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.
It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets. With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason. If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:
C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans
This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.
Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth. In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016. After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis. And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon. Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.
However, that offense. You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright. Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be. And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.
For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster. He won’t. What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A. By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.
Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.
So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players. That applies just to the starting lineup. After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.
Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available. However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.
If you’ve been paying attention, the Mets seem to be interested in everyone this offseason. If you take those players they’re interested in, you’d have an amazing roster:
1B Todd Frazier
2B Neil Walker
SS Amed Rosario
CF Lorenzo Cain
Wait, you don’t believe any of this is going to happen?
After the purported hand-wringing Sandy Alderson was doing over the free agent reliever market, the Mets finally pulled the trigger, and they signed Anthony Swarzak to a two year $14 million deal.
There is a lot to like about Swarzak. Last year, the 32 year old had his best ever season going 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and a 10.6 K/9. As noted by D.J. Short of Rotoworld, Swarzak had a higher swinging strike percentage than old friend Addison Reed. Part of that could be attributed to the fact he added about two MPH on his fastball.
He’s also been a platoon neutral pitcher his entire career with his best season being in 2017. While limiting right-handed batters to a .218/.259/.346 batting line, left-handed batters were worse against him hitting .198/.294/.281.
These stats are all the more incredible and important when you consider he predominantly worked in the 7th and 8th innings. The Mets needed another set-up man to work with AJ Ramos to hand the ball to Jeurys Familia in the 9th.
Overall, this is all important, and the signing helps the Mets. However it isn’t enough, especially because this is all but a shapshot of Swarzak’s career.
It was just in 2015 Swarzak had a 5.26 ERA and 1.516 WHIP in the Korean Leagues. In 2016, his first season back from Korea, he was 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA for the Yankees.
While he was obviously improved since then, it was mostly on the strength of some outliers. Prior to last season, he yielded a .304 BABIP. In 2017, that number was .272.
Prior to 2017, Swarzak left 69.8% of runners on base, which is right around league average. Last season, his LOB% was a career best 82.9%.
Maybe these numbers were all the result of improved stuff. Maybe it was him becoming more comfortable in the bullpen. It’s just as possible the increased velocity and some of the BABIP and LOB% will regress to league and career norms.
Overall, the Mets did acquire a quality reliever who should prove to better than internal options like Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, and Josh Smoker. Moreover, Swarzak is getting the opportunity to work with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. If there’s a tandem you trust to help Swarzak make 2017 the new norm instead of an outlier, it’s them.
Still, with the stark contrast between the 2017 and career numbers, the Mets need to hedge their bets that Swarzak may very well regress. In the end, this means that while Swarzak may very well prove to be a nice addition, he’s far from being the final piece of the puzzle.
On MMO some of the writers did their own postseason plans. The guidelines are that we must stick to a budget in the $30-35 million range given what we’ve heard the Mets could spend.
For signings, MLB Trade Rumors and Jon Heyman’s free agent predictions to come up the contracts for each player.
The Mets have several holes to fill and not a ton of money to work with which had me searching for deals on the free agent market and here is what I think should be done with the limited resources.
Fixing the Bullpen
As the Mets head into the 2018 season, their main goal for the team will be to rebuild a bullpen. Despite handwrining among fans, there is some talent present. Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins address three key roles. Around them, the Mets need to find four cost effective options.
The first two parts of this bullpen need to be internal. In lieu of looking for a second left-handed reliever in free agency, the Mets need to utilize Hansel Robles in that role. For his career he has reverse splits, and he needs to be used accordingly. He also provides the benefit of giving the team multiple innings when needed.
Additionally, the Mets need to move Seth Lugo to the bullpen. In short bursts, Lugo is able to ramp up his fastball and use his curveball with more frequency. With that combination, Lugo can be a true late inning option and/or a long man. For those concerned about the loss of him as rotation depth, consider his struggles a third time through the order.
For the final two spots, the Mets should attack free agency. The first option the Mets should pursue is Seung-hwan Oh. Oh has been a dominant closer in the Korean Leagues, and he was dominant in his rookie season with the Cardinals. He had an off-year last year partially driven by an increased BABIP and HR rate as well as a drop in his strikeout rate. With a new pitching coach and a new situation, he could very well recover with the Mets giving the team an additional option at the closer spot.
When it comes to the final spot, the Mets should look to add a power arm like Juan Nicasio. After struggling in the rotation, Nicasio was transitioned to a full time reliever, and he grew into a dominant arm. With his being armed with an upper 90s fastball and good control, he’s probably just tapping the surface, and the Mets would be wise with their new pitching guru contingent to see the next wave.
Veteran Depth & Insurance Policies
Heading into the 2018 season, the Mets aren’t sure Dominic Smith is ready to be the Opening Day first baseman. Even with the best projections, they do not believe Michael Conforto will be ready by Opening Day, and after that, they don’t know what he can contribute. In addition to that, the Mets don’t have a second baseman.
The first part of that solution should be adding Howie Kendrick. The 33 year old had a bounce-back, albeit injury prone, season. Over the past season, Kendrick had a 121 wRC+, which ranks second best in his career. He also played first, second, and the corner outfield positions last year. While he was not outstanding at any of those positions, he was clearly capable of handling those positions. He’s your best bet to have a Jose Valentin type season for the team.
Another player worth taking a flyer on is Jose Bautista. In 2017, he fell apart offensively going from a .234/.366/.452 slash line to .203/.308/.366 leading the Blue Jays to utilize the buy out provision on his contract. At 37 years old, he’s not far removed from a productive season. He’s also just looking for an opportunity.
Fortunately, the Blue Jays helped him in that respect by moving him around the field last year. He played on game at first, eight at third, and 143 in RF. Based on the numbers, he’s no longer an everyday right fielder, but he is still talented enough to be a stopgap for Conforto. If he dedicated himself to getting better at first, he could serve as both competition and a platoon option for Smith.
There is no secret some of the Mets biggest issues have been depth, versatility, and second base. While Ian Kinsler would address second base, and he is arguably the best defensive second baseman available, the Mets trade target for the position should be Jason Kipnis.
The Indians second baseman has been pushed out of a job due to injury and the emergence of younger players in his stead. Despite that, he is still a good hitter who hit .276/.349/.429 from 2013 – 2016 while averaging 36 doubles and 14 homers a season. He’s also a gamer willing to do anything to help his team win as evidenced by his playing center field at the end of the season and the postseason because that was what was best for the team. This is the type of attitude the Mets should be looking to instill in their current roster.
The center and outfield possibilities should also be intriguing to the Mets in the event of another Juan Lagares injury or the questions surrounding Conforto.
Kipnis is not going to come cheap, nor should he considering he’s an All Star player with a good contract. Earlier this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested Robert Gsellman and Luis Guillorme as the package to get Kipnis. That may be a little light, and perhaps the inclusion of Wilmer Flores would be enticing to an Indians team heavy with left-handed hitters and could use a corner infield option, could potentially allow the Mets to complete this deal.
Filling In The Rest
In addition to the aforementioned players, the Mets would be well advised to bring in some veteran depth this Spring Training. On the starting pitching front Ubaldo Jimenez previously worked exceptionally well with current Mets manager Mickey Callaway, and Bartolo Colon left an impression with this current Mets staff. Both would make sense on a minor league deal with an invitation to
From reports, Manny Machado could well be available. However, with the state of the Mets farm system, the Mets are going to have to trade Major League players like Jacob deGrom and Amed Rosario to get him.
Machado is well worth that return, and knowing the Orioles, they’ll want more – much more. Again, Machado is worth it, but he’s also an impending free agent. Furthermore, the Mets don’t have the means to replace deGrom with a Yu Darvish or sign Machado to a contract extension.
The other long shot is Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins are dangling him, and he’s exactly the type of player that fits the Mets mold – underpaid and under team control for two years. Presuming you take back Starlin Castro and his contract in a deal, you’d probably be able to swing a more palatable deal.
However, there does not seem to be any traction between the Mets and the Marlins on anything. Even if they were, teams like the Cardinals, Cubs, and Giants are interested. They seem more willing to go that extra mile than the Mets. Considering the Stanton deals that fell apart, there is less leg work for the Cardinals and Giants to do.
Key Acquisitions: Seung-hwan Oh (1 year, $4 million), Howie Kendrick (2 years, $16 million), Jose Bautista (1 year $5 million), Jason Kipnis (2 years, $28.3 million), Juan Nicasio (2 years, $14M), Ubaldo Jimenez (minor league deal), Bartolo Colon (minor league deal)
Key Departures: Robert Gsellman, Luis Guillorme, Wilmer Flores
Total Cost: $33.9 million
If you are a Citi Cardmember, you have the exclusive chance to go out and purchase Mets tickets before they go on sale to the general public on November 17th. Essentially, the Mets are really encouraging fans to go out there and start spending their hard earned money at a time when they are cutting payroll.
No, payroll doesn’t win championships; players do. But look at the current state of the Mets roster and ask yourself whether the requisite talent is present. Look at it this way. If the Mets do not make another move, here is Opening Day defensive alignment:
It’s not exactly a group the Mets are excited about themselves. In 2016, they explored trading d’Arnaud, and when they couldn’t move him, they got him a catching guru. Sure, d’Arnaud was better, but he wasn’t exactly the All Star we all hoped he could be.
The reports are also that the Mets have soured on Smith, and they are not only looking to have him start the year in Triple-A, but they may actually pursue a first baseman in free agency.
With respect to Flores and Lagares, the Mets have long since determined each are platoon players. That could be where Brandon Nimmo finds a role as a platoon partner. However, that’s only if he’s not the starting right fielder, which is dependent on when Conforto will be ready to play again. That will also depend on whether Cespedes has a healthy season.
And by the way, the Mets have a massive hole in their pitching staff. The team does not believe enough in AJ Ramos to be the primary set-up guy leaving them looking for another reliever. Truth is, they probably need two or three.
In the rotation, the Mets have Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. After that, there are a number of question marks. This means the Mets could use another starter. If the Mets truly want to contend, they would get a top tier pitcher like Yu Darvish, but more likely, the team will be looking at fifth starters.
When you look at all these holes, the $30 million the Mets have to spend is nowhere near enough. And by the way, this also doesn’t address what promises to be a weak bench. Based upon past history, that bench will be weak with Sandy Alderson only being interested in building depth if the Mets promise to be good.
So, with the Mets having all these problems and them not looking to spend the money that is required to fix the roster, the question to Mets fans is this: Why are you in a rush to give them money they won’t fully invest in becoming the postseason contender this team was just a year ago?
With free agency beginning last night, the Mets now have the opportunity to fill-in many of the holes the team has in free agency. In no particular order, those holes are second, third, center, bullpen, fifth starter, and maybe even catcher. In addition to that, the Mets have to build a bench, which is something they overlook in the offseason year-in and year-out.
During Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he predominantly makes his big moves in free agency, and he stays away from the big trades. That is something he tends to do more during the season to address problems with the roster. To that end, we will likely see the team’s needs addressed through a combination of free agency and the team’s internal options.
One of the issues in building the roster is the payroll seems to be limited. That’s not limited by recent standards. Rather, there are indications the payroll will be going down. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets payroll could drop by $20 million to the $135 million range.
Previously, MMO estimated the Mets current payroll commitments, factoring in likely arbitration raises, will be between $109 – $119 million. That includes the options for Blevins and Cabrera, which the Mets recently picked up. As of the moment, the Mets roster shakes up like this:
Judging from the aforementioned 24 players, the Mets have a lot of work to do, and with few exceptions, no one should feel their job is safe. Still, the Mets really only have somewhere between $15 – $25 million to spend in the offseason. This means the Mets are going to have to spend it wisely.
For starters, this probably means the jobs of d’Arnaud and Plawecki are safe. It also should mean that even with their comparative struggles, Rosario and Smith will begin the season on the Opening Day roster. From there, the Mets are going to have to make some tough choices among the players who could fulfill the Mets needs. It’s an even bigger issue than anticipated considering the MLB Trade Rumors projections:
- Mike Moustakas 5 years, $85 million ($17 million AAV)
- Lorenzo Cain 4 years, $60 million ($15 million AAV)
- Wade Davis 4 years, $60 million ($15 million AAV)
- Lance Lynn 4 years, $56 million ($14 million AAV)
- Greg Holland 4 years, $50 million ($12.5 million AAV)
- Addison Reed 4 years, $36 million ($9 million AAV)
- Todd Frazier 3 years, $33 million ($11 million AAV)
- CC Sabathia 2 years, $24 million ($12 million AAV)
- Neil Walker 2 years, $20 million ($10 million)
- Eduardo Nunez 2 years, $14 million ($7 million AAV)
There are other options, but this seems to be a fair sampling of the types of players the Mets should be targeting to bring them back into the postseason picture in the National League.
Reviewing those options, it seems as if you get one of the top tier players, the Mets are shut out from adding a second impact player. This means unless the Mets expand the budget, signing a Cain to play center means Cabrera at third and a veteran like Howie Kendrick to compete with Flores at second. Considering that, the Mets may feel comfortable that Lagares’ defense and Nimmo’s OBP are good enough to handle the center field position.
Considering the Mets real needs, the team’s best bet is going to be a player like a Frazier for third because that would free up some money to pursue another difference making player whether that be a Reed or Walker reunion, or the addition of a Sabathia to take over the Bartolo Colon sized hole on the roster.
In the end, the roster and the budget are going to make this one of Alderson’s toughest offseasons. Likely, he’s only going to be able to get two bigger named players, and he’s going to have to fill out important roles with internal options that failed last year or veterans who you pray have a Jose Valentin type of season.
Yesterday, Odell Beckham, Jr. broke his leg as the Giants lost to go to 0-5. It doesn’t matter how optimistic a Giants fan you are, the season is over.
The Rangers still have a talented group, but they got off to a 1-2 start. One of the “highlights” of the young season is Alain Vigneault benching promising young player Filip Chytil for no other reason than he’s a young player. There is still reason to believe the Rangers can make a run, but any excitement you would have is tempered by Terry Collins, sorry, AV, leading the way.
The Knicks, well, they are the Knicks.
If things continue this way, it promises to be a long winter until Spring Training begins.
Unless Sandy Alderson gets to work, it’s going to be a full year without hope. He needs to build a bullpen beyond AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia. There needs to be more on the infield than Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario. There needs to be more starting pitching depth due to the injury histories of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
There’s a lot to do here. Hopefully Sandy does it. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year in the New York sports scene.
Almost five years ago to the day, R.A. Dickey took the mound for the Mets, and he earned his 20th win of the season all but locking up his highly improbable Cy Young Award.
While Dickey hasn’t been anywhere near that good since the 2012 season, he looked like that pitcher once again tonight. He controlled his knuckleball extremely well not walking anyone. He kept the Mets honest by throwing his fastball just enough.
Really, the Mets didn’t seem like they were going to touch Dickey until Kevin Plawecki hit what seemed to be the first mistake Dickey made all night for a two run homer. The homer pulled the Mets to within 3-2 making the game a bit more perilous for Dickey than originally anticipated when the inning began.
It would be a two out Amed Rosario triple that finally chased Dickey from the game. With Dickey having been a beloved Met during his tenure, he received a well earned ovation as he entered the dugout.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 27, 2017
In the second, Montero got himself out trouble by issuing a lead-off walk to Dansby Swanson. He scored on a Jace Peterson double, and Peterson scored on an Ozzie Albies RBI single. It was be enough to ensure Montero would finish the year with an ERA over 5.00.
On the season, Montero finished 5-11 with a 5.26 ERA. Keep in mind, this is what was deemed to be a resurgent year for Montero where the Mets think he could realistically be a contributor next year.
While the three runs were enough to ding Montero, it would not prove enough to give Dickey a win partially because Sam Freeman was snake bit.
The first issue was his issuing a one out walk to Nori Aoki. Johan Camargo would then throw the ball away on a Jose Reyes grounder setting up second and third with one out.
Asdrubal Cabrera then ripped a line drive that should have give the Mets the lead. It would only be a game tying sacrifice fly because Inciarte did it against the Mets again:
After a scoreless ninth from Jeurys Familia, the Mets would have a chance to walk it off. It was going to be difficult against A.J. Minter who has had a terrific rookie season.
The Mets would give the rookie his first loss of his career.
The game winning rally started with a Plawecki single, and Juan Lagares pinch ran for him. Terry Collins then uncharacteristically allowed Dominic Smith to face a left-handed pitcher. The decision was all the more surprising when you consider the Mets had a bench full of right-handed batters.
Smith rewarded Collins’ faith when he drew the first walk Minter has issued in his brief career. Not just a walk to a left-handed batter. First walk.
After Rosario failed to lay down the sacrifice bunt, Taijeron delivered with a single to left giving him the first walk-off hit of his Major League career.
Five years later, Dickey was great, and the Mets won the game. If this was really the end of his career, it was a fitting end for a pitcher that really helped turn the Mets around.
Game Notes: AJ Ramos has been unavailable with a bicep issue, and he may be done for the season.
Here’s the thing. While you enjoy beating the Nationals, this game didn’t mean much. It’s not that the Mets season is over, and the Nationals have gone into preparing for the offseason mode. No, it’s because the Mets with Terry Collins at the helm aren’t focusing towards next year enough.
His second RBI was the game winning RBI scoring Juan Lagares.
Now, it’s beer. great to see Lagares get regular playing time. There are so few reasons to watch this team, but his defense is certainly one of them. He did it again today.
The reason the Mets were down was because Robert Gsellman wasn’t the same pitcher he was in his last start. Gsellman would only last five innings allowing four hits, six runs, five earned, and three walks with four strikeouts.
The big blow against him was an Adam Lind third inning three run homer.
However, when all was said and done, it wasn’t the Lind homer, but the Travis d’Arnaud homers. Yes, plural.
Déjà vu for d'Arnaud! His second homer of the game evens things at 6. End-5 pic.twitter.com/dCFusNjuM2
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 23, 2017
The first homer off Edwin Jackson that gave the Mets a 1-0 second inning lead. Jackson seemed to settle in after that, but the floodgates would open after the aforementioned Lagares bunt single.
His second one off Jackson tied the game setting the stage for the bullpen to keep the Nationals at bay.
At least to start the ninth, it was AJ Ramos. However, Ramos would not finish the inning.
Josh Smoker, who has reverse splits in his career, was brought to face Lind. He rose to the challenge getting him to line out for the second out of the inning.
Next, just like Collins went back to Jeurys Familia to close it out. For the first time since returning from surgery. It was just like old times with Familia striking out Victor Robles to end the rally and the game.
Game Notes: Amed Rosario came back after missing three