Alejandro De Aza

20/20 Hindsight: Finally Back To .500

With the Mets taking 2/3 from the Tigers, the team is finally back to .500 effectively letting them hit the reset button and start anew:

1. The Mets should have swept the Tigers, but it’s hard to complain about winning two out of three and eight of nine, especially after being swept by the Marlins.

2. It won’t last, but with a pair of three run homers in the series, Adeiny Hechavarria is looking like the slugging second baseman Robinson Cano was supposed to be.

3. Wilson Ramos‘ power has returned exactly when the Mets needed. He hit three homers in the series and had four extra base hits against the Tigers after entering the series with just two homers and five extra base hits.

4. On Saturday, Ramos joined with Tomas Nido to hit three homers to carry the Mets offense in the 13 inning win. So far, Nido has been fine as a defensive minded back-up.

5. Todd Frazier is also stepping up. His bunt to beat the shift was almost as amazing as the diving stop he made to save a run. Over his last eight games, he’s hitting .321/.424/.429.

6. The Mets have completely mismanaged their outfield situation.

7. Brandon Nimmo was very hurt, and the Mets response was to drop him in the lineup, not get him checked out.

8. It’s fair to say Keon Broxton didn’t earn playing time, but the team had the chance to get him playing time and reap the rewards the Orioles are. To make it worse, the $500,000 bonus pool money was a nothing return as it needs to be spent by June 15 and any player deserving of the amount has been long signed.

9. That’s not to see there still aren’t players who could surprise. For example, not too long ago, the Mets signed Gerson Molina, who is impressing after not having played baseball in nearly three years.

10. Carlos Gomez is hitting .133. Aaron Altherr followed a homer in his first at-bat as a Met by going 0-for-5 and is now 2-for-36 on the season. Rajai Davis was designated for assignment.

11. As Sandy Alderson and Alejandro De Aza showed, and we’re seeing it again, you can’t completely overreact to the struggles of bench players for almost the sole purpose of throwing some red meat to your fans.

12. As great as it is to see Michael Conforto back, let’s hope he’s actually ready. Given what happened with Ryan Church, Mets fans should be holding their breath with the team flying to Los Angeles.

13. It didn’t work, but bringing in Edwin Diaz in the eighth was absolutely the correct move. It should also be noted with him needing 13 pitches to get that last out, pulling him after the inning was also the correct move.

14. Mickey Callaway pulled all the right strings in the Mets 13 inning victory, and he’s been much better recently.

15. Drew Gagnon deserves a pass for his tough outing. That said, it’s fair to question if he’s ready for that late inning set-up role.

16. Jason Vargas has only gone five innings against the five worst offenses in baseball. This is what an effective long man looks like, not a fifth starter. That’s still better than what Noah Syndergaard did.

17. Syndergaard has been quite mercurial this year, and it might be because of the new ball. He’s talked about having difficulty getting a grip, and if you track it, pitchers who use a slider instead of a curve seem to be disproportionately affected by the new ball.

18. Give Zack Wheeler credit for his ability to put a tough inning or start behind him and still go deep in a game. If he can just find a way to get into a groove the first time through the lineup, he’d be Cy Young material.

19. Seeing Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith play, the Mets should not be 100% convinced Alonso is the guy, especially as Alonso continues to regress.

20. You should take the time to read Nick Francona’s interview with Paul Lukas on Uni Watch, especially today.

Brodie Van Wagenen Botched Everything Keon Broxton

Recently, there has been a number of questions from the media regarding Mickey Callaway‘s job status. Based upon the roster and his statements yesterday, maybe the media should instead be asking Brodie Van Wagenen if he knows what he’s doing.

Back in January, the Mets obtained Keon Broxton from the Milwaukee Brewers for Bobby Wahl, Adam Hill, and Felix Valerio. In the press release announcing the deal, Brodie Van Wagenen said, “Keon is a dynamic athlete with the ability to impact the game in the outfield, on the bases and with his bat. He adds depth to our major league roster for 2019 and into the future.”

In 34 games that did not prove to be the case as Broxton was about as you can be. He had an 8 wRC+ while striking out 41.5 percent of the time while posting a -1 DRS in the outfield. Really, every time he took the field you failed to see not just how he could help the Mets, but also why the Mets would give up three players for him.

Everyone has been frustrated by it, Broxton included. After he struck out to end the game against the Nationals, he said, “From the start of the season I’ve been surprised. I haven’t been playing too much, I haven’t gotten as many opportunities. It’s not like I started out bad. It is what it is though. They got a plan and they’re working with it, so all I can do is try to be ready.”

With his being designated for assignment, he’s going to try to be ready somewhere else.

Van Wagenen addresses the decision before yesterday’s loss against the Marlins. In his comments, there was certainly a bit of revisionist’s history:

Clearly, we gave up a few players for Keon. We said publicly then, and I think it’s played itself out here now that Keon’s move was potentially redundant by design.

The Mets General Manager stood in front of reporters, and he told them he gave away three players for someone he now for the first time admits was redundant.

It needs to be reiterated. Van Wagenen admitted he used prospects and a roster spot on a player with no options and could refuse an assignment to the minors. He did that with full knowledge Broxton was redundant because of Juan Lagares.

He utilized assets and a roster spot for a redundant player.

Van Wagenen did that despite the team entering the season with just two caliber starting outfielders on the roster. He did that despite there being a plethora of veterans available who’d sign a minor league deal to serve the same purpose. Veterans like Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, or Carlos Gomez.

Do you want those guys starting games? No, of course not. However, those are the types of players who could serve as redundancies to a backup. But now, in his infinite wisdom, Broxton designates Broxton for assignment for Gomez, someone who they signed without giving up three players.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Mets need the depth now. Michael Conforto is on the IL with a concussion, and given the nature of the injury, no one can know when he can return. Jeff McNeil has not landed on the IL, but he’s dealing with an abdominal issue.

It’s also bizarre Van Wagenen suddenly decided Lagares wasn’t going to be injured this year. Lagares has been on the disabled list in each of the past three years and five of his last six. After the Mets played 42 games and lost two of their starting outfielders, Van Wagenen decides the team doesn’t need their redundancy for Lagares.

Even better, the player replacing Broxton is the injury prone Gomez.

In the end, Broxton did little to prove he belonged on the roster. In some ways, he reminded you of Alejandro De Aza, who was terrible to open 2016 with fans begging he be designated for assignment. Of course, De Aza came up huge in July and September to help that Mets team make the postseason.

There will be no such redemption story for Broxton because Van Wagenen decided the team needed LESS outfield depth with their top two outfielders injured. Apparently, the Mets also no longer need redundant players on the roster (as if any team ever needs that).

Of course, despite having effectively throwing away three players for a player Van Wagenen saw as a redundancy, he gets to answer questions about Callaway’s job status. He also gets to make a decision (or have input on the decision) to fire Callaway for his inability to win games with a roster full of underperforming redundant players.

Three Years Later, Game Changing And Franchise Altering Options Still There

Today is the three year anniversary of Yoenis Cespedes officially signing a three year $75 million contract with the New York Mets. The contract came with the opt out the Mets had said they didn’t want to offer anyone, and it was a surprise for a team who had seemed to move on from Cespedes early in the offseason.

For those who recall, the Mets had signed Alejandro De Aza on December 23, 2015. With his signing, the plan was apparently to have him platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. He would be in the same outfield as Michael Conforto, who after a promising 2015 season, looked primed to be an everyday player and Curtis Granderson, a man who was a series of infield and managerial gaffes away from being the World Series MVP.

That was a respectable, but not an especially formidable outfield for a Mets team who had designs on winning a World Series. It caused frustration because the De Aza signing didn’t exactly put the team over the top. The money saved on Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement was arguably poorly spread between De Aza, Jerry Blevins, Antonio Bastardo, and Bartolo Colon.

No, this team needed Cespedes.

What was odd was Cespedes was still a free agent. Sure, there were better regarded free agent outfield options in Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. There were other attractive options available as well. Still, this was a player who thrived in the biggest market in the world hitting .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 homers, and 44 RBI in 57 games.

Extrapolating that over a 162 game season, and Cespedes would have accumulated 40 doubles, 11 triples, 48 homers, and 125 RBI. Now, it shouldn’t be anticipated Cespedes could do that over a 162 game schedule. However, what we did see is Cespedes is a difference maker just like he was with the Athletics.

Yet, still he lingered with little interest. Sure, the Nationals were rumored to have offered Cespedes $100 million, but it was the typical Nationals offer with deferred money, which did not seem to interest Cespedes. The fact this was the only real offer kept him around thereby allowing the Mets to swoop in and get Cespedes on a good deal for both sides.

It was a coup by Sandy Alderson. It was a necessary move which helped the Mets reach the postseason again in 2016. It marked just the second time in team history the Mets would go to consecutive postseasons. It happened because Cespedes lingered allowing the Mets to make a bold move.

This is the same situation which is present with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Somehow, some way, the two best free agents entering this free agent class are still available. For reasons unbeknownst to us, there are few teams in on either one of these players. In adding either one of these players, the Mets would take their 2019 team and put it over the top. A team who is projected to win around 85 games would move into the 90+ win range. That’s what happens when you add superstars and potential Hall of Famers.

It was the impact Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter had on those 1980s Mets teams. We saw that impact again when the Mets went out and traded for and re-signed Mike Piazza.

The Mets took advantage of unexpected opportunities. They struck when no one else expected them to strike. The result was a period of relevance, winning, and increased attendance. The chance is there. The Mets need to strike now and bring in one of Harper or Machado. The 2019 season rests on it.

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.