One of the narratives which has taken hold of late is how the Mets catching situation is what has been holding them back. To a certain extent, there is a point. Travis d’Arnaud cannot stay on the field, and Kevin Plawecki has yet to fully maximize the chances he has been given to establish himself as even a clear-cut starter at the MLB level.
When looking at this offseason, there are plenty of players available who could be upgrades for the Mets. On the free agent front, there’s Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. On the trade front, there is J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli. Even if you argue all of these players are not definitively better than what a healthy d’Arnaud can give you, their ability to stay on the field makes them upgrades. More than that, it provides the Mets with depth at the catching position.
As we saw with the Mets playing Jose Lobaton and Devin Mesoraco, depth is vitally important at the catching position. More than that, the Mets need a real depth of talent on the roster. If you build a roster with talented players, an upgrade at catcher isn’t that desperately needed.
For those who don’t remember, the 2015 Mets were able to make it to the World Series with d’Arnaud behind the plate. There were several reasons why. Daniel Murphy was just beginning to become the feared hitter he would become. Curtis Granderson was a leader on and off the field. David Wright was having that one last great stretch in a terrific career. Yoenis Cespedes was phenomenal. There was real depth with Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Wilmer Flores.
Mostly, it was the pitching, and d’Arnaud played a big part of that with his pitch framing. This path to the World Series isn’t an anomaly either. Just this past season, we saw the Red Sox go to the World Series with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate. Much like the 2015 Mets, the reason the Red Sox were able to do this was because they had great players like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale in addition to terrific situational/platoon players like Steve Pearce and Brock Holt.
The overriding point is there are many ways for the Mets to go back to the World Series, and they don’t have to upgrade at catcher to do it. Instead, they need to look at the best possible players they can add to the roster.
They need to build on a pitching staff which already includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, and Seth Lugo. They need to add to a lineup which already features Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Robinson Cano.
If building up the lineup and roster comes at catcher, great. If it doesn’t, that’s good too because we already know d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate can bring you to a World Series. For that matter, Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Rene Rivera brought the Mets to the Wild Card Game.
In the end, there needs to be much less of a fixation on improving just one roster spot for the sake of another. For example, don’t trade Nimmo for Realmuto. Instead, the Mets just need to focus on getting better players on this team much like how they added Cano even though they already had McNeil.
In the end, if the focus is better players and a deeper roster, you will win games. You see it time and again. The Yankees dynasty had a black hole in left field. The Red Sox had nothing at catcher, second, and third. The 1986 Mets had Rafael Santana. The 2018 Mets can have d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, a tandem we already know can get you to the World Series.
According to recent reports, the Mets are pursuing J.T. Realmuto. Purportedly, the Marlins want a combination of young MLB players under control plus some prospects for Realmuto. The MLB players mentioned were Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Brandon Nimmo. If that’s the cost, especially Nimmo, the Mets should tell the Marlins there’s no deal.
In fact, if anyone approaches the Mets about Nimmo, they should hang up the phone.
Last year, Nimmo was one of the best players in the National League. In fact, if not for the Mets completely falling apart in the May, it is quite possible Nimmo would have been one of the top five in MVP voting. No, this is not hyperbole.
In 2018, Nimmo was second in the National League in both wRC+, OPS+, and OBP. He had the third highest WAR among National League outfielders. He was fourth in the league in triples. He was ninth in walks and first in HBP. Taking all of this into account, Nimmo profiled as the best lead-off hitter in the National League, and if Mookie Betts wasn’t a lead0ff hitter for the Red Sox, you could probably argue Nimmo was the best leadoff hitter in baseball.
When you take Nimmo’s production and you combine it with his not yet being arbitration eligible, you have one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. Nimmo is playing at an All Star level, is still just 25 years old, and he is under team control through the 2022 season. This is the type of asset you build upon, not one you trade away when you can simply sign other players to fill other voids.
Speaking of voids, trading Nimmo leaves a huge one. If you are going to look to replace him, you are talking about injury plagued players like Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock. There’s also veterans on the backside of their careers like Andrew McCutchen or Adam Jones. Past that, and you’re really rolling the dice that Curtis Granderson or Nick Markakis have just one year left in them.
Sure, you can mention Bryce Harper, but if you have the money to sign him, just go ahead and sign him. He is supposedly willing to play first base. If he isn’t, Nimmo can play center. He was a -2 DRS in 350.1 innings there last year, but according to Baseball Savant he has the same spring speed as Juan Lagares, which at least suggests he can make improvements if he were to remain at the position (no, this is not to say he’s going to win any Gold Gloves).
Overall, Nimmo is a cost controlled outfielder who was one of the best hitters in all of baseball last year. He is a driven to get better, and he is versatile in the outfield. With him not yet being arbitration eligible and under team control for four more years, he is as untouchable as any player, pitchers included, on this Mets team.
The Mets have a number of needs this offseason, and despite those needs, the team is of the belief they can contend in 2019. Two of those needs are a right-handed hitter and a bullpen arm. That’s an expensive item to add in free agency, especially with the team needing to rebuild their bullpen and possibly add a catcher.
The Mariners are rebuilding, and they have those pieces in Mitch Haniger and Edwin Diaz. The issue is the Mariners don’t want to trade those players as they see them as building blocks for the future.
Typically, this is just talk. Untouchable players, especially relievers, are almost always available. The trick is you need to be bowl a team over to get the player, or the player has to force their way out. Remember, Christian Yelich was not available until he became a Brewer. Craig Kimbrel was untouchable until he became a Padre.
The catch is you need to have the prospects to make one of the proverbial godfather offers to pry those players away. Looking at the Mets farm system, while it is improving, it is difficult to argue they have enough to pull off the feat. If the Mariners like Peter Alonso or Andres Gimenez, they could acquire one of Haniger or Diaz, but not both.
That is unless the Mets get creative.
If you create a list of the most untradeable contracts in baseball, you will see Albert Pujols, Chris Davis, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Robinson Cano. Moving Cano is made all the more difficult by his no-trade clause. Add his steroid suspension last year, and it would be completely and utterly shocking to see the Mariners trade Cano.
That doesn’t meant they’re not trying. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports the Mariners have contacted both the Mets and Yankees about taking on Cano’s contract. In the article, it was revealed the Mariners were not willing to take back Ellsbury in the deal.
Considering the Mets budget limitations and how they were burned by the David Wright and now Yoenis Cespedes contracts, it’d be shocking to see the team take on Cano’s contract, and that is before you consider all of his red flags. At 36, he still has five years $120 million on his deal. None of this should mean Cano should be off the table for the Mets.
The Mets do have some bad contracts of their own. For example, Jay Bruce is owed $28 million over the next two years. Jason Vargas is owed $8 million next year with a $2 million buy out should the Mets not pick up his $8 million option. You could certainly argue Cano would be much more productive than Bruce and Vargas combined. Still, that leaves you assuming four years and $96 million. The Mets would really have to be enticed to take that on from the Mariners.
Haniger and Diaz would be awfully enticing.
If you look at it through the prism of five years $120 million for Cano, you would not do that deal. However, five years and roughly $170 for Cano, Haniger, and Diaz doesn’t look too bad. That’s roughly $11 million per year per player. That’s certainly fair value for those players.
Dumping some contracts like Bruce and Vargas could make it more palatable. It could also reduce the perspective prospect cost. Right off the bat, you could offer Alonso, Gimenez, and Dominic Smith. That’s a pretty decent haul, and it could prevent the team from having to have to part with another big piece. If the Mets did this, they ultimately become World Series contenders next year with that lineup:
Looking at that lineup, and the fact it would be cost neutral for a team potentially trading away Bruce and Vargas, you have to wonder why the Mets wouldn’t do the deal. And if the answer is Cespedes, you can make McNeil a utility player and move Cano to second. Really, if you think about it having a deep bench is not an excuse to make a deal which could win you a World Series.
This is the deal big market teams make to win a World Series. The Mets should start pretending to be one of those teams instead of trading Noah Syndergaard and heading towards another rebuild despite having a young talented core.
The New York Mets have had a number of down seasons with 2018 being one of them. There were some bright spots this past season with Jacob deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball being one of them. This is reminiscent of how many times we have seen different Mets players have great seasons in what has been an otherwise lost season for the franchise.
The last time we saw anything like deGrom’s season happen was R.A. Dickey‘s 2012 season. While the knuckleballer had been better than expected for a few years, no one could see him winning 20 games let alone beating out Clayton Kershaw, who was still in his prime, for the Cy Young Award.
While it was Dickey who won the Cy Young Award, it was Johan Santana who captured the hearts of Mets fans by pitching the first no-hitter in Mets history. Special mention needs to go here for Mike Baxter‘s catch.
In 2004, Mike Piazza passed a significant career milestone by hitting his 352nd career homer as a catcher. With the home run, he passed Carlton Fisk, and he all but cemented his Hall of Fame case by hitting the most home runs as a catcher.
Another Mets catcher who set a home run record was Todd Hundley. In 1996, his 41 homers would not just match a Mets single season record, but it would also pass Roy Campanella‘s single season record for most homers by a catcher. That season saw a number of feats including Bernard Gilkey setting the Mets single-season record for doubles and Lance Johnson setting the record for most triples in a season. Remarkably, all three of these Mets records stand to this day.
On the final game of the 1991 season, which was the Mets first losing season since 1983, David Cone tied the then National League record with 19 strikeouts in a game. It was a feat which had only been previously met by Mets legend Tom Seaver.
Speaking of that 1983 season, Darryl Strawberry would become the first and to this date only Mets position player to ever win the Rookie of the Year Award. The 1983 season was also notable because after the Midnight Massacre, Seaver would finally come home to the Mets.
Really, it was that 1983 season which was the beginning of something special with the Mets. In addition to Strawberry and Seaver, the Mets called-up rookie starter Ron Darling. Much like how he is joined in the SNY booth now by Keith Hernandez, he was teammates with Hernandez that season because the Mets would make a franchise altering trade to acquire the former MVP.
Really, when you look at 1983, you can see how even a bad year is the building block towards a team building a World Series winning club. Hopefully, that is what the 2018 season was for the Mets.
You can argue it was the case with deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Wheeler matching him big start for big start in the second half. Brandon Nimmo had the second highest wRC+ among National League outfielders, and Michael Conforto returned to being Michael Conforto in the second half. More than that, Amed Rosario seemed to turn the corner while his new double play partner, Jeff McNeil, burst onto the scene.
In the end, when you look at losing seasons like 2018, you can see great things. More than that, you can see how great things will soon be in store for the Mets.
Despite having a strong finish to the 2017 season, the Mets decided they needed to sign Jay Bruce to play the outfield rather than have Brandon Nimmo play right field while Michael Conforto was rehabbing from his shoulder surgery. Despite his playing exceedingly well, Nimmo would not only be demoted when the Mets needed an extra reliever in the bullpen, but the Mets would also rush Conforto back from the disabled list.
Despite everything in his way, Nimmo would earn a spot in the everyday lineup. In terms of on-field production, Nimmo was arguably the best outfielder in the National League. Certainly, he was among the best six in the National League. Unfortunately, his production on the field would not translate to his being named an All-Star.
This would not be an good first half for Nimmo. In fact, Nimmo would hit .263/.404/.483 with 28 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers, and 47 RBI. Among National League outfielders, he was second only to Christian Yelich in Offensive WAR, OPS+, and wRC+. He would finish second to Billy Hamilton in triples.
Among all National League players, he would finish second only to Joey Votto in OBP. Perhaps the biggest indication of how much Nimmo has been snubbed all season, the only category he would lead the majors in was hit by pitch. He would have had even more had he not been called back to the plate on more than one occasion for not trying to get out of the way.
Despite all he did offensively, Nimmo would not win a Silver Slugger this season.
Sure, the awards were truly a joke this year. For example, J.D. Martinez won the Silver Slugger for DH and OF despite playing only 57 games in the field. That said, it is really bizarre Nimmo was overlooked.
That’s fine. As far as the Mets and their fans are concerned, other teams can overlook Nimmo all they want. While they are overlooking him, he can put up another great season while hopefully leading the Mets to their third World Series title. If that does happen, all of us will be smiling along with Nimmo as everyone who overlooked and underrated him will stand there saddened and befuddled.
With everything Peter Alonso does, it is getting harder and harder justifying keeping him in Triple-A past the first few weeks of the season. His power is legit, and it he attacks this offseason like he did the last, he’s going to be a significantly improved player. Seeing the season he just had, that’s a scary thought, and yet, there’s no way the Mets can just hand him the first base job next year, not if they are planning on winning next year.
Again, this is no slight against Alonso, but rather a result of the circumstances. When analyzing the situation, there are certain assumptions we need to make. The first assumption Jay Bruce has a contract which cannot be traded. When looking at the sprint speeds compiled by Baseball Savant, Bruce is the slowest right fielder in the majors, and as a result, the second assumption is Bruce should no longer be playing the outfield. The last assumption is with Bruce still having two years $28 million on his deal, the Mets are not going to put him on the bench, nor would Bruce be willing to accept such an assignment.
With all of that being the case, where is the room for Alonso on the 2019 roster?
You could argue he could go play right field, but then you are weakening your outfield defense. Last year, Bruce was a -4 DRS in 538.2 innings in right field. With him in right, Brandon Nimmo is your likely center fielder, and he was a -2 DRS and -2.8 UZR in 350.1 innings in center last year. Configuring your outfield this way may also carry with it the possibility Juan Lagares, who is the best defensive center fielder in baseball, even fewer innings in the outfield.
The obvious rebuttal to this is Bruce is not a first baseman. It’s a fair comment, but if you follow the scouting reports, Alonso has struggled at first base next year. You could argue Alonso would not be better than the 0 DRS Bruce had in 180.1 innings there last year. You could even argue Alonso would be worse.
Assume for a second, the Mets decide to ignore outfield defense completely, and they put Bruce in right field to make room for Alonso. Your outfield is now set, and also, it means your infield is likely set. This means the Mets do not add a Manny Machado, A.J. Pollock, or other big right-handed bat this team really needs to add this offseason.
Sure, you could say the Mets could still sign someone, but then you are likely forcing Jeff McNeil to the bench because it is unrealistic to expect Brodie Van Wagenen to tell his former client Todd Frazier he is now a utility infielder. Moreover, for a Mets pitching staff who induces many groundballs, it would seem like a mistake to put your only quality infield defender on the bench. If you have your choice between Alonso and McNeil, don’t you have to go with McNeil at this point because he’s proven he can play and play well at the Major League level?
The bigger question iss if you’re the Mets, and you are truly trying to build a World Series contender next year, are you really going to put all of your eggs in the Peter Alonso basket? That’s a really big risk.
Keep in mind, some of his stats in Binghamton were inflated by a .344 BABIP. Given how slow he is, he’s due for some course correction on that. Compounding the problem is the fact he pulled the ball 50.3 percent of the time with Vegas. If he is going to be that extreme a pull hitter (as opposed to what he was in 2017), teams are going to shift him accordingly, and he’s going to lose a lot of base hits he is currently getting.
With Vegas, he had a 25.9 percent strikeout rate. In the Arizona Fall League, he is striking out 25.6 percent of the time. That’s not a great strikeout rate, and it’s possible he strikes out more against Major League pitching.
There’s also some question about his ability to hit right-handed pitching at the Major League level. Baseball America said of Alonso, “his power will play in the big leagues, perhaps in the second half of 2018, whether as a regular or a platoon masher.” To be fair, the stats don’t necessarily prove that out with Alonso having a higher OPS against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching last year.
Now, it’s possible Alonso comes to Queens next year, and he is able to succeed despite these question marks. After all, Paul Goldschmidt was once thought to be a platoon bat who proved he could hit anybody. Lucas Duda was able to prove himself an everyday first baseman despite a high strikeout rate because of his plate discipline and power.
Really, by no means should we count out Alonso being a masher at the Major League level. However, we also shouldn’t count on it happening immediately next year. More than that, the Mets shouldn’t be counting on it if they intend to try to win the World Series next year.
Ultimately, Alonso needs to start the year in Syracuse because the Mets are going to have to find a spot for Jay Bruce to play and because the team needs to get a proven right-handed bat this offseason.
It may be every fan base, but it seems like whenever the Mets need to add players via trade or free agency, fans seem to look towards acquiring former players. It may not be just the fans either as the Mets bucked conventional wisdom by signing Jay Bruce and Jason Vargas last year. If the fans and organization wants to go down that road again, there are plenty of options this offseason:
Jose Lobaton – If he’s back, we may actually see fans boycott the team.
Devin Mesoraco – Other than like a one week stretch, he was terrible in every facet of the game. There is no way he should be back in Queens next year.
Rene Rivera – He would be a fine addition on a minor league deal to work with up and comers like Justin Dunn. If there’s an injury or two (ideally three), he could resume his role as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.
Lucas Duda – Fans used to debate at length whether Duda was a good or bad player. The debate is over. He’s now a bad player who has not much to offer anymore.
Asdrubal Cabrera – Unless Cabrera is looking to accept a utility role behind two still largely unproven young players, there would be no reason to bring him back to the Mets.
Daniel Murphy – There is a scenario in which bringing him back makes sense, but that includes the Mets moving at least one bad contract to put him at first base because his knees have made his already poor defense all the worse. There are many other variables past that making this a non-starter.
Jose Reyes – He shouldn’t even be playing for the Long Island Ducks next year.
Neil Walker – Considering he accepted a utility role for the Yankees last year, he could be willing to accept one with the Mets next year. If so, he could be quality depth for the Mets roster which has not had depth on their bench since 2015.
Carlos Gomez – Judging from last year, it does not seem like Gomez can hit much anymore, but he can still play defense. The Mets need a right-handed outfielder or two, and he would be a much better option than Austin Jackson by the simple fact he’s not Austin Jackson.
Chris Young – In 2014, the Mets made a $7.25 million bet Young still had something in the tank. They wound up releasing him, thereby allowing other teams to discover he did have something left in the tank. That something was hitting left-handed pitching, which is something he didn’t do at all last year.
Austin Jackson – He used up all the playing time he should receive in a Mets uniform last year.
Curtis Granderson – With Bruce, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo, you could argue the Mets have no need for another left-handed hitting corner outfielder. Lost in all of that is the fact Granderson is still a productive player who is great in the clubhouse. It would not be the worst idea to bring him back to let him serve as a mentor to the Mets young players.
Bartolo Colon – If you want him back, you deserve to see the Mets go under .500 again.
Matt Harvey – Harvey has basically said he doesn’t want to return. If you ask the Mets, the feelings are probably mutual.
Chris Beck – He was terrible for the Mets last year, so if you’re upgrading your bullpen, you should probably avoid the guys who were terrible for you.
Tyler Clippard – He had surprisingly good stats last year, which is all the more incredible when you consider he pitched in the AL East. Signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training is not the worst idea in the world.
Jeurys Familia – Familia is the best right-handed reliever in Mets history, and unlike the other free agent relief options not named David Robertson, none of them have proven they can pitch in pressure situations in New York. If you’re looking to compete, Familia could be a big boost to the bullpen.
AJ Ramos – The main reason Ramos didn’t work out this year was because he was injured. He did have surgery to repair his shoulder, but we don’t know what he will be when he is ready to pitch again. The Mets need far more certainty than that from their bullpen.
Fernando Salas – Salas helped pitch the Mets to the 2016 Wild Card, and the thanks he received was getting over-used by Terry Collins to the point he was released by the Mets in 2017. He returned to a slightly below average reliever last year. The Mets have plenty of those already.
Jerry Blevins – Even with last year’s struggles, Blevins has traditionally been a good LOOGY for the Mets. If Dave Eiland and Mickey Callaway think he can return to form, and he signs a reasonable one year deal, the Mets should bring him back.
Oliver Perez – If Brodie Van Wagenen had a sense of humor, he would work out a contract with either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, but the day before the Mets officially signs either one of them, the Mets would announce Ollie was returning to the Mets organization.
With Brodie Van Wagenen being announced as the new Mets General Manager tomorrow, his work begins immediately. Right now, Jose Reyes, Devin Mesoraco, Jerry Blevins, Austin Jackson, and Jose Lobaton are free agents. With eight more players listed on the 60 day disabled list (Eric Hanhold, Rafael Montero, Bobby Wahl, Travis d’Arnaud, Phillip Evans, T.J. Rivera, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares), the team needs to cut at least three players by Friday.
More than that, Van Wagenen will be entasked in improving the roster into a 2019 World Series contender. Here is Van Wagenen’s starting point:
Certainly, the Mets are set in the middle infield and the corner outfield spots. Obviously, Yasmani Grandal would be a significant addition to both the lineup and in the pitch framing department. Even if not Grandal, the catching position seems to be a real target to upgrade either on the free agent market, where real upgrades are limited, or on the trade front, where there are a number of rebuilding teams who could move a catcher (Buster Posey?).
As for the other positions, the Mets are going to have to move a player/contract. If the Mets really want to significantly upgrade this roster, the team is going to have to find a way to move Bruce, Frazier, or both. That not only opens room for a significant addition, but it also means the team will have some extra money on the budget to improve the roster.
In the end, there is real talent here, but talent which needs to be surrounded by the right players. Ideally, that is at least one right-handed power bat to balance out a lineup which already balances out Conforto, Nimmo, and McNeil. When doing that, Van Wagenen will need to buttress this group by building a strong bench, which is something which has not been done since the trade deadline maneuvers in the 2015 season.
Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom will not just take any job. At 35 years old, he can be selective, and he has. In the past, Bloom has outright refused to even interview for the Diamondbacks position. However, he not only has decided to interview for the Mets job, but he is also a finalist for the General Manager position.
Bloom’s interesting in the position should have Mets fans excited about the future of this team regardless of who the team hires to be the General Manager.
There is a lot to like with this Mets team. Just like 2015, it all starts with the rotation. Jacob deGrom has emerged this season as the best pitcher in baseball. Zack Wheeler looked like an ace himself posting the second best ERA in the second half. Noah Syndergaard had 13 wins in a down year, and he had a strong finish to the season. Finally, somehow Steven Matz actually made 30 starts last year. Now that Matz is able to navigate a full season, he can take the next step much like how Wheeler did this year.
There are also the y0ung left-handed bats on this roster. Using wRC+ as a barometer, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year and in the top 10 of all of baseball. After dealing with the shoulder issues, Michael Conforto hit .273/.356/.539 in the second half. Jeff McNeil emerged from out of nowhere to not just make to the majors but to also claim the second base job for 2019 by posting a 2.4 WAR and 137 wRC+ in just 63 Major League games.
The Mets also have a vastly improving farm system. Andres Gimenez, Peter Alonso, and Jarred Kelenic are viewed by nearly every outlet as Top 100 prospects. After a breakout season, Justin Dunn is on the cusp of cracking those lists as well. David Peterson and Anthony Kay are both left-handers who took steps forward and are not far from the majors.
There are also young players who people have lost enthusiasm but still have talent. Dominic Smith will not turn 24 until August, and there are still many who believe in his talent. For example, Keith Law of ESPN believes Smith could hit better than .262/.346/.459 if given the first base job next year. Before his season ending injury last year, Gavin Cecchini returned to the form he was when he was seen as a future middle infielder for the Mets.
This is before we even consider players like Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and even Desmond Lindsay with his retooled swing. The overriding point is the Mets farm system has plenty of talent, and Bloom, a Rays executive with a strong player development background knows this.
Ultimately, this is why Bloom is interested in the Mets General Manager job. This is also why Mets fans should be excited about the future of this team even if Bloom does not get the job because whether or not he gets the job, the talent is already here. It’s now just a matter of that talent continuing their development and winning the World Series.
Starting with the obvious, as constructed today, the Yankees are a far superior team than the New York Mets. With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Luis Severino, this Yankees team is set up to win 90 plus games a year for the next decade. Given the talent base and how the Yankees are willing to spend, the Yankees should be a fixture in the postseason, much like they were in the late 90s, and that is a prerequisite to winning a World Series.
However, as we saw with this Yankees team for the second straight season, they could not get through the postseason partially because they did not have the ace to help push them through to the World Series.
Last year, it was Justin Verlander, who helped stop the Yankees. In many ways, Verlander has proved to be the Yankees kryptonite. In three different postseasons, Verlander has faced the Yankees, and each time, Verlander’s teams advanced. Last year, Verlander was the ALCS MVP going 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. What made the issue worse for the Yankees is they did not go out and get an eminently available Verlander.
This year, the Yankees were stopped by Chris Sale. Not only did Sale beat the Yankees in Game 1, but he would stop the Yankees in Game 4 in his one inning of work.
With the Yankees window opening last year, they have failed to get an ace to go up against Verlander, Sale, or even Corey Kluber (who the Yankees beat in the 2017 ALDS). Severino has not yet proven to be that guy. Instead of utilizing Justus Sheffield and some other prospect to acquire that ace, they are hoping that he develops into that front line starter himself.
If neither of those things happen, it is hard to imagine how the Yankees can navigate their way through the American League portion of the postseason each and every year. The Astros and Red Sox have every bit the position player talent the Yankees have, and they also have more starting pitching. To that end, it’s difficult to see how exactly the Yankees win a World Series with this core.
Equally as difficult is seeing how the Mets even make the postseason. While the Mets have talent, they are in a division with the upcoming Braves and Phillies teams. Moreover, the Nationals are always ready, willing, and able to spend in free agency to address the deficiencies on their roster. This creates a real uphill battle for a Mets franchise with ownership which continues to serve as an impediment to building a winner.
And yet, if the Mets ever do get to the postseason, they are a really dangerous team. Back in 2015, we saw what Jacob deGrom can do in the postseason and that was before he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball. Similarly, Noah Syndergaard has shown himself to be a big time postseason pitcher. Aside from his strong 2015 rookie campaign, Syndergaard would go pitch-for-pitch with Madison Bumgarner, the best postseason pitcher of this generation, in the 2016 Wild Card Game. What makes that postseason all the more impressive is the emergence of Zack Wheeler this season.
When you substitute Wheeler for 2015 Matt Harvey, you have the type of pitching rotation which can and should carry a team to the World Series.
When you surround this pitching staff with a young core which includes Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario, there is a core of players which can not just make the World Series but win it. So yes, if we are talking about a core of players which can go through the postseason and win the World Series, the Mets have what it takes.
And yet, they don’t have the type of core which can carry them through the regular season. This team is at least one bat short. Maybe two. And that is before you even consider the bullpen.
That’s the real shame of it all. The Yankees have the talent but not the pitching, and that is partially the result of them getting gun shy when it came time to pull the trigger to obtain that ace which can carry a team through the postseason. The Mets have the pitching, and they have that young core, but they have ownership which gets gun shy when it comes time to getting a player they need to win.
In the end, the Mets have a better core of players which can carry you to the World Series, but it doesn’t really matter because unless things change, the Mets will be sitting on the sidelines watching this Yankees core squander away without a legitimate ace.