When Mickey Callawaybecame the new manager of the Mets, every player got a bit of a clean slate. Sure, the front office as well as holdovers like Ricky Bones and Glenn Sherlock could probably Callaway with pertinent information, but at the end of the day, Callaway was going to meet each player, see their work and preparation, and then he could make his own determination about a player.
This was really important for a young player like Dominic Smith.
There is no doubt Smith is talented, but he has shown some maturity issues. Despite the team stressing his physique to him, he put on 20 pounds or so during the season. That was after he had reported to Spring Training last year in terrific shape.
When he did get the call-up last year, as reported by Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, he had been late to the park on more than one occasion. This led to veteran players “reprimanding” him for his behavior.
This was all part of a difficult first experience in the Majors which saw Smith hit .198/.262/.395 in 49 games. In total, he had a -1.2 WAR.
If there was anyone who needed a fresh start, it was Smith. Initially, he made the most of it by losing more than 30 pounds before the start of Spring Training. He reported to Spring Training early. He was doing all the right things.
He was having the type of Spring where he earned a chance to show the Mets he deserved at least a long look this Spring. He was starting to give the Mets to at least consider having him be the Opening Day first basemen. Whether as a reward for his dedication or not, he was going to get a chance right away with his being named as the first baseman in the Mets first Spring Training game.
Smith would be late to the ballpark before the first game.
THE FIRST GAME!
Fair or not, this was a player who had to prove to the Mets he was dedicated and mature enough to be a Major Leaguer, and the first chance he gets, he fails to show up on time.
He left Callaway no choice but to bench him. That left Smith watching on as five time All Star and a former teammate of CallawayAdrian Gonzalezget a couple of at-bats as the DH. He also looked on as Peter Alonso take his place in the lineup.
Smith watched the player taking his spot on the Opening Day roster, and he watched the prospect who has begun breathing down his neck as the Mets first baseman of the future.
Smith knew he had an uphill climb to surpass Gonzalez. He had to know Alonso has been making a name for himself. It shouldn’t be lost on Smith that while the organization has concerns about his power, Alonso has it in spades.
Despite knowing all of this, Smith failed to show up on time to the first game of Spring Training. With that, he’s shown he’s not yet mature enough to be entrusted with the first base job. Not yet.
And that right there is why he’s already lost the first base competition.
After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week. This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”
Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.
Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.
The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.
Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.
The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.
When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.
When Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager, one of the areas of emphasis was supposed to be building a sustainable farm system that would give the Mets continued success throughout the years. This, in turn, would prevent the Mets from having to give out those proverbial second generation contracts Alderson purportedly despises giving to players.
Now, in order for that to happen, the team was going to have to not only draft well, but they were going to have to identify international talent. If the Mets had indeed done well in those efforts, the Mets Opening Day roster would have looked something like this:
But as we know it doesn’t. One of the reasons why is the team has not developed position players as well as the organization, or really anyone would have liked. If you are not being so understanding, you would say the Mets whiffed on high draft picks by drafting players who are either backups or career minor leaguers.
Look, no one has a perfect draft record, and we should remember this regime did draft Conforto and Michael Fulmer. The problem there is they traded Fulmer away. That is something they are reportedly not willing to do with Nimmo despite the fact he is blocked by Cespedes, Conforto, and Jay Bruce for the next three years.
With respect to Cecchini and Smith, the Mets have decided at a minimum, neither are ready to start next season in the majors. This would be easier to swallow had either received a real shot of proving their abilities. Instead, the Mets will go with broken Adrian Gonzalez and who knows what at second.
Overall, the 2017 Mets are not what Sandy Alderson envisioned what they would be when these players were first drafted. That’s fair to a certain extent because no one imagined that the Mets would look this way when the team won the pennant in 2015.
Perhaps no one in the history of the New York Mets has gotten more chances to prove themselves than Rafael Montero. The fact that is true has continued to baffle and irritate Mets fans who have watched him pitch to a 5.38 ERA and 1.705 WHIP in his Major League career.
But it’s more than that. The Mets have questioned his competitiveness and his toughness. They have even had him suffer the indignity to being demoted to Double-A. Nothing seems to work, and yet he remains on the Mets roster. Worse yet, he remains while talented pitchers who have produced are sent packing.
If we are being fair, we should pinpoint the 2016 season as the breaking point. In 2014, Montero acquitted himself well in his limited time, and in 2015, Montero suffered an injury, albeit one the Mets doubted truly existed. Montero would get a chance again in 2016. There’s no sugar coating just how poorly he pitched. About the only place he pitched well was Binghamton, and he wasn’t exactly stellar there going 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA.
And yet, Montero remained a Met.
After the 2016 season, the Mets traded both Gabriel Ynoa and Logan Verrett to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations to help clear up space on the 40 man roster. The team would lose Matthew Bowman in the Rule 5 Draft. An injured Sean Gilmartinwas designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Because of these moves and because of all the injuries, Montero got another chance in 2017. He would reward the Mets faith and patience by going 5-11 with a 5.52 ERA, 1.748 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.
In an effort to be as fair as possible to Montero, he did get his first real extended chance to prove he belongs in the majors. From June 15th until the end of the season, he was on the Major League roster, and he would make 21 appearances and 16 starts. In that stretch, he was 5-7 with a 4.98 ERA, 1.591 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, and an 8.5 K/9.
Certainly, that was better, but it was not significantly different than his career numbers, which just have not been the caliber of a Major League starting pitcher. While you may not feel as if the Mets lost much of value in the aforementioned pitchers lost, the healthy pitchers in the group undoubtedly pitched better than Montero last year.
Now, the Mets are repeating their same mistakes. After the conclusion of the 2017 season, the team drafted Burch Smithin the Rule 5 Draft and sold him to the Kansas City Royals. To make room for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez on the 40 man roster, Kevin McGowan and Chasen Bradford were designated for assignment.
While McGowan struggled in his time in the majors last year, Bradford certainly did not. In fact, Bradford was one of the few pleasant surprises last season. In 28 major league appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and a 7.2 K/9. Montero would have to significantly improve to match those numbers, and yet, he is the one that remains on the 40 man roster.
At some point, push is finally going to come to shove, and Montero will no longer be a part of the Mets organization. With Montero being out of options, maybe this year is the year. Maybe not. After all, the Mets do have spots open for competition in the Opening Day bullpen, and by now I’m sure the Mets have talked themselves into believing Mickey Callawayand Dave Eiland will turn Montero into the next Dennis Eckersley.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO
Look, when a team is introducing a player to the media in a press conference, by its very nature it is a promotional event. The organization is showing off their player to the fans thereby building excitement among the fan base with the hopes this eventually entices the fans to buy tickets for the season.
However, this is supposed to be a quid pro quo of sorts. A team like the Mets gets to have more publicity surrounding their acquisition of a player like Jay Bruce, and in turn, the reporters are given an opportunity to ask questions about the team.
We did see that as reporters asked Sandy Alderson an array of questions covering topics like Michael Conforto‘s timetable, the first base situation with Adrian Gonzalez and Dominic Smith, the status of the bullpen, the second base situation, and whether the Mets could add another contract this offseason.
That last topic. That’s one that could have partially been addressed by ownership, specifically Jeff Wilpon. As the COO of the Mets, Wilpon would have intimate knowledge of that information. He also possesses the answer to several other burning questions both reporters and Mets fans want to see answered.
The interesting thing was Jeff Wilpon was at that press conference . . .
Jay Bruce is again a Met. pic.twitter.com/1Jlp0HVRuA
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) January 17, 2018
. . . but not really, Right after this photo, Jeff Wilpon got off the stage, and he sat in the front row effectively removing himself from the press conference just as the floor was going to be opened to reporters.
Once again, the Mets deftly controlled the press conference with the questions being granted to the following reporters:
- Garry Apple, SNY
- Pete McCarthy, WOR
- Anthony DiComo, mlb.com
- Lloyd Carroll, Queens ChronicleNot one question from a major media outlet or newspaper that covers the Mets. Instead, the Mets directed questions to their television network, the “Radio Home of the Mets,” an MLB reporter, and finally a small local Queens newspaper. If you have watched enough of these, this has become standard operating procedure for the Mets.
Here’s the best part. When reviewing the SNY video feed, all reporters are directed to the left of the stage to continue asking questions. If you pay close enough attention to the video, right at the 20:50 mark, you will see this:
That’s right. Just as the reporters are told to go left, Jeff heads right. There is really no other way to describe Jeff’s behavior and the Mets control of the press conference as ownership yet again ducking the media. You are almost left in complete awe of the lengths to which the Wilpons will ensure they do not have to interact with the media. If they put even a tenth of that effort into the Mets, they would be perennial contenders.
Overall, we as Mets fans can get frustrated about both the lack of transparency from the organization, and how the reporters don’t ask the Wilpons the hard questions that need to be asked. In reviewing this press conference, we see just how much the Wilpons stonewall the media and the lengths they will go to not be accountable to anyone.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO
Well, they won’t anymore as Granderson has signed a one year $5 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
As we learned from his four years in Queens, any team that adds Granderson has done well for themselves. He’s a tremendous person and mentor in the clubhouse. More than that, he’s a good and durable baseball player.
Considering these qualities, it really is surprising the Mets showed no interest in a Granderson reunion. Last year, Granderson was a 1.5 WAR player, who played all three outfield positions. That’s important because the team doesn’t know when Michael Conforto will be able to return. On top of that, Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares cannot stay healthy.
Instead of looking for a versatile outfielder, the Mets opted to focus on 1B/OF due to the rookie season of Dominic Smith. In looking to sure that up, the Mets signed both Bruce and eventually Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez is the more interesting signing of the two because he is the anti-Granderson.
For his part, Gonzalez is not a healthy player, has not played well on the East Coast, and he has not been seen as a good clubhouse presence. Considering the purported issues in the clubhouse late last year, Mickey Callaway managing for the first time in his career, and no one on the coaching staff having any MLB managerial experience this situation seems less than ideal. Actually, it seems like it could be an impending disaster.
The reason no one is really questioning the Mets thought process here is because we all know why the Mets made the decisions they made. Mostly, the team would rather have Gonzalez making the minimum than having Granderson for $5 million. They would also rather bet on a 31 year outfielder for three years instead of a 37 year old one for one year.
On the converse, the Mets opted to try to resurrect the career of an injured soon to be 36 year old first baseman rather than have Bruce at first and Granderson in right.
Whether this proves to be the correct decision remains to be seen. However, we do know one thing – you are always better off having a player and person like Granderson in your clubhouse. For that, the Blue Jays are better today, and the Mets aren’t.
After the 2017 season ended, and the Mets set out to build their roster for the 2018 season, the most glaring need was a second baseman. Given the options in free agency and the state of the Mets farm system, it also proved to be one of the most difficult holes to fill.
Initially, the Mets did act prudently by looking to obtain Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers. While he was coming off a down year offensively, he was still a very good defender at the position. If rumors were true, the Mets stepped up and they made the best offer to the Detroit Tigers.
The problem was Kinsler had a no trade clause to the Mets. He used that clause to force a deal to the Angels. Very likely, the reason was all of the gaps in the Mets roster and their limited budget this offseason.
Speaking of the limited budget, yes, we can absolutely blame the Wilpons for not fully investing in this team. While many will defend them on the concept of finances, it should be noted the Wilpons did have money to invest in an eSports team and the Islanders new arena.
With that said, there was money to be spent. Yes, it wasn’t enough, but if spent properly, there was enough to at least build a credible roster. The problem is Sandy Alderson isn’t spending the money wisely.
Certainly, you can justify the Anthony Swarzak signing. If the Mets have any intentions of competing next year, they needed an extra arm to bring to Jeurys Familia in the ninth. With Swarzak joining AJ Ramos to set up for Familia, the Mets have a good 7-8-9 tandem. With Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you can reasonably assume the Mets will be able to find an arm or two to join Jerry Blevins to form a good if not formidable bullpen.
The problem is what Sandy Alderson has done with the money since signing Swarzak at the close of the Winter Meetings.
The first issue was a trade for Jason Kipnis was rejected by someone with the Mets. The natural culprits are the Wilpons as the reports said someone higher up. It’s a baffling decision because even if you have your concerns about him, he’s a good fit in the lineup and in the clubhouse. There’s also the benefit of his knowing Callaway from their days in Cleveland.
Of course, this means three things. The first is the team is all but done with Dominic Smith, at least for the 2018 season. The second is Michael Conforto is likely out longer than advertised. The third is the Mets are effectively punting on second base.
Howie Kendrick, who was a viable second base candidate, is now off the board, and with him went the last reasonable shot at getting a starting second baseman in free agency. That is, unless, you believe Eduardo Nunez, will now be healthy, capable of playing second, and the Mets have enough to sign him.
If you want someone in a trade, like Josh Harrison, get in line. Teams with much deeper systems, like the Yankees, have interest in him as well. As a result, this means the Mets are out on him.
Overall, this means the Mets are going to bring back Jose Reyes to play second alongside Amed Rosario. This is the same Reyes who was one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year. He had a -0.6 WAR, a 94 wRC+, and he accomplished the astounding feat of posting a negative DRS at FOUR positions. One of those was second where he had a -5 DRS in 207.1 innings.
And remember the last time Reyes played second base full time? That would be the 2004 season when the Mets big acquisition was Kaz Matsui. When your offseason plan mirrors the plans of your 2004 plans, you know the Mets are in trouble.
And yes, they are. They’re in trouble because they don’t have the money to spend and because Sandy Alderson isn’t spending it wisely. Consider for a second, Matt Adams and Kendrick, two versatile players that would have been immensely helpful to the Mets for depth and/or platoons, signed with the Nationals for a combined $11 million. That’s less than a million more they are paying Bruce and Gonzalez on a team that already had Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores, and Smith.
Overall, the Mets may not have had much money to spend, but whatever money they did have, Sandy Alderson squandered it away on duplicative players. Remember that when the Mets second base situation holds the team back throughout the 2018 season.
Heading into this offseason, THE major hole on the Mets roster was second base. So naturally, the Mets went out and have made sure to collect a bunch of first base options:
That’s right. The Mets brought in Gonzalez. On a Major League deal to boot. Presumably because teams were beating down the door of a soon to be 36 year old first baseman with back problems who skipped out on a postseason run with the team to go on vacation.
Clearly, the Mets were enticed by his .242/.287/.355 slash line.
In all seriousness, this move makes no sense on many levels.
First, the team already had Bruce to move to first if Smith wasn’t ready. Second, Smith might be ready by Opening Day, and he’s now blocked by a broken down player. Third, there were plenty of options available.
Nope, the Mets went with the cheapest option available, which is not at all surprising:
Mets: Dom is bad. We need a new first baseman.
Santana's Agent: He wants $20 million a year.
Mets: We were too harsh on Dom. He's our first baseman of the future.
Braves: We're releasing Gonzalez
Gonzalez's Agent: He wants league minimum
Mets: Yo Adrian!
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) December 20, 2017
While all this tomfoolery was happening, the Mets nixed a deal for Jason Kipnis because, wait for it, he makes too much money. They’ll say not a good value, but essentially, it’s the same thing to the Mets.
Kipnis is likely the best option available to them at second. Many will say Josh Harrison, but with teams with much deeper minor league systems also pursuing him, it’s not likely the Mets emerge out on top.
At this point, with Bruce and Anthony Swarzak likely having eaten up the offseason budget, aside from Gonzalez type deals, it means the 2018 second baseman is likely on this roster.
With Jose Lobaton already in the fold, every Mets fan should know that the second base plan is for next season.