Last year, Luis Guillorme struggled at the Major League level. In 35 games, he had a -0.3 WAR and a 53 wRC+. His defense, which was his calling card, was far from the Gold Glove level many expected it to be. In fact he would have just a 0 DRS in 41.0 innings at second and a -3 DRS in 98.2 innings at third. To make matters worse, even though he was on the 40 man roster, the Mets would not call him up in September.
Heading into the 2019 season, the odds were really stacked against Guillorme. Not only did the organization seem to sour on him, but the team seemed to move past him. During the offseason, the team not only signed Jed Lowrie, they would also sign Adeiny Hechavarria. The team would also add Dilson Herrera to an already crowded Syracuse infield mix.
Seeing the Mets decisions, it was fair to question whether Guillorme would remain a part of the organization for a full season let alone get another opportunity at the Major League level. Guillorme took it upon himself to answer those questions.
While the Mets were finishing another .500 season, Guillorme traveled to Europe to play in the Super 6 Baseball Tournament. In the tournament, he would hit .333/.435/.944 with a triple, three homers, and six RBI, and he would lead Spain to the bronze medal. That would be just the start of an offseason where Guillorme would work hard to get himself ready for the 2019 season.
Put another way, despite the considerable odds stacked against him, Guillorme came to Spring Training ready to force the issue. Everyone would soon take notice:
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) March 3, 2019
In 18 games this Spring, Guillorme has hit .361/.465/.556 with four doubles, a homer, and four RBI while playing well defensively. With his play on the field, he would outlast all of his competition for a roster spot. That included Herrera, and it would eventually include Hechavarria. He is now poised to make the Opening Day roster, and he is in a position to impress while Lowrie is on the Injured List.
This means Guillorme will once again have an opportunity to impress the Mets. If he builds off of what he did well last year, he will.
Specifically, Guillorme was quite good off the bench. In 15 pinch hitting attempts, Guillorme was 3-for-11 with a double, four walks, and an RBI. Overall, he would enter 21 games as a sub, and he would hit .375/.524/.438 in those games. One of the reasons why is despite his power, he makes a high rate of contact at the plate, which was evidenced by his 4.1 percent strikeout rate at the Major League level last year.
More than that, Guillorme has always been a smart player who has gotten the most out of his talent. As we are now seeing, he is responding to getting knocked down by coming back a better player. We have seen him play well defensively, and we have seen him perform well as a pinch hitter. Ultimately, he has proven he has the talent to play at the Major League level.
Now, he will have an opportunity to prove he can play well at the Major League level while being a key component of a postseason contender. Based upon his entire professional career, we may see him have a similar impact on the Mets that Joe McEwing once had for the 1999 and 2000 Mets.
As the Mets approach Opening Day, the team is going to have to make some manuevers if they are going to add their minor league free agents to the 40 man roster. Earlier in the offseason, T.J. Rivera was released, which creates one spot. By the look of Spring Training, the team is going to need more than that one spot.
With his needing Tommy John surgery, another roster spot was opened up by Drew Smith likely headed for the 60 day disabled list. With him likely headed there, the 40 man roster will likely sit at 38. With Yoenis Cespedes hitting the 60 day IL, that drops the number to 37.
At the moment, the team is considering adding Luis Avilan as the LOOGY in the bullpen. The team is also likely to add Adeiny Hechavarria as a backup shortstop. The team is also considering Ryan O’Rourke, Hector Santiago, Pete Alonso, Devin Mesoraco, and Rajai Davis. In total, the Mets are likely to add as many as three players and possibly more.
In the event there is more, the team could opt to put Franklyn Kilome on the 60 day disabled list to preserve his last option, but such a move starts his service clock while having him cost significantly more. This would make adding him to the 60 day disabled list unlikely meaning there are two or more Mets whose 40 man roster spots could now become tenuous:
Right off the bat, Kyle Dowdy is an obvious choice. Should he lose the race for the last man in the bullpen to O’Rourke, Santiago, or one of the Mets young right-handed relief pitchers, it’s quite possible the team returns him to the Cleveland Indians. With him pitching to a 7.36 ERA this Spring and 5.15 ERA between Double- and Triple-A last year, his heading back to Cleveland seems like the obvious choice.
With respect to the Mets young right-handed relievers, Tim Peterson seems to have the most tenuous spot. We have seen Peterson really succeed in spots as evidenced by his 0.87 ERA in the Arizona Fall League or his allowing just two earned runs over his first 11.1 relief innings. However, over time, batters catch up to him and his 91 MPH fastball.
On the relief front, the Mets may also be in a position to designate Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame for assignment. We have seen each of them pitch well in the majors in spurts, but their overall body of work has been quite lacking. However, given their limited history of success, it would seem while their spots are tenuous, they have a leg up on the aforementioned pitchers.
On the position player front, Luis Guillorme‘s spot seems the most tenuous. After he struggled in 35 games at the Major League level, it appeared the organization really soured on him. If you want evidence to that effect, look no further than how he was not among the September call-ups last year. The Mets offseason moves would seem to indicate his spot is dubious as well.
Hechavarria serves the same role Guillorme could have served, but the Mets thought it better to potentially give Hechavarria $3 million than give Guillorme a chance. With the team adding Dilson Herrera to add to an already crowded Syracuse infield and top prospect Andres Gimenez not too far from Triple-A, Guillorme’s spot seems all the more dubious.
That said, the team did designate Gavin Cecchini for assignment earlier in the year, and Guillorme has had a very good Spring. This means Guillorme’s spot is safe for now. As for the aforementioned pitchers, it may depend on how many players they seek to add the to Opening Day roster and if they are able to swing trades for players like Travis d’Arnaud to open up enough spots.
According to reports yesterday, Mets infielder T.J. Rivera is struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery. While people assume it is easier for position players to return from the surgery, Rivera seems to be dispelling that notion. In fact, it would appear he is struggling to return from his surgery much in the same way Zack Wheeler did. It should be noted while Wheeler had his surgery in early 2015, he was not what we believed he could be until the second half of last season. So far, Rivera is dispelling any real concerns:
T.J. Rivera downplays the discomfort he's been feeling in his surgically repaired right elbow. He described it more as another bump in the road: pic.twitter.com/mVyEwU22LB
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 28, 2019
When looking at his career, this is just the newest obstacle for him to overcome.
Rivera was a 22 year old undrafted free agent who had bounced around in college before landing at Troy University. Fortunately, at one of Rivera’s stops prior to Troy University, he played for former Met Mackey Sasser, who would recommend Rivera to a scout. As an undrafted player, he had an uphill climb ahead of him needing to prove himself at every turn. Rivera has done just that hitting over .300 with an OBP over .350 at nearly every minor league stop.
Really, Rivera stuck around because he hit. Yet somehow, despite his hitting at every stop, he was overlooked in the Rule 5 Draft multiple times. He had been in the minors for five-and-a-half years when the Mets were dropping like flies. Rather than give him a chance, the Mets would give playing time to players like Eric Campbell and Matt Reynolds. They’d even bring back Jose Reyes despite his domestic violence arrest and suspension. When it came time to call someone up, they’d call up Ty Kelly over him.
It would not be until the middle of August until Rivera would get called up, but he still wouldn’t get a chance. He’d be up and down a few times in August. Finally, with Walker being done for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores injuring his wrist on a collision at home plate on a very questionable send by Tim Teufel, Rivera would finally get his chance.
In 20 September games, Rivera hit .358/.378/.552. In those 20 games, the Mets would go 13-7. It’s important to consider the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot by just one game. If the team had not turned to him when they did, it’s possible the Mets miss the 2016 postseason. It’s also worth mentioning Rivera was one of the few Mets who got a hit off Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game. If someone had driven him in after his leadoff double in the fifth, we would be having a completely different conversation about him, that season, and each of the ensuing seasons.
Despite his being the hero of the 2017 season, the Mets would not so much as guarantee him a roster spot. They wouldn’t do that even with him playing well as the first baseman for a Puerto Rican team which reached the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. Instead, Rivera would spend his 2017 season up and down and the out with the season and potentially career altering UCL tear.
Seeing the depth the Mets have accumulated and the team likely adding at least Adeiny Hechavarria to the roster, 40 man roster spots are becoming tenuous. With him being unable to play, the odds are once again not in Rivera’s favor. Based upon past history, we should not count him out. In fact, for a team with postseason aspirations, he may ultimately prove to be an important player who can put the Mets over the top.