortunately, it seems like the rumor was outdated. It was before the Mets obtained Walker. It seems unlikely Murphy will return to the Mets. I got excited for a minute until I realized it wasn’t realistic. Upon further review, it wasn’t. 

However, it would’ve been interesting. 

Which Mets Team is Better?

There are many out there calling the Mets offseason a success so far. Personally, I don’t see it. Yes, I know the offseason isn’t over, but we’re also pretty sure the Mets aren’t replacing Yoenis Cespedes‘ bat. 

Overall, the Mets as constituted now are not better than the team that lost the World Series. Here was the lineup for the team that just lost the World Series, with their respective WAR from the 2015 season:

  1. Curtis Granderson 5.1
  2. David Wright 0.5
  3. Daniel Murphy 1.4
  4. Yoenis Cespedes 6.3
  5. Lucas Duda 3.0
  6. Travis d’Arnaud 1.7
  7. Michael Conforto 2.1
  8. Wilmer Flores 0.8

Combined 20.9

If the Mets make no other additions this offseason, which still remains a possibility, here’s the Mets 2016 starting lineup with the player’s WAR from last year. 

  1. Curtis Granderson 5.1
  2. Neil Walker 2.4
  3. David Wright 0.5
  4. Lucas Duda 3.0
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera 1.7
  6. Michael Conforto 2.1
  7. Travis d’Arnaud 1.7
  8. Juan Lagares 0.6

Combined 17.1

On paper, barring any further additions the 2016 starting lineup is worse than the 2015 World Series team. This is despite how more “athletic” the Mets are in the middle infield. In response, the argument is the Mets are now deeper. Are they?  Let’s compare the 2015 and 2016 benches. 

Before comparing, it should be noted I’m going to use a traditional 13 position players and 12 pitchers split. That means I will have to eliminate once bench player from the 2015 Mets. I’m choosing to remove Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the roster as he was called up in September.  

I’m also dropping Juan Uribe from the 2015 roster. When building a team, you’re going to want a backup shortstop. Uribe doesn’t fit the bill. Since Ruben Tejada was injured, and thus unavailable, I’m replacing him with Matt Reynolds, whom I’m assigning a 0.0 WAR since he didn’t play at all last year. 

Here’s the modified 2015 World Series bench:

  1. Kevin Plawecki 0.9
  2. Matt Reynolds 0.0
  3. Michael Cuddyer 0.5
  4. Kelly Johnson 0.3
  5. Juan Lagares 0.6

Combined 2.3

Here’s the current bench, which would be subject to change with a free agent signing:

  1. Kevin Plawecki 0.9
  2. Wilmer Flores 0.8
  3. Ruben Tejada -0.1
  4. Kirk Nieuwenhuis 0.7
  5. Eric Campbell -0.5

Combined 1.8

Now to be fair, the 2016 bench will mostly likely not have Eric Campbell on the Opening Day roster. Eliminating his -0.5 would balance out these benches. 

Here’s one big problem, if not Campbell then who?  Let’s assume Mets fans get their way, and the team signs Denard Span. Span had a 0.7 WAR last year. Yes, that’s the same as Kirk’s. Slotting Span into the everyday lineup has this effect:

  • Starting Lineup WAR increased from 17.1 to 17.2
  • Bench WAR decreased from 1.8 to 1.7
  • Eric Campbell or Kirk Nieuwenhuis is still on the Opening Day roster

Now, first counter-argument will be the offseason isn’t over, so the Mets can still make additional moves. Currently, without any other moves, the Mets payroll stands around $105.7 million. Let’s assume for arguments sake, the Mets have around $10 million to spend.  With that $10 million, the Mets are looking to add a reliever, a CF, and another bat. 

Span is estimated to receive about $12 million a year. Well, that blows the whole budget. Even assuming the Mets could get Span for less, they’re not going to have enough money for a reliever and another bat after that. So again, chances are either Campbell or Kirk will be in the Opening Day roster.

The next counter-argument is last year’s WAR doesn’t account for full years from Wright, d’Arnaud, or Conforto. This point-of-view is acceptable. However, you also have to acknowledge Granderson may be due for a regression at 35 years of age with a repaired torn ligament in this thumb. Also, based upon their histories, you can’t rely on Wright or d’Arnaud to last a full season. Essentially, while you can expect some players to improve or play more often, you can expect others to regress and/or suffer injuries. 

Overall, the Mets still might be able to win the NL East and return to the playoffs in 2016. They will do so because of their pitching. However, objectively speaking, you have to admit the 2016 Mets are and will be weaker than the 2015 Mets team that lost the World Series. 

That is unacceptable. 

Please Explain the Bartolo Colon Fascination to Me

Today, Michael Mayer broke yet another big Mets story. This time it was the Mets re-signing Bartolo Colon to a one year $7.25 million contract. Most Mets fans rejoiced. Personally, I don’t get the love affair. 

When I look at Colon’s Mets career, I see an ERA+ of 86, which means he was below average. He had a 4.13 ERA while pitching half his games in a pitcher’s park. The best argument you could make for his Mets career is: (1) he had an average FIP of 3.77; and (2) he didn’t miss a start. Why is it a player who’s average at best a folk hero?  It has to be more than this play:

Maybe it’s because of at bats like this, but I can’t imagine why:

Fact is, he’s not even that good. He’s not going to be any younger. Next year, he’s going to be 43 years old. Why would you want him over Jon Niese?  Niese was at minimum just as good as Colon. More likely he was better and will be better next year at 29. He also showed himself more capable in the bullpen that Colon. Throw in the two extra years of control Niese has, and you’ve downgraded your rotation and possibly your bullpen. 

Fair or not, I’ll remember Colon’s failings in the World Series. In Game 1, he walked a tightrope walk for two innings before imploding in his third inning of work earning the loss in a very frustrating game. In Game 5, he entered the game to clean up Addison Reed‘s mess.  The Mets were down 4-2, and the bases were loaded with one out. Colon would allow a bases clearing double to the first batter he faced putting the game and World Series out of reach. 

I don’t blame Colon for all that happened in the World Series. He may not have been put in the best position to succeed. Fact is, he didn’t succeed. I don’t hold it against him. However, I do look at it and ask why is this 43 year old pitched so revered?  If the same thing happened to Niese, the fans would’ve ran him out of town. Colon?  It’s like it never happened.  I just don’t get it.

Someone please explain it to me. 

The Santa Curse

I’d like to think of myself as a smart and logical person. However, I’m no different than anyone else. Sometimes however, two separate and distinct events become so intertwined that you begin to believe there’s a cause and effect relationship. 

That’s the Mets Santa Claus Curse. We’re lead to believe that something bad will happen to the Met player who plays Santa at the Holiday Christmas Party. Thanks to Jared Diamond, we have the list:

This year it was Steven Matz. The same Matz who had two injuries last season. He’s had Tommy John surgery already in his young career. It’s like the Mets are tempting fate here. The Mets chances hinge on their young rotation. How could the Mets risk their chances by having Matz play Santa?

Part of me thinks this curse idea is silly. Another part of me is nervous. However, both sides of me agree Steven Matz shouldn’t have been playing Santa Claus. 

The main reason is you could literally get anyone to play Santa. I see it with my son. Santa is a rockstar. A kid doesn’t care if Santa is played by Matz or Eric Campbell. They just care that it’s Santa. However, they missed an opportunity to meet Matz. It’s a shame because Matz has quickly become one of the more popular Mets in a very short time. 

I would’ve liked to see a less popular player or one of the Mets front office staff play Santa. This way a kid could’ve met both Santa and Matz. And, oh yeah, there’s that whole other reason why Matz shouldn’t have been Santa too. 

Hopefully, the Mets will let Matz introduce himself to the kids next year. Hopefully, Matz will be able to introduce himself to the entire National League next year. Hopefully, he will be as dominant as we all believe he can be. 

That would be the best Christmas gift of all.