There were plenty of reasons to fire Mickey Callaway if you wanted. In fact, his incident with Tim Healey in and of itself was grounds for firing. To the extent it was Callaway and not the front office making some of those curious moves, you certainly have further justification.
However, what you really can’t do is pin the Mets failures to make the postseason at Callaway’s lap, which is what firing him does. That was all the more the case when Brodie Van Wagenen was trying to spin the 2019 season as a positive, including but not limited to noting Edwin Diaz had 26 saves.
Before proceeding, some background is necessary here.
By and large, the Mets were seen as a third or fourth place team in the division with around 85 wins. For example, ZiPS predicted the Mets would finish the year 87-75 in a three way tie for second place in the division. Looking at the 2019 season, the Mets Pythagorean was 86-76, and it just so happened, that was the Mets final record as they finished in third place in the division.
To that extend, the Mets neither over nor underachieved. Rather, you could argue they performed as expected. Of course, lost in that was all that happened during the season.
Pete Alonso had a season greater than anyone could’ve imagined. Jeff McNeil was an All-Star. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half. The Mets got more production from J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith than they could’ve reasonably expected.
Looking at that alone, you would say the Mets should’ve finished much better than they did. After all, when you are getting that level of production from your young players, the Mets should have been in the Braves position. They would fall far short of that.
There were many reasons for that. Brandon Nimmo would miss over three months of the season. Jed Lowrie would record no hits in only nine pinch hitting attempts. Robinson Cano had an injury plagued year, and when he did play he was not up to his typical standards. Aside from Seth Lugo, the bullpen was mainly a mess. Noah Syndergaard would struggle with the new ball and the new catcher.
The Syndergaard point brings up another interesting point. All the moves Van Wagenen made this offseason proved to be a downgrade from what was already on the team.
Ramos’ 1.4 fWAR was lower than Travis d’Arnaud‘s 1.6. Another interesting note is d’Arnaud would have a 107 OPS+ with the Rays, which is the same Ramos would have with the Mets the whole year. The Mets would cut d’Arnaud after one horrible game leaving the Mets with Tomas Nido as the backup for the full season. He’d have a -0.5 fWAR, which is lower than both d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (0.2).
Cano’s 0.3 WAR was lower than McNeil’s 5.0. Worse yet, it was only 0.1 higher than Justin Dunn‘s 0.2 in four games with the Mariners this year. In fact, Dunn’s 0.2 WAR was much higher than Diaz’s -0.6. Things get worse when you consider Anthony Swarzak had a 0.0 WAR.
Long story short, the Mets would have been better off in 2019 if this trade was never made. What makes this all the more scary is this was supposed to be the year the Mets benefited most. Things are going to get much worse as Jarred Kelenic continues his way to the majors.
Now, people will want to say not all of Van Wagenen’s moves were bad with Davis being held up as the ideal. On that note, Davis was terrible in the field. Among players with at least 550 innings in left, his -11 DRS was the worst in the National League. Among third baseman with at least 200 innings, his -9 DRS was the third worst in all of baseball.
All told, Davis had a 1.0 WAR on the season. That’s just 0.2 higher than Wilmer Flores despite his having played 51 more games. All told, the Mets would have been better off keeping Flores over trading for Davis and signing Lowrie. It would have been a much better allocation of resources than what Van Wagenen actually did.
Beyond all of that, the Mets had players like Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez serve as outfield depth. They’d cycle through relievers like Tim Peterson, Stephen Nogosek, Hector Santiago, Brooks Pounders, and the like all season rather than adding that one other arm the bullpen needed. That would make Jeurys Familia‘s season long struggles and Justin Wilson‘s needing to be limited all the worse.
In the end, you can see all the good mitigated against all the bad. In fact, you could argue given all that happened, the Mets probably could’ve been worse than their third place finish. This is all to say the Mets probably did about as well as could have been expected.
That brings us back to Callaway.
Given the Mets did not underachieve, you have a difficult basis to fire him. If you want to argue a better manager could have gotten more from this team, you certainly have a point. If that is the case, the Mets have to now go out and get that guy. That means you hire Joe Girardi or maybe Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker.
But make no mistake here. By firing Callaway, the Mets are essentially pinpointing him as the reason why this team missed the postseason. In the end, if the Mets are going to sell everyone Callaway was the problem, the next manager is going to have to take the Mets to the postseason. That is the bar which has now been set.
If the Mets don’t make the postseason, then we’ll know what we have known since Spring Training. The Mets weren’t good enough not because of their manager. No, they weren’t good enough because the Wilpons didn’t invest enough money into this team, and the General Manager they hired failed to assemble the roster good enough to back up the “Come get us!” hype.
Michael Conforto would put it off for a day, but now, the Mets are officially eliminated from postseason contention. With the Mets falling short in the fashion they have, there are a number of what ifs which occurred during the course of the season.
One of those what ifs is what if the Mets didn’t blow this game or lose that game. While there were several of those games in the first half, that was all the more the case in the second half when the team was playing well and making a charge. With the Mets being five games out, here are five games in the second half which the Mets certainly wish they had back:
Reds 3 – Mets 2
Saturday, September 21
The Mets absolutely had to have this game. For the Mets to actually grab a Wild Card spot, they were going to have to win out or come very close to it. With a big pitching mismatch between Zack Wheeler and Anthony DeSclafani, this seemed like a game the Mets should win easily.
The Reds would score two first inning runs due to a Todd Frazier error and misplay. It would be hard to put this loss on Frazier as he would collect two of the Mets three hits on the day, and he would score one of their only two runs scored.
Ultimately, the team squandered two huge opportunities. They only scored one run after having runners at second and third with no outs in the third. They’d only score one run with the bases loaded and one out with the top of the lineup coming up in the top of the fifth.
The loss was made all the worse with Justin Wilson getting into trouble, and Seth Lugo allowing one of his inherited runners to score. As bad as that was, it would be Christian Colon who delivered the RBI single, off a Lugo curveball to boot, to put an effective end to the Mets season.
Marlins 8 – Mets 4
Friday, July 12
The Mets were 10 games under .500 heading into the All Star Break. Despite the team being that many games under .500, they had a favorable schedule in the second half, and with their being only seven games back of the second Wild Card, they did have an opportunity. The key for them was getting off to a fast start out of the break.
Instead of putting their best foot forward, they started Jason Vargas. Vargas would blow a third inning 2-0 lead allowing homers to Curtis Granderson and Garrett Cooper in the third. Vargas would last into the sixth where he would implode again. Overall, he’d allow six earned over his five plus innings.
After the bullpen couldn’t keep it closer, the Mets ninth inning rally would fall short in an 8-4 loss. Sadly, this would not be the only time the Mets were beaten by Caleb Smith and the Marlins in the second half.
Giants 3 – Mets 2 (16)
Thursday, July 18
Back when the Mets were pairing Noah Syndergaard with Tomas Nido to get the best out of Syndergaard, they’d get a great performance from Syndergaard with him allowing just one earned over seven innings. Much like the 2016 Wild Card Game, the Giants had Madison Bumgarner match him pitch for pitch, and we’d see Bumgarner last nine innings.
After nine, it was tied at 1-1, and the Mets would get an opportunity they didn’t have in that Wild Card Game. They’d get to face the Giants bullpen.
In the 10th, that appeared serendipitous as they loaded the bases with just one out against Will Smith only to see Conforto and Jeff McNeil strike out. The Mets would also squander opportunities in the 13th and 15th as their bullpen put forth their best effort of the season.
Then finally, the Mets broke through as Pete Alonso would break out of his slump hitting a huge go-ahead homer in the 16h inning giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. That’s when seemingly innocuous decisions made previously would present their ramifications.
In Minnesota, the Mets had used Chris Mazza to pitch the final two innings of a blowout 14-4 victory over the Twins. What was curious about that decision was the Mets had Jacob Rhame available for that game, and they knew he had a suspension looming from an April incident. Before the game against the Giants, Rhame agreed to a suspension making him unavailable for this game.
With Mazza being the last guy in the bullpen, the Mets would look on as a tired pitcher could not record one out as the Giants would score two in the bottom of the inning to win 3-2. This loss was made all the worse because there was a clear hangover with the Mets being unable to score a run over 10 innings leading them to waste yet another Jacob deGrom start.
Braves 2 – Mets 1 (14)
Friday, August 21
The Mets were flying high entering this series having won 16 out of their last 18 games. As a result, they were seven games over .500 for the first time since April 24, 2018. At the time, the Mets were only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot putting them in the thick of the postseason race. With a strong series against the Braves here, the Mets had an opportunity to put the division in play.
Instead, the Mets would get swept by the Braves leading to the team losing six straight games. Even though the Mets would make another run at it, they ultimately could not overcome this stretch, and it would being with an absolutely brutal loss.
Mike Foltynewicz, a pitcher with a 6.09 ERA entering this game, would allow just two hits over seven innings. Ultimately, the only batter to get to him was deGrom, who would hit a sixth inning homer to tie the score at 1-1. As bad as the Mets bullpen had been all year, you could argue the Braves bullpen was worse. That combined with the Mets having last licks, you could argue the Mets were in position to pull out this game.
The Mets had a huge opportunity in the 10th against former teammate Anthony Swarzak. The team would put together a two out rally and load the bases, but Amed Rosario would strike out to end the inning.
The Mets blew an 11th inning chance as well. After Joe Panik was hit by a pitch by Sean Newcomb, he’d move to third after two wild pitches during Alonso’s at-bat. Alonso and Conforto would strike out, and the Braves intentionally walked J.D. Davis to force Brad Brach out of the game and to face the Mets last pinch hitter on the bench – Aaron Altherr. He’d ground out to end the inning.
What would make that even more maddening was the Mets passed on the opportunity to claim Billy Hamilton, who would have been a real upgrade to this team, off waivers. As luck would have it, Hamilton would face Jeurys Familia, and he would drive home the go-ahead run.
What made that all the more maddening was it was an Adeiny Hechavarria ground rule double which put the go-ahead run into scoring position. In essence, the player the Mets cut rather than pay him a roster bonus, and the player the Mets would not claim so they didn’t have to pay him more than the league minimum Altherr, would prove to be two players who helped cost the Mets the game.
As we know, that was a winnable game the Mets needed to have. While it did not push the Mets out of contention, it would prove to be the first in a series of losses which took the Mets from the thick of the race to the periphery.
Nationals 11 – Mets 10
Tuesday, September 4
After a potentially season ending sweep against the Cubs, the Mets got off the mat taking two of three from the Phillies, and they took the first game in the series against the Nationals to pull within 4.0 games of a Wild Card spot. They were up 10-4 and about to pull within seven games of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot.
The Mets had a 99.7 percent chance of winning that game, and they were 806-0 in franchise history when they led by six after nine innings.
That’s when we saw an epic bullpen meltdown; one we have never before seen the Mets have in their history. Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and Edwin Diaz combined to record just one out as the Nationals scored seven ninth inning runs. While many in hindsight would question removing Seth Lugo or question not using Justin Wilson against two batters with great numbers against left-handed pitching, the truth of the matter neither of those things were the problem.
The problem was this Mets bullpen was so unreliable that they cannot even be trusted to hold a six run lead. Therein lied the problem with this game, and it was a big problem throughout the season. It was a contributing factor in this and other losses the Mets suffered both in the first and second half. Huge soul crushing losses. That makes this bullpen just one of the biggest reasons why the Mets are not going to be in the postseason this year.
As big as the Nationals series was, the series against the Braves is bigger. It’s bigger because it’s on the road, a step up in competition, and it’s an opportunity to get into the division race.
Unlike this past weekend, the Mets were not up to the task.
Right off the bat, Zack Wheeler‘s 15 inning scoreless steak was snapped. Actually, it was 15.1 innings as Ozzie Albies flew out between the trio of singles from Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson. That 1-0 deficit grew to 2-0 on a Matt Joyce RBI single in the first.
That first hit was a two out single in the second. He moved to scoring position on a Wheeler HBP, and he’d score on a Jeff McNeil RBI single. It was 2-1, and the Mets would get no closer.
The Braves got that run back in the bottom of the inning on a Freeman RBI single. That lead grew to 3-1 when Acuna homered in the fourth, and then 5-1 when Ender Inciarte hit an RBI double in the fifth.
In total, Wheeler lasted just the five innings allowing a run in four of the five innings he pitched. He was easily out-pitched by Fried, and Acuna was a one man wrecking crew.
For example, in the sixth, the Mets had Fried on the ropes, but they’d shoot themselves in the foot.
Michael Conforto followed a Wilson Ramos leadoff walk with a GIDP. Todd Frazier then just missed a homer hitting it off the center field wall, and he’d need a great slide to get the double. Lagares followed with his third hit of the night, and for some reason, Gary Disarcina thought it wise to challenge Acuna’s arm:
— Atlañta Braves (@Braves) August 14, 2019
With that, the Mets blew a chance to score, and they trailed 5-1 in what was now a battle of the bullpens.
Brad Brach pitched a clean sixth. Luis Avilan got into trouble in the seventh allowing a leadoff single to Donaldson an led plunking Adam Duvall. With Mets killer Charlie Culberson up, Mickey Callaway turned to Jeurys Familia. Familia continued his recent strong stretch by striking out Culberson to end the jam.
It was 5-1, but with the way the Mets have played and with the Braves weak bullpen, there was a chance. That chance came in the eighth.
Shane Greene, who has already lost his closer’s job, did little to instill confidence tonight.
Then, with Jerry Blevins relieving Greene to face Conforto, the Braves could not convert the 3-6-3 double play allowing Alonso to score. Anthony Swarzak came on to face Frazier. After Frazier singled, Lagares hit a ball which ate up Freeman allowing Conforto to score.
Unfortunately, Joe Panik could not get the big pinch hit. This left the Mets squandering what could’ve been a much bigger opportunity and entering the ninth 5-3.
As if things could’ve be bad enough in this frustrating loss, McNeil hurt himself trying to leg out a single against newly installed Braves closer Mark Melancon. With so many games remaining, the Mets could afford to lose a game, but they cannot afford to lose McNeil.
We will all be holding our breath awaiting word.
Anthony Swarzak entered. He’d allow a pinch hit infield single to J.D. Davis to load the bases. After nearly missing a grand slam, Jeff McNeil struck out. Pete Alonso, who hit a homer earlier in the game, lined out to end the jam.
And that was it.
A series after Jay Bruce beat up on the Mets, Swarzak shut the Mets down. Again, we’re reminded of just how terrible that trade was and how awful Brodie Van Wagenen has been as the General Manager.
The bright side is the Mets bullpen wouldn’t get another chance to blow a lead. Still, even without a lead, Robert Gsellman would have his own bases loaded jam except he gave up a bases clearing double to Johan Camargo to increase the Braves lead to 6-2.
Game Notes: A year after their horrific 5-21 June, the Mets ate so far 9-16.
While Sandy Alderson had his faults as the Mets General Manager, he left the Mets in a very good position. The next General Manager would have at this disposal the assets and core necessary to build a real World Series contender sometime within the next three years. If done, properly, this could have been a stretch akin to the 1980s Mets.
First and foremost, there was a young core still under control. Michael Conforto rebounded from shoulder surgery in the second half, and he appeared ready to return to his All Star form. Brandon Nimmo had a breakout season where he was the second best hitter in the National League. Jeff McNeil emerged to hit .329/.381/.471 in 63 games showing a great contact rate while playing well at second base.
The team still had a very good starting rotation. Jacob deGrom is the reigning Cy Young winner. Zack Wheeler‘s second half was as good as deGrom’s. Steven Matz finally made 30 starts in a season. Noah Syndergaard came back from a finger issue and pitched well. Over his final eight starts of the season, he was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
The team also did not have an onerous long term deal which would stand in the way of really improving the team. After the 2019 season, the contracts of Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Anthony Swarzak, and Jason Vargas were set to come off the books. That was $32.5 million coming off the books. Combine that with Wheeler’s $5.975, and that was $38.475 coming off the books.
With respect to Vargas and Wheeler being pending free agents, the team did have internal options. Justin Dunn had a breakout season, and he re-emerged as a Top 100 prospect with an ETA of last 2019 or early 2020. With a similar 2019 season, you could see him realistically being part of the 2020 rotation or possibly the bullpen.
Behind Dunn, Anthony Kay and David Peterson had an opportunity to make a push to put themselves in a position to have an ETA of 2020. Between the three pitchers, the Mets realistically only needed one more starter via trade or free agency.
Those three pitchers were not the only near Major League ready talent the organization had. Pete Alonso was Major League ready. If he wasn’t, the team still had Dominic Smith who would spend the offseason addressing his medical issues and continuing to get into better shape.
This was all part of a very promising farm system which could have made a charge to the top of the game. In addition to the pitching and Alonso, the team had Jarred Kelenic, who appeared to be a once in a generation talent. Behind him was an impressive collection of teenage talent which included Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and Mark Vientos.
If handled properly, the 2021 or 2022 Mets could have had a rotation with deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and at least one of Dunn, Kay, Peterson, or possibly Simeon Woods Richardson. The infield would been Alonso, McNeil, and two from the aforementioned group of teenage prospects. That’s if Amed Rosario didn’t have a breakout season or move to the outfield. Speaking of the outfield, an outfield of Nimmo-Kelenic-Conforto would have been the envy of the game.
Sure, not all of the prospects would have developed, but you also could have had someone like a Ross Adolph or another prospect emerge much like we saw with McNeil in 2018. There was also the impending 2019 draft class to consider. The overriding point here was the Mets had a deep well of prospects, and they had payroll flexibility.
Whoever was going to be the next General Manager of the Mets was going to be, they were taking over a job in an enviable position. There were difficult decisions in front of them like which players do you extend, and how hard exactly do you push to contend in 2019 or 2020 knowing what was on the horizon. Certainly, you had to do some of that because taking over the job was likely going to require you to sell a vision of contending in 2019.
While players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would have been well worth pursuing, realistically speaking, the Wilpons were not going to green light those signings. On the trade front, the only player available worth the Mets top prospects was probably J.T. Realmuto, but the Marlins have never seemed inclined to be reasonable in a potential deal with the Mets.
With that in mind, whatever the vision for the new General Manager, there needed to be an element of restraint. No matter what the new General Manager did, they needed to maintain that level of payroll flexibility while also not damaging the farm system to pursue short term fixes and/or underselling prospects in order to find ways to circumvent not being able to spend.
Well, in one trade, just one, Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed. In trading Dunn, the Mets lost their lone near Major League ready starter. That was important in case of an injury in 2019, and it was important because with Wheeler and Vargas being free agents, the Mets needed to find at least one cheap option for the rotation.
Worse than that, the team added Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract. Over the next five years, the Mets had $20 million on the books for a player who was going to have a steep decline in one of those five years. That player was coming in at a position already filled by McNeil and at a position which was going to be filled with young talent during the duration of Cano’s contract. You also weren’t moving Cano to first due to Alonso and/or Smith.
Yes, this is where many point out the Mets obtained a cost controlled closer in Edwin Diaz. That’s true. However, he came with a debilitating contract. He also came at the expense of Kelenic. Certainly, a prospect of Kelenic’s level is worth more than a closer both in terms of value in a trade and just in terms of a future impact on a team.
Brodie Van Wagenen would then worsen things. He would trade prospects in Adolph, Adam Hill, Scott Manea, Felix Valerio, and Santana with Bobby Wahl to add J.D. Davis and Keon Broxton (who didn’t last two months with the team). No matter your impression of those players, that’s a big chunk of prospect depth for two players who were really nothing more than bench players.
That’s not a good allocation of your assets, especially when your organization does not have the ability to absorb Cano’s contract in stride and spend their way around losing this prospect depth. Anyone taking over the Mets job knew this, Brodie Van Wagenen included.
However, despite that knowledge he went all-in on 2019. He did not maintain the payroll flexibility needed to address the loss of two rotation spots, a third baseman, and a center fielder in free agency. He traded away not just two top 100 prospects but also quality depth prospects thereby harming their ability to add at this year’s trade deadline (if everything worked out) or to build the 2020 team. Mostly, he lost Kelenic who was a franchise altering prospect, who aside from Darryl Strawberry, the organization has not seen.
Overall, not only did Van Wagenen fail to build the 2019 Mets into a contender, he hamstrung the team’s ability to build that contender in 2020 and beyond. The reason is the team does not have the payroll flexibility or the prospect depth truly needed to overcome the way the Wilpons choose to operate their team.
Consider for a moment if Van Wagenen did nothing, the Mets would have been a fourth place team much like they are now. However, if he did actually do nothing, the Mets would have had a deep farm system and real payroll flexibility to attack this upcoming offseason. That’s all gone now, and seeing what he did to this organization in less than a year on the job, it’s difficult to have any faith he can turn things around and get the franchise back on track.
The Mets went to Atlanta with an opportunity to make a statement, and they did. It was just the wrong one:
1. The Mets needed to address their bullpen, defense, and depth. Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed in his efforts.
2. The bullpen has been the biggest culprit this year. What makes it all the more depressing is Anthony Swarzak has been better this year than Edwin Diaz. It gets better when you realize Swarzak is now a Brave pitching well against his former team.
3. The Mets followed a season with the second worst defense in the National League with the worst this year. There’s being a horrible shifting team, and there is also having players like J.D. Davis way out of position in left field.
4. On the topic of Davis, Gary Disarcina‘s send of him was inexplicably bad. It was the latest in bad decisions he’s made there. When you combine that with how horribly the infield has been shifted and his inability to help Amed Rosario improve defensively, you realize he’s been a bad coach for two years now. Really bad.
5. The defense killed Zack Wheeler‘s and Steven Matz‘s starts, but that was not the only reason. Both pitchers needed to be better in their starts. They needed to pick up their defense. They didn’t, and they unraveled and lost. Their failures are as much on them as the defense.
6. For Wheeler, this follows his career splits. His Junes are always terrible. He then rebounds to have a great second half. The problem for the Mets is his following this pattern is taking them out of contention, and it’s also not letting him build up trade value for when they have to sell him a month from now.
8. You get a sense of how bad things are when Mickey Callaway felt compelled to use Robert Gsellman to handle the ninth after deGrom’s start. Essentially, Callaway said he didn’t want one of his other relievers tacking on runs to his starter and ruining the good feeling that start would’ve had on his ace and the club.
9. It’s funny. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to use Stephen Nogosek to break him in easily. That said, as fans we’re never privy to the internal dynamics of a clubhouse and wanting to build up your players.
10. Nogosek and Daniel Zamora showed they are not answers to what has been ailing the bullpen. Instead, this was the team shifting deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s something to keep in mind when they previously passed on Craig Kimbrel and still have yet to sign Cody Allen.
11. That said, Chris Flexen showed us something. When he entered that game, the Braves had a real chance to put it out of reach. He stepped up and pitched two scoreless innings. In what was a lost series, he emerged as a potential bright spot.
12. Michael Conforto has been great lately with a 10 game hitting streak and a hit in 15 of the 17 games this month. In addition to his good defense in right field, he is easily the most underappreciated player on this roster.
13. After a bad May, Pete Alonso has picked it back up in June. He’s been a monster at the plate. It will be very interesting to see how this continues to play out this season.
14. Why isn’t Jeff McNeil playing in center? Juan Lagares hasn’t been good. Neither has Carlos Gomez. Really, McNeil can’t be worse and making him the everyday center fielder would allow the team to get Dominic Smith into the lineup everyday. Sure, Smith in left won’t help the defense, but he’s a better option than Davis out there.
15. For all the talk about Adeiny Hechavarria needing to play over Rosario, if you look, he’s hitting like Hechavarria again with him hitting .176/.222/.176 over the last two weeks and a .241/.276/.434 batting line overall. If you’re going to go down like this as a team, shouldn’t you be looking at Luis Guillorme in this role?
16. Both Brandon Nimmo and Justin Wilson have been shut down after the team’s repeated efforts to try to get them to play through their injuries. You really have to question how the Mets continue making this mistake with their players. It takes an extra level of a complete lack of self awareness and examination to repeatedly make the same mistake.
17. While this is a very down time for the Mets and being a Mets fan, just remember this team still has a young core, and they have been better than anyone could’ve hoped. While the hope for 2019 is fading fast (if not completely gone), there is real hope for 2020.
18. We could talk about the division being unofficially being out of reach and the Mets needing to focus on the Wild Card, but that’s only fooling ourselves. It’s time to sell. That said, if the Mets sweep the Cubs, I’ll probably talk myself into this team being a competitor. With Walker Lockett starting things off for the Mets, the chances of that happening are remote.
19. The worst place in baseball to be is inbetween being a competitor and a bad team. The Mets were in that position in 2002, and they made a horrendous trade with the Rockies trading Jason Bay as part of a package for Steve Reed. A few years later, we’d see it happen with the Scott Kazmir/Victor Zambrano trade. With Brodie Van Wagenen’s hubris, another awful deal like this is a real danger.
20. If Brodie Van Wagenen did nothing this offseason but keep what was here, the Mets would still be a fourth place team, but instead they would’ve been one with payroll flexibility and a farm system on the cusp of being the best in the game.
The Mets went from a very bad loss on Friday to winning a series against the Rockies, a team ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. All in all, it was a good weekend with a lot of great things happening:
1. Noah Syndergaard is not getting enough credit for reinventing himself on the fly. He’s lost his slider due to the new ball, and he’s adapted by throwing more four seamers and his curveball, two pitches he needed to develop further. He’s really turned a corner and maybe he’s on the brink of a stretch like he had in 2016.
2. It does seem every Mets pitcher likes pitching to Tomas Nido. It should come as no surprise as he is a first rate defensive catcher and pitch framer.
3. That said, we cannot have Nido being the personal catcher to Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. That is especially the case when Wilson Ramos has been the Mets best hitter for over the past three weeks, and he has improved his rapport with the pitching staff. Fact is, Ramos has to play.
4. That said, Nido should play a little more. In the first month plus of the season Ramos played in 28 of 29 possible games, and he started in 22 of 29 games. The Mets played 28 games in May, he played 24 games and started 19. Apparently, easing off the throttle off the 31 year old catcher with an injury history has benefits.
5. Speaking of easing off the throttle, Robert Gsellman was dominant in his one inning on Friday, and then he didn’t pitch in the subsequent two days. Getting him more rest could make him more effective like he was earlier in the year. That’s the hope at least.
6. For those who were clamoring for Drew Gagnon in pressure situations, you got to see why Mickey Callaway was hesitant to put him in those spots as he allowed homers to David Dahl and Daniel Murphy. In three of his last five appearances, hes’ allowed runs with two of them being three run blowups.
7. That’s the thing with pitchers like Gagnon. They’re effective in a role like long reliever, but pressure situations are a different animal. From what we’ve seen, Gagnon definitely has a spot in a Major League bullpen just not in the seventh or eighth inning. That’s alright. There’s nothing wrong with having pitchers who can pitch effectively in certain roles.
9. Todd Frazier is not this good, but he was also not as bad as he was to start the season. That’s the inherent problem with judging players over hot and cold streaks and especially over week-to-week production. Overall, what we have seen from Frazier is he’s a very good defensive third baseman who can draw walks and has pop in his bat. At least, that is what he is when he’s healthy. He’s healthy now, and he’s finally helping the Mets much in the same fashion Sandy Alderson thought he would.
10. The Mets need Frazier all the more because Jed Lowrie is apparently as real as the Tooth Fairy.
11. Speaking of moves which blew up unexpectedly, Robinson Cano has been less productive than Jay Bruce or Anthony Swarzak, both of whom have been traded in the division and are now working to beat the Mets.
12. With Juan Lagares having a -3 DRS in center and seeing Carlos Gomez play in center, the Mets should give a real consideration to seeing Jeff McNeil in center. As we see he has above average speed, good instincts, and an ability to quickly learn new positions. This would allow Brandon Nimmo to go to left field, which is a more natural fit whenever he comes off the IL.
13. Of course, if Dominic Smith continues to hit and play a passable left field, you could move McNeil to second. Of course, when Cano is healthy that raises a whole other list of issues. However, that falls under the category of good problems to have, which is a really nice change of pace around here.
14. Amed Rosario is an extremely talented player. We keep seeing glimpses of it, but we also see frustrating stretches. Part of this is the coaching staff with the Mets being one of the worst shifting teams there are, which has a negative impact on Rosario’s defensive numbers. There’s also the fact he’s still working to figure things out. Hopefully, sooner or later, something finally clicks.
15. Speaking of something clicking, Mets need to hope Pete Alonso is finally clicking again. While he’s hitting just .223/.298/.559 since May 1, Alonso is hitting .281/.349/.649 0ver his past 15 games. One thing to track here is Alonso is much better against left-handed pitching.
16. Bob Klapisch’s article in Bleacher Report on the Wilpons on their handling of their attempts to void Yoenis Cespedes‘ contract as well as all the other areas where the Wilpons are petty, over-matched, cheap, and whatever other adjective you want to use, is exactly the type or articles which need to be written instead of the paint-by-number fire Mickey Callaway articles which are being written.
17. Prior to this series against the Rockies, the Mets had exactly one series win against a team with a winning record. That series was the April 22 – 24 series at home against the Phillies where they blitzed them over the first two games before the Phillies destroyed Jason Vargas in the final game of that series. Things went sour for the Mets after that.
18. Mets haven’t been good for a while now, and it does seem like things are turning a corner. Fortunately, the Wild Card and division are still well within reach.
19. The Subway Series always seem to be a seminal moment in the Mets season. They appear headed in the right direction and the Yankees not so this next series could prove to be a springboard for the Mets.
There’s also the performance of Cano. By the looks of it, the Mets may not even get one good year from the 36 year old second baseman coming off a PED suspension. Remember, this is just year one of a five year $100 million commitment.
As bad and/or injured as Cano has been, no one could have reasonably predicted he wouldn’t be as good as Jay Bruce has been this year. For that matter, he hasn’t even been as good as Anthony Swarzak. To make it all the worse, the Mariners traded Swarzak to the Braves and Bruce to the Phillies.
Essentially, the end result of the trade is Bruce, Swarzak, and Cano have been working to keep the Mets out of the postseason. That’s well beyond what most assumed would be the reasonably pondered worst case scenario for this trade.
And again, this is just year one of Cano. Mets fans should shudder to see year five . . . and that’s when Dunn and Kelenic should reasonably be contributing at the MLB level.
Not good. Not good at all.
When the Mets were winning the 2015 pennant, there was a push in some circles to refer to that team as Omar’s team. Depending on your point of view, it was intended to either credit Omar Minaya for his leaving behind a better than advertised talent base, or it was to deride Sandy Alderson, who never gained traction with some Mets fans.
Even if it was said in jest, there was a nugget of truth to it. The core of that team, the pitching, was mostly there because of Omar Minaya. In fact, Minaya was the General Manager who drafted Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. The other key starter, Noah Syndergaard, was obtained in exchange for R.A. Dickey, a pitcher who was brought to the organization by Minaya on a minor league deal.
Minaya was also the General Manager who drafted Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy. Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Hansel Robles, and Ruben Tejada came to the Mets as international free agents signed during Minaya’s tenure. Minaya’s impact on the team went further than this with Sandy Alderson utilizing players brought to the organization during Minaya’s tenure to acquire Travis d’Arnaud and Addison Reed.
Taking it a step further, Minaya was the Assistant General Manager when David Wright was drafted, and he was the General Manager who gave Wright his first contract extension.
Overall, Minaya’s fingerprints were all over that 2015 team much in the same way Alderson’s fingerprints are all over this year’s Mets team.
Yesterday’s starting lineup featured four former Alderson draft picks (Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil) and the player who his regime gave the second highest international signing bonus in team history (Amed Rosario). Robinson Cano came to the Mets when Brodie Van Wagenen traded two former Alderson first round draft picks (Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn) and two players Alderson had signed in free agency (Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak).
Looking further, the lineup also had two Minaya holdovers, one of which in Lagares who Alderson gave a contract extension.
Really, when you truly break it down, the only player on the Mets Opening Day lineup who has zero ties to any previous Mets regime was Wilson Ramos.
When you break it down further, the only Mets players who have no ties to previous regimes were Ramos, Luis Avilan, Justin Wilson, and Jed Lowrie, a player who opened the season on the Injured List and who currently has no timetable to return. Considering Familia was a free agent signing, you could potentially credit him solely to Van Wagenen even if he was seeking to return to the team. The other 20 players on the Opening Day roster were either players brought to the team by Alderson, or they were players who were acquired utilizing players Alderson brought to the organization.
Given the narrative which was in place four years ago, the question should be presented whether the 2019 Mets are Sandy’s or Brodie’s team.
The answer is this is definitively Brodie’s team. As the General Manager, he was the one who set into course a series of transactions made to build the Mets in his image. It was he who decided to extend deGrom and to bring in Cano. When you are the General Manager, you are the one making the decisions, and you should receive the credit or blame if your decisions succeed or falter.
As for Sandy Alderson, Mets fans should be appreciative of the talent he acquired during his tenure. Alderson not only left behind a talented group of players, but he left behind a very likeable group of players. In the end, the Mets were better off for him having been the General Manager, and we can only hope we can say the same when Van Wagnen’s tenure as the Mets General Manager ends.
At this moment in time, with perhaps a very minor move or two, it would appear the Mets are done adding pieces this offseason. The different holes in the roster have been noted, but what we have not really seen done is an examination of the Mets decision making process. It is something which should be done more earnestly.
Dumping Swarzak’s And Not Frazier’s Contract
Purportedly, one of the selling points of the trade to obtain Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was to move the contracts of Jay Bruce (2 years, $28 million) and Anthony Swarzak ($8.5 million). While moving Bruce was certainly understandable, it was curious the Mets moved Swarzak instead of Todd Frazier ($9 million).
As we have seen relievers tend to be mercurial, and it is quite possible with a healthier season, Swarzak could have been much more productive in 2019. Depending on the moves the team made in the offseason, he reasonably could have been the last man in the bullpen.
As for Frazier, we have seen the Mets make his spot on the roster tenuous. Pete Alonso appears poised to be the first baseman sooner rather than later, and the Mets brought in Jed Lowrie with the purpose of playing him everyone, albeit at different positions across teh diamond.
Seeing there being a multitude of free agents who could play third base, wouldn’t it have been better to move Frazier over Swarzak? As we saw, the Mets could have replaced Frazier with Lowrie. Other options included Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The Mets could have accomplished the same versatility they sought to accomplish by signing multiple players from this group, and they could have had platoon options over Frazier’s bat. It’s noteworthy with the exception of Moustakas these are switch hitters making them more useful bench players than a player who has never played a reserve role in his career.
Why Didn’t McNeil Play Winter Ball?
The very minute the Mets obtained Cano, it was clear Jeff McNeil was going to play some outfield. Now, it could be argued the amount of outfield he played depended entirely on the other moves made this offseason, but nevertheless, the plan was always to have McNeil see some time in the outfield.
Considering McNeil played exactly 17.0 innings in left field in Triple-A last year and just 56.1 innings in the outfield in his six years in the minors, you would have thought the team would have found a spot for him to play winter ball to hone his craft. After all, the team did try to get Dominic Smith time playing outfield in the Dominican Winter League (it didn’t work out).
Now, because the team couldn’t make any moves to improve the outfield, they are going to play McNeil in left all Spring with the hopes he can get up to speed over the course of less than two months worth of games. It should also be noted this decision is moving Michael Conforto from his best defensive position to right, and it is forcing Brandon Nimmo to center, a position the Mets have been reticent to play him at the Major League level.
Why Trade Plawecki if d’Arnaud Wasn’t Ready?
In his four year career, we have all seen Kevin Plawecki‘s warts, but through it all, he has established himself as a viable backup catcher at the Major League level. While the Mets may have felt the need to choose between him and Travis d’Arnaud, that decision would not have been forced upon the Mets until the moment d’Arnaud was ready to play. As we see now, d’Arnaud is not ready to play.
Instead of keeping Plawecki, they traded him for an underwhelming return in the form of Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett. The only player of value in the trade was Lockett, and he had been previoulsy traded for Ignacio Feliz, an 18 year old who signed for an $85,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.
Instead of hedging their bets wisely, the team instead signed Devin Mesoraco. Say what you will about Plawecki, but he is far superior to Mesoraco. He’s a better pitch framer, and he is the better hitter (93 to 92 wRC+). And before anyone invokes Jacob deGrom, you need to explain how Mesoraco was the reason why deGrom was so great.
Where Are the Extensions?
There has been a growing trend in baseball for teams to lock up their young players. For example, the Yankees have already locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they are working on locking up Dellin Betances as well. These actions promise to keep the Yankees core together while keeping them cost controlled to what promises to be a team friendly discount.
At the moment, the Mets have free agency concerns of their own. After 2019, Zack Wheeler will be a free agent. After 2020, deGrom will be a free agent. After 2021, a significant portion of the Mets current Mets core will be free agents with Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be headed to free agency.
We know deGrom has put himself on the front burner, but what are the Mets doing besides him? After all, if CAA is in town, it means the team can negotiate extensions for both deGrom and Syndergaard. There is also nothing preventing them from reaching out to the agents for the other players.
Really, this is the biggest part of the offseason which needs examination. What exactly is the plan going forward? Do the Mets have intentions of building something much sustaining, or is this a one year gamble? Are the Mets playing things out in 2019 and reassessing. At this moment, we don’t know. Hopefully, the Mets do.