During Sandy Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager, he did quite well in the first round. Those first round picks included Brandon Nimmo, Michael Fulmer, Gavin Cecchini, Kevin Plawecki, Dominic Smith, Michael Conforto, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, David Peterson, and Jarred Kelenic.
All of the players drafted prior to 2015 have played at the Major League level. They are only one of eight franchises who can say all of their first round picks in that time span reached the Major League level. Of those six players drafted prior to 2015, five of them have established themselves as bona fide Major League players with the jury still being out on Cecchini, who is still just 25 years old.
Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year. Conforto and Plawecki were a part of a pennant winner with Conforto hitting two homers in a World Series game. Conforto and Fulmer have already been named All Stars. So far, this group has a Rookie of the Year and two All-Star appearances.
Fulmer, Dunn, and Kelenic were moved for pieces which were traded to help improve the Major League club. While people have disagreements with the respective trades, the deals brought back Yoenis Cespedes, Robinson Cano, and Edwin Diaz, each of whom are established All-Star caliber players.
Looking at the 10 first round draft picks, all but one of them have made some form of a top 100 prospect list since being drafted by the team. It may come as some surprise that includes Cecchini, who was named a KATOH Top 100 pick by Fangraphs, and Peterson, who was named a top 100 prospect by ESPN‘s Keith Law. In fact, the one who hasn’t is Kay, who right now appears on the cusp of getting named to a list on a midseason update or sometime next year.
Overall, the Mets have drafted talented players they have used to both build a strong core to the current Mets roster and to acquire players in the hopes of winning a World Series. With Kay and Peterson in Double-A, they can soon be part of the current core’s push to win the Mets first World Series since 1986.
That’s the legacy in front of Van Wagenen and Baty. For Van Wagenen, he has to show he has the ability to add talent to the organization the way Alderson did during his tenure as the General Manager. For Baty, he has to prove he can be every bit as talented as the players who came before him.
When Jason Vargas on the Injured List and Steven Matz unable to make his start due to injury, the Mets needed to find a starter. Instead of recalling Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen or making a 40 man move to call-up Hector Santiago or Casey Coleman, the Mets opted to make a trade for Wilmer Font, a 29 year old reliever with a career 6.39 ERA.
When the Mets are making trades to acquire relievers for emergency starts, you get the sense of just how poor this Mets Major League ready pitching depth is. You also see how desperately the Mets need one of their pitching prospects to step up and force their way to the Majors.
Fortunately for the Mets, Anthony Kay has not just been the organization’s best starting pitcher this year, he has arguably been the best pitcher in Double-A this year. In eight starts this year, Kay is second in the Eastern League in ERA while leading the league in complete games and shutouts. He’s second in the league in wins, fifth in the league in strikeouts, and third in WHIP. More than the numbers, he has been dominant.
We saw that again last night. In a complete game seven inning shutout (second game of a doubleheader), Kay allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out eight. In the game, only one batter would reach as far as second base, and Kay would retire 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
Anthony Kay was masterful today for the @RumblePoniesBB: 7 innings 3 hits 0 runs 1 walk and 8 strikeouts. A complete game shutout.
Kay has a fastball with movement that can get up to 95 to go with a superb changeup and a decent curveball. He has been amazing this year. pic.twitter.com/k3OD62E1gZ
— Yehuda Schwartz (@yaschwa30) May 15, 2019
When you have a complete game shutout, there are a number of areas where you can draw your attention. When it comes to Kay and his development, the main focus from yesterday should be his issuing just one free pass. In his brief professional career, Kay has had control issues walking 3.5 per nine and 4.2 over his first six starts of the season.
Recently, Kay has had better command. In his last two starts, he has pitched seven innings and issued just one walk. He has gone from throwing strikes 60 percent of the time to throwing strikes 70 percent of the time. His pounding the strike zone has permitted him to befuddle hitters and go deeper into games. When he is pounding the strike zone like this, you really take note of his stuff.
The first thing which stands out is his curveball. According to Baseball America, it has an average spin rate of 3,000 RPM. That’s Seth Lugo territory. In addition to a high spin rate on his curveball, Kay has an excellent spin rate on his fastball. His fastball typically sits in the lower 90s, but he is able to ramp it up around 96 MPH. Combine that with a change-up with a 10 MPH difference than his fastball, and you have the makings of what could be a very good starting pitcher at the Major League level.
Before even discussing him at the Major League level, the Mets first need to see Kay in Syracuse. He needs to work with Mickey Abbott to further hone his delivery and control. The Mets need to see him against a higher level of competition to make a better evaluation of whether he is ready to pitch at the Major League level. Considering how Kay has been dominating in the Eastern League and the Mets not having a Triple-A pitcher they want to slot into their rotation, it would seem the time is now to send Kay to Syracuse.
Once Kay is in Syracuse, the Mets can get a much better read of how he performs against better competition, and they can better determine if he is going to be a part of the 2019 Mets pitching staff in some capacity. Considering the depth, the Mets should find this out sooner rather than later, which is why Kay’s next start should be in Syracuse.
At this point, it’s clear Jason Vargas isn’t just pitching with a fork in him; he’s got the whole utensil drawer there. As such, it’s time to look for someone to replace him in the rotation. While Mets fans have been imploring the team to add Dallas Keuchel, it seems like the Mets would not be willing to add that much payroll.
Fortunately, the Mets still have some very interesting internal options:
Seth Lugo – definitively the Mets fifth best starter, but he arguably has more value in the bullpen.
Robert Gsellman – hasn’t had the success in the bullpen everyone imagined he be and may just be better suited to the rotation
Corey Oswalt – it’s hard to get a read on him with how the Mets have jerked him around, but he’s still had flashes of viability
Chris Flexen – he has a surgically repaired knee and is in terrific shape giving hope he can finally put that fastball/curve combo to good use.
Anthony Kay – Mets haven’t been shy rushing starters from Double-A to the majors, and Kay has excellent spin rates on his fastball and curve.
David Peterson – the Mets 2017 first round pick is off to a good start, which is more than you can say for Vargas.
Hector Santiago – he was an All-Star in 2015, and based on what we’ve seen having previously being an All-Star is all you need to get a rotation spot.
Drew Gagnon – in his one start last year, he at least managed to pitch into the fifth, which is much better than what we’ve seen this year.
P.J. Conlon – last year, Conlon showed he shouldn’t be trusted for more than 2-3 innings. It’d be nice to get a fifth starter who could provide that much length.
Walker Lockett – he’s in Extended Spring Training with an injury, and he had a 9.60 ERA in the majors last year, so all told, he’s an upgrade.
Paul Sewald – Mets have never been worried about pushing Sewald too far, so certainly, you could see them randomly asking five from him, and those five would likely be better than any five Vargas throws this year.
Mickey Callaway – had a 6.27 career ERA and last pitched in the majors 15 years ago, which means his arm is probably fresh enough to hit the mid 80s.
Luis Guillorme – it’s not like they’re using him as the team’s backup middle infielder, and we know he’d at least be able to field his position well, which unlike Vargas, would be at least one thing Guillorme could do well as a pitcher.
J.D. Davis – he has a career 3.38 ERA in limited appearances, which make sense considering he hits and fields his position like a pitcher.
Pete Alonso – his being on the Opening Day roster was supposed to be the difference between the Mets making the postseason and not. With Vargas being terrible every fifth day, he’s apparently going to need to do more than hit.
And therein lies the problem. The Mets sold their fans they desperately needed 12 games from Alonso while simultaneously punting 32 starts from the fifth spot in the rotation. That’s an even bigger joke than anything said in this post.
After the Mets swept the Marlins, they’re now 5-1 and in first place as they come home for their home opener. Here’s the 20/20 observations from the last series:
- When Pedro Martinez compared Jacob deGrom to himself, you got the perfect comparison to just how dominant deGrom is right now. Although we can be sure the Dodger loving Wilpons think Sandy Koufax (either way you take it).
- With deGrom pitching great with Wilson Ramos on Opening Day and Tomas Nido yesterday, we’re seeing giving any credit to Devin Mesoraco was nonsense. Moreover, we’re seeing how better catchers help produce better results.
- In addition to their producing well on the field so far, it’s great to see Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith cheering for one another. Since late last year, and perhaps before that, they were adversaries as far as the future of first base was concerned. They rose above it to show they’re better people than they are players.
- While we believe Juan Lagares‘ extension was a mistake, there’s no doubt he impacts the game when he’s on the field. In the series, we saw him hit a game tying homer, and with his hustle, he reached base even on outs. He’s already at a 1 DRS, and he’s flashing his arm again. He’s potentially a difference maker.
- When the Mets traded Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana, they paid a hefty price for J.D. Davis. It’s becoming increasingly clear, he’s not going to hit well or play good defense. As a result, each game the Mets force him into the lineup only serves to make a bad situation worse.
- On Davis, do yourself a favor and don’t look at the Astros 1B/DH situation.
- While it was nice to see Luis Guillorme finally get into a game, he needs to see more action, especially with Davis playing his way to a demotion.
- It’s very cool to see Yoenis Cespedes‘ brother Yoelkis regarded as one of the top Cuban prospects available. Here’s hoping the Mets can find a way to add him to the organization.
- The schadenfreude seeing the Yankees follow a Mets-like offseason with a series of Metsian injuries (CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury) is off the charts.
- With respect to Brandon Nimmo, it was shocking to see him not get a day after getting hit on the hand. Even if he was alright, with him scuffling, it made sense to give him the extra day.
- Mickey Callaway‘s handling of the bullpen in the series was both bad and dangerous. He pushed a Luis Avilan, a LOOGY with a history of shoulder injuries, to try to pitch two innings. He also pushed Seth Lugo to try almost 40 pitches despite his being ill. That’s how you make two laughers nail biters.
- That said, Robert Gsellman needs to be better. It was his performance which led to Callaway needing to turn to Edwin Diaz for the save.
- Even with the struggles from the rest of the pen, the Mets are more than alright with Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson ready to go 7-8-9 to close out a win.
- If the Mets can’t trust Jason Vargas to go more than five innings against the worst team in baseball when the bullpen is short, why is he in the rotation, especially when Dallas Keuchel is still a free agent.
- With the Mets not trusting Vargas, we need to keep a close eye on Anthony Kay who impressed in Spring Training and will be the Opening Day starter for Binghamton today.
- It was hard to tell on TV, but with a large contingent of Mets fans at Marlins Park, is booing Peter O’Brien still going to be a thing.
- Umpire Ron Kulpa’s behavior was unnecessarily confrontational and unbefitting to the impartiality and temperance we should expect from an umpire. A.J. Hinch was right to confront him, and now it’s time for MLB to confront and potentially begin to suspend umpires who behave this way.
- With respect to Ron Darling‘s book, former teammates Dwight Gooden, Kevin Mitchell, and Darryl Strawberry defending Lenny Dykstra doesn’t mean Darling is lying. There’s a lot of room between those players not hearing something and it actually happening even if Oil Can Boyd said he didn’t hear anything.
- More troubling than the Darling/Dykstra controversy is Darling saying Bob Murphy would pass out drunk in the clubhouse and saying Gary Carter tried to stuff the All-Star ballots. Dykstra is a man who is all too eager to defend himself. Dead men like Murphy and Carter can’t.
- It’s going to be sad to not hear David Wright‘s name announced with the team on Opening Day. It’s not too similar from 2006 when we didn’t hear Mike Piazza‘s name. Hopefully, this will be like 2006 in more ways than one.
After last night’s game, Mickey Callaway indicated the team was looking to get only five innings out of Jason Vargas. This was the plan even with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia being unavailable and with Seth Lugo feeling sick. With the Marlins hitting rockets off Vargas, Callaway held hard and fast to the plan removing Vargas after just 74 pitches.
While the win was nice, Vargas’ performance and the plan for him is troubling. After all, if the Mets cannot trust Vargas to go more than five innings against the Marlins, what are they going to do when he faces the other teams in the division? Do the Mets see him even reaching the fifth against lineups featuring Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, or Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto?
The answer is probably no, and the question is how the Mets plan to adapt.
The obvious choice is to remove Vargas from the rotation. The issue there is their Triple-A starters did not fare well in the Majors last year. While you may believe in Corey Oswalt‘s increased Spring velocity or Chris Flexen‘s new physique, it would be wise to give them time in Syracuse first to see if their offseason progress translates to results.
Last year, the Rays were the first to utilize an opener. In tabbing Sergio Romo as his opener, Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “The way that their lineup stacks generally speaking is very heavy right-handed at the top It allows us in theory to let Sergio to come in there and play the matchup game in the first . . . .” (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times).
In essence, the goal of the opener is to get a traditional reliever to start the game and face a platoon advantage in the first. After the reliever gets through the top of the order, the starter can come in and “start” his game against the bottom of the lineup thereby permitting him to not only get an easier start to the game, but arguably, to get deeper into the game.
In the case of Vargas, you saw the Marlins stack right-handed batters against him. After all, it makes sense with right-handed hitters hitting Vargas well. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, right-handed batters are hitting .262/.324/.464 off of him, which translates to a 4.74 FIP.
As a result, the Mets need an opener who can counteract a team loading up their right-handed batters against Vargas. Given his history as a starter, it would make sense for the Mets to make Robert Gsellman as the opener on the games Vargas starts.
From what we see so far this season, Gsellman is not part of the late inning mix. That is reserved for Diaz, Familia, Lugo, and Justin Wilson. Rather, Gsellman is going to be used like he has been so far in this series. When the starter goes five (or less), he is going to be the first guy out of the pen to eat some innings before handing it to the late inning relievers.
If the team is going to use Gsellman for an inning or two whenever Vargas starts, why not make it at the beginning of a game? Why not put pressure on the opposing manager to opt for either having right-handed batters face Gsellman so they’re in place to face Vargas later, or to start their left-handed batters and have a wave of substitutions to face Vargas?
The point is by starting the game with Gsellman, Callaway would be creating a situation that is beneficial for Vargas to enter the game. If you are only getting five innings from him, why not make it against a team’s worse hitters? Why not use Gsellman against a right-handed lineup without fear of seeing a pinch-hitter? If nothing else, it can’t hurt.
Like with most prospects, Pete Alonso has been mostly adjudged by his tools and his production on the field. His biggest proponents see a power hitter whose game translates well to the Major League level. His detractors see a poor fielding first baseman who may never hit quality pitching. Universally, people who have met or analyzed Alonso come away with the impression that he is a hard working player who is going to get the most out of his talent.
Over the past year, another factor is becoming increasingly obvious. Alonso has not only been a popular teammate, but one who has seen his former teammates jump at the chance to either laud him or come to his defense.
For most people, we first became aware of how good a teammate Alonso was in July 2018. In response to a question about Jeff McNeil‘s projectibility at the Major League level, ESPN‘s Keith Law largely discredited McNeil’s production citing his age and the hitting environment. Alonso did not miss this exchange, and he felt compelled to stick up for this teammate:
@keithlaw The kid rakes and has hit pretty much everywhere he’s been. How can you discredit a .400 average in AAA?
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) July 6, 2018
As we know now, Alonso and McNeil had grown close during that 2018 season as both players were doing all they could do to force the Mets to call them up to the majors. Whenever asked the question, McNeil would say how Alonso is going to hit for power at the Major League level, and he made it a point to show Alonso’s highlights on his Twitter account.
With Alonso, it is more than just his teammates having fun and sharing in his highlights. Recently, we have also seen his teammates come rushing to his defense in a similar fashion to which Alonso once did for McNeil.
Notably, when an unnamed scout told Baseball America Alonso has never hit a slider and may not have the “skills to be a hitter,” his teammates would have something to say about it. Among those players expressing bemusement or stepping up to defend Alonso included Anthony Kay.
When he was called up to the majors, most of his former teammates took time to celebrate and congratulate him. In that first game, Alonso was one the first guy to congratulate Dominic Smith after he scored the second run of the game. What made that moment all the more inspiring was how these two players are rivals for the same position, and if Alonso were to slip up, Smith would be in a position to take over his role. That didn’t matter to Alonso, who was just happy for his team and his teammate.
This should come as no surprise as Alonso said of Smith during Spring Training, “Me and Dom, we played together last year, we spent some good time this year. I’m really happy he’s playing well this spring. I don’t want anyone to do bad. He’s a teammate of mine. I want him to do his best as he can and do the best I can.” (Matt Ehalt, Yahoo).
That attitude has long been noticed and appreciated by his teammates as he has gone through the Mets minor league system. That’s why when MMO‘s Michael Mayer shared the moment on Twitter, former Mets prospect Anthony Dimino would tweet, “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking the field with! Deserves to be up there and will be for a long time.”
While we have seen the prodigious homers from Alonso, we are now seeing how his power may pale in comparison to the type of person and teammate he is. These are the qualities which once endeared Mets fans to Curtis Granderson, and it is the type of qualities which will make Alonso a fan favorite in very short order . . . if he isn’t one already.
Even though it took far too long to get done, the Mets stepped up and did the right thing by signing Jacob deGrom to a five year contract extension worth $137.5 million. With the extension, the Mets are going to keep arguably the best pitcher in baseball with the Mets for the next five years, and they are keeping a player who is popular with both the players and the fans.
While the Mets should be happy they got this done, they cannot act like they are done. Really, when you break it down, there is a lot of work still ahead of the Mets with much of their core hitting free agency over the next few seasons:
That’s a lot of young talent who could be leaving the Mets over the next three seasons. This should provide the team with the impetus they need to lock up these players to keep their window for competition open for deGrom’s Mets tenure.
That’s two front line starters in Wheeler and Syndergaard, two top of the line corner outfielders, and a relief ace. If handled and juggled properly, the Mets have the ability to keep them around and be the envy of baseball over the next 5-10 years. If the Mets do not take advantage of the opportunity before them, they are going to make a lot of teams happy by the team not only getting worse, but also because they will be adding a top end talent.
Is it fair to expect all of them to be extended? Perhaps not. That is a lot of money for those players. However, given how the Mets have traded away some of their prospects this year, there is more pressure to keep these players because the organizational depth is not what it was when Brodie Van Wagenen took the job.
Overall, there is a real balancing act the Mets need to undertake. They need to assess who they can and cannot extend. They need to see who in their system can help them sustain the loss of one of these players. Can Anthony Kay and David Peterson be what they need to sustain the loss of Wheeler or Syndergaard? Will Desmond Lindsay have that breakout year to allow them to move on from Conforto or Nimmo?
Whatever the balance, the Mets have to not only guess right, but they are going to have to handle each of these players properly. If they cannot extend some of these players, they should maximize each player’s value by getting a good return from them in a trade. Really, the Mets decisions on each of these players will dictate the Mets future and World Series window.
During this offseason, the Mets have certainly made splashes hiring David Wright, John Franco, Al Leiter, and now Jessica Mendoza in a player development role for the organization. These are all intelligent baseball people, who if utilized properly, can have a profound impact upon the Mets organization.
Seeing how three of these hires were popular Mets players, the team should consider doing the same and bringing back Johan Santana.
There are plenty of superficial reasons why the Mets should bring Santana back to New York. He is the only pitcher in Mets history to pitch a no-hitter. His 2008 season was great, and he would pitch the last great game seen at Shea Stadium. To this day, he remains popular with the fanbase. All that said, the real reason the Mets should bring back Santana is his change-up.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 29, 2017
Santana’s changeup was a truly great pitch. It was a pitch he used to win two Cy Young awards in what was a borderline Hall of Fame career. It was a pitch which earned him a massive contract with the Mets. It was the final pitch he threw to strike out David Freese to end his no-hitter. It was the pitch he taught to Jacob deGrom, which forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career.
Back in 2011, deGrom was rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, and Santana was rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. As the two worked at the team’s rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, their paths would cross. As reported by the New York Times, Santana would teach deGrom the pitch that made Santana a Cy Young award winner and would one day make help make deGrom one as well:
[W]hile doing his rehabilitation work at the Mets’ rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., deGrom fell into conversation with Johan Santana, the Mets’ injured ace. Santana proceeded to teach deGrom his famous changeup, how to grip the ball, how it should look the same as a fastball coming out of his hand. Santana told him to practice throwing at 180 feet. If he threw it correctly, the ball would fall well short.
As noted by the Fangraphs, deGrom’s changeup was the second most valuable changeup in all of baseball last year making it his best pitch last year. According to Brooks Baseball, opposing batters hit just .139 off of his changeup. The pitch is a large reason why deGrom was second in the league in getting batters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, and why he had the fifth most swings and misses against him.
Much of what deGrom accomplished began when he was rehabbing at the same time as Santana. If the Mets were wise, they would bring back Santana to have a profound impact on someone else’s career. He may help Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen go to that next level. It’s possible David Peterson, Anthony Kay, and Thomas Szapucki each take a huge step forward in their development.
Perhaps, there is some pitching prospect who is not well known at this time who could learn Santana’s changeup and have his career take off. After all, that’s what happened to converted shortstop and former ninth round pick Jacob deGrom.
With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.
Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?
Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.
If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.
For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.
Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?
Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?
With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.
The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.
He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.
After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.
Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?
One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.
That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.
However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?
What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?
When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.
It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?
On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.
Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?
With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.
With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.
But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.
When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.
As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.
With Jacob deGrom putting an Opening Day deadline for a potential contract extension, the team’s immediate focus is going to be locking him up to the point where he could be a Met for life. Of course, the immediacy of the talks are not just because deGrom set a deadline, it is also because deGrom will be a free agent after the 2020 season.
Looking at the rotation, deGrom is not the only pitcher who is fast approaching free agency. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season much like Aaron Nola who just signed a four year $45 million contract extension with the Phillies.
The Nola deal covers the rest of the years he is under team control with a team option for Nola’s first year of free agency. The 2023 team option is worth $16 million.
Looking at Nola, it is important to note he finished third in the Cy Young voting behind deGrom, who settled for $17 million in his third year of arbitration. This means if Nola continues pitching like he did last year, the Phillies will have Nola on a real discount in 2023 thereby freeing the team up to allocate their resources in other areas to improve their ballclub.
Seeing how the market has been relatively set by Nola’s extension coupled with the Mets need for some cost certainty, it would behoove the Mets to pursue extensions with their own starting pitchers. Another important consideration here is Syndergaard and Matz may be at their lowest value.
Syndergaard has been limited to 32 starts over the past two years due to an oblique and then a finger injury. Those injuries have stood in the way of him putting up another great season like he had in 2016. With health and an improved training regiment, which Syndergaard appears to be pursuing, we could see Syndergaard return to the pitcher he was in 2016. Perhaps, he will be even better.
Matz has landed on the disabled list in all four of his Major League seasons, but last year he still made a breakthrough in his career making 30 starts for the first time in his career. During his career, the Mets have seen glimpses from him including his having a 2.51 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and a 10.9 K/9 in six September starts.
Certainly, the Mets could use the Nola extension as a framework for a possible Syndergaard and Matz extension. You could argue Syndergaard is better than Nola making him worth more money. Certainly, Matz has not had Nola’s success, and with that in mind, the Mets could possibly sign him for even less money.
In short order, the Mets could keep three-fifths of their incredible starting rotation together. This should insulate them from potentially losing Wheeler in free agency. Wheeler leaving could be abated by one of David Peterson or Anthony Kay stepping up this season. Of course, the Mets could sign Wheeler to his own extension.
Perhaps, the Mets and Wheeler could look to Nathan Eovaldi‘s four year $68 million contract as a starting point. After all, both pitchers were strong armed right-handed pitchers who have had injury issues and were roughly league average pitchers until the second half of last year. Wheeler would have the much better second half, but Eovaldi would have a great postseason.
Looking across baseball, increasingly more players are interested in contract extensions. So far this season, we have seen both Nola and Whit Merrifield sign extensions. We may see Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado do the same. It is now time for the Mets to do the same with as many pieces of their rotation as they can.