Like it has been for most of their history, the Mets are currently build on starting pitching. That presents a problem for this organization because they will soon be in the unenviable position of having to rebuild their rotation over the ensuing few offseasons.
The Mets will have to face the same exact situation the ensuing offseason as both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season. That means over the course two years, the Mets are going to have to address how they want to handle 80% of their starting rotation.
Complicating matters is Michael Conforto hitting free agency the same time as Syndergaard and Matz as well as the shallow upper parts of the Mets farm system. How the Mets choose to address their rotation will be vitally important as Jacob deGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season.
After that 2022 season, Brandon Nimmo will be a free agent, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will be first time arbitration eligible, and Amed Rosario will be heading into his last season under team control. This means the Mets core is going to be quite expensive and on their way out to parts unknown over the next few seasons.
At this point, we should all be wondering what exactly is the plan here.
At times, the Mets seem all-in. We saw that not just with trading away prospects to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but we also saw that with the Mets trading away prospects like Blake Taylor, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Adam Hill for what amounted to be nothing more than complementary pieces.
On the other hand, the Mets don’t see remotely all-in when they fail to address the back-up catching situation and let Zack Wheeler, their second best pitcher over the past two years, leave the Mets to go to the Philadelphia Phillies. Couple that with the Mets not making a push for players like Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado, or being active on the trade market for players like Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, this seems more and more like a team without a clear direction.
Now, part of that can just be a result of how ineptly the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen have run this organization. Another aspect can be this team being in a relative holding pattern until Steve Cohen’s purchase of the club is finalized and approved. There may be other factors at play, and really, at this point, we are all just guessing.
What we do know is based on the control over the current core, the Mets window to compete for a World Series is right now, and the team has done little to push the team over the top. We also know that until this core is extended, the Mets window is going to be limited to just these two years.
When you look at things through this prism, you see the need to give extensions to at least some of your core. Certainly, that is the case when the goal is sustained winning and not just short windows. In theory, there is still 10 months to do that, but at the moment, the Mets have missed their biggest and perhaps best opportunity to do it once again leaving the impression this is an organization without a clear direction.
The Mets traded prospects Kenedy Corona and Blake Taylor to the Houston Astros for CF Jake Marisnick. Looking at the trade immediately, you see the Mets opted to obtain their replacement for Juan Lagares via trade rather than on the free agent market.
Marisnick will be 29 years old in 2020, and he will be in his final arbitration year before free agency. His 86 wRC+ was the second best of his career. Of course, the Mets did not obtain Marisnick for his bat (for good reason), but rather, they obtained him for his defense.
In 733.0 innings in center last year, Marisnick had a 5 DRS and 3.4 UZR. That is a step backwards from the 12 DRS and 4.0 UZR he posted in 2018. According to Baseball Savant, Marisnick had an 8 OAA, which ranked 14th best in the Majors. Again, that was a step back from his 2018 performance as he had a 13 OAA in 2018.
In terms of JUMP, Marisnick was at a 0.9 ft/avg. That’s a steep drop from the 1.7 he had posted in the 2018 season. What is interesting about that is Marisnick had the same exact 29.2 ft/sec sprint speed in 2018 and 2019. Looking at everything, it is possible this was a function of Marisnick’s stats stabilizing over a larger sample size, the standard year-to-year variations in player performance, or maybe this is a sign of his skills declining.
Whatever, the case, with Marisnick, we see a player who relies purely on speed to play the outfield. As noted by MMO’s Jacob Resnick, Marisnick has relatively poor reaction time, but he has “an elite burst.”
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) December 5, 2019
Looking at that, we should turn out attention to Lagares. Like Marisnick, he took a step backwards in 2019. However, unlike Marisnick, Lagares did not remotely put up good defensive numbers. In fact, Lagares had a -2 DRS, -2.9 UZR, and a 5 OAA. That was significantly down from his 5 DRS and 1.4 UZR in 2018. His 5 OAA was actually an improvement over the 0 he had in 2018.
When looking at JUMP stats, Lagares and Marisnick were essentially the same player in 2019. Marisnick had a JUMP of 0.9 ft/avg, and he covered 34.9 feet. Comparatively speaking, Lagares’ JUMP was 0.8 ft/avg, and he covered 35.3 feet. There were some areas where they were different. For example, Marisnick was a better route runner, but Lagares had a better reaction time.
When looking at Lagares and Marisnick, the key separator is their 2019 teams. Wheras the Astros are regarded as possibly the most analytically advanced organization, the Mets were among the worst. Notably, the Mets are not believers in shifting their defense, and it was one of the reasons why the Mets had the second worst DRS in the majors along with the 21st worst outfield defense.
Between the injury history and the defensive numbers, we can say Marisnick is an upgrade over Lagares. However, given the Mets problems with defensive alignment, some of Marisnick’s value is going to be hindered. The same can be said for his not playing between outfielders the caliber of Josh Reddick and George Springer.
Looking at that, you really wonder why the Mets would trade for one year of a defensive center fielder when their own analytical department will likely hinder his ability to impact the game in the way they anticipate he would. It’s also curious why they would give up two prospects to do that when they could’ve signed Lagares of made a deal for a player like Manuel Margot or Delino DeShields Jr.
Of the players sent to the Astros, Taylor is the one which stands out at the moment. After being converted to the bullpen, he was flashing 97 MPH on the gun, and he struck out 10 batters per nine. Also, the control issues which existed with his being a starter disappeared with him reducing his walk rate to 3.2 BB/9.
An important note for Taylor is he is a left-handed reliever who has platoon neutral splits. With Major League Baseball instituting a rule requiring relievers to face at least three batters, LOOGYs are being effectively eliminated. That makes pitchers like Taylor all the more valuable. Certainly, the Astros seem to know that by making this move.
Parenthetically, the Mets need to rebuild their bullpen. Taylor was a pitcher who could have been part of the equation for the Opening Day roster or during part of the 2020 season. Now, the Mets have taken a hit on their depth in an area where they needed to build depth for one year of a defensive center fielder who has shown at least some decline.
When you throw in Corona being much better than anyone reasonably could have expected in 2020, you really wonder why the Mets made this deal.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to say the Mets gave up too much for Marisnick. In terms of value, this was a fair deal. However, this is one move which could very well come to haunt the Mets, and no one should be surprised if Taylor actually has a better 2020 season than Marisnick. To that end, it should not be a surprise if this becomes one of those trades which sneaks up on everyone and has Mets fans tearing their hair out.
Taking everything into account, this is just a bizarre deal for the Mets to make. They further depleted their bullpen depth while taking another hit to their prospect capital. They also obtained a regressing defensive center fielder who will not benefit from the same analytics and positioning. In the end, it’s just a strange trade to make.