Antonio Bastardo

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

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

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

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

No, this team needed Cespedes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Gorzelanny Was A Perfect Minor League Signing

If you look at the initial reactions to the Tom Gorzelanny signing, it was met with some anger and derision from Mets fans. It has led to a meme where Mets fans have begun to compare him to sloth from the Goonies:

Obviously, this anger comes from Mets fans wanting the team to do more to sign free agent relievers to fill the obvious holes in the Mets bullpen. Namely, Mets fans wanted the team to go out and sign Jerry Blevins, who for some strange reason remains on the free agent market. Because the Mets signed Gorzelanny and not Blevins, Mets fans have understandably overreacted. They shouldn’t.

Because this is a minor league deal, the Mets are not obligated to carry Gorzelanny on the Opening Day roster like they were Antonio Bastardo last season. Essentially, if Gorzelanny does not show the Mets he is not capable of being a part of their bullpen, they can leave him in the minor leagues as depth.

Now, if Gorzelanny does show he can be a solid contributor out of the bullpen, the Mets only owe him $1 million with incentives that could increase his salary to $2.8 million. Essentially, this is a low risk, potentially high reward signing.

And there is reason to believe Gorzelanny can be a solid contributor in 2017. For his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .229/.302/.356 batting line. For the sake of comparison, Blevins allowed left-handed batters to hit .255/.313/.324 off of him last year. Now, Blevins has historically been better than that against left-handed batters. However, the Mets are looking to replace Blevins’ 2016 production, and judging from Gorzelanny’s career splits, he is more than capable of that.

Another reason to believe in Gorzelanny is his repertoire. He primarily relies upon a low 90s sinker and a low 80s slider. While he also can throw a change-up and a curveball, while he has gotten older he has more and more relied on his sinker and slider. As we have seen with pitchers like Addison Reed and Fernando Salas, Dan Warthen has been successful working with them to get better results with those pitches as they have had in prior stops. It also doesn’t hurt that Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera are excellent pitch framers that will be able to help Gorzelanny get into pitcher’s counts and get him that borderline called third strike.

Also, consider some of the success he has had against some of the left-handed batters he is sure to see during the 2017 season:

At the end of the day, Gorzelanny may very well be considered a solid minor league free agent signing in the same ilk as Darren Oliver or Tim Byrdak.

On the other hand, it might not work out. But if it doesn’t, so what? It’s a classic example of nothing ventured, nothing gained. The million Gorzelanny is potentially earning should not stand in the way of the Mets re-signing Blevins and/or signing another free agent reliever.

And in fact, it didn’t. Not too long after the Mets signed Gorzelanny, the Mets then re-signed both Fernando Salas and Blevins. 

Still, Gorzelanny wasn’t the guy Mets fans wanted, but he could become the guy the Mets fans want on the mound against a left-handed batter this October.

2016 Mets Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Bartolo Colon)

And never brought to mind (Antonio Bastardo)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Jon Niese)

And days of auld lang syne.  (Wild Card Game)

And there’s a hand (Matt Harvey), my trust friend (Curtis Granderson)

And gie’s a hand to thine (Steven Matz)

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet (Wilpons)

For auld lang syne (1986 Mets)

Re-Sign Fernando Salas

With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia in the fold, the Mets have their eighth and ninth innings guys set up for next year. In 2016, that tandem was the best in baseball. However, it was also the most taxed. The duo pitched more innings than any other reliever combination in the major leagues. The main reason is that the Mets played many close games that necessitated Terry Collins going to the whip with them time and time again. It was needed in the regular season, but as we saw in September and the Wild Card Game, they were beginning to show some signs of fatigue. With that, obtaining a seventh inning reliever, preferably one with closing experience, should be a high priority this offseason.

With that in mind, the Mets should re-sign Fernando Salas.

Salas had a Reed-like impact on the 2016 Mets. In 17 appearances, Salas was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, a 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. With that, Salas completely took over the seventh inning, and he allowed both Reed and Familia some rest down the stretch. Understandably, between his usage and his statistics prior to joining the Mets, you could expect him to regress. That’s almost assuredly true of his 0.635 WHIP. However, his regression would not be as troublesome as one would have you believe because, like Reed, Salas has benefited tremendously from the Mets exceptional pitch framing.

Keep in mind, there was not change to Salas’ stuff or his pitching patters when he became a Met. It is similar to Reed who became a completely different pitcher when he became a Met. Before joining the Mets, Reed had a 4.20 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. In Reed’s season plus with the Mets, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. When Reed became a Met, he didn’t develop a new pitch or pitching patters. Rather, it was the Mets catchers getting the extra strike for him.

It is something Reed emphasized when he said of Travis d’Arnaud, “There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look. He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.” (ESPN.com)

Given the pitch framing having a similar impact on Salas, you could expect Salas to have a similarly terrific 2017 season.  With that, Collins can be more judicious in how he uses both Reed and Familia.  This would permit all three pitchers to be fresh come the stretch run to the 2017 postseason; and hopefully, dominant all the way up until the World Series.

Another important point is that pitching in New York is a completely different animal. Some guys can do it and others can’t. The best and most recent example of this was Antonio Bastardo. Prior to joining the Mets, Bastardo had a 3.58 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP. He spent 2015 with the Pirates, and he was 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.134 WHIP. Those numbers were why the Mets gave him a fairly lucrative deal for a seventh inning reliever.

Sure enough, Bastardo was terrible with the Mets. Bastardo made 41 appearances with the Mets with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. Things got so bad, the Mets actually welcomed back Jon Niese and the Mets actually giving the Pirates some money in the deal. Naturally, Bastardo pitched better with the Pirates with him having a 4.13 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in 28 games for them.

Simply put, Bastardo is the risk you take when you sign free agent middle relievers who have never pitched in New York. At the time of the signing, no one knew if Bastardo could pitch in New York. Conversely, we found out that Salas absolutely could pitch in New York, and that he could pitch with a postseason berth on the line in New York.  With that in mind, the Mets should make every effort to bring back Salas to pitch in the bullpen next year . . . regardless of what happens with Familia.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Mets Final Season Grades – Relievers

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the ninth set of grades, here are the other Mets relievers:

Hansel Robles B+

This was the second year of his career, and to date, he has yet to carve out a role for himself.  The main reason for that is Terry Collins has used him in every sort of role imaginable.  He has been used to bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam.  He has been used as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings.  He has closed out a game.  He has also been called on to pitch over three innings in a game.  Without looking it up, it is safe to say Robles was the only pure reliever this year to throw a pitch in every inning this season.  Essentially, Robles has become the Mets version of Ramiro Mendoza

Robles was having a great year for himself too before Collins over-worked him.  In a one week span, Robles threw 127 pitches while making three appearances of over two innings.  Robles next appearance after that?  Well, it was four days later, and it was a two inning effort that needed Robles to throw 33 pitches.  By late August, he was spent having made many more appearances and having thrown many more pitches than he had his entire career.  Overall, Robles was 6-4 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.352 WHIP.

Who knows what’s in store for Robles in 2017?  Whatever it is, we can reasonably assume he will perform well in that role.

Jerry Blevins B

With Blevins injured in 2015, the Mets had a long search for a LOOGY that never materialized.  In 2016, we all got to see what the Mets were missing as Blevins had a good year.  Overall, Blevins made 73 appearances going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP.  As luck would have it, Blevins would actually have reverse splits for the first time in his career.

Right-handed batters were only able to hit .182/.266/.345 off of Blevins while left-handed batters hit .255/.313/.324 off of him.  Those numbers are usually reversed, and in reality, right-handed batters typically hit him much harder than that.  This speaks to the strides Blevins made in becoming more than just a LOOGY.  He became a pitcher that can be relied upon to pitch a full inning.  It increased not just his value to the Mets, but also his free agent value.

Sean Gilmartin D

Gilmartin went from an important piece of the Mets bullpen in 2015 to having a lost year.  He began the year in AAA as a starter, but by the end of the year, it would be unclear what his role with the Mets would be in the future.

Initially, Gilmartin succeeded as a starter, but he would be called up to the Mets to pitch out of the pen.  He would be used on three days or less of rest.  Initially, he pitched well out of the pen for the Mets encouraging the team to do it more.  As a result, his numbers suffered, and he missed part of the year with a shoulder injury.  When it became time for the Mets to go to the minor leagues for starting pitching depth, Gilmartin was no longer an option on that front.  When the Mets were desperate enough in September to give him a start, he wouldn’t make it out of the first inning.

Overall, Gilmartin made 14 appearances going 0-1 with a 713 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  After a year like this, it will be interesting to see what role, if any, Gilmartin has on the Mets in 2017.

Erik Goeddel D

It appears that Goeddel may be the Eric Campbell of relief pitchers.  There are many people who point to a number of statistics to say he should be a capable major league player.  However, as the sample size grows and grows, his performance suffers as do his numbers.  In 36 appearances this season, Goeddel was 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP.  This was a result of him becoming more hittable and his issuing more walks.  With all that said, there is still hope for him as he did post a 9.1 K/9.  Despite that, he looks like he will be best suited to starting the year in the minors.

Josh Edgin C-

In Edgin’s first year back from Tommy John surgery, he did not regain his velocity, and he had some trouble with his control.  Those two issues combined led to him issuing more walks and to batters getting more hits off of him.  In his 16 appearances for the Mets, he would to 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.

These are ugly numbers indeed, but there was some good news behind those numbers.  Edgin, who was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY entering 2015, did limit left-handed batters to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.  In that essence, Edgin proved he could handle the role as a LOOGY, and it appears the Mets just might given him that chance in 2017.

Josh Smoker C+

Here is what Smoker is: he is a fastball throwing left-handed pitcher that racks up strikeouts.  He is not a pitcher that can left-handed batters out, nor is he a pitcher that should ever pitch more than one inning.  Collins inability to recognize that led to Smoker’s numbers being worse than they could have been.  Keep in mind, Smoker was called upon to go more than one inning, three times, and on each occasion he allowed a home run.

Overall, Smoker was 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.304 WHIP.  Most impressively, Smoker struck out 14.7 batters per nine innings.  With those strikeout numbers, Smoker belongs in a major league bullpen, and chances are, we may very well find himself in one next season.

Antonio Bastardo F

All you need to know about his season is the Mets traded him away and gave the Pirates money to obtain Jon Niese, who was having the worst year of his career.  When the Mets are giving other teams money to take players off their hands, you know a player was having a nightmare of a season.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Who Could Replace a Suspended Jeurys Familia?

With Jeurys Familia having been arrested under suspicion of domestic violence, there are a number of questions that need to be asked and answered.  While it may seem tactless, at some point, we need to ask the question of how does this arrest impact the Mets organization.

Over the past two seasons, Familia has been leaned on heavily by Terry Collins, and Familia has responded.  In his two years as the Mets closer, Familia has made more appearances, converted more saves, pitched more innings, and finished more games than any other closer in Major League Baseball.  He has at least appeared to be the rare durable closer that can be relied upon year in and year out.

Many times Familia has not been given much of a margin of error.  For far too many stretches in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have found themselves desperate for offense putting a ton of pressure on their starters and their best relievers.  This past season Familia and Addison Reed combined to be the best 8-9 combination in all of baseball.  With the possibility of Yoenis Cespedes leaving in free agency, the uncertainty of the health of Neil Walker and whether he can return next season, and the myriad of other offensive question marks, the bullpen is once again going to be of great importance in 2017.

That’s where things get tricky with Familia.  While he has stated he is not guilty of the crimes, we have seen Major League Baseball levy suspensions for players regardless of criminal charges being filed or in the absence of a conviction.  The police never filed charges against Aroldis Chapman, and still he was suspended 30 games.  The charges against Jose Reyes were dropped, and he was suspended for 51 games.  If a Major League Baseball investigation finds Familia committed an act of domestic violence, it is possible he could miss 30 or more games to start the season.

With Reed, the Mets do have an internal option to close.  From 2012 – 2014, Reed served as a closer for the White Sox and the Diamondbacks.  In that time, he averaged 34 saves per season.  While his 4.22 ERA and 1.217 WHIP left a lot to be desired, it is important to note Reed has been a different pitcher since coming to the Mets.  As a Met, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP.  Certainly, Reed has shown the ability in the past to be a closer, and with the Mets Reed has shown the ability to be a dominant reliever.  Therefore, from a closing standpoint, the Mets have an internal option.

The real issue becomes who takes Reed’s spot in the bullpen.

Hansel Robles has shown a lot of promise.  He has struck out 10.0 batters per nine in his career, and he is effective getting left-handed batters out.  However, he is also mercurial in his performance, and slotting him into the eighth inning takes away one of his key attributes which is he is a guy that you can use for multiple innings or to get a big out.

Josh Smoker had great strikeout numbers in both the minors and in the majors this season.  In fact, he struck out 14.7 batters per nine.  However, he has severe reverse splits, and each time Collins asked him to pitch more than one inning this year, he allowed a home run in his second inning of work.

Seth Lugo could be an inspired choice to take over the eighth inning.  As we saw this season, the Mets envisioned his future role with the team coming out of the bullpen, and Lugo was effective in his limited time out of the pen for the Mets.  However, we also saw he was an effective starter, and with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz coming off season ending surgeries, we were reminded you cannot have enough starting pitching depth.

There are minor league pitchers such as Paul Sewald who could be effective.  However, with the Mets not turning to them in September, it is highly unlikely they will rely on them to be the seventh or eighth inning reliever to start the season.  It is further unlikely with him being subjected to the Rule 5 Draft.  It is very likely someone will pick him up in the draft.

From there, the Mets do not have many internal options.  In reality, this means with Familia potentially missing a significant portion of the season, the Mets will likely have to look on the free agent market to fill in the gap.

The first name that comes to mind is Fernando Salas.  In his limited time with the Mets, he was very effective.  In fact, he had the same reversal of fortune that Reed did in 2015.  Still, there is caution in over relying on a pitcher with a career 3.64 ERA to replace one of your two best bullpen arms.

There are a number of intriguing set-up men on the free agent market.  There is Joe Blanton who had a 2.48 ERA in 75 appearances for the Dodgers.  Former Met Joe Smith has been a good reliever for 10 years, and during the stretch drive with the Cubs this year, he had a a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances.  Brad Ziegler is coming off a terrific year as a closer for the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox.  There are a bunch of other names as well.  However, as we have seen as recently as last year with Antonio Bastardo, many middle reliever performances tend to fluctuate year to year.  This leaves you wondering not only how to replace that player’s role in the bullpen, but also how to get out from under the contract.

Therefore, if you are going to add a reliever you should go after the dominant closer in free agency.  While there is debate over whether or not they are more of a sure thing, we do know there are three great closers available this offseason.

We can pick nits over who is better among the trio of Chapman, Kenley Jansen, or Mark Melancon.  However, the one underlying truth with any of those three is if you have one of them, you have a dominant closer in your bullpen.  As we have seen with Familia over the past two seasons, you are lucky to have any of these dominant closers.  With one of those three joining Reed, and eventually Familia, the Mets would have a bullpen similar to the one the Indians have rode all the way to the World Series.

The Mets will also have a lot of money invested in their bullpen.  According to the Los Angeles Times, it is believed that Jansen will not only receive and reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer, but also he will eventually sign a contract surpassing Jonathan Papelbon‘s then record setting five year $50 million contract.  With Jansen on the free agent market, and big budget teams like the Dodgers chasing after him, there is no telling how high the bidding will go for him.

For their part, Chapman and Melancon cannot receive qualifying offers as a result of them being traded in-season.  At least conceptually, that could drive up their prices as well because more teams may be interested in them because they will not have to forfeit a draft pick to obtain them.  Teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, and who knows who else could be interested leading to each of them getting a huge contract.

This begs the question whether the Mets can even afford to pursue a big time closer.  Likely, they cannot.

According to Mets Merized Online, the Mets will have approximately $108 million wrapped up in 18 players who should make the Opening Day roster.  That number does not include money to re-sign Cespedes, Walker, Jerry Blevins, Bartolo Colon, or the aforementioned Salas.  If the Mets were to re-sign these players, or players of similar value to replace them, the Mets payroll is going to go well over $160 million.  Accoring to Spotrac, the Mets finished the 2016 season with a $156 million payroll.  It should be noted this amount does not include any insurance reimbursements related to David Wright‘s season ending neck surgery.

With that in mind, the Mets likely do not have the budget necessary to add a Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon.  If the Mets were to add one of them, it is likely to come at the expense of Cespedes or Walker.  While having a dominant trio to close out ballgames in enticing, the Mets would first need offense to get enough runs to give that bullpen a lead.  This puts a greater priority on Cespedes and Walker.

In the long run, the Mets best bet is to play out the entire process with Familia.  If there is a suspension, Reed can be an effective closer.  Re-signing Salas and/or bringing in a Ziegler would help as well.  It would behoove the Mets to roll the dice on a reclamation project like a Greg Holland or a Drew Storen because in reality that is the position the Mets are in budget-wise.

Mets Final Season Grades – Spot Starters

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the seventh set of grades, here are the Mets spot starters:

Logan Verrett C-

In 2015 with the Mets rotation nearing innings limits on the eve of the postseason, notably Matt Harvey, Verrett rose to the challenge, and he showed himself to be not just a capable bullpen arm, but also someone who can be a reliable spot starter.  Unfortunately, as good as Verrett was in 2015, he was that poor in 2016.

Initially, Verrett did well in the rotation after making two April spot starts for Jacob deGrom.  In those starts, he pitched six innings and allowed no runs.  However, it was when he was called upon to fill-in for an injured Harvey that Verrett really struggled, and he fell apart in August.  Overall, Verrett made 12 starts going 1-6 with a 6.45 ERA and a 1.617 ERA.  There’s no sugar coating how poor those numbers are.  So why wasn’t his grade lower?

Well, Verrett was useful out of the bullpen.  In his 23 relief appearances, he was 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.453 WHIP.  His WHIP was quite poor, but overall, he was effective out of the pen, and for the most part, he went multiple innings.  There’s value in that, and it should be recognized.

Ultimately, what we learned with Verrett is he may not be as capable bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen as we once thought.  It might just be that his stuff will not permit him to go more than two times through a lineup.  Ideally, Verrett is no more than a long man in the pen or a AAA starter called-up to make a start.  He’s not both.

Rafael Montero F

What was the most surprising part of Montero’s season?  Was it his demotion to AA or was it his getting called-up to the majors two times last season?  The answer actually is it was Montero getting important September starts for a team trying to claim one of the two Wild Card spots.

It was the same old Montero.  In the minors, he pounded the strike zone, and he gave the Mets some hope they could salvage him.  In the majors, he was flat out terrible.  In his three starts and nine relief appearances, Montero was 0-1 with an 8.05 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP, and he may not have been that good.  It is still incredible that he hasn’t been taken off the 40 man roster yet.

Jon Niese F

Speaking of terrible, the Mets admitted their mistake in signing Antonio Bastardo to a two year deal, and they traded him to the Pirates to bring back Niese.  The Mets were desperate for pitching at the time, and there was some hope Niese would improve working with pitching coach Dan Warthen again.  The Mets hopes were quickly dashed.

Niese made two starts and four relief appearances for the Mets.  In those games, he was 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP.  He was even worse than he was with the Pirates, and remember, he was amidst the worst year of his career with the Pirates.  In his last start, and most likely last appearance ever wearing a Mets uniform, Niese lasted a third of an inning before removing himself from the game with a knee injury.  Not too long thereafter, Niese had season ending knee surgery.  It will be interesting to see what the market will be for him this offseason.

Seth Lugo A

Lugo went from a struggling pitcher in AAA who was removed from the rotation to being one of the Mets best starting pitchers down the stretch.

During the season, we saw Lugo had the single best pitch out of anyone in the minor leagues when he embarassed Anthony Rizzo with his curveball.  As it turns out, if you measure curveballs by revolution, Lugo has one of the best curveballs in the sport.  We also saw that when Lugo needed a little extra on his fastball to get out of a jam, he could ramp it up all the way to 96 MPH.  In that way, Lugo was a bit of a throwback.  Lugo relied mostly on his B fastball and secondary pitches, but when he was in trouble, or he needed to put a batter away, he took his stuff to the next gear.  It could be one of the reasons he was so successful limiting the damage with runners in scoring position.

Overall, Lugo made eight starts and nine relief appearances for the Mets.  As a starter, he was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP.  As a reliever, he was 0-1 with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP.  For the season, Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.094 WHIP.  Not a bad season for a pitcher that got booted from the AAA rotation.

Robert Gsellman A

In the aforementioned game Niese left due to injury, it was Gsellman who relieved him.  In that game, Gsellman began to make a name for himself.  Gsellman would get better and better from start to start culminating in his seven inning, no run, eight strikeout game against the Phillies in the Mets last home regular season game.

During the season, Gsellman featured a power sinker and some still developing, but still effective secondary pitches.  That power sinker helped Gsellman go 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP in what was effectively nine starts.  Gsellman was better than even the Mets could have hoped he would be.  With the departure of Bartolo Colon in free agency coupled with the questions surrounding the rotation, mainly Zack Wheeler, Gsellman may very well be competing with Lugo for a spot in the Opening Day rotation.

Gabriel Ynoa C-

The main thing we learned about Ynoa during the 2016 season was the 23 year old just wasn’t ready to pitch in the major leauges.  However, due to a rash of injuries, the Mets brought him up sooner than he should have been, and they immediately put him in a relief role he was ill suited.

Ynoa would make 10 appearances for the Mets.  That included three starts in games he frankly should not have been starting.  Ynoa was called upon to start games despite not having made a start in nearly a month due to injuries and Montero being Montero.  Overall, Ynoa was 1-0 with a 6.38 ERA and a 1.800 WHIP.  It is too soon to judge what type of career he will have, and the hope is that Ynoa will be better for the experience.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

This Could Have Been the Mets

Last year, Ben Zobrist was one of the driving forces for a Royals team that beat the Mets in the World Series.  This year, he was more of the same for a Cubs team that is on the verge of winning their first World Series since 1908.  As luck would have it, Zobrist was one of the many “what if” decisions from the 2015 offseason that leads us to where the Mets are today.

Zobrist choosing the Cubs over the Mets led to a series of dominos falling.  It led to the Mets choosing to trade Jon Niese for Neil Walker instead of looking to re-sign Daniel Murphy.  That, coupled with Brandon Phillips rejected a trade, led Murphy to the Washington Nationals.  Murphy would go on to have an MVP caliber season.  Murphy’s season was more than enough to compensate for Bryce Harper having a down year, by his standards, and for Stephen Strasburg having yet another injury plagued year.

There were strange decisions along the way like the Mets initially passing on Yoenis Cespedes and signing Alejandro De Aza to platoon in center field with Juan Lagares.  There was the multi-year deal with Antonio Bastardo despite him being an every other year reliever and Sandy Alderson’s poor history signing relievers to a multi-year deal with the Mets.  Despite all of that, Cespedes re-signed, and the Mets once again looked like they were primed to return to the World Series in 2017.

Even with Cespedes’ return, the real hope was with the pitching.  Now one could compete with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.  If Steven Matz could join his teammates as an ace all the better.  Even with this embarrassment of riches, the Mets still had Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery.  By the way, waiting to close out those games was Jeurys Familia, who had already established himself as a great closer.  As they said pitching wins championships, and the Mets had pitching in spades.

Early in the season, it worked out.  Even with Harvey struggling, deGrom’s velocity not returning, and Wheeler’s return getting pushed back, the Mets were winning.  Part of the reason why was Syndergaard taking the next step, Matz proving he belonged in the ace discussion, and deGrom adapting well to a lower velocity.

In April, the Mets took two out of three from the Indians in Cleveland.  In a re-match of the NLCS, with a hot Cubs team looking for revenge, the Mets swept them out of Citi Field.  Against this year’s World Series teams, the Mets were 7-3.  This showed the Mets, with their pitching staff in tact, could beat the best of the best.

As we know, the pitching staff never did stay in tact.  Furthermore, despite Walker having a good year, the Mets really missed Zobrist or Murphy as the offense was just one bat short to help carry a dinged up rotation to the finish line.  Still, with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman performing better than anyone could’ve anticipated, the Mets made the Wild Card Game.  In reality, the Mets lost that game because Madison Bumgarner was able to go deeper into that game than Syndergaard was.

As we saw in the NLDS, the Giants put a scare into the Cubs by almost sending it back to Wrigley Field for a Game 5.  With the Mets having Addison Reed and Familia, who knows if a Mets-Cubs series would have gone much differently.

Really, that is one of many “what if” situations from the 2016 season that was just disappointing to Mets fans who were dreaming of a World Series this year.  As we saw last year, this Mets pitching staff can beat anybody.  In fact, this Mets pitching staff can demoralize even the best offensive clubs.   When the Mets staff was healthy and in tact this year, which was only a brief snapshot in time (if it really ever was the case), the Mets once again proved that this year.  And with that, there is hope for 2017.  As of the moment, the Mets can expect, Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz in the Opening Day rotation.  There’s no team in baseball that can match that.

So while Mets fans are sitting there melancholy and wondering “what if” during what should prove to be a great World Series, just remember the Mets have the pitching to win in 2017.  Hopefully, that thought will keep you warm throughout the winter.

The Mets Coaching Staff Believed in Daniel Murphy

Despite slugging .533 over the last two months of the season, and homering in seven consecutive postseason games, including home runs off Clayton KershawZack GreinkeJon LesterJake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks, the Mets only made the perfunctory qualifying offer to NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy.  At the time, the qualifying offer was made no player had ever accepted the qualifying offer. 

The Mets thought process was grounded in several factors. First, they believed they could get Ben Zobrist, who they viewed as a superior player. Second, the Mets could recoup the first round draft pick they lost by signing Michael Cuddyer in the previous offseason. Third, and most importantly, the Mets didn’t foresee Murphy carrying that level of production for a full season in 2016 and beyond. 

That last point became all the more apparent when, after the Mets lost out in Zobrist, they traded Jon Niese (who was later re-acquired in exchange for Antonio Bastardo) for Neil Walker.  The Mets made this move despite never inquiring what it would take to re-sign Murphy. 

The logic of the Walker trade was the Mets were getting an All Star second baseman in his walk year. Should he perform, the Mets could either re-sign him, or they could make the qualifying offer and recoup another draft pick. Should he falter or leave in free agency, the Mets could turn the position over to second baseman of the future Dilson Herrera

Walker would have a career year for the Mets both at the plate and in the field. Overall, he would hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. Those numbers are even better when you consider that the switch hitting Walker was no longer a liability from the right side of the plate. Rather, he was a dominant force. 

Unfortunately, Walker would go through part of the summer unable to feel his feet due to a herniated disc. Despite his being in the best stretch of the season and the Mets fighting for the Wild Card, he would have to undergo season ending lumbar microdiscetomy surgery. 

While the Mets remain hopeful Walker will recover fully, and that the two sides can agree to a deal, nothing is guaranteed.  The Mets need Walker to recover with no issues because Herrera was moved in the trade to acquire Jay Bruce

Now, many will say this has all been a debacle as Murphy had an MVP caliber season for the rival Washington Nationals. This year, Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, and 104 RBI. He led the league in doubles, slugging, and OPS. Worse yet, he killed the Mets getting a hit in all 19 games against them while hitting .413/.444/.773 with six doubles, seven homers, and 25 RBI. 

In response to that, many will say judging the Mets decision on Murphy is unfair as: (1) no one saw this coming; and (2) you are using hindsight to criticize the Mets. 

That argument is unfounded. First and foremost, the General Manager is supposed to have foresight. He is paid to make sure what happened with Murphy never happens. Second, and most importantly, the argument is patently false. 

As Mets hitting coach Kevin Long told MLB Network Radio, “Daniel Murphy became a monster overnight, once he got it, you knew he wasn’t going to lose it.”  

Murphy certainly hasn’t lost it. In fact, he was even better leading the Nationals to an NL East title over the Mets. Tonight, he looks to recreate his incredible Game Five performance against the Dodgers so he can once again torture the Cubs in the NLCS. 

Meanwhile, the Mets are looking at their second base options, which assuredly are no better than Murphy, in what is an extremely weak free agent class, after being shutout in the Wild Card Game. It didn’t have to be this way as the Mets coaching staff saw Murphy putting together a season like this.

By the way, Anthony Kay, the pick the Mets received for Murphy becoming a National, had to have Tommy John surgery before he ever threw a pitch as a professional. 

Mets August 2016 Report Card

The Mets entered August 6.5 games back in the NL East race behind both the Nationals and the Marlins.  They also trailed the Marlins by 1.5 games for the last Wild Card spot.  The Mets have also fallen behind the Cardinals in the Wild Card race as well.

By going 15-14, August turned out to be just the second winning month the Mets have had this season.  They now trail the Nationals by nine games in the NL East.  After what has been a crazy month, the Mets still remain 1.5 games back of the final Wild Card spot.  Only now, the Mets trail the the Cardinals after having helped put the Marlins away having won the first three against them in a four game series.  Given the Mets weak September schedule, it should be an interesting finish to the season.

Bear in mind, these grades are on a curve. If a bench player gets an A and a position player gets a B, it doesn’t mean the bench player is having a better year. Rather, it means the bench player is performing better in his role.

Position Players

Travis d’Arnaud (C).  After the Jonathon Lucroy rumors died down, d’Arnaud starting hitting again.  However, he has cooled off to hit at a rate slightly better than his 2016 totals.  Part of the reason may be Collins playing Rivera over him with the Mets needing to throw a lot of young pitchers out there.

Kevin Plawecki (Inc.)  Plawecki spent the entire month down in AAA where he has started hitting again.  He should be among the first group of players called up today.  It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, impact he has over the final month of the season.

Rene Rivera (C).  Rivera came crashing back to Earth offensively.  However, his value has always been as a receiver, and he has done that job fairly well helping usher some of these young pitchers into the big leagues.

Lucas Duda (Inc). Duda is most likely gone for the season, and the debate will soon begin about whether he will be a Met in 2017.

James Loney (F).  He didn’t hit for average or power, nor did he get on base much during the entire month.  Worse yet, he has not been good in the field.  The next ball he stretches for will be his first.

Neil Walker (A+).  What has happened to Walker is nothing short of heart breaking.  He had completely turned his season around, and he appeared to be headed for a massive payday this offseason with him standing out as one of the better options in a weak free agent class.  Instead, Walker is going to have season ending back surgery to end his season.

David Wright (Inc.).  It’s clear he’s done for the season, but it is nice seeing him around Citi Field and looking better.

Asdrubal Cabrera (A+).  Since his return from the disabled list, Cabrera has been a blonde bombshell.  He moved into the second spot in the order, and he he has combine with Reyes to form a dynamic and powerful 1-2 duo at the top of the lineup.  The only concern is how much he is going to actually be able to play with that lingering knee issue.

Wilmer Flores (B+).  Flores has continued to rake putting up numbers at an unprecedented.  This month he hit seven homers.  He has benefited greatly by mostly facing left-handed pitchers, and now he’s hitting righties better. The Mets will need his versatility all the more as injuries mounted during the month.

Eric Campbell (Inc.) Campbell did not play in a game during the month, and the Mets are not likely to call him up again until rosters expand in September.

Matt Reynolds (D).  Reynolds didn’t hit well during his 10 games with the Mets this month.  Worse yet for him, he has been passed over on the team’s depth chart by Rivera.

Ty Kelly (A).  During his limited August playing time, Collins was able to maximize Kelly’s abilities by making him a short-lived platoon left fielder with Cespedes dealing with his quad injury.  In his nine August games, Kelly hit .381/.500/.524 with a double and a triple.

Michael Conforto (D).  After a stretch in which the Mets bottomed out, Conforto was sent down as he was a young player unable to handle sporadic playing time.  Since being sent down to AAA, Conforto has hit everything including lefties.  He should be called up today, and most likely, never play as Collins is his manager.

Yoenis Cespedes (A).  It was admirable that Cespedes played until he could play no longer (even if his golfing might’ve been part of the reason why).  Since his return, Cespedes is hitting home runs again.  He has had another incredible month, and he had a walkoff with a legendary bat flip to help the Mets beat the Marlins.

Curtis Granderson (D).  It hasn’t been fun seeing last year’s team MVP struggle the way he has this month.  He lost his job in right, moved to center, and now has become a part time player.  The hope is that with the time off, he rests up, and he returns to the Granderson of old.  Those hopes don’t seem that far fetched after he came off the bench the other night to hit two home runs.

Juan Lagares (Inc).  Lagares didn’t play in August due to the thumb surgery.  It remains questionable if he can return in September as he will most likely not be ready for rehab games until after the minor league affiliates have ended their seasons.

Alejandro De Aza (C-).  De Aza followed a great July with another poor August.  Mixed in there were a couple of terrific games that helped the Mets win a pivotal game against the Cardinals.  Right now, what he brings more than anything is the ability to play center field.

Kelly Johnson (A+).  Johnson continues to be the Mets top pinch hitter as well as a platoon option in the infield.  Over the past month, he has hit for more power including a surprising five homers.  His bases loaded double last night might’ve buried the Marlins.

Brandon Nimmo (Inc).  He only played two games before being sent down to AAA.  Given the fact that he’s one of the few healthy center fielders in the organization, he may see some real time when he gets called up with the expanded rosters.

Jose Reyes (A).  You could say we’re seeing the Reyes of old, but Reyes has never been this good in his career.  He has adapted extremely well to third base while playing a steady shortstop when the Mets have needed him to play over there when Cabrera has been injured or needing a day off.  The one caution is he still isn’t hitting right-handed pitching that well.  Still, his numbers were terrific.

T.J. Rivera (B).  After all this time, Rivera finally got his chance.  He made the most of it hitting .289 in 13 games while playing decently at second and third base.

Justin Ruggiano (Inc).  When he plays, he hits, but he is now on his second disabled list stint already with the Mets. With him being put on the 60 day disabled list, he’s now done for the season.   Seeing what we have seen with the team, there may be something in the water.

Jay Bruce (F).  Since coming to the Mets for Dilson Herrera, he has just been bad.  But hey, it’s not like the Mets need another second baseman, right?

Pitchers

Matt Harvey (Inc).  Harvey is done for the season after having had successful surgery to remove a rib.  For a player who has been criticized in the past for attending Yankee games while being gone for the season, Harvey has been a fixture in the Mets dugout during games.

Jacob deGrom (D).  deGrom had been pitching great until August rolled around.  In back-to-back big games against the Giants and the Cardinals, he couldn’t deliver pitching two of the worst games in his career.  Hopefully, the Mets skipping his last start will help get him back on track.

Noah Syndergaard (B). Syndergaard has had an uneven month, but after his last start, it appears he is dealing better with the bone spurs, and he is getting back to the pitcher who was dominant over the first half of the season.

Steven Matz (C).  Just as you thought he turned things around with his flirting with a no-hitter in his last start, he goes down with a shoulder injury.  At this time, it is unknown as to when or if he can return.

Bartolo Colon (A).  Colon stopped his good start-bad start streak in August, and he started pitching much better during the month of August at a time when the Mets needed him the most.

Logan Verrett (F).  Look, he shouldn’t have been tapped as the Mets fifth starter after Harvey went down, but with that said, he did everything he could to lose the job pitching to a 13.50 ERA in August.  He eventually lost the job to Niese of all people

Jeurys Familia (A).  That’s the Familia we all know and love.  He not only had a sub 1.00 ERA, but he also broke the single season Mets save record he shared with Armando Benitez.

Addison Reed (B+).  You knew he wasn’t going to keep up what he has been doing, but even with him coming back to Earth slightly, he has still be incredible.

Jim Henderson (F).  After being on the disabled list for so long with yet another shoulder injury, Henderson has made his way back to the majors.  Unfortunately, he’s not the same pitcher.  Collins owes him an apology.

Hansel Robles (F).  Robles showed how much he has been overworked this season by Collins this month.  Hopefully, with some rest, he should finally be able to rebound and contribute in September and beyond like he had done for most of the season.

Jerry Blevins (B+).  His 2.16 ERA was terrific, but his 1.560 WHIP gives some reason for pause.  Both righties and lefties are starting to hit him, and he has been allowing inherited runners to score.

Antonio Bastardo (Inc.)  Thankfully, he is gone, and it was worth it even if it meant the Mets had to take back Niese.

Rafael Montero (Inc.) He got an unexpected start due to injuries, and he fought his way through five scoreless innings.  Good for him.

Sean Gilmartin (Inc.)  Gilmartin has only made three appearances since being recalled, and he hasn’t pitched particularly well.  Whether it was the shoulder injury or teams figuring him out, he’s not the same guy he was last season.

Erik Goeddel (F).  There used to be two factions of the Mets fan base: those who thought Goeddel was a good major league pitcher, and those that didn’t.  Seemingly, everyone is now in the latter camp now.

Seth Lugo (A).  Lugo has been nothing short of a revelation this year.  Due to injuries, he has had to go from the bullpen to the rotation.  He has not only shown his stuff translates as a starter, but he also shown he could actually be more effective as a starter.  He has gotten his 2014 deGrom moment, and he has taken advantage of it.

Jon Niese (F).  Somehow, he was worse with the Mets than he was with the Pirates.  He has failed in the bullpen and the rotation.  Hopefully, for him, the reason is because of his knee injury that has required surgery.

Robert Gsellman (Inc.) It’s been a mixed bag for Gsellman.  In his one relief apperance and his one start, he has given the Mets a chance to win.   However, he’s a powder keg out there as it seems as if he is in trouble each and every inning.  To his credit, he has gotten out of most of the jams.  It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Gabriel Ynoa (Inc.) Ynao was surprisingly called up to pitch out of the bullpen.  In three rough appearances, the only thing you can fairly conclude is he isn’t comfortable yet pitching out of the bullpen.

Josh Edgin (D) Edgin has gone through the long Tommy John rehab process, but he’s not quite back yet.  His velocity isn’t quite there.  With that in mind, he has struggles getting major league batters out.

Josh Smoker (B) After a rough start to his major league career, he has gone out there and gotten better each and every time out.  He is getting his fastball in the upper 90s, and he is a strikeout machine.  He could be a real factor over the next month and in the postseason

Terry Collins (D)  He iced Conforto.  He continues to overwork the bullpen.  He makes baffling lineup decision after baffling lineup decision.  He is even worse with in-game management.  However, with the Mets on a stretch against some bad teams, and the Wild Card frontrunners not having run away with it, he may once again be in position to ride some good luck into the postseason.