Asdrubal Cabrera

Mets Power Their Way Back into Form

It’s amazing how a well constructed lineup and the offense exploding in one inning can make you feel a lot better about the Mets. 

The biggest surprise was seeing Michael Conforto batting third moving Yoenis Cespedes and the rest of the lineup one spot down in the order. Conforto promptly rewarded Terry Collins’ faith by hitting a first inning homerun. 

In the game changing fifth inning, the Mets sent all nine batters to the plate, and they would show off their Feats of Strength starting with Alejandro De Aza‘s blast off Indians starter Cody Anderson. The Mets would score five runs off three homers surpassing their 2016 total:

In addition to De Aza, Cespedes and Neil Walker homered in the fifth. Walker hit his batting right-handed to boot. When Walker’s hitting from the right side, you know it’s a good night. 

Right now, Cespedes is just scorching hot. He’s not August 2015 hot, but he’s hot. He was 3-5 with a run, double, homerun, and two RBI. He’s once again showing us all he can carry an offense when he gets hot. 

Bartolo Colon was the beneficiary of all these runs. For most of the night, it looked like he would need each and every single one of those runs and more. In the first, Colon gave up what was initially ruled a two run homerun to Carlos Santana. Upon review, it was ruled just foul, and Santana was able to navigate his way out of the first with the game tied 1-1. 

That’s how most of the game went for Colon. He was in and out of trouble for most of the night. With that said, he was able to pitch 5.1 innings allowing eight hits, two runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. He was bailed out of the sixth inning jam by Antonio Bastardo, who pitched a perfect 1.1 innings. Hansel Robles pitched a scoreless seventh. Addison Reed pitched a scoreless eighth, and was thrown out there for the ninth with no save situation on the line. 

For some reason with a four run lead, Collins still wouldn’t pitch Rafael Montero. After Santana finally got his two run homerun off Reed with two outs in the ninth, Collins tabbed Jeurys Familia to pitch in his fourth straight game and get the save. He struggled with his location and command. Familia allowed consecutive hits, which couple with a d’Arnaud passed ball, made the game 6-5. After walking Uribe, who represented the go-ahead run, Jose Ramirez popped out. Familia somehow managed to preserve the 6-5 win. 

With the 6-2 win, Colon not only got his 219th win against the team with whom he broke into the majors, but he also tied former Met and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez for the second most wins for a Dominican born pitcher. Hall of Famer Juan Marichal has the most with 243. 

While Wednesday was a breath of fresh air for just getting off the snide, tonight was a much better night. The Mets offense showed their capabilities by out get together good at bats, collecting hits, and hitting for power. 

Game Notes: The Mets had two runners thrown out at the plate. The second was De Aza trying to score from first on a single. De Aza was the surprise starter in CF with Cespedes DHing due to a sore knee from jumping in the stands. Like Colon, it was a homecoming for Asdrubal Cabrera as well. He had a nice night going 1-3 with a walk, strikeout, and hit by pitch. Curtis Granderson had a well hit single in his final at bat, which he desperately needed. Travis d’Arnaud is still struggling going 0-4 with a strikeout. Old friend Juan Uribe went 3-4 with a double and a walk. 

What Type of Mets Fan Are You?

The season has gotten off to a rocky start and increasingly, it is becoming apparent that there are two types of Mets fans – Optimistic and Pessimistic. Here’s the breakdown:

Optimistic: the Mets won in 1969 and 1986. They win in years which have a 6 in them. It’s 2016!

Pessimistic: Tell that to the 1962 – 1968 Mets and the 1976 Mets. Also, someone probably should’ve told that to Carlos Beltran when he didn’t swing the bat. 
Optimistic: The ’86 Mets began the year 2-3, and they lost two games to the Phillies. 

Pessimistic: The 1992 Mets were also a high profile team people thought were World Series contenders that opened the year 2-3. By the way, the 1986 Phillies were a decent team. The 2016 Phillies are horrendous. 

OptimisticYoenis Cespedes seemed to get off the snide. He went 2-4 with a homerun and two RBI. 

Pessimistic: He’s still batting only .200, and did you see him drop that ball in Kansas City?

Optimistic: The Mets have the best ERA in baseball. 

Pessimistic:  Matt Harvey has been terrible. It’s only a matter of time before we discover Jacob deGrom needs surgery or he will be out half the year. By the way, the Mets have the best ERA, faced an awful Phillies team, and they’re still under .500. 

Optimistic: The bullpen has been off to a terrific start. 

Pessimistic: You must’ve missed yesterday’s game when Addison Reed melted down like it was Game 5 of the World Series. 

Optimistic: David Wright has looked good to start the year. 

Pessimistic: His throws have been terrible, and he’s already had to miss a game. 

OptimisticNeil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have looked great up the middle. 

Pessimistic: Anything would’ve been an upgrade. By the way, they’re not hitting, and it hasn’t translated to wins. Speaking of wins, the Nationals are 3-1. Coincidentally, they have Daniel Murphy, the guy who carried the Mets in the postseason, is a National. He’s hitting .462/.611/.923. 

Optimistic: This team is built to win the World Series, and I’m going to enjoy every single part of the ride. 

Pessimistic:  I don’t know what team you’re watching. 

This Was What Game 6 of the World Series Would’ve Looked Like

Aside from the fact that Curtis Granderson didn’t hit a homerun, Opening Day sure felt like a repeat of the 2015 World Series. As the late Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu, all over again.”  We had the following:

  1. Yoenis Cespedes failing to make a routine play in the outfield leading to a run;
  2. A good Matt Harvey effort getting wasted;
  3. The Royals taking advantage of a poor Mets defense; 
  4. Michael Conforto being really impressive; and
  5. The Mets losing. 

For all the debating over the course of the offseason regarding Terry Collins leaving in Harvey, we got a taste of what Game 6 would’ve looked like. It wasn’t pretty. It really highlighted what the Royals did well, and the Mets did poorly. 

The main difference between these teams is fundies (as Keith Hernandez puts it), defense, and a little bit of luck. Cespedes drops an easy out off the bat of Mike Moustakas, and he later scores on a single past Asdrubal Cabrera, who showed off his limited range at short on the play. Eric Hosmer‘s bunt stays fair while Juan Lagares‘ goes foul. Yes, it would lead to a run. Alex Gordon hits one off the end of the bat falling just out of the reach of Lagares to score a run. It was as frustrating as the World Series. 

Since the Mets lost, let’s start with the bad. Mainly, it was David Wright. He couldn’t hit a fastball. He was 0-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. The last strikeout was in the ninth with the tying run on third. He made a couple of plays in the field, but he was able to get absolutely nothing on his throws. While it’s still early, and you don’t want to overreact to anything. However, with Wright’s back, I’m not sure it overreacting. 

Also, the home plate umpire wax terrible. He was calling strikes in the area where Noah Syndergaard goes when he’s standing 60′ 6″ away, but over the plate was called a ball. Even worse than that was the ESPN brand new telecast. They delayed the start 40 minutes for an already late 8:00 start. They did inane segments like “The Mendoza Line” and Aaron Boone imitating batting stances. Even better, there were all-in on the Royals. When the Mets got something going in the 8th, they were being Royals-esque. 

This is also Opening Day – a time when anything is possible. A time when we are supposed to be full of hope. There were definitely reasons for hope. 

Harvey was good. The stat line wasn’t pretty with him allowing four runs (three earned) with eight hits, three walks, and only two strikeouts in 5.2 innings. However, his stuff looked good, and he really wasn’t helped by his fielders. 

Conforto was 2-2 with a double and two walks. Last year was a fluke. He’s a much better player than he showed he was last year. Another good sign was the Mets offense that was asleep for almost all of Spring Training, woke up in the 8th and made it a game. The rally was highlighted by a Lucas Duda two run bases-loaded RBI single. 

Sadly, the 8th inning rally fell short as the new double play combination make the outs killing the rally. In the ninth, we yet again saw Wade Davis and record the save, stranding the tying run on third, and locking down the 4-3 win. It was as frustrating a loss as you could’ve imagined. However, the Mets can build off of this. There was nothing you can point to tonight that would make you believe the Mets aren’t World Series contenders. 

It’s time to dust themselves off. Continue to work on things during their off day, and go to the next ace in the fold in Game 2. 

Eric Campbell Will Make the Opening Day Roster

Going into the 2016 season, there was only thing missing from the roster – a backup first baseman. 

However, fans were told to rest assured because there was a solution on their roster. The Mets were going to teach the position to Wilmer Flores. They were going to give a first baseman’s glove to their two catchers, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. This would not only allow the team to have additional options at first, but it would also allow them to find more at bats for their two young catchers over the course of a season. Opening Day is a little over a week away. Guess how many combined games these three players have played at first base this Spring?

One. 

Just one. Flores finally played a game there, and he described the experience as “weird.”  He was only there because Lucas Duda couldn’t play yesterday. It’s probable Flores will get one other game there. The chances the catchers will get a game there now are slim to none. It’s just one giant wasted opportunity. 

Sure, the Mets had Flores workout with Keith Hernandez at first base this Spring. In that sense, the Mets didn’t waste the time they had this Spring. However, there is just no substitute for game experience. Worst yet, they just wasted opportunities to get Flores game action at first. Marc Krauss, who shouldn’t play one game with the 2016 Mets, has played 15 games this Spring. 

With so much on Flores’ plate this Spring, this was bound to happen. He had to prepare to become the main backup at each and every infield position. He had to work to become a better, more patient hitter at the plate. With David Wright‘s back, he has to be as ready as possible to play third. With Asdrubal Cabrera‘s injury coupled with Ruben Tejada‘s release, Flores had to spend time being sure he was ready to play shortstop. First base just fell by the wayside. 

This all means one of three things:

  1. Duda is going to play 162 games;
  2. The Mets are comfortable with Flores at first regardless of his lack of game time there; or
  3. Eric Campbell is going to make the Opening Day roster. 

Each passing day, it appears more and more likely that Campbell will be on the Opening Day roster. He’s played 17 games this Spring. Unlike Flores, he has played multiple games at first. Despite fans’ opinion of him, the Mets organization is bullish on Campbell’s abilities as a versatile bench player. 

So, it’s most likely that the Mets have always seen Campbell as the backup first baseman. It would be the most plausible explanation why the Mets failed to expose Flores to first base for the vast majority of Spring Training. Conversely, if Campbell isn’t going to make the roster, the Mets have wasted Spring Training with respect to their inability to give Flores game action at first. 

The most likely result is Eric Campbell making the Opening Day roster. 

Tejada’s Time With the Mets Should Be Short

I’m sure Jedd Gyorko could be the answer to many questions. However, I’m fairly positive he’s not the answer to the question, “Who should be your starting shortstop?”

With the injury to Jhonny Peralta, Gyorko is the Cardinals starting shortstop. Unless the Cardinals make a move, Gyorko will be the shortstop for the next two to three months. Now, Gyorko was never anything more than an average second baseman which a career -1.5 UZR over his three year career. That doesn’t bode well for his chances to be a good to adequate shortstop. Like most, I’m assuming if any team can make it work, it’s the Cardinals. 

With that said, it’s a good time for the Mets to call the Cardinals. From all the reports this Spring, it appears that the Mets might be looking to move on from Ruben Tejada. It’s probably the right move too. 

Last year, Tejada had an impressive finish to the season. Although never mentioned as such, he was part of the reason why the Mets rallied to win the NL East. His gruesome injury in the NLDS was a rallying cry for the Mets and Mets fans throughout the postseason. However, he’s on the last year of his deal, and he’s an expensive backup eating up a spot on the 40 man roster. 

The Mets right now have absurd depth at the shortstop position. Asdrubal Cabrera is penciled in as the starter the next two years. Wilmer Flores grew into the role and handled the position very well when pressed into shortstop duty again in the postseason. Former second round pick Matt Reynolds is competing for a utility role in the majors. On top of that, the Mets have two big shortstop prospects in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario. Long story short, the Mets don’t need shortstop depth. 

What they do need is 40 man roster space. So far, Jim Henderson is having a nice Spring and may be on the inside track to locking down a spot on the Opening Day bullpen. The Mets are talking about letting Kevin Plawecki start the year in AAA. This means, as of right now, Johnny Monell would open the year as the backup catcher. There’s a problem with Henderson and Monell making the Opening Day roster. 

Neither player is on the 40 man roster, and the Mets have no spots open. Even if the Mets placed Zack Wheeler on the 60 day DL, the Mets would still need to drop someone else from the 40 man roster to add both Henderson and Monell. This could be accomplished by trading Tejada. 

It seemed like Tejada turned a corner last year. Unfortunately, with one dirty play he is back on the bench, and frankly, occupying a roster spot the Mets need. It may not seem fair. It may seem cruel, but it’s time for the Mets too move on from Tejada. They should do it now with the Cardinals having a need, and the Mets wanting to maximize the return they would receive for Tejada.  

Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on metsmerizedonline.com

What If Murphy Accepted the Qualifying Offer?

Before teams were able to sign free agents, the Mets extended the $15.8 million qualifying offer to Daniel Murphy. We know that if Murphy would’ve accepted the offer, it would’ve prevented the Mets failed pursuit of Ben Zobrist. The Neil WalkerJon Niese trade doesn’t happen. Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would’ve had greater implications. 

During the cost of the offseason, the Mets signed Asdrubal Cabrera ($8.25 million), Jerry Blevins ($4.0 million), Bartolo Colon ($7.25 million), Alejandro De Aza ($5.75 million), Antonio Bastardo ($5.375 million), and, of course, Yoenis Cespedes ($27 million). Between the group of them, they are all being paid a combined $57.625 million in 2016. So right off the bat, the Mets spent this offseason. Therefore, it would not be fair to say Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would’ve prevented the Mets from spending money this offseason. 

Yet, it would be fair to say Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would greatly impact how the Mets proceeded with their offseason plans. 

First off, the Mets would’ve have to had to address Niese is some fashion. If the Mets kept him, Niese would’ve been owed $9.0 million or $1.75 million more than what the Mets are paying Colon. It’s possible the Mets could’ve kept Niese using him as a fifth starter until Zack Wheeler returned. At that point, he would return to the bullpen where he had success in the postseason last year

If the Mets were intent on trading Niese, it would’ve been interesting to see what the Mets would’ve received in exchange. Naturally, they wouldn’t have pursued a second baseman. Other than Andrelton Simmons, there wasn’t a shortstop of note who was traded in the offseason.  It’s fair to say Niese would have been insufficient as a trade piece to fetch Simmons. Instead, it’s more likely the Mets would’ve pursued a bullpen arm. 

In the offseason, the Mets signed Bastardo and Blevins to a combined total of $9.375 million. Judging by how early the Mets signed Blevins, it’s possible the Mets would not have signed Bastardo. Bastardo’s money likely would’ve been allocated to the hypothetical bullpen arm. So, it’s possible the Mets bullpen would’ve looked different had the Mets retained Murphy. 

However, the biggest change might’ve been Cespedes. Even without Murphy accepting the qualifying offer, the Mets initial plan in the offseason was to sign De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares. It’s possible with more money invested than they would’ve otherwise, it’s possible the Mets stop there and don’t add Cespedes. Where Cespedes goes after that would be anyone’s guess. 

It’s possible with the Nationals getting shut out on everyone else, they would’ve been in a position to offer a better deal to Cespedes. There may have been a greater sense of urgency too. Also, with the $15.8 million invested in Murphy, it’s likely the Mets wouldn’t have had the money to offer to Cespedes to prevent him from going to the Nationals. 

Overall, the only move the Mets made that should not have been impacted was Cabrera. Even with paying Murphy $15.8 million, the Mets still could’ve afforded to spend what they spent on Cabrera. As discussed heretofore, there’s no telling how else the Mets would’ve proceeded. We don’t know what else they would’ve or could’ve done. The one thing everyone can be fairly confident about is Cespedes likely would’ve signed with another team. 

While I still maintain that Murphy returning on a reasonable deal would’ve been better than the Walker-Niese trade, Murphy not accepting the qualifying offer was the best thing that happened to the Mets this offseason. 

Super Matt Reynolds

Whenever a prospect is coming through the system or a young player makes his way to the majors, invariably there is a comparison made to an All Star caliber player. Very rarely do we see a comparison to a utility player or a grinder like Joe McEwing

With that said, if Matt Reynolds wants to be a part of this Mets team going forward, he will need to become this generation’s Super Joe. 

Right now, Reynolds path to the majors is blocked. At the major league level, the Mets have Asdrubal CabreraRuben Tejada, and Wilmer Flores provide extraordinary major league depth at the shortstop position. On the horizon, the Mets have two very well regarded shortstop prospects in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario.  For what it’s worth, Rosario is likely ticketed to play shortstop in AA, and Cecchini will be the shortstop in AAA. In short (pun intended), Reynolds will never be the shortstop for the Mets. 

Even if he moves off of shortstop, his options are limited. He’s blocked at second by Dilson Herrera. Even if the younger Herrera were to falter, it’s much more likely that the Mets would turn to Cecchini or sign a free agent than Reynolds. Also, given his lack of power throughout the minors, it’s unlikely the Mets will turn to him go play third. No, Reynolds’ future, at least with the Mets, is as a utility player. 

For his part, Reynolds is willing to play all over the field just to make it to the majors.  He will play some outfield during Spring Training.  As Reynolds told Adam Rubin, he knows a position change is in order:

No one has talked to me about it, but I heard about it from press conferences and everything. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the big leagues. I figured that I’d probably be changing positions. Honestly, I just look at it as it makes me more versatile, and there’s more opportunity for me to get called up and maybe stay up there. 

Now, Joe McEwing was only a 28th round pick. When you are a 28th round pick, you are not seen as a prospect. You have to be ready, willing, and able to do whatever is necessary to get to the majors. It’s not only a talent issue. It’s a mindset. You have to show a lot of character and resiliency not only to make it to the majors, but also to stay there.

It was McEwing’s attitude and drive that helped him have a nine year career. It’s why Tony LaRussa requested a pair of autographed spikes from McEwing. He has the type of energy and drive that is infectious. It’s why he was a useful player. It’s why teams loved having him on the roster. It’s why he stays in the game as a major league coach and is a potential manager. 

Reynolds was a second round pick. Typically, second round picks are not seen as utility players.  As long as they produce, they usually have an easier path to the majors. With that said, it’s no guarantee. At some point, every player faces a turning point in their careers. For Matt Reynolds, that time is now. It’s time for him to embrace his future as a utility player. 

Seemingly, he’s doing that. If he meets this challenge with the same drive and enthusiasm that McEwing once did, Reynolds has a real future not just with the Mets, but in baseball. It’s quite possible Reynolds’ future with the Mets is this generation’s Joe McEwing. Right now, Reynolds seems ready to do what is necessary to get to that point. 

If he does, that means Reynolds will have a fine major league career. 

Mets Defense Is Still Bad?!?!?

While the Mets are certainly favorites in the NL East, they are not unbeatable. Any team is subject to the injury bug. This team projects to be a high strikeout team. There was the bizarre claim that the position players are too old. However, I did not think that people would cite middle infield defense as a cause. No, seriously

In an offseason where the Mets jettisoned Daniel Murphy and moved Wilmer Flores to the bench, the narrative has been that the Mets are much improved defensively over last year. It appears not everyone is buying it, so let’s analyze to see if it’s true. 

UZR

Generally speaking, Ultimate Zone Ratibg (UZR) measures a fielder’s range. Obviously, the better the number, the better the range. The better the range, the more opportunities to make plays. 

In measuring year to year UZR, you may get a sense of how that player performed that season. However, it is too small a sample size to determine the player’s defensive abilities. You need a minimum of three years to do that. As such, to determine if the Mets are better defensively as per UZR, the 2015 UZR, along with the prior two years, should be reviewed. 

Here are Murphy’s UZRs for over the past three years:

  1. 2015 – (1.3)
  2. 2014 – (5.6)
  3. 2013 – (4.9)

All told, the combined -11.5 suggests what many already assumed. Murphy is a poor defensive second baseman. In 2016, he’s being replaced by Neil Walker, whose UZR over the past three seasons are as follows:

  • 2015 – (6.8)
  • 2014 – (6.8)
  • 2013 – (1.4)

Walker has a -15 UZR. He’s coming off consecutive -6.8 UZR seasons. At least in terms of UZR, he was worse than Murphy last year, and he’s been worse than Murphy over the part three years. In terms of UZR, the Mets have taken a step back defensively at second. 

The Mets sought to upgrade the shortstop position by bringing in Asdrubal Cabrera, who most fans perceived as an upgrade offensively and defensively. Here is Cabrera’s UZR at shortstop over the past three seasons:

  • 2015 – (6.0)
  • 2014 – (6.6)
  • 2013 – (12.8)

Wow. That’s a -25.4. To see if that’s an upgrade, here are Flores’ UZR at shortstop:

  • 2015 – (2.5)
  • 2014 – 4.0 

Now, before we point to Flores’ having a 2.5 UZR over two years, it’s important to note, it’s only two years of data. Furthermore, in each of those two years, Flores was not the everyday shortstop for a full season. Also, your eyes will tell you that he struggled there, especially early in the season. With that said, when thrust into the position in the postseason with no safety net, he played well at shortstop. While the team had defensive miscues in the World Series, Flores was not one of those players. 

Also, keep in mind that Cabrera was that poor of a defensive shortstop. Therefore, as far as UZR is concerned, the Mets are actually worse defensively. 

DRS

Generally speaking, Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) measures a player’s ability to make plays at their position as opposed to an average player at their position. Like UZR, the higher the number the better. Furthermore, like UZR, DRS is best viewed in three year clips to get a true measure of a player’s ability. 

Here is the DRS for Daniel Murphy over the past three years:

  • 2015 – (6)
  • 2014 – (10)
  • 2013 – (13)

Looking over these numbers, Murphy has a cumulative -29 DRS over the past three years. While it can be argued that he’s been improving, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a poor defensive second baseman. Conversely, here are Neil Walker’s numbers:

  • 2015 – (2)
  • 2014 – (2)
  • 2013 – 9

In reviewing Walker’s numbers, he may have slipped a little the past two years; however, he’s still a positive 5 in DRS. In reviewing DRS, Walker is a much better defender at second base than Murphy has been. 

Neil Walker’s new double play partner, Asrubal Cabrera, has not had DRS numbers as strong as Walker:

  • 2015 – (7)
  • 2014 – (7)
  • 2013 – (16)

Again, Cabrera has ugly numbers. Over the past three years, he sits at a -30 DRS. For someone that is supposed to be an upgrade, these are not promising numbers.  However, in order to determine if he’s actually an improvement, we need to look at Flores’ numbers:

  • 2015: (10)
  • 2014: (3)

Again, the caution with Flores is that these stats are a small sample size. He still hasn’t played a full season at the position. With that said, if you wanted a stat to confirm the your eye test, this stat is the one. However, before casting dispersions on Flores, keep in mind the Mets are replacing him with a bad shortstop with limited range. 

Conclusion

Using UZR and DRS, there is a reasonable debate to be had as to whether Murphy or Walker is better at second base. However, when framing those arguments, it should be noted  Walker has been in decline the past few years.  So yes, Walker MIGHT be better, but it’s also true he’s getting worse at the position. 

As for shortstop, the only thing we truly know is that Cabrera is bad defensively. He’s 30 years old and not likely to get any better. He’s replacing a 24 year old that seemingly grew into the position. Flores played very well defensively in the postseason. 

Overall, while Mets fans may believe the team is better off defensively without Murphy and Flores up the middle, the stats don’t bear that out. Rather, the Mets are more likely to have the same deficiencies they had last year.

If you are going to argue the current Mets double play combination is better, it is not because of their defense. 

Cost of the Projected 2019 Starting Lineup

After the Mets make a decision at catcher, the team appears like they will have between $82 – $96 million to build a roster and re-sign their pitching

Looking at the roster, the Mets will need to obtain starters at the following positions: 1B, 2B, SS, and RF.  David Wright is scheduled to make $15 million, so whether or not you believe he will be able to stay at the position, he will remain with the team in some capacity. Michael Conforto should still be with the team as the leftfielder. Finally, unless the Mets can move him, Juan Lagares and his $9 million salary will be the team’s centerfielder. The Mets organization is fairly well stocked with position players right now, and they might be able to fill out the roster with cheap, cost-controlled talent. 

First Base

Somewhat controversely, Keith Law named Dominic Smith the 29th best prospect in all of baseball. He’s the first baseman of the future. 

Accordingly to the scouting reports, Smith is a good defensive first baseman that should be able to hit. The debate really is whether he will hit for power. Whether or not he hits for power, people see him as being able to field the position and be a good major league hitter. 

With Lucas Duda being a free agent in 2018, the Mets will need Smith to be ready. If he’s not ready, the Mets will need a stopgap. In either event, by the time the Mets pitchers start to become free agents, Smith should be the first baseman earning around $500,000. 

Second Base

We have to assume that one of these years Dilson Herrera is going to transition from second baseman of the future to the Mets second baseman. With Neil Walker only having one year until free agency, it appears that time will be 2017. 

Right now, Herrera has less than one year’s service time. For all the supposed newfound depth, it’ll probably be Matt Reynolds getting called up to the Mets. That will preserve his service time. It means that in 2019, Herrera should be the second baseman, and he will have accrued two full years service time.  Unless he gets enough playing time, it appears like he will avoid Super Two status meaning he will be in the same $500 –  $600 thousand range as Smith. 

Shortstop

As far as organizational depth, the Mets seemingly have an embarassment of riches with two high end shortstop prospects with Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario. They also have the aforementioned Reynolds. 

Given Asdrubal Cabrera‘s contract, Cecchini and Rosario are going to have time to develop on the minors. At a minimum, Cabrera is signed to be the Mets shortstop through the 2017 season. If he produces well, or the prospects need another year, Cabrera has an option that could keep him with the Mets through the 2018 season. 

As such, neither Cecchini or Rosario will be arbitration eligible at the time the Mets pitchers start to reach free agency. Accordingly, the Mets will only have to spend around $500 thousand when the pitchers begin to become free agents. 

Left Field

It seems Michael Conforto is the leftfielder of the past (2015), present, and future. He very well should be too. Even if Conforto doesn’t improve upon his 162 game averages he achieved as a 22 year old, who never played above AA, you’re getting a good defensive outfielder who will hit .270/.335/.506 with 26 homers and 75 RBI. 

Fortunately, Conforto will not have accrued enough service time to achieve Super Two status. Unfortunately, Conforto will most likely become arbitration eligible the same time that the Mets pitchers are reaching free agency. 

Looking over the past few years, there isn’t really a good comparable to Conforto. It seems that when teams have good young corner outfielders, they lock them up. With that in mind, although an admittedly imperfect comparison, J.D. Martinez is instructive. 

In 2014, Martinez was 26 years old, and he hit .325/.358/.553 with 23 homers and 76 RBI in 123 games.  He became arbitration eligible after this season, and he agreed to $3 million. In 2015, he had another good year hitting .282/.344/.535 with 38 homeruns and 102 RBI. He and the Tigers avoided an arbitration hearing.  Martinez’s contract extension bought out the remainder of his arbitration years  he’s due to make $6.75 million in 2016 and $11.75 million in 2017. 

While we may or may not agree on whether Martinez is a good comparable, it would be fair to say Conforto is at least capable of hitting .272/.344/.535 by his age 25 season, if not sooner. If that’s the case, it would be fair to suggest Conforto could earn anywhere from $3 – $6 million in his first year of eligibility. 

Right Field

Curtis Granderson‘s contract will expire after the 2017 season. Since he will be 37 heading into the 2018 season, it’s hard to imagine he will be re-signed to be the everyday right fielder. 

Now, Wuilmer Becerra projects to be an everyday player. Scouts believe he has the bat to play the corner outfield spot. The issue as far as the Mets are concerned is how quickly the 21 year old minor leaguer will need before fulfilling that promise. Last year, Becerra played his first year in full season A ball. That’s a long trek to the majors by 2019. 

So unless Brandon Nimmo can handle the corner outfield offensively, which unfortunately seems unlikely, the Mets will have to look outside the organization to fill that void. 

If Becerra is still a well regarded prospect, the Mets are likely to bring in a player on a one to two year deal. In retrospect, depending on how he finishes out his contract, Granderson could be coaxed back on a one-year deal ata much lower contract price. 

As a placeholder, let’s presume the cost of a right fielder would cost about $15 million. That’s what Granderson is slated to earn the last year of his contract. 

Cost of the Projected 2019 Starting Lineup

If everything breaks right for the Mets, they will have a group of young, cost-controlled position players at the time their starting pitchers hit the free agent market. If this pans out, the Mets everyday position players would cost about $46.5 million. 

That’s roughly what the Mets are paying their current starting infield. In total, the 2016 Mets starting lineup is due to be paid roughly $90 million. Essentially, the Mets will be spending half the amount of money on their starting lineup in 2019 than they will this season. 

Overall, this leaves the Mets between $35.5 – $49.5 million to build a bench, a bullpen, and to pay their starting rotation if the payroll remains stagnant at the $140 million range. 

USA Today Got It Wrong

There are legitimate reasons why you would say the Mets will not win the NL East. Fangraphs used its projection system to predict the Mets will finish behind the Nationals in the NL East. 

Agree or disagree, at least we know Fangraphs has a rationalization for its conclusions. On the other hand, USA Today proudly flaunts they have no such projection formula. They just use the “human element” necessary in such projections to proclaim not only that the Nationals will win the NL East, but also that the Mets will miss the playoffs altogether. 

Mets Aging Offense

One reason why USA Today sees the Mets falling behind the Nationals is an aging lineup with “six regulars on the wrong side of 30.”  For what it’s worth, here’s a look at the Mets 2016 Opening Day starters:

  1. Travis d’Arnaud (27)
  2. Lucas Duda (30)
  3. Neil Walker (30)
  4. David Wright (33)
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera (30)
  6. Michael Conforto (22)
  7. Yoenis Cespedes (30)
  8. Curtis Granderson (35)

If we adhere to the axiom that a player’s prime is between 27-32, another way of saying what USA Today said was six of the eight Mets regulars are in their prime. Another way of saying what USA Today said is six of the eight Mets regulars are 30 and younger. 

To put this in perspective, lets look at the Nationals 2016 projected lineup:

  1. Wilson Ramos (28)
  2. Ryan Zimmerman (31)
  3. Daniel Murphy (30)
  4. Anthony Rendon (25)
  5. Danny Espinosa (28)
  6. Jayson Werth (36)
  7. Ben Revere (27)
  8. Bryce Harper (23)

Three of the Nationals players are “on the wrong side of 30.”  The average age of the eight Nationals regulars is 28.5. The Mets is 29.6. According to USA Today, that extra year is an indication that the Mets are in decline and the Nationals are on the rise. 

Bartolo Colon: Fifth Starter

Personally, I am not the biggest Bartolo Colon fan. With that said, I can’t think of him making around 15 starts next year as a reason why the Mets will miss the playoffs. 

Last year, Colon had an ERA+ of 89, and an FIP of 3.84. This makes him a below average starter.  Keep in mind, he will only be in the rotation until July when Zack Wheeler has completed his rehab from Tommy John surgery. 

The Nationals counter-part?  Tanner Roark   Roark is thrust into the starting rotating from the bullpen as the Nationals lost their second best starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, to free agency. Roark had an ERA+ of 92 and a 4.70 FIP.  In theory, Roark is keeping the spot warm for uber-prospect, Lucas Giolito. However, it should be noted Giolito has not yet pitched above AA. 

Considering which statistic you choose, you can argue Roark is either just as bad or worse than Colon. As such, Colon is not a reason to say the Mets will finish behind the Nationals. 

Thor’s Innings

One factor USA Today cited in saying the Mets should finish behind the Nationals is the scary prospect of Noah Syndergaard having to throw 50% more innings.

This is plain wrong. Last year, Syndergaard threw 150.0 innings in 24 major league starts. In the minors, he threw 29.2 innings in five starts. Does USA Today reay believe Syndergaard will throw 359.1 innings next year?  The last pitcher to throw over 300 innings was Steve Carlton, and that was 36 years ago. The last pitcher to throw over 350 innings was Wilbur Wood in 1973. 

No, Syndergaard threw 179.2 innings in 29 starts. If he averages roughly the same 6.1 innings per starts next year, and he makes 32 starts next year, he will only throw 19 more innings or 10% more innings. 

Instead of Syndergaard’s innings, USA Today should’ve focused on Nationals starter Joe Ross. Last year was Ross’ first year in the majors. He made 13 starts with three relief appearances throwing 76.2 innings. In the minors, Ross made 14 starts and threw 76.0 innings. Between the two stints, he made 27 starts while pitching 152.2 innings. Next year, he will see a much greater percentage work increase than Syndergaard will. 

Overall, if the increased workload is an issue for Syndergaard, it’ll be a bigger issue for Ross. 

Matz’s Durability

Another factor mentioned for the Mets apparent downfall is the fact that Steven Matz has never thrown more than 140 innings in a season. 

Well that is true. You know what else is true?  In his entire pro career, Matz has a 2.25 ERA, including a 2.27 ERA in six starts with the Mets last year. Keep in mind, this is the Mets fourth starter and a favorite in the Rookie of the Year race. 

Overall, USA Today is throwing cold water on the Mets rotation while ignoring the Nationals rotation issues. There are the aforementioned problems with Roark and Ross. Additionally, the Nationals saw Gio Gonzalez being to regress with a 1.423 WHIP last year. That’s an ugly number for a guy who has a reputation for struggling with command. Furthermore, he just hit that dreaded age 30 season. 

Also, while Max Scherzer had an outstanding year last year, it should be noted it wasn’t perfect. Scherzer went 10-7 with a 2.11 ERA in the first half of the year. In the second half, he went 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA. Also, at age 31, he’s “on the wrong side of 30.”  

Dusty Baker is a Magician

Last year, Matt Williams was worse than Jimmy Dugan was before he got into that fight with Dottie Henson as to whether or not Marla Hooch should bunt. Note, Jimmy Dugan was right.  It very rarely makes sense to have a position player lay down a sac bunt. 

Baker had earned the right to be a well regarded manager.  However, he’s not a miracle worker. 

He doesn’t make Anthony Rendon healthy for a full year as USA Today suggests. He also doesn’t make Steven Strasburg completely fulfill his potential making him a Cy Young winner.  He doesn’t make Zimmerman or Werth healthy and productive. Yes, he can get the most from this admittedly talented Nationals team, but no, his presence alone doesn’t help this team overcome all of its issues. The only thing I would hazard a guess at is he would probably prevent Jonathan Papelbon from choking anyone in the dugout. 

Picking Nits

Overall, USA Today has teams having a combine record of 2347-2430. Since baseball has no ties, any projection system should have teams as a whole with a .500 record. It’s an error. We all make them.  With that said, with the decidedly one-sided analysis of the NL East, I believe it shows the attention to detail provided. 

Conclusion 

I’m not the typical Mets fan. The Nationals do scare me. You can concoct many a scenario in which the Nationals win the division. I just don’t think the one-sided analysis USA Today did was one of them.