Alejandro De Aza

Turning Off Wilpon Defender Mike Francesca

In 1997, the team had a surprising 88 win season with young players like Edgardo Alfonzo beginning to make his mark, accomplished players like John Olerud rejuvenating their careers, and players like Rick Reed seemingly coming out of nowhere to be good Major League players.  With a brash Bobby Valentine at the helm, many expected the Mets to make the leap in 1998.

As the 1998 season unfolded, it wasn’t to be, and that was mainly because their star catcher Todd Hundley had offseason elbow surgery which was going to keep him out for a while.

The Mets did start well.  On May 13th, the Mets were 19-15, albeit seven games back in the division.  Then, the following day, shockwaves went through Major League Baseball, and not just because the Mets were swept in a doubleheader by the Padres.  No, out of nowhere Mike Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins.

It was an absolute blockbuster with Piazza and Todd Zeile going to the Marlins, who just dismantled the 1997 World Series winning team, for Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and Gary Sheffield.

Everyone in baseball knew the Marlins were looking to flip Piazza for prospects, and a talented Mets farm system seemed to make them one of the favorites if they were interested.  Problem was, they weren’t interested.

After this trade happened, the Mets would fall to nine games out in the division.  While this was happening, Mike and the Mad Dog would take to the air day-in and day-out clamoring for the Mets to go out and get Piazza.  Their assault was relentless.

Finally, on May 22nd, the Mets would acquire Piazza from the Marlins for Preston Wilson, Geoff Goetz, and Ed Yarnall.  To hear Francesca tell it, he played a key role in that happening:

While a noted blowhard, you can never discount how public pressure forces teams to act.  After all if we look back to 2015, with all that happened, we did see the Mets swing a trade to obtain Yoenis Cespedes.  The public pressure continued in the ensuring offseason with the team, who had already moved on from Cespedes by signing Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center, acquiescing and signing Cespedes to what was essentially a one year deal.

The team didn’t let things play out after the 2016 season.  They jumped fairly quickly, and they signed Cespedes to a four year deal even with full knowledge of his heel issues.  Certainly, much of this was the result of the public pressure, which was given a voice on New York airwaves by people like Francesca.

Now?  Well, Francesca has gone from being an important voice to being a mouthpiece for the Wilpons.

He is now defending the Wilpons saying they are spending money.  He notes how the team has the seventh highest payroll in the majors.  That is patently false.  Cots, Spotrac and Steve the Ump ranks the Mets payroll 12th. Really, everyone ranks the Mets payroll 12th.

The AP ranked the Yankees, not the Mets as having the seventh highest payroll.  Maybe, Francesca read New York and was confused.

Putting the ranking aside, lost in that is the Mets recover 75% of David Wright‘s salary, which, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Jeff Wilpon has admitted does not get reinvested into baseball operations.  That means the Mets payroll is actually $15 million less than advertised.

Dropping the Mets payroll by $15 million, the Mets payroll drops to 15th in the majors.  With the $3 million saved in the Jeurys Familia trade, the payroll drops to 16th.  Yes, a New York market team, who is currently  refusing to give Jacob deGrom, currently the best starter in baseball, a contract extension, is in the bottom half of the league in spending.

For his part, Francesca defends this.  He will say the Mets spend, but they don’t spend well.  Nothing backs this up remotely.  Nothing.

Instead of pointing the finger where it belongs, the Wilpons, he will continue to bash Mickey Callaway as if he is the scourge of the Mets organization.  He will look at all the surrounds the Mets and mock them while failing to even consider pointing the blame at ownership.

And for all that, I’ve stopped listening to him.  After over 30 years of listening to him, I’m done.  And I suspect I will not be the only Mets fan who feels this way.

Mets, Cespedes, And The Difference Between Being Patient And Being Idle

If you look around the free agent landscape, you will see that most Major League teams have yet to make any significant moves.  Even those who have, like the Cardinals, who have obtained Marcell Ozuna, or the Yankees, who obtained Giancarlo Stanton, are still looking to make additional moves to complete their 2018 rosters.

And there are still plenty of real difference makers on the free agent market.  That goes for all positions.  Really, you could build an All Star roster over the players still available:

With all of these players still available, we have begun to hear from different sources how Sandy Alderson has made yet another master stroke.  He is successfully waiting out the market, and as a result, the Mets are bound to get a bargain in free agency.  For proof, we need not look any further than how Alderson signed Yoenis Cespedes in the offseason after the 2015 pennant.

For those that remember, early in that offseason, the Mets had moved on from Cespedes instead signing Alejandro De Aza to take part in a center field platoon with Juan Lagares.  The plan was to go with Curtis GrandersonMichael Cuddyer, and Michael Conforto in the outfield.  From there, things changed rather dramatically.

First, Cuddyer unexpectedly retired.  Perhaps more unexpected than that was no one wanting to give Cespedes a big contract after his terrific run after his getting traded to the Mets.   Part of that was some questions marks that began with his time in Boston.  Another issue was Cespedes being just one huge free agent in a loaded free agent class that included Chris DavisAlex GordonJason Heyward, Justin Upton, and many more.  The other Major League teams chose the other players.

This had left Cespedes as the last major free agent on the board.  While many credited the Mets with sticking it out and getting Cespedes on what was effectively a one year deal, the truth of the matter the team was lucky.  If the Nationals had not deferred much of the money in the 5 year roughly $100 million contract offer they made to Cespedes, it is likely Cespedes would have joined Daniel Murphy on the Nationals.

However, credit is due to the Alderson taking advantage of the situation and getting his man.

If we are being honest with ourselves, that was a bit of a miracle.  It was not a plan that can be emulated.  That goes double for this offseason with so many teams left looking to make moves this offseason.  There are many teams with more money who are looking to fill the same exact holes the Mets are.  The difference between those teams and the Mets is money.

By many accounts, the Mets only have roughly $10 million to spend this offseason.  That is unless they are able to move a contract like Lagares’.  For what it’s worth, if you are a Major League team looking for a center fielder, Cain, Jarrod DysonAustin JacksonCarlos Gomez, and Jon Jay are still available.  Why would you take on Lagares, when you can just sign one of these free agents?

So no, the Mets are not going to free up payroll.  Ultimately, this does not mean the Mets have been patient this offseason.  Instead, the team is being idle.  The key difference between the two is that when you’re patient you’re waiting for something to happen whereas an idle team moves along the offseason hoping for something to happen.

When you have $10 million to spend, are desperately attempting to attach yourselves to a number of rumors to keep the fans happy, and need to add at least five more key players this offseason to be relevant in 2018, you are idle.

Carig’s Wilpon Article Left Me Even More Frustrated

In case you missed it over the weekend, Marc Carig of Newsday wrote a column wherein many Mets fans have applauded because someone not only asked the question about payroll, but also for rightfully taking the team to task for how it’s been operated.

That’s great and all, but that’s not really what this article was about.  The article was really about the lack of accountability from this franchise.  Here are some key excerpts:

But rather than reach for transparency, the Wilpons seem content to hide. They never talk about money. Whether it’s arrogance or simply negligence, they have no problem asking fans to pony up the cash and never show the willingness to reciprocate.

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To the Wilpons, it’s as if nobody is worthy of a straight answer. That’s the biggest failure of all.

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But it costs zero dollars to be transparent, to be willing to explain the payroll, to be proactive about presenting a plan to succeed.

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The Wilpons can start by publicly owning up to how this franchise is run. They can begin speaking for themselves rather than leaving the dirty work to middle men. But until they show the courage to take that first step, the Mets and their fans are doomed to repeat the cycle, pulling for a franchise that will never actually do enough to win.

Having read and re-read this article, time and again, I really begin to wonder if the term fan is being substituted for reporter.

This is not a slight on Carig or any beat reporter.  There job is much more difficult than fans could possibly imagine.  There are things we demand they discover, but at the end of the day, there may be no answer to those questions because, well, the team won’t answer them.

Whatever your line of work, it must be nauseatingly frustrating when someone just stonewalls you time and time again, and that prevents you from doing an aspect of your job.  In the case of a beat reporter, that would include covering issues that are seemingly simple like the budget and a framework for the offseason.

As an aside, that must be even worse for Sandy Alderson.

Meanwhile, one of the most important currencies for a reporter is access.  Write a scathing comment like Carig did, and you may very well find that access limited.  That would make an already difficult job all the more difficult.

Still, there is a major question that needs to be asked – why is the payroll question being asked now?

Why wasn’t this asked heading into the 2015 season?  The team certainly pushed forth the belief they were going to contend with the rise of Jacob deGrom and the return of Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery.

That team’s Major League acquisitions prior to Spring Training were Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry.  They did nothing to address the bullpen or the bench, and Wilmer Flores was the shortstop.

After the 2015 season, if not for Yoenis Cespedes lingering longer than anyone believed he would, the Mets were going to enter the 2016 season with lower payroll and a center field platoon of Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares to replace Cespedes.  On top of that, Eric Campbell made the Opening Day roster because the Mets didn’t want to pay Ruben Tejada $3 million.

With an injured Mets team making an incredible push to claim the top Wild Card, the Mets did not sign one free agent from outside the organization.  They re-signed Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins because both surprisingly lingered on the free agent market, and the team gave Cespedes a big contract.

However, it should be noted the Mets did nothing to improve the roster from a team that was simply not good enough in 2016.  Instead, of stories about the payroll being below market and window of competition, it was mostly lauding the Cespedes re-signing as the team going for it coupled with the intrigue about how the Mets were returning the same roster.

And look, we all know the Mets are likely cutting payroll because that’s what the Mets do.  Still, the team did add a good late inning reliever in Anthony Swarzak, and they were rebuffed by Ian Kinsler.  Other than Carlos Santana, the big name free agents are still on the board.

While we don’t expect them to come to the Mets, in prior offseasons, we have seen the market correct with Sandy sitting there ready to swoop in and get them for less money than anticipated.  That’s why Cespedes and Blevins will be Mets next season.  Such behavior (luck?) has been routinely lauded.

Now?  Well, now, it is being criticized because the Mets lack of accountability and refusal to answer the simplest questions has become too much to bear.  Except this time, it’s not the fans, it’s for reporters.  They’re now writing articles about it – articles we all wish were written in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (apologies to a few like Megdal who has done excellent reporting on the topic and Vacarro who kept the heat on the team throughout 2015 and beyond).

So yes, I appreciate the article, but really, none of this is news to Mets fans.  It’s just confirmation of the status quo.  And sadly, in the end, we have learned nothing new from the team.  Really, this all just leaves me further frustrated with the franchise, and it leaves me further frustrated that this is really the first we have seen of these articles after all of these years.  Hopefully, there will be more.  More than that, I just hope something will finally come of this.

But we all know it won’t.

Former Mets In The Postseason

When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals.  With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East – Boston Red Sox

Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)

Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.

RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)

Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.

RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)

Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.

OF Chris Young (2014)

After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.

Central – Cleveland Indians

First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)

Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007.  He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.

RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)

Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.

RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)

Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons.  Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.

West – Houston Astros

DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)

Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform.  Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.

Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)

Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)

Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team.  Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.

Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)

Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark.  While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.

Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)

Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick.  He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)

Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.

Wild Card – New York Yankees

RHP Luis Cessa

Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.

Wild Card – Minnesota Twins

Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)

While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.

RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)

“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse.  There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.

RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)

Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability.  He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East – Washington Nationals

OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)

De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets.  He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.

Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)

Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.

2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)

Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase.  Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant.  Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.

LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)

Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season.  He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract.  Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.

Central – Cubs

Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)

“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.

C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)

Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners.  It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.

West – Dodgers

Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)

Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers.  Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.

OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)

Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform.  He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most.  Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series.  His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.

3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)

Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible.  Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.

Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)

Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.

Wild Card – Diamondbacks

RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)

Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed.  While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.

Wild Card – Rockies

None

Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League.  Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.

 

Brandon Nimmo – Mets 2018 Leadoff Hitter?

There are a number of areas the Mets need to address this offseason including both center field and lead-off hitter.  Either one of those areas could be addressed through free agency or perhaps the trade market.  However, before going down that route, the Mets should take a long look at Brandon Nimmo this season.

The 2011 first round draft pick, the first of the Sandy Alderson Era, just became the fourth rookie in Mets history to reach safely in every plate appearance.  That was also the second straight game Nimmo lead off the game for the Mets with a double.  Simply put, this is a player with the skills to be a Major League lead-off hitter.

So far this season, Nimmo has a .410 OBP in 62 plate appearances.  Dating back to last season, Nimmo has a .369 major league OBP in 142 major league plate appearances.  For sure, this is a small sample size, but Nimmo has shown the ability to get on base during his minor league career.  In fact, Nimmo’s .410 OBP last year was the best in the Pacific Coast League.

As for his defense, John Sickels of Minor League Ball wrote last year, “his defensive instincts are impressive and he is a quality defender in center field.”  Certainly, in the small sample we have seen of him, he has shown he has the tools to be a good center fielder.  He has the speed to more than adequately play the position.  His arm is strong enough to play out there.

Still, there is a some lingering doubt about the Mets faith in his ability to play there.  In his 21 major league starts, Nimmo has only started four of them in center.  During that time, the Mets have started Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Alejandro De Aza over him in center.  Even if it is not determinative of how the Mets feel about his skills in center, it is certainly not a glowing review.  Still, with his skill set, Nimmo should benefit from the coaching from Tom Goodwin, who has shown himself to be a good Major League outfield coach.

There’s also the matter of his ability to stay on the field.  In four of the last five seasons, Nimmo has spent some time on the disabled list.  He had knee surgery in 2013, which robbed him of some of his speed.  In reality, this isn’t a matter of chronic issues, and the collapsed lung was a bit of a freak injury.  Still, if you are concerned about that, you could platoon him with Juan Lagares.

With Lagares, the Mets have an elite defensive center fielder, who cannot hit right-handed pitching.  You also have an immovable contract with him making $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million the next.  He also has some of his own injury issues missing time in consecutive seasons with injuries to the same thumb.  Even with Nimmo having a platoon neutral bat, platooning the two players would serve to keep both fresh, and it would help the Mets get Lagares’ glove in the lineup.

However, it is more important to get Nimmo’s bat in the lineup and his glove in center field right now.  The Mets need to find out if they need to address center field and a lead-off hitter this offseason.  The Mets don’t really know if they need to look outside the organization to address those needs until they find out what they have in Nimmo.  It’s time to find that out now.

Good Luck Alejandro De Aza

Sometimes deals were not a good idea at their inception.  At other times, deals don’t just work out as planned.  Then there was Alejandro De Aza‘s tenure with the New York Mets.

Back when De Aza signed with the Mets, he was supposed to be the left-handed platoon option to go along with Juan Lagares in center field.  It was an extremely unpopular signing at the time beacause it was a clear indication the Mets were not going to sign Yoenis Cespedes.  Except the Mets, due to a combination of sheer luck and the depth of top end outfielders on the market, did actually re-sign Cespedes.

Just like that De Aza went from the platoon partner getting the bulk of the at-bats to being the team’s fifth outfielder.  Considering the talent level ahead of him,  he seemed like he was going to be the team’s seldom used fifth outfielder.  Anyone would struggle under those circumstances, and De Aza did.

In the beginning of July, he was only batting .158 with just five extra base hits.  Keep in mind, both of those extra base hits came in the same game.  Essentially, the irregular to lack of playing time was wrecking havoc with his ability to produce, and it was affecting him mentally.  It got to the point where Terry Collins began to question his work ethic.

With all that in mind, De Aza deserves a lot of credit.  De Aza went on a tear in July hitting .375/.487/.531 in 21 games and six games started.  The tear came at the right time too because it was a Mets team seemingly falling apart.  Lagares had a thumb issue.  Cespedes would deal with a quad injury.  Both Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto were struggling as well.  In fact, the entire Mets offense including Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera was struggling.  The Mets needed this boost from him, and they go it.

De Aza would also step up as the Mets were making a push for the Wild Card.  In a crucial late August series against the Cardinals, with Seth Lugo making his second ever major league start, De Aza came up huge not only robbing Matt Carpenter of a home run in the first at-bat in the bottom of the first, but also by hitting his own three run home run.  It was all part of how De Aza came up big when the Mets needed in most.  In fact, over the final month of the season, he would hit .265/.366/.353 in 25 games.

Overall, De Aza’s tenure with the Mets was a disappointing one with all involved.  However, he made significant contributions to the Mets when they needed them most.  That should never be overlooked even if ultimately he was usually the outfielder overlooked when Collins was filling out the lineup card.

De Aza’s struggles are a large reason why he was only able to muster a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics.  With that said, he is in a much better situation than he was in 2016.  This should allow him to return to being the player he never really got the chance to be with the Mets.  Hopefully, he gets back to that point.

Mets Have Rule 5 Decisions to Make

With the Mets adding Gavin Cecchini to the 40 man roster to sit on the bench as the Mets are chasing down a Wild Card spot, the team had one less decision to make on who should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.  Even if the Mets didn’t add Cecchini now, he was going to be added in the offseason.  Cecchini is too valuable a prospect, and he would be snatched up immediately in the Rule 5 Draft.

Cecchini was not the only player the Mets were going to have to make a decision on this offseason.  In fact, the Mets have to make a decision on 66 different prospects about whether or not they should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.  Here is a review of some of the more notable Mets prospects that need to be added to the 40 man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft:

AMED ROSARIO

SS Amed Rosario (Advanced A & AA) .324/.374/.459, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB

Yes, if it hasn’t been apparent this entire year, Rosario is in a class all by himself.  If he’s not added to the 40 man roster someone is getting fired.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

1B/3B Matt Oberste (AA) .283/340/.409, 21 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB

One issue that has plagued Oberste his entire minor league career is he has to fight for at bats as he is usually behind a bigger Mets prospect.  That has been literally and figuratively Dominic Smith (who is not yet Rule 5 eligible).  Oberste was an Eastern League All Star; however, the issue that is always going to hold him back is the fact that he is a corner infielder that does not hit for much power. Most likely, Oberste will not be added to the 40 man roster.

CF Champ Stuart (Advanced A & AA) .240/.314/.349, 12 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 40 SB

Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 bases this season.  The issue with Stuart is he is a maddening offensive player.  He went from hitting .265/.347/.407 in 71 games for Advanced A St. Lucie to hitting .201/.264/.261 in 43 games for AA Binghamton.  While he certainly has the tools to possibly be a big leauger one day, he’s too far away at this point.  Also, with teams putting more of a premium on offense than defense, it’s likely he will not be protected, and he will go undrafted.

C Tomas Nido ( Advanced A) .320/.357/.459, 23 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 0 SB

This year was a breakout season defensively and offensively for the Florida State League batting champion.  Normally, with Nido never having played a game in AA, the Mets would be able to leave him unprotected and be assured he wouldn’t be drafted.  However, with catcher being such a difficult position to fill, it’s possible a bad team like the Braves takes a flyer on him and keeps him as the second or third stringer catcher all year.  It’s exactly how the Mets lost Jesus Flores to the Nationals many years ago.

SP Marcos Molina 2015 Stats (Rookie & Advanced A) 9 G, 8 GS, 1-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.9 K/9

Molina did not pitch for the Mets organization for the entire 2016 season as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Arizona Fall League will be his first time facing batters in a game since his eight starts for St. Lucie in 2015.  It’s likely he will go unprotected and undrafted.

ARMS THAT COULD HELP IN 2017

RHP Paul Sewald (AAA) 56 G, 5-3, 19 saves, 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.0 K/o

In many ways, it is surprising that a Mets bullpen that was looking for an extra arm never turned to Sewald.  While he struggled to start the season like most pitchers transitioning to the Pacific Coast League do, Sewald figured it out and had a terrific second half with 10 saves, a 1.85 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP.  Sewald should be protected.  In the event he isn’t, he should be as good as gone.

RHP Beck Wheeler (AA & AAA) 47 G, 0-3, 6 saves, 5.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 12.1 K/9

Wheeler went unprotected and undrafted last year, and based upon the numbers he put up in his time split between Binghamton and Las Vegas, it appears the same thing will happen this year.  The one reservation is like with the Braves interest in Akeel Morris, teams will always take fliers on guys with mid 90s fastballs who can generate a lot of strikeouts.  It just takes one team to think they can help him reduce his walk rate for him to go in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Chasen Bradford (5 saves, 4.80 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) – Bradford regressed statistically from last year in large part because he is a sinker/slider pitcher that pitches to contact.  On the bright side, he walks very few batters meaning if you have good infield defense, he will be a successful pitcher for your team.  His numbers should scare off a number of teams in the Rule 5 draft just like it did last year.

RHP Ricky Knapp (Advanced A & AA) 25 G, 24 GS, 13-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.3 K/9

Knapp started the year in St. Lucie, and he finished it with a spot start in Las Vegas.  Knapp doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he gets the most out of all of his pitches because he is excellent at hitting his spots.  He is a very polished product that is best suited to being a starting pitcher.  Since he doesn’t strike out many batters, teams will most likely pass on him in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Luis Mateo (AA & AAA) 51 G, 4-4, 1 save, 2.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.0 K/9

He’s a fastball/slider pitcher with a low 90s fastball that generates a fair share of groundball outs while keeping the ball in the ballpark.  While his ERA should entice teams, his WHIP and strikeout rate may keep them away just like it did last year when the Mets left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft.  He will most likely begin next year in AAA.

RISING PROFILES

2B/3B/SS Phillip Evans (Advanced A & AA) .321/.366/.460, 30 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB

The Eastern League Batting Champion certainly raised his profile with a much improved offensive season.  He’s starting to become more selective at the plate and learn how to be less of a pull hitter.  The main issue for Evans is he may not have a position.  While he can make all the plays at the infield positions, he lacks range to be a solid middle infielder.  He also lacks the arm strength and power numbers you would want at third base.

RHP Chris Flexen (Advanced A, AA, AAA) 25 GS, 10-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

Flexen appears to be in the mold of a typical Mets pitching prospect in that he has a high 90’s fastball and a good slider.  Despite the repertoire, he is not generating a lot of strikeouts right now.  On the bright side, he does generate a number of ground balls while limiting home runs.   He was rumored to be part of the initial Jay Bruce trade that fell apart due to an unnamed prospect’s physical (does not appear to be him).  A second division club like the Reds could take a flyer on him and put him in the bullpen for a year to gain control over him despite him never having pitched at a level higher than Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Tyler Bashlor (Full Season & Advanced A) 54 G,  4-3, 2.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.8 K/9

While the 5’11” Bashlor is short on stature, he has a big arm throwing a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider which he used to dominate in the Sally League.  Bashlor used these pitches to strike out 11.8 batters per nine innings.  Like Flexen, there is danger exposing a big arm like this even if the highest level of experience he has is four games for Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Kevin McGowan (Advanced A & AA) 42 G, 4 GS, 2 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

McGowan is a fastball/changeup pitcher that still needs to develop a breaking pitch.  While that fastball/changeup combination has been good enough to get batters out at the lower levels of the minor leagues, he is going to need another pitch if he is going to progress as a pitcher.

DISAPPOINTING SEASONS

RF Wuilmer Becerra (Advanced A) .312/.341/.393, 17 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB

Around the time of the Rule 5 Draft last year, the debate was whether a bad team like the Braves would take a flyer on Becerra just to get the promising young outfielder into their organization.  Unfortunately, Becerra would have a shoulder injury that would rob him of his budding power.  More importantly, that shoulder injury would require surgery ending his season after just 65 games.

1B/3B Jhoan Urena (Advanced A) .225/.301/.350, 17 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB

With the emergence of David Thompson, Urena was pushed from third to first.  However, that isn’t what was most troubling about his season.  In fact, many questioned whether he could stay at third given his frame.  The issue was the switch hitting Urena stopped hitting for power this season.  With his not hitting for power, Rosario’s best friend in the minors should go undrafted in the Rule 5 Draft.

LHP Paul Paez (Advanced A & AA) 34 G, 4-1, 3.88 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

This year Paez failed to distinguish himself by not pitching particularly well for St. Lucie and then struggling in Binghamton.  He only has a high 80’s fastball and lacks a true swing and miss breaking pitch.  While lefties hitting .308 off of him this year, he may not even have a future as a LOOGY in a major league bullpen.

NEEDS TIME TO DEVELOP

OF Patrick Biondi (Advanced A) .271/.352/.332, 17 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 34 RBI, 26 SB

While Biondi’s stats look good on the surface, it should be noted at 25 years old, he is old for the level.  On the bright side, Biondi has speed and is a good defender in CF.  However, until he starts getting on base more frequently, he will not be considered for the 40 man roster.

RHP Nabil Crismatt (Short & Full Season A) 13 G, 7 GS, 1-4, 1 Save, 2.47 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

Crismatt is only 21, but he is mature in terms of his ability to control his changeup and curveball and throw them at any point in the count.  Couple that with a low 90s fastball that could gain velocity as he ages, and you have someone who has the repertoire to be a major leaguer.  However, considering he hasn’t faced stiff competition yet in his career, he is nowhere ready for the majors, at least not yet.

2B/3B/SS Jeff McNeil 2015 Season (Advanced A & AA) .308/.369/.377, 18 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 16 SB

Coming into the season, McNeil appeared to be more mature physically and at the plate.  He seemed ready to begin hitting for more power while still being able to handle 2B defensively.  Unfortunately, he would only play in three games this season for Binghamton before going on the disabled list needing season ending sports hernia surgery.

RHP Tim Peterson (Advanced A & AA) 48 G, 4-1, 2 saves, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.3 K/9

At each and every level Peterson has pitched, he has shown the ability to strike people out with a fastball that touches on the mid 90s and a plus curveball.  The only issue for him in his career so far was his PED suspension in 2014.

AAAA PLAYERS

OF Travis Taijeron (AAA) .275/.372/.512, 42 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 88 RBI, 1 SB

Taijeron continued to do what he does best, which is get on base and hit for power.  Despite a strong Spring Training and another solid offensive season, the Mets really showed no interest in calling him up to the majors.  He will most likely go unprotected, but maybe this year a team out there desperate for some power in the outfield or on the bench will give him a shot.

2B L.J. Mazzilli (AA & AAA) .239/.320/.348, 18 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB

Lee Mazzilli‘s son is a grinder out there who plays a decent second base.  Unfortunately, it appears his bat will prevent him from ever getting a real shot to ever play in the big league.

PREDICTIONS

Guaranteed: Rosario

Likely: Flexen, Nido

Bubble: Bashlor, Knapp, McGowan, Sewald, Wheeler

As for the remaining players, the Mets may very well gamble exposing them to the Rule 5 Draft and potentially lose them to another team.  It is also possible the Mets unexpectedly protect a player like Knapp.  In any event, the Mets have a number of important decisions to make that can have far reaching implications.

 

 

Mets Have Payroll Concerns Already

On October 29, 2010, in the wake of the Madoff scandal, Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager. Alderson inherited a team with some big stars like Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright. With that he also inherited a team who finished the 2010 season with a hefty $126 million payroll, which ranked sixth in the major leagues. Due to some backloaded contracts reaching their expiration, the 2011 Opening Day payroll was actually inflated to $143 million.

Alderson went to work dismantling a team that was disappointing on the field in what was the beginning of a real rebuilding process. Luis Castillo was released before the season started. Oliver Perez was not too far behind him. Getting rid of the underperforming players the fans hated was the easy part. The hard part was what ensued.

The Mets first traded Francisco Rodriguez, who was getting dangerously close to having an expensive $17.5 million option vest. Then he traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler. Surprisingly, Alderson didn’t trade Jose Reyes, who was the National League leader in batting average. Instead, he would let Reyes become a free agent, and he would recoup a draft pick when Reyes signed a $106 million contract with the Marlins.

And just like that what was once a $143 million payroll became a $95 million payroll in a little more than a year. In subsequent years, the Mets would let Johan Santana‘s contract expire and not reinvest the money. They would release Jason Bay, and again re-invest the money. Then the Mets would shop R.A. Dickey after he won the Cy Young Award.  They obtained Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for him which was a sure sign the Mets were more invested in rebuilding than contending.

It was also a sign that the Mets were cash strapped due to the Madoff scandal. The payroll would reach its nadir in 2o14 when it was actually $85 million, which ranked 21st in the major leagues. A bewildered and frankly angry fan base was left wondering when, if ever, the Wilpons were going to permit the Mets to have a payroll commensurate with their standing as a big market major league franchise.

Now, over the past two seasons, the Mets payroll has gone from $85 million in 2014 to $101 million to start the 2015 season. In that offseason, the Mets actually went out and signed Michael Cuddyer to help them become a more complete team. When Cuddyer faltered and David Wright would suffer from spinal stenosis, the Mets made moves and added payroll. The team first traded for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (even if the Braves paid part of their salary). The Mets then acquired Yoenis Cespedes and what was a left of his $10.5 million contract. In 2015, the Mets spent a little more, but more importantly they spent what they needed to spend to compete.

In 2016, the Mets initially put out signs they were not moving off their roughly $100 million payroll when they signed Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center. It was perceived as a sign the Mets were not going to spend; it was a sign they were not willing to go the extra mile to get Cespedes. But then something happened. Cespedes didn’t find that massive deal on the free agent market. Instead, he re-signed with the Mets for $27.5 million in 2016. After 2016, Cespedes had the option to opt out of the remaining two years $47.5 million left on his contract.

With the Mets paying Cespedes a hefty salary to start the season, the Mets Opening Day payroll rose all the way to $135 million. Before Cespedes was re-signed, there was some doubt about whether it was really the insurance on Wright’s contract that allowed them to make those in-season moves, the re-signing of Cespedes calmed down a fan base that worried when or if the Mets would be willing to spend. Better yet, when the Mets had some issues scoring runs, they went out and traded for Jay Bruce.

Surprisingly now, we are back at the point of wondering if the Mets are willing to spend. The $135 million payroll was a positive step, but it is still less than the first payroll Alderson had with the Mets, and it was only ranked 15th in the majors. Cespedes is a free agent, and no one is quite sure if the Mets will re-sign him, look to acquire a big name free agent like Jose Bautista, or if they are going to stick with the Michael ConfortoCurtis Granderson-Bruce outfield. The Mets also have a number of other areas to address this offseason.

The first step was Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer. With that, according to ESPN‘s Adam Rubin, the Mets current payroll obligations are $124 million. That is just $10 million under what the 2015 Opening Day Payroll was. If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes, or another big name free agent, the payroll is going to go well past the $135 million mark.

The problem is the Mets need to go even further than that. Not only do they need Cespedes, or a reasonable facsimile, they also need to re-sign Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, or again, a reasonable facsimile thereof. The Mets may also want to add another backup catcher given Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury concerns, Rene Rivera‘s lack of offense, and Kevin Plawecki having two disappointing seasons. The Mets may also want to sign a veteran starter considering the health issues of their rotation and Bartolo Colon having signed with the Braves this past week. There’s a lot the Mets need to address here, and it isn’t likely that $10 million is going to cover all of it.

So again, we are back at the point of wondering how far the Mets are willing to go to compete. Will they have a payroll in the upper half of all of baseball? Do they have the funds to spend like a big market club? At this point, no one knows the answers to these questions. While Mets fans may be apprehensive, it is too soon to to pass judgment. That time will come when we see how the Mets handle the Cespedes situation.

Mets Final Season Grades – Outfielders

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the fifth set of grades, here are the Mets outfielders:

Yoenis Cespedes B+

Is it possible for a player to have a great season, but you wanted just a little more from him?  Overall, Cespedes had one of the great statistical seasons from a Mets outfielder with him hitting .280/.354/.530 with 25 doubles, one triple, 31 homers, and 86 RBI.  For most of the season, Cespedes was everything you could have expected from him.

Still, there were other points where he wasn’t and much of that was due to the injured quad he tried to play through much of the season.  The quad injury was a major reason his numbers were slightly below where you expected they would be.  It was also a reason for his subpar defense this season.  Even when healthy, he was a disaster in center as evidenced by his -10.6 UZR and his -7 DRS.  Eventually, his quad left Cespedes telling the Mets he could no longer play center (but not golf), and that he needed to go back to left field.  In left, Cespedes was a good defender, but he wasn’t at the Gold Glove level he usually is.

However, despite all the negatives you could point out, Cespedes was still a great player for the Mets in 2016, and he was a major contributor for a team that returned to the postseason.  He proved his 2015 stretch with the Mets was no fluke.  He showed everyone why the Mets need to bring him back next year.

Michael Conforto D

This was supposed to be the year Conforto took off and became a star.  It seemed like it was happening in April when he hit .365/.442/.676 with 11 doubles, four homers, and 18 RBI while leading the major leagues in hard hit ball rate.  It was all coming together until it didn’t.

The rest of Conforto’s season was marred by slumps, injury, and multiple demotions.  After April, Conforto would only hit .174/.267/.330 with 10 doubles, one triple, eight homers, and 24 RBI.  There are a million different reasons we can use to explain these numbers away including his injuries and the very poor way both the Mets and Terry Collins handled him.  Looking at his AAA numbers, the injuries and mishandling of him look more like good reasons than they do excuses.

However, no matter the reason, Conforto still only hit .220/.310/.414 with 21 doubles, one triple, 12 homers, and 42 RBI.  Those are disappointing numbers for a young player that should be a star in this league.  Conforto did work hard all year, made no excuses, and he seems better off for it.  As a result, we should see more of the April Conforto in 2017.

Curtis Granderson C

It is really hard to say a player who became the oldest Met to ever hit 30 homers in a season had a disappointing year, but Granderson did have a disappointing year.  He went from the Mets MVP to a guy hitting .237/.335/.464.  Despite the 30 homers, he only had 59 RBI.  Although, it should be noted he spent most of the year as the leadoff hitter.  He also regressed in the field going from a Gold Glove caliber player to a subpar defensive player.

On the positive side, he did hit 30 homers, and he had a great September helping the Mets drive to claim the top Wild Card spot.  He was willing to do anything to help the team including playing center field when Cespedes was no longer able to do so.  He was a leader on the team, and he deservedly won the Roberto Clemente Award.  The organization is better for having a person like Granderson.  The real question is whether the team will be better for having a player like Granderson around next year.

Jay Bruce D+

Up until the last week and a half of the season it looked like the Bruce acquisition was going to be an unmitigated disaster.  In Bruce’s first 42 games with the Mets, he hit .174/.252/.285 with four doubles, four homers, and 11 RBI.  He went from the major league leader in RBI to finding himself outside the Top 10.  He went from a career year to a guy completely lost at the plate.  To boot, he wasn’t that good in the field either.

During the stretch drive, he seemed to adapt to playing in New York, and he started to hit much better.  In his final eight games, he hit .480/.536/1.000 with a double, four homers, and eight RBI.  That stretch made his overall Mets numbers seem a little better with him hitting .219/.294/.391 with five doubles, eight homers, and 19 RBI.  Certainly, both Bruce and the Mets were hoping for better production than that.  Hopefully, he provides it in 2017.

Juan Lagares B-

Lagares’ value has been and will always be with his glove, and that is why his 2016 season was mostly a success.  Despite Lagares being limited to 68 games in center field due to his being a platoon player and his ligament injury, he was still Top Five in the National League in DRS.  If Lagares had played more games, it is safe to assume he would’ve won his second Gold Glove.

However, Lagares is not going to get that type of opportunity because of his offense.  In 79 games, Lagares hit .239/.301/.380 with seven doubles, two triples, three homers, and nine RBI.  It is hard justifying keeping that bat in the lineup no matter how good your defense is.  It is even harder when you consider the struggles the Mets had scoring runs last season.  It should be noted that Lagares’ role was as a platoon player and a late defensive replacement.  While he didn’t hit well in 2016, he was great defensively.  We should expect more of the same next year.

Alejandro De Aza C-

In a short period of time, De Aza went from the probable Opening Day center fielder to the fifth outfielder without an inning of baseball even being played.  The Mets brought him here to platoon with Lagares, and with the unexpected Cespedes signing, De Aza really found himself without a role.

As a a result, he really struggled to start the year.  Not only was he struggling at the plate, but Collins was questioning his effort level.  Eventually, De Aza had a great July, and he turned his season around.  From there, he became an effective bench player, and he capably played all three outfield positions.  Overall, he hit .205/.297/.321 with nine doubles, six homers, and 25 RBI.  Those numbers were so low because that is how bad he was in the beginning of the year.  Ultimately, it was a rough year for what should prove to be De Aza’s only year as a Met.

Brandon Nimmo B+

The biggest beneficiary of Conforto’s struggles was Nimmo.  With Conforto being sent down, Nimmo got his chance to play in the major leauges, and he made the most of it.  In 32 games, Nimmo hit .274/.338/.329 with one double, a long home run, and six RBI.  Mostly, the 23 year old former first round draft pick showed the Mets he could very well be a part of the future of this organization.

Justin Ruggiano Inc

With his removal from the 40 man roster, Ruggiano’s Mets career lasted all of 22 plate appearances.  In those 22 plate appearances he did hit .350/.409/.650 with two homers and six RBI.  In that mix was a grand slam he hit off of Madison Bumgarner, which only serves to highlight how much the Mets missed a guy who only had 22 plate appearances for them in the 2016 season.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Cespedes Opt Out Day

With the 2016 World Series going seven games, today marks the deadline for Yoenis Cespedes to opt out of the remaining two years of his contract.  Once Cespedes opts out of his contract like we all expect him to do, the danger of losing him in free agency will begin to be fully realized.

The Mets have had over a month to negotiate a deal with Cespedes.  Over this time period, they were the only team that could negotiate with him, and yet, the Mets haven’t had any real contract discussions with him.  Instead, the Mets have let everyone know they are pessimistic about re-signing him because he wants a five year deal.  Then they began the process of putting out there the team is concerned about what type of effort Cespedes will give once he receives the five year contract he is looking to obtain in free agency.

This is the beginnings of the same smear campaign the Mets launched against Cespedes last offseason.  As you remember last offseason, the Mets quickly moved on from Cespedes by signing Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center.  It was only after Cespedes didn’t get the deal he was expecting in free agency that he and the Mets were able to negotiate the current deal Cespedes is opting out of today.

There will be no bat signals like De Aza this offseason.  The Mets already have a glut of outfielders with Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and Lagares.  The Mets also have Justin Ruggiano for the moment.  With all of those pieces, the Mets are likely going to figure out how to piece those outfielders together.  With that in mind, it is likely Cespedes is gone.

And if he is as good as gone, just let him go.  He was great for the Mets for the last year and a half.  He was a fan favorite, and he was a difference maker in the lineup.  If the Mets believe they can build an offense without Cespedes much in the same fashion many of these same front office people did with Oakland after Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi left in free agency, more power to you.  This decision right here is exactly why this front office is in place.

However, no matter what your decision, don’t smear the guy on the way out.  You’re not changing the fans’ opinion on him, nor are you ever going to convince the fans you are not willing to have a payroll commensurate with the payroll a big market team should have.

With the smear campaign already in place, and the Mets not negotiating with Cespedes when they had the time, the handwriting is on the wall.  We just do not know how many more days, weeks, or possibly months lie ahead before Cespedes signs elsewhere.  No matter what happens from this point forward, the Mets front office better be right in how they handle this decision.