The Mets are in a spot where they need to find a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler in the rotation. Finding such a starter is complicated because the team is attempting to at least give the allusion they are trying to contend in 2020, but so far, they have very limited resources this offseason. In some ways, that makes Rick Porcello a prime candidate, which according to reports, he is.
Porcello, 30, is just a few years removed from winning the 2016 American League Cy Young. With his Cy Young, being a local kid from Morristown, New Jersey, and his having won a World Series, he is someone who could be sold to the fan base. The fact he has proven to be a durable starter who will make 30 starts a year and pitch over 170.0 innings is of real value. In essence, he could be viewed upon as a Bartolo Colon who keeps himself in shape, doesn’t cheat, and is not a deadbeat dad.
Make no mistake, Porcello does have real value as a fifth starter for any team. There is also some potential for some upside with him. After all, his ERA was worse than his FIP, and the Red Sox having just a putrid defense last year with a -40 team DRS. To that end, the Red Sox were particularly bad on the infield.
Among the biggest culprits were SS Xander Bogaerts (-21 DRS) and 3B Rafael Devers (-6 DRS). Ultimately, the Red Sox team -11 DRS at second was the second worst in the majors. Their -12 team DRS at third and -20 team DRS at short were the third worst in the majors. When you are a pitcher like Porcello who is a sinkerball pitcher, albeit one who is generating more fly balls in two of the last three years, that is not a recipe for success.
That is exacerbated by the batters only going the opposite way against Porcello 22.3% of the time. Ultimately, if Porcello is going to be successful, he needs a strong infield defense behind him. Moreover, with Baseball Savant noting how Porcello likes to pound the bottom of the strike zone, he needs a catcher who is adept at framing the low strike. Breaking it all down, Porcello and the Mets are a very poor match.
In terms of the infield defense, the Mets actually had a worse team defense than the Red Sox with a -93 DRS. That was the worst in the National League, and the second worst in the Majors. Remarkably, that was even worse than the -77 DRS the team had in 2018. What makes those numbers all the more daunting is the Mets appear set to lose Todd Frazier, their best defensive infielder, to free agency.
Like the Red Sox, the Mets were bad defensively across the infield. The Mets -5 DRS at first and -7 DRS at second were sixth worst in the majors. Their -5 DRS at third was the seventh worst in the majors. Finally, their -18 DRS at short was the fourth worst in the majors. As noted by Mark Simon of The Athletic, this is all exacerbated by the Mets being one of the worst defensively aligned infields in the majors. Part of that is an organizational philosophy which tries to minimize the extent to which the infield is shifted.
Now, there were some positives to the infield defense with Amed Rosario playing at a 0 DRS in the second half last year. Of course, behind that is the fact he has consecutive -16 DRS seasons at short. Also, while Frazier is leaving in free agency, Jeff McNeil has proven to be very good at third base in this brief Major League career. If it is him who takes over at third, and not J.D. Davis, the Mets might be able to put Porcello in a position to succeed.
The caveat there is Rosario’s second half improvement is real, and McNeil’s successes are not a short sample size illusion. If we believe in that, and there is reason to believe, that could help Porcello who has a high pull rate against him. However, that is mitigated by Robinson Cano and his poor play (-6 DRS) at second last year. It is very difficult to imagine Cano will be better at second in his age 37 season.
Even if the Mets find a way to configure the infield successfully, Wilson Ramos presents a significant problem.
As noted by MMO‘s Mathew Brownstein, the Red Sox were the fourth best framing team in the majors last year. With respect to Porcello, he had “the 13th-most pitches in the shadow zone (edges of strike zone) called for strikes in 2019.” With respect to Ramos, as noted by MMN‘s Roberto Correa, Ramos was in the bottom 15 in the Majors in framing. Particularly, Ramos struggled in the so-called shadow zone and the low pitch.
In terms of the Mets 2019 pitching staff, we would see this have a significant impact on both Noah Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz with Diaz being the far more vocal of the two. Really, across the board, Mets pitchers performed worse with Ramos behind the plate as the pitching staff adjusted from historically strong framers like Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. If Porcello is a Met in 2020, we will likely see him have similar struggles.
Ultimately, Porcello may well prove to be a quality fifth starter or better for some team in 2020. He may very well prove to be a surprise for teams who have good defensive infields as well as a catcher who can get him the low strike. Unfortunately, that team is not the New York Mets. As a result, Porcello should look elsewhere for that bounce-back season, and the Mets need to find another pitcher to fill that fifth spot in their rotation.
My grandfather always said if you have nothing nice to say about someone, you should keep it to yourself. Granted my grandfather was hardly unique in that advice, but it does seem to be a good adage for life. Unfortunately, when you want to talk about the Mets, this necessitate you remain almost completely silent.
Right now, about the only good thing to talk about when it comes to the Mets is Brandon Nimmo. To that end, the Mets Blogger Roundtable undertook telling everyone what our favorite things about him are:
I like how he has broken the brains of “traditional” baseball fans and sportswriters who erected statues in their minds of players who hustled and practiced the religion of stoicism. Now they see a dude who runs out everything and smiles all the time and have to readjust their perspectives because he isn’t going away anytime soon. There are a million different interpretations of how to play The Right Way.
He’s not Andres Torres.
My favorite thing about Brandon Nimmo is his interviews. I don’t think I’ve seen a Mets position player who’s so comfortable and cognizant of what it’s all about while he answers questions. He elaborates, he distributes credit, he’s personable, he’s funny — he gets it. This isn’t dutiful or smooth. This is a genuinely fun kid who understands what it means to be going well.
I don’t know what the internal dynamics are, but he comes off as a natural team leader, as if being drafted first wasn’t so random. Of course it helps that he’s playing like a first among equals. Gives reporters a reason to want to talk to him.
And though I think about most of the Mets most of the time, I take particular joy when a Met explodes into the general baseball consciousness. We don’t have it happen too often. I love that we are, at least in the immediate present, living in the Age of Brandon Nimmo.
His hustle/love for the game.
The thing I love best about Nimmo is day-in and day-out, no matter what the odds, he comes to beat you. With the Mets down 10 runs with two outs in the ninth and nobody on, he’s working the count, nudging his elbow out there, and busting it out of the box all for the sake of getting on and helping the Mets win.
This and his positive attitude rub people the wrong way for some reason. It’s just bizarre as he is a guy who seemingly gives his all on every play, plays the game the “right way,” and he gets the most out of his ability.
These are the guys we are supposed to cheer, and in his brief Mets tenure, it has been a pleasure to root for him.
For those of you who were looking for this on Thursday, including the people who graciously take their time out to contribute for the site, I do apologize for not running this on time. There was a family emergency. Thankfully, everything right now seems to be alright.
I remember back when Jose Reyes left the Mets for the Marlins. I was angry. The Mets were in the beginning stages of the Madoff fallout, and Reyes was the first casualty of that.
After the Reyes’ signing, the Mets proceeded to become curiously active the next day. The Mets signed Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco. They also traded Angel Pagan for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres. Sure, the Mets lost their homegrown All Star shortstop, but look over here, look at the flurry of moves. Nothing to see in Miami. We’re having a press conference on SNY to announce the addition of FOUR . . . count them . . . FOUR NEW PLAYERS! The Mets would be terrible in 2012 finishing in fourth place with a 74-88 record.
Today had that type of feel to me. The Mets lost Ben Zobrist to the Cubs, and they didn’t look particularly good in the process. So naturally, the Mets went back to what they do best: deflection. Instead of rebuilding their bullpen, they rebuilt their middle infield by trading for Neil Walker and signing Asdrubal Cabrera.
Now, I have said both of these players were worth investigating. However, I would’ve preferred keeping Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese over adding Walker. In that scenario, the Mets still could’ve added Cabrera. Right now, I’d probably be commenting how the Mets vastly improved their middle infield situation. Instead, I’m baffled how the Mets traded away another pitcher while adding a poor defensive SS on a two year deal.
I’ll admit I was distracted a little bit four years ago. I wasn’t the biggest Angel Pagan fan. Now, I’m just wondering why the cost saving moves instead of bringing back the NLCS MVP. I’m also curious as to why an organization that values OBP added low OBP players. I’m nonplussed at the Mets adding yet another steroids guy to the roster.
I would’ve accepted all of it if the Mets were made better in the process. However, they didn’t. They’re worse off defensively, and they lost a reasonably priced starting pitcher. I just see the same bluster I saw four years ago.
It leaves me feeling sad. My son’s favorite player will be playing elsewhere next year. He’s disappointed to say the least. There’s nothing the Mets can do to make me forget that.
Last month, The Sporting News ranked Sandy Alderson right in the middle of all GMs in Major League Baseball (15/30). That sounds about right, although I could quibble with the order. To me, when you give Sandy a rating of 15/30, you’re really giving that rating to the entire front office, which includes Paul DePodesta, JP Riccardi, and John Ricco.
Since Sandy Alderson has been the GM for the Mets, he has really been tasked with getting rid of salaries and selling at the trade deadline. To that end, he and his front office have done an admirable job. In my opinion (and most people’s really), his three best trades were to sell and not to buy:
- RA Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas for Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wullmer Becerra;
- Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler; and
- Marlon Byrd, John Buck & cash for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
Looking over the rest of the trades, there really is not much to get worked up about, except the two trades Sandy Alderson made to help the team on the field (and not the team down the road):
- Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon S. Ramirez; and
- Collin McHugh for Eric Young, Jr.
There has been so much written about the first trade. Rather than regurgitate all that has been written, I’m going to make a couple of quick points. First, this was part of a quick hitting series of moves to try to rebuild the bullpen and TRY to take attention away from Jose Reyes leaving. Second, it seems like every year this team is trying to build a bullpen because the prior season’s acquisitions were terrible or everyone got hurt again. Lastly, this trade violated the old adage of “the team that gets the best player wins the trade.” We knew then Pagan was the best player in that deal.
I want to focus on the EY deal because with the Mets rotation, it has largely been ignored. In full disclosure, I didn’t see it with McHugh. I thought he was an AAAA starter or a 12th man in the pen. I didn’t see him finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting last year or having another solid year for the Astros, especially when he pitches half his games is Minute Maid Park.
Just because I didn’t see it, it doesn’t excuse the current front office for this mistake. EY was acquired because Paul DePodesta loves him. In EY’s two seasons with the Mets, he was a 0.9 WAR player, who won a stolen base crown. The Mets were under .500 and had no shot at the postseason.
In the same time, McHugh has combined for accumulated WAR of 5.2, i.e. he has been the best player in the deal. I shutter to think what the careers Cory Mazzoni or Brad Wieck will be.
Now after all of this, how can I be expected to trust Sandy’s regime to properly rate their own prospects? Sure when he has someone of value, he does a good job maximizing the return. However, when he is making a deal to improve his club, he has been shown to undervalue his assets.
This brings me to an extremely important point: Sandy effectively traded a first round pick for Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer hasn’t been himself at the plate or the field (even preinjury), which further exacerbated this “trade.” All in all, I’m not sure we can trust this front office to go out and get a player. With that said, I’m sure I’m just wasting my breath because there is no way the Mets would take on money to improve this team.