Alejandro De Aza

If Cespedes Returns, Who Goes?

Fans are clamoring for Yoenis Cespedes. They want him. They need him. Here’s the problem. What’s the corresponding move?

When the Cubs signed Ben Zobrist, they were prepared. They had a deal worked out for Starlin Castro to go to the Yankees. Having the deal in place helped prevent the market from suppressing Castro’s value because the Cubs would’ve had to trade Castro. If the Mets want to sign Cespedes, they’re going to have to do the same thing. 

Right now, the Mets have Michael Conforto in left, Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza platooning in center, and Curtis Granderson in right. If you sign Cespedes, something’s gotta give. Let’s start with the obvious. You’re not moving Conforto. Also, with the Mets signing De Aza cannot be traded until June 15th. That leaves Granderson and Lagares. Which one do you move?  It’s a matter of selling low on Lagares or selling high on Granderson. 

If you trade Lagares, you’re trading an elite defensive player. He was a 5.5 WAR player and a Gold Glover just in 2014. He had a down year in 2015. We don’t know how much of it had to do with his elbow injury, but he fell off the map defensively. He went from an 18.6 UZR to a 3.5. Basically, he went from a Gold Glover to merely above average. If Lagares isn’t elite defensively, he’s not an everyday player. 

I still think Lagares has value. He had a terrific postseason hitting .348/.375/.435. He performed well in Winter League action this, even if he showed platoon splits. He’s  still just 26 years old. The hope is he rebuilds his value. If he does, and you sell low, you’re going to regret it. 

The other choice is Granderson, who may be at the apex of his value. Last year he hit .259/.364/.457. He was a dynamic leadoff hitter. For long stretches of the season, he was the only legitimate hitter in the lineup holding things together. He was a Gold Glove finalist. He was the best position player on the Mets last year. He then followed it up with a great postseason. He hit three World Series homeruns.  He’s a great fit for a win-now team like the Mets. 

However, he is turning 35 before the start of the next season. He’s a year removed from a .237/.326/.388 season. He just had surgery on a torn ligament in his thumb. There are risks relying upon his production for next year. 

The last option would be to keep everyone. That is a monumental task for Terry Collins. You have to keep Lagares and De Aza happy with even more limited at bats. You have to hold off on the temptation of benching Conforto for stretches if he struggles or goes into a prolonged slump. There’s an issue of relying on Wilmer Flores too much. Remember, he hit .263/.295/.408 last year. The Mets still need a 1B/OF option. 

Putting aside the issues it would create, Cespedes is a good player who could help the Mets. The fans want him. The issue then becomes who do the fans want to jettison?  

Mets Offseason Has Been By The Book

From what I gather from reading incorrect interpretations of the book, I take many people did not actually read Moneyball. If you haven’t, you should go and read it. If you have, now is the time to re-read it. 

The reason to re-read it now is the script for the Mets postseason lies within those pages. I know Sandy Alderson was no longer the A’s GM at the time; it was Billy Beane. However, remember Beane’s top two lieutenants were J.P. Riccardi and Paul DePodesta. Until recently, they were Alderson’s top lieutenants. They were at least in place when the Mets were creating their offseason plans. 

One of the many aspects of the book, which the movie seemed to get purposefully wrong, was how the A’s went about replacing Jason Giambi and one-year rental Johnny Damon. In essence, the A’s determined they flat out didn’t have enough money to replace these guys with other high priced players. Instead, the A’s were going to have to replace their production using a different line of thinking. I’m summing up here and being a little over simplistic, but here was the thought process:

  1. The team needed to identify what was undervalued on the free agent market (OBP);
  2. They needed the cumulation of their entire roster to replace Giambi and Damon since they couldn’t just sign two big name free agents to do it; and
  3. They needed to do it as cheaply as possible. 

So what did they do?  Well we know the Scott Hatteberg story with him being moved to first due to his traditionally high OBP (more on that later). In the movie and most other places, the story behind the David Justice acquisition is plain wrong. The A’s obtained him from the Mets, not the Yankees, in exchange for a LOOGY by the name of Mark Guthrie and a mistake waiting to happen by the name of Tyler Yates. It was the Mets, not the Yankees, who kicked in salary. It was only $1.2 million

Now for the moves that haven’t received much fanfare. The A’s handed the secondbase job to a young Mark Ellis, who was capable of higher production than last year’s second baseman Frank Menechino. Menechino was moved to the bench to create a deeper roster. The A’s traded for Carlos Pena, who was a promising young player. Pena was supposed to be the first baseman with Hatteberg at DH and Justice in LF. That’s the way it was up until the trade deadline. They also traded for Billy Koch to sure up the closer’s role for the departed Jason Isringhausen

By design, the A’s replaced Giambi and Damon not only with Pena and Justice, but by also improving their DH spot (Olmedo Saenz and Jeremy Giambi) and secondbase.  In essence, the A’s added three new starters putting their old starters on the bench. The A’s left some payroll flexibility and had assets for the trade deadline.

The A’s used Pena in a three way trade to acquire Ted Lilly to sure up the rotation behind their three young big pitchers. They then used a prospect to acquire Ray Durham to DH with some needed cash. Hatteberg moved to be the full time first baseman. And yes, like in the movie, the A’s also added Ricardo Rincon to be the LOOGY to sure up the bullpen. 

Did it work?  If you look at the record, it absolutely did. They went from a 102 win team to a 103 win team. However, the reason wasn’t Hatteberg or Rincon. No, the part we forget is Barry Zito won the Cy Young, and Miguel Tejada win the MVP. They were powered by an insane 20 game winning streak. Lost in that streak was the A’s played only one team over .500 and played two teams that lost over 100 games that year. 

The 2002 A’s got top notch performances from their top guys, and they made sure to beat the teams they were supposed to beat. Make no mistake. The 2002 A’s were worse. They scored 84 less runs and allowed nine more runs. However, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. They won one more game. 

The Mets are in a similar position as the A’s were. Make no mistake about it, the Mets have limited funds. With those funds, they needed to go out and replace the production of Daniel Murphy and a half a season of Yoenis Cespedes. Last year, Murphy hit .281/.322/.449 with 14 homers and 73 RBI. Cespedes hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 homers and 44 RBI in his time with the Mets. 

We already know how the Mets replaced that production. They traded for Neil Walker, who hit .269/.328/.427 with 16 homers and 71 RBI. He’s a career .272/.338/.431 hitter. The Mets then decided to go with a platoon in center. There is in-house option Juan Lagares to hit against lefties. He hit .273/.333/.438 against lefties last year and .279/.325/.427 for his career. Platooning with him is Alejandro De Aza, who hit .278/.351/.448 against righties last year and .274/.338/.418 for his career. Now, this isn’t enough to replace the production of both of Murphy and Cespedes. 

That’s where Asdrubal Cabrera comes in. Last year, Wilmer Flores played the bulk of time at shortstop hitting .263/.295/.408. Ruben Tejada played a lot there hitting .261/.338/.350. The Mets hoped by signing Cabrera they have significantly upgraded the position to cover the loss of Murphy and Cespedes. Cabrera hit .265/.315/.430 last year with the Rays. Speaking of replacing Cespedes’ second half production Cabrera hit .328/.372/.544 in the second half last year. Tangentially, the bench is theoretically better by having Flores and Tejada there. 

Following the script they invented in Oakland, the Mets have already done what they believe they needed to do to replace the production they have lost. Right now, the Mets projected payroll is ~$106 million or about $4 million less than the 2015 payroll.  Accordingly, the Mets are maintaining payroll flexibility like the A’s did so they can make trades at the deadline. 

And, by the way, the Mets are powered by their three big young starters. How will it work out in 2016?  We don’t know yet. However, if history is any lesson, the 2016 Mets will be worse than the 2015 version. If they want to have a better record, the 2016 Mets will need to take advantage of their games against bad teams like the Phillies and Braves. One of the young pitchers will have to step up even more. We’ll see which everyday player can step up to have the Tejada-like season. 

Cespedes is a Square Peg

I think it’s fair to say that Mets fans have been disappointed in this offseason. No matter how you look at it, the 2016 Mets are worse the the Mets team that lost the World Series. There are still some moves to make, but I agree with Sandy Alderson when he says Yoenis Cespedes isn’t one of those moves. 

The issue is Cespedes just isn’t a centerfielder. It’s the reason why Alderson said signing Cespedes is trying “to fit a round peg in a square hole.”  Cespedes was great for a stretch, but it was mostly with the bat. Be honest with yourself for a second and think about Cespedes’ tenure with the Mets. What was the great fielding play he made in center?  I tried racking my brain, and I couldn’t come up with one. The only thing I could think of was a throw:

Look, it was an awesome throw. He has an incredible arm. However, the throw was made possible because he played the ball poorly. No, I’m not saying he should’ve caught that.  I’m saying he was in poor position. Go watch it again. The ball splits the outfielders and goes to the wall. While the ball is rolling to the wall, Cespedes is still heading towards left field. Given the curvature if the Citi Field walls, it’s physically improbable that ball bounced towards left. Sure, Cespedes turn it into a remarkable play, but it doesn’t change the fact he almost misplayed a double into a triple. 

Here’s the part where many people will say I’m over-analyzing one play. That’s a fair critique. With that said, let’s look at his defensive metrics. Cespedes had a UZR of -3.2, which rates him as a below average centerfielder in a large outfield. It’s not a one year fluke as Cespedes’ career UZR in center is -12.6, which equates to an average UZR of -3.2 per season. 

If you don’t like UZR, let’s look at Cespedes’ DRS (defensive runs saved). Cespedes was a -17 in center last year!  That’s worse than below average. It’s flat out awful. It was the worst of his career. Typically, Cespedes averages a -4, which is still below average. There’s simply no reason to believe Cespedes is a good centerfielder.  He’s not even an average one. 

Typically, when I raise this argument, I’m told the eye test shows Cespedes is a good centerfielder. Are you sure:

Don’t know about you, but my eyes tell me that was a bad defensive play. He didn’t look like a great centerfielder there. It’s also not nitpicking just one play. Here’s another:

How many good centerfielders allow two Little League homeruns in one year?  The answer is none. By the way, you have to hate his lack of hustle going back for the ball he missed there. 

Ultimately, we remember Cespedes being better than he was defensively in centerfield because he has a canon of an arm, and we were distracted by his bat. It was a fun run with him, but the truth is it was nothing more than an insane hot streak. For his career, Cespedes is a .261/.319/.486 hitter. He has hit .236/.302/.491 at Citi Field. Those aren’t the types of numbers that can cover up bad defense at a position where defense is at a premium. 

Like all Mets fans, I appreciate what Cespedes did. However, let’s be honest his career statistics prove out he’s not a centerfielder. I’m not saying you need to be happy with Alejandro De Aza. I’m saying you need to be honest and admit Cespedes isn’t a centerfielder. He’s a corner outfielder on a team with two terrific incumbent options with Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson

Cespedes is just a square peg that can’t fit the holes the Mets have. 

Keith Coming Back Isn’t a Foregone Conclusion

Perhaps, the Mets biggest free agent remains unsigned. No, not Yoenis Cespedes. I’m of course referring to Keith Hernandez. As Adam Rubin reported, Keith remains unsigned.  Most people expect him to return. I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t. 

We know this isn’t the first time it was rumored that Keith was leaving SNY. There was his infamous 2009 sign-off where he hinted he may not return.  As we know, Keith returned, and he has been a part of the Gary, Keith, and Ron (GKR) booth ever since. So, why is this time any different?  

For starters, we had the Bobby Ojeda situation last year. Every Mets fan seemed to enjoy his work. I believe that was because Ojeda didn’t mince words. He called it as he saw it. Mets fans appreciated it regardless of whether we agreed with him or not. Unsurprisingly, it was reported the issue was money. Ojeda was replaced with Nelson Figueroa, who was presumably cheaper and definitively less critical. 

We don’t currently know what the reason why Keith’s deal hasn’t been completed. We also know this isn’t the first time this offseason it was rumored the GKR booth was breaking up. There were the rumors Ron Darling may be poached by NESN to call Red Sox games. It turns out there was nothing to the rumors as Ron never had any conversations with NESN. I still question how those rumors arose. 

What we do know is the Mets have been penny pinching this offseason. Instead of $12.5 million a year for Daniel Murphy, it’s around $9 million for Neil Walker. Instead of $9 million for Jon Niese, it’s $7.25 million for Bartolo Colon. Free agent Tyler Clippard earned $8.3 million last year, but the Mets did bring back Jerry Blevins for $4 million. Then there’s every Mets fans’ favorite, Cespedes was paid $10.5 million last year, and he remains unsigned (he seems to want double that). In his stead is the $5.75 million Alejandro De Aza. The total savings of those moves is $14.3 million. 

Sure, I didn’t include the $8.25 million to Asdrubal Cabrera. That would reduce savings to $6.05 million. However, I also didn’t include the retirement of Michael Cuddyer, which took $12.5 million off the books. In total, that’s $18.55 million in savings. The Mets have increased revenues and attendance, and yet, they’re still cutting corners. Put aside your feelings on the wisdom of these moves, it’s fair to say the Mets saved money in each mechanation. 

With that in mind, why should we feel the Wilpons will act differently with SNY?  They already did it with Ojeda. Is Keith really immune to cost cutting measures?  I’d argue no, and admittedly fans are partially to blame.

Be honest with yourself. If Keith is gone, will you stop watching Mets games in 2016? Of course not. You’re watching them to see if they can go back to the World Series. As we all know, there is higher attendance figures and higher ratings when a team is good. The Mets could hire Joe Buck and Bobby Bonilla to call the games, and you’d still watch. It may be on mute, but you’d still watch. 

That’s the reason I wouldn’t be surprised if Keith wasn’t re-signed. The Mets are good again. SNY doesn’t need GKR to help drive ratings. They have a good team to do that.  With all that said, I still believe Keith will be back next year. 

However, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he wasn’t. 

Thank You Kirk

There are always players we like more than others. Putting aside Obviously Mets, I liked Kirk Nieuwenhuis more than your average fan. 

Every year, my brother and I have the same argument. I think of Nieuwenhuis as a useful player. He’s a solid defender at three outfield positions. He is a platoon player/fourth outfielder. His problem has always been the fact that he’s overexposed by a poor Mets team needing to play him more frequently than he should. 

Most Mets fans were like my brother. They saw a guy with admittedly underwhelming statistics. At times, Kirk was one of the symbols of what was wrong with the Mets. This season the Mets were so bad offensively that they had to bring back Kirk after he was released by the Angels. The Angels had originally obtained him after the Mets designated him for assignment. 

When he returned, he would become the first Met to hit three home runs in a home game:

He helped send the Mets into the All Star Break with a sweep of the Diamondbacks. He helped the Mets stay within two games of the Nationals. This allowed the Mets to make some deadline moves to help overtake the Nationals. He then put the final nail in the 2015 Nationals coffin:

Kirk went from cast away to afterthought to a contributor. He would make the post season roster. Unfortunately, he won’t be on the roster next year to help the Mets defend their National League title. A title he helped the Mets obtain. 

No, Kirk is now a Brewer. He was put on waivers to make room for Alejandro De Aza. I’d prefer the Mets to waive someone else. I’d like Kirk to remain with the Mets. This time though the Mets will lose a homegrown player to the Nationals. There’s no hip issues stopping this move. None. Unlike Wilmer Flores, Kirk is now an ex-Met.

Kirk will never be forgotten. He’s the answer to a trivia question. I’ll remember him more for that pinch hit homerun.  I’ll remember him more for how hard he played. I’ll always appreciate him for what he did with the Mets. 

Thank you Kirk. 

Cespedes is Over

In some ways it’s ironic that Festivus is the first full day in which the Mets fans lost all hope for the continuation of Cespedes. It all started with this:

Now, it unofficially ends with the Mets signing Alejandro De Aza. Personally, I thought the Mets didn’t have room anymore for Yoenis Cespedes. I didn’t like the trade that brought him here. But boy oh boy did I enjoy the ride. 

We can all debate whether Cespedes was the reason the Mets won the NL East. Undoubtedly, he was a huge help to the cause. Furthermore, he added fun and excitement to a season which was frustrating and at times hard to watch. Seemingly overnight the Mets went from a team barely scoring any runs to a high powered offense. That offense was powered by La Potencia

If nothing else, Cespedes made the Mets fun to watch with plays like these:

Also, let’s not forget the arm sleeve and the parakeet:

  
Whatever you want to say about Cespedes, you have to admit he brought energy to the team and the fanbase.  He was fun to watch. He was the type of player you had to stop to watch. At any moment, he could unleash a laser from the outfield to nail a runner, or he could hit one out of the park in the blink of an eye. 

When Cespedes was at his best, there were none like him. He made the game fun. He made the game exciting. I’m sincerely going to miss that. I appreciate all he did in his short time in Queens. He deserves the standing ovations when he returns. He will deserve the invitations back to Citi Field when the Mets celebrate big events. While Cespedes was only a Met for three months, he left his mark here. I wish him the best of luck.

Thank you for your time here Cespedes. 

Get Ready to Get Really Angry Mets Fans

After the Mets signed Alejandro De Aza, the Mets fans realized the team was breaking its promises, and they became angry. They came to the realization that the team was not going to increase payroll, at least not significantly, after attendance increased. 

Right now, I could remind everyone of the Mets great starting pitching in an attempt to calm everyone down. However, I don’t think it’s that time. Honestly, the fans need to be angry with the team lying to them. The team needs to answer questions why ticket prices increased while the payroll was decreased. The only way I truly know how to make that happen is to tell everyone the Mets punted on Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes is projected to receive a contract around $21.5 million per year. Jason Heyward signed a deal worth approximately $23 million a year. If you assume Heyward was the top free agent, the $21.5 million is a good approximation. 

We know Michael Cuddyer. We don’t know if he received a buyout. He was due to make $12.5 million. De Aza just signed for $5.75 million, and he can earn up to $1.25 million in incentives. That’s potentially $7 million. Collectively, that’s potentially $19.5 million. 

That’s right. The De Aza signing really did cost the Mets Cespedes. The money saved in the series of transactions starting with the Neil Walker trade and Cuddyer retirement wasn’t used to get the power bat the Mets need. 

Yes, I don’t think the Mets should re-sign him. However, I do think they should’ve used the money to improve the roster. They haven’t done that. For me, I thought the Mets should’ve created a lockdown bullpen while bringing back Daniel Murphy. For others, it’s Cespedes. 

For the Mets, it was pocketing the money while bringing on De Aza. 

De Aza That Broke the Mets Fans’ Backs

Personally, I don’t have a problem with Alejandro De Aza as the Mets fourth outfielder and/or a platoon option for Juan Lagares. I didn’t trust Denard Span‘s ability to return to form. I never thought Gerardo Parra would come to the Mets to accept a reduced role. In a vacuum, I thought the move made sense. 

Apparently, I was the only one, and you know what?  I completely understand. For many Mets fans the De Aza signing was a signal that the Mets weren’t spending money. It meant the Mets weren’t going to bring in Span, who was a popular free agent target amongst fans. It meant the Mets weren’t going to bring back fan favorite Yoenis Cespedes. It meant the Mets were going to pocket all that playoff money

It showed the Mets were not going to keep their promise that payroll would increase if attendance increased. Well attendance and revenues increased, so what happened:

This means the Mets payroll is at or near the 2015 Opening Day payroll. That’s less than the Mets payroll at the end of the 2015 season. In essence, attendance increased and PAYROLL DECREASED!  

It’s unacceptable, especially when you consider the Mets needed to improve a team that lost the World Series. They’re now worse than that team. It’s not right, and frankly it’s unfair to the fans. 

One thing that’s funny is I had some on ask me why I wasn’t more upset about the De Aza signing. It’s simple. The Mets already signaled they weren’t going to spend this offseason with the Neil Walker trade. It was a cheap move that saved a couple of million. 

Yes, Walker’s and Jon Niese‘s 2016 salaries are effectively a wash. However, the Mets needed to add Bartolo Colon to take Niese’s spot in the rotation for $7.25 million. The Mets might’ve been able to sign Daniel Murphy for an average annual value of $12 million. That’s a $4.75 million difference. By saving that money, the Mets lost a trade chip in Niese, which is important since the Mets have lost a lot of pitching over the past year. They also let everyone know they’re saving money. It’s just now confirmed the cost savings were for the Wilpons and not for a big payroll acquisition. 

Overall, the Walker trade signaled this was coming. I was angry when that trade happened. I’m not going to get angry again over the same issue. I’m not going to get angry over a signing that makes some sense. Don’t get me wrong. Like you, I’m angry.

It’s just that I’ve been angry much longer than you have.