Eduardo Escobar is going to play in the World Baseball Classic for Venezuela. Venezuela has a lot of talent in the infield, but outside Ronald Acuña Jr., they do not have a lot of talent in the outfield. As a result, there have been discussions about Escobar playing left field in the WBC.
Obviously, if the New York Mets had an issue with this, they would attempt to prevent Escobar from playing out in left. As a general rule, Venezuela would seek to acquiesce the Mets request. However, that is not what is happening here.
Instead, the Mets are looking to play Escobar in left field during spring training. Make no mistake, this isn’t just to help Escobar be in a position to play well out there for Venezuela. Rather, they are doing this to help the Mets in 2023.
If you recall last season, the Mets opted to have Escobar as the short side platoon for Luis Guillorme. For a moment, it seemed like Escobar lost the third base job forever as Brett Baty made his Major League debut. If not for Baty’s torn thumb ligament, Escobar may never have played third base for the Mets again.
In fact, there is an open question as to whether he is the best fit for the Mets in 2023. As noted here previously, with the elimination of the shift, Guillorme should be the Mets second baseman. As others have argued, Baty is the Mets best option at third because of his offensive potential, and the fact Escobar has not been a good Major League third baseman.
In 2022, Escobar had a -6 OAA at third, and he was a -3 OAA the previous season. Long story short, Escobar is not a good third baseman. Listening to Buck Showalter, he is going to prioritize defense and rightfully so. That should mean less of Escobar at third.
Not playing Escobar is justified, but that is not the same as saying he is not an important part of this team. Obviously, he profiles well as a platoon option at DH with Daniel Vogelbach. It should also be noted the Mets only have four outfielders on the roster. They could (and probably should) move Jeff McNeil out there.
However, it would make sense to see if Escobar can play out there. If he is going to be a semi-regular or utility player, he is going to have to play more than just second and third. He needs to learn left to be of more utility to the Mets.
Overall, the WBC presents an easy cover for the Mets to get a look at Escobar in left. Truth be told, the Mets needed to do this anyway. As a result, the WBC presented a unique opportunity for the Mets, and they took advantage of an opportunity to make their 2023 team more versatile.
With Wayne Randazzo accepting a position with the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Mets hired Brooklyn Cyclones radio announcer Keith Raad to join Howie Rose on WCBS 880 for the 2023 season. Raad was kind enough to agree to an interview to discuss his journey:
Congratulations on being named one of the New York Mets radio announcers for the 2023 season. Certainly, this must be a dream come true. Tell us about your journey from being a local boy and Chaminade High School graduate to being one of the radio voices of the New York Mets.
It’s a dream come true to make it to the Major Leagues and it’s even more surreal to do it in the city that I grew up in. New York City has always been a larger-than-life place for entertainment and of course that list includes sports. Growing up on Long Island, I learned about what kind of skills I had when attending Chaminade. The Marianist brothers and the teachers taught me how to write and the importance of public speaking — those things rung true within me. That led me to a degree in Communications in college at the University of Dayton where I jumped right in looking to combine my love of language, writing, speaking, and listening with baseball. I’ve spent close to 10 years calling games and eight years in the minor leagues. It’s so satisfying to pay my dues and jump into the Majors.
The Brooklyn Cyclones have the slogan “Amazin’ Starts Here!” As fans, we see that with players like Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo. However, as we see both you and Jake Eisenberg, now the Kansas City Royals radio voice, that applies to broadcasters as well. What is so unique about Brooklyn that it has served as a springboard to the majors for broadcasters like yourself.
First off, to be a Brooklyn broadcaster means you have to have a love — and a major respect — for history. In Brooklyn, Red Barber, Vin Scully, Connie Desmond, Ernie Harwell and many others called games for the Dodgers. Those voices came out of the origin of radio as a medium to deliver the game to an audience. By learning from how these guys did their thing in this borough, Jake and I were able to treat the job with great care and respect. The Cyclones enabled me to go from an up-and-coming broadcaster looking for his voice to being one who uses his voice and personality, trying to model it after guys like Howie Rose who I will now join in the booth.
Speaking of your time in Brooklyn, we are now well aware of the struggles for minor leaguers. Lesser known is all the duties and responsibilities of working for a minor league team. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of working with you for group outings for various groups. I know I was shocked to be dealing with one of the broadcasters. For fans unaware, can you please share for us what a typical day is like for a minor league broadcaster?
Ha, so most situations are similar, but every once in a while as a minor league broadcaster, sales duties are part of the deal. That’s what enabled me to be a full-time member of the front office. In a typical day, I would arrive to the park at 10 a.m. and jump on the phones and email trying to sell tickets for group outings, season ticket holders, and sponsorships. I would do that until about 1 or 2 p.m. before jumping into my media relations duties, including writing our daily game notes, printing statpacks for the teams and the press box, distributing rosters and lineups. In the early afternoon, I would help the video staff grab players for social media videos. During batting practice, I tried to be around the turtle on the field just absorbing how the guys are acting and maybe asking a question or two to the players. Following batting practice, I would do about a five-minute pregame interview with a guest. All the while helping local media talk to any players or coaches they were interested in speaking to. Around 5:15 is when I actually can sit down, write in my scorebook and begin prepping for the game that night. Lots of work! I would leave around 10:30-11 a.m. an take the 75-minute subway home, rest, and get ready to do it all over again.
Obviously, that is a grueling experience. What was it that kept you going during those long days and undertaking so many responsibilities beyond just the broadcasting?
The minor leagues tend to ask you a question rather quickly: can you do this? And by that, I mean are you willing to “eat it” for years and years with low pay and long hours to make the majors? For me, I’m much more interested in going for the difficult things in life because we only have one go-around on Earth so why not? But I stuck with it because it is such a high-risk, high-reward pathway. And, looking back at all of those tarp pulls and low pay and feel so incredibly satisfied to now get to enjoy the reward of working in the big leagues.
What was your favorite moment as the broadcaster with the Brooklyn Cyclones?
By far the best moment came in 2019 during the 48 hours of winning the New York Penn League Championship, celebrating that night, and then going to Citi Field the following night as VIPs. My call of “Brooklyn, you have your title” after beating Lowell on September 10th led right into a champagne celebration with the team as well as the front office staff who worked so hard that year. Then at Citi Field, the Mets were kind enough to celebrate everyone (players, coaches and our front office) with a double suite and a video board tribute to our championship.
You’ve seen a number of talented players pass through Brooklyn. Who were some of the best players you’ve seen during your tenure?
Francisco Alvarez has some incredible raw power. His fiery attitude of wanting to be the best and refusing to compromise with any limitations makes me think he’ll have an incredible career. I think Alex Ramirez is extremely talented and already plays with a tremendous about of confidence — which you need in this game. Brett Baty is the most polished hitter I’ve personally seen in a Cyclones uniform. And with Ronny Mauricio, he’s really, really close to figuring it all out.
Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
This is a really tough question because at different stages of my career, there have been several different voices who have been critical. However, my first MiLB boss Tom Nichols in Dayton with the Dragons (Cincinnati Single-A) believed in me before anyone else did. He not only took a chance on me hiring me as an intern in the middle of college, but he also called me one summer during junior year getting my mind towards a summer collegiate job and getting me going. Without him, I certainly would not have had the direction and the structure to this career.
Understanding you were a New York Yankees fan growing up (we won’t hold it against you), who was your favorite player growing up, and if you could indulge us, your favorite Mets player?
Yeah, I get this one a lot obviously. It’s New York. I have to be honest. I grew up a Yankees fan, but the last five years with the Cyclones and the Mets have built bonds within me that grow miles deeper than any childhood fandom. I love the Mets. I pull for the Mets. The Mets are my family. But to throw you an even larger curveball, Albert Pujols was by far my favorite player. I modeled my baseball swing after him because I loved the art of hitting. Growing up, my Mets fandom struck right around 98-99-00 when I would go to Shea. There were so many cool players like Fonzie and John Franco. But I remember Benny Agbayani — I thought it was so awesome that he wore #50 because he was Hawaiian and that was the 50th state.
Years ago, a former Cyclones player Nicco Blank, reached out on Twitter to try to get Taylor Swift to see him pitch in Brooklyn. If you could have anyone tune the dial to WCBS 880 to hear you call a game, who would it be?
Ha, this is a great question. The answer is actually someone who already might be listening whether I know it or not. But my answer is Jerry Seinfeld! I grew up watching reruns of the show and immediately connected with his humor and started to follow his career (even though it already started haha). I view him as a role model. Comedians are very much like broadcasters in a few ways: we feel our journey is alone, we cut our teeth doing games/gigs for little to no money, and we’re constantly trying to listen back and critique our work on a nightly basis.
As you embark on this job, what is the moment you are anticipating most?
This is an easy one: the roar of the crowd. It’ll be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on the air.
What is your message to Mets fans?
Let’s laugh, let’s have a good time, and let’s win a World Series.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and good luck during the 2023 season.
Back in 2019, the New York Mets had Pete Alonso begin the season on the Opening Day roster. The idea was he gave the team their best chance to win games, and they thought keeping him in the minors for two weeks could cost them the postseason. Essentially, one year of service time was not worth missing out on the postseason.
Of course, now, we know that was all part of the grift. The Wilpons knew they were going to be forced to sell, so they had Brodie Van Wagenen set out to completely mortgage the future to try to win that one year. That included starting Alonso in the majors and not caring about that extra year of control. The irony would be the Wilpons limited budget and cheapness ultimately did cost them the postseason as they didn’t have the money to address the bullpen.
While the plan was flawed from its inception with the Wilpons, it is a plan that has merit with a real owner like Steve Cohen. To wit, the Mets should look to eschew service time concerns and control, and they should have Brett Baty being the 2023 season on the Opening Day roster.
That is at least the general consensus from the scouting community. Keith Law of The Athletic says Baty has nothing to learn in the minors and is the Mets best third base option. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline says Baty should be the third baseman in 2023 because he is an improvement defensively over Eduardo Escobar with a better offensive ceiling.
While Mets fans were understandably not impressed with Baty defensively in short sample size, Escobar has proven he can’t really play the position. He had a -6 OAA a year after he had a -3. As he’s 34 and with their being no shift in 2023, he is only going to get worse. The Mets did recognize that last season, and that is part of the reason why they moved him to a platoon with Luis Guillorme.
Guillorme has been previously addressed here. WIth the shift elimination rules and the limitations of Mark Canha, Guillorme should be the everyday second baseman. That would be the newly extended Jeff McNeil can move to left field where he has been historically move effective. It should also be less wear-and-tear on a player the Mets can have through his age 35 season.
Baty can at least be adequate defensively, which is a step up from Escobar. While the ground ball rates are a problem, he has real offensive potential. He needs to improve those ground ball rates. The hope there is Jeremy Barnes can do that. Even though Baty made significant strides on this front in Double-A last season, Barnes is still arguably the best person to get Baty to lift the ball and get the most out of his power.
What needs noting here is it may not happen right away with Baty. That is fine because the Mets still have the option to send him back down to Triple-A and shift to the Escboar/Guillorme platoon which was very effective last season. Better yet, he can begin to fulfill his promise and be that bat the Mets were hoping to find this offseason. The only way the Mets can find that out is by putting him on the Opening Day roster.
There was news recently the New York Mets plan on inviting David Wright to Spring Training to work with Brett Baty and Mark Vientos. The Mets interest is obvious because they want the best third baseman in team history to teach two of their best prospects to maximize their potential.
In terms of the Mets, this is something they and every franchise do. They always love bringing back the team greats to work with their young players. Years ago, the Mets had Mike Piazza work with Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. If not for the World Baseball Classic, maybe Piazza could be there working with Francisco Álvarez and Kevin Parada.
For the Mets, we know they won’t stop at Wright. When looking at it, one Mets legend they should invite to Spring Training is R.A. Dickey because he can have an impact like no other former Mets player could.
We’re all very aware of the Dickey story. He was a former first round pick of the Texas Rangers who was discovered to be born without a UCL in his right arm who threw a forkball which was more akin to a knuckleball. This led him on a long and transient path to the majors and eventually the New York Mets.
With the Mets, he would be named the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner, and he would be the last Mets pitcher to win 20 games. He had taken the mantle from Tim Wakefield as the great knuckleball pitcher of his generation, but unfortunately, there has really been no one to take up that mantle since Dickey retired.
When looking at any farm system, the Mets included, there are pitchers who are never going to make it to the majors. There are various reasons including lack of velocity and/or control. For those prospects, and for the organization, the question is how long you play out the string with them until you change something about them or eventually cut them loose. It’s a sad reality of the minor leagues.
For the Mets, having Dickey in camp could permit him to teach those prospects not just the knuckleball but his knuckleballs. Remember, when Dickey was with the Mets he threw multiple ones which is what made him a unique and dominating pitcher.
R.A. Dickey's Knuckleballs (close up) 🦋 pic.twitter.com/pCi00TYw3U
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 26, 2022
To some degree, this is what we saw happen with Jacob deGrom and Johan Santana. When Santana taught deGrom his change, deGrom’s trajectory as a prospect went to the next level. Taking another ninth round pick and showing them the knuckleball could have a similar impact. Chances are, it won’t, but certainly, it is worth trying.
In the end, Dickey is just one of four Mets pitchers to win a Cy Young. He was a great Met for the short time he was here, and for that reason alone, he should be invited back for spring training. The fact he could help Mets prospects take their game to the next level makes inviting Dickey a must.
Tommy Pham is one of those moves that sounds good. After all, people can remember him being a good player at one time, so certainly, it must be a coup to get him on this New York Mets team as a fourth outfielder. However, you have to ask yourself how were the Mets even able to get him as a fourth outfielder.
The answer is simple – Pham is not a good baseball player anymore. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine how the outfielder who will be 35 on Opening Day will suddenly regain his ability to play baseball.
Last year, between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, two places great for right-handed hitters, Pham hit .236./.312/.374 with 23 doubles, one triple, 17 homers, and 63 RBI. That season wasn’t an anomaly; it is who Pham is now. Over the past three seasons, Pham is hitting .231/.324/.372.
Looking at the advanced numbers, Pham had an 89 wRC+, and over the past three, Pham has a 94 wRC+. When looking at Baseball Savant., you get a clearer picture of what has happened with Pham.
Simply put, Pham is a dead red hitter. He hits the fastball well. However, he can no longer hit a breaking or off-speed pitch. He still hits the fastball quite hard, and he can truly do damage to those pitchers. That said, he really can’t hit anything else. In reality, that makes him an easy out, which is indicated by his declining numbers over the past three years.
It should come as no surprise Pham does have decent numbers against left-handed pitching. In 2022, he had a 115 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, and over the past three seasons, he has a 111 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Certainly, this could make him part of the platoon equation at DH for Daniel Vogelbach.
Here, it should be noted Darin Ruf had a 116 wRC+ against left-handed pitching last year, and he has a 137 over the past three seasons. While the counter-argument is Pham could better serve as a fourth outfielder, that is not entirely correct as Pham had a -6 OAA in left as opposed to Ruf’s -5. Put another way, they are both bad outfielders who are best suited to DH.
On Ruf, he can at least play first base to spell Pete Alonso. Another note here is Ruf should serve as a warning for Pham. Ruf was a semi-regular player who struggled in a pure reserve role for the Mets. Now, the Mets are looking to do the same with Pham.
Really, at the end of the day, it is difficult to ascertain what purpose Pham fills for this team. He’s not an upgrade in any sense, and if you want to make out that fantasy football fight with Joc Pederson to be part of a larger picture, he could serve as a detriment in the clubhouse, but that may be a bit of a stretch as he has not seemed to have an in-season issue with a teammate. However, we also can’t ignore it.
However, that feud with Pederson should not matter. The Mets didn’t need Pham. In reality, they needed to move Mark Canha to a fourth outfielder role, and that could’ve been accomplished by signing an outfielder, or as they tried with Carlos Correa, by signing an infielder. Whatever the case, the Mets signed Pham for one year meaning he should not stand as an impediment should he struggle or the team is ready to turn to Brett Baty at third or left.
To the shock of everyone, the New York Mets signed Carlos Correa to a 13 year $315 million deal after the San Francisco Giants found an issue with Correa’s physicals. Once we sift through the shock and awe of it all, we are eventually left with the question as to what it means for the Mets top prospects.
Both Brett Baty and Mark Vientos are third baseman, and Ronny Mauricio is a shortstop. We saw Baty and Vientos make their Major League debuts this past season, and Mauricio was just named the Dominican Winter League MVP. In an alternate universe, they could have all been on the Mets in 2023 playing everyday at some point in the season.
With Francisco Lindor and Correa set to play the left side of the Mets infield for the next decade, all three of the aforementioned players are going to have to find a new position if they are going to stay with the Mets. In all honesty, these were decisions the Mets were investigating anyway.
In terms of Vientos, he had been twice bumped off of third base. When Baty was promoted to Double-A in 2021 and Triple-A in 2022, he became the the primary third baseman. However, it should be noted the Mets organization did take this as an opportunity to move Baty and Vientos to different positions as well. In the end, that is probably best for both.
Baty’s size has always made his long-term ability to play third a debate. To his credit, Baty has continued to improve at the position, but he was never going to be a plus defender at the position. He projects as hopefully average at the position. In essence, this is part of the reason why the Mets have exposed him to left where he has looked good.
FWIW: I thought Brett Baty looked pretty comfortable in left field when he played there in the minors.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) December 21, 2022
In terms of Vientos, the Mets had already seemed to realize his best defensive position is DH. He has struggled at third, and while he has made improvements, there really aren’t any scouts who believe he can handle the position on an everyday basis. This should allow the Mets to let him focus on DH and maybe even work at first base in the event of an unthinkable Pete Alonso injury.
Mauricio is more interesting, but with him, the Mets have more time to make a decision. Much like with Baty, the expectation was his size coupled with his continuing to grow was eventually going to force him off of his natural position. However, Mauricio has continued to stay at short and has played well there. Still, with Lindor’s presence, eventually, Mauricio was going to have to move off of short.
Ronny Mauricio's first play at third base — or anywhere other than shortstop — in his pro career: https://t.co/3nqggcblQK pic.twitter.com/TB0QzyrYF8
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) November 26, 2022
Mauricio played some third with LIDOM, and he looked quite good. In fact, with his ability to move to his left and his big arm, third seemed like the perfect spot for him in the future. However, now, that is no longer in play because Correa is there for the next 13 years.
Ultimately, this may mean he needs to shift to right field sooner rather than later. Mauricio being an above average runner with a big arm should translate very well there. You can also argue he should get some looks in center.
Another note here is the upper levels of the Mets system does not have much outfield depth. The depth they did have took a hit with Jake Mangum being traded to the Miami Marlins. To a certain extent, moving Baty and Mauricio to the outfield would help a need for the Mets. That goes double when you consider Mark Canha has an expiring contract at least theoretically opening up left field for next season.
There is also the elephant in the room. Having Correa and Lindor makes this trio of prospects more available to be traded. If there is a move available at the trade deadline, the Mets are more in a position to trade them.
However, the Mets proceed, they have a very good problem. They have All-Stars and future Hall of Famers on the left side of the infield with very good prospects who are trying to break through at those positions. In the short term, the Mets are insulated against injury. In the long term, the possibilities are endless.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first published on MMN.
When Steve Cohen took over the New York Mets and went on an unprecedented spending spree for the franchise, there were hopes he would land Carlos Correa. In fact, here, it was discussed how Correa was a future Hall of Famer and a perfect fit for the Mets.
To our shock and surprise, the Mets made a run at Correa this offseason even after re-signing Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo in addition to signing Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Koudai Senga, and Omar Narvaez.. We thought Cohen had his limits, but apparently, he doesn’t have a limit. He is just that intent on winning the World Series this season.
Well, Correa had an issue with his physicals, and Scott Boras does not renegotiate based on physicals. So, when the San Francisco Giants balked, Boras went right back to the Mets, who were apparently happy to re-offer the 13 year $315 million contract they were willing to give Correa. Just like that, one year later, the Mets got their perfect fit.
When healthy, Correa is just as good as any player in the game. With the exception of last year, he’s an exceptional fielder, and you can argue last year was an indication he needed to move to third now anyway. He is a phenomenal hitter who hits the ball hard and draws walks. His only weakness is his back, and we should note the Giants did not balk at the physicals when it came to Correa’s back.
There is nothing to like about this move for the Mets. The lineup is deeper and more potent. The infield defense is so much better in a year with no shift. It is going to accelerate position changes on Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, and Ronny Mauricio they were eventually going to need to make anyway. Again, this is a great move from every angle.
More than the fit, what really stands out is Cohen really is doing everything possible to win. After years of the Wilpons tomfoolery, we see how a New York team really should operate. For every owner who claims they don’t have money to expand the payroll, Cohen is showing that to be complete and utter nonsense. He is making a mockery of every owners excuses.
New York Mets fans knew the Wilpons could do much more than they did. They deserved better after the Wilpons. We expected more. However, in no way did we ever or could we ever expect this. This was simply astounding, and World Series or not, we can just appreciate a team really trying to win a World Series.
At first glance, Brandon Drury would seemingly be a perfect fit for the New York Mets. After all, he would check so many boxes for the 2023 roster, and as a result, it would make the Mets an even more formidable team.
Drury, 30, is coming off a career year where he had a career best 123 wRC+ and a career best 2.6 WAR. He held his own at third base last season with a 0 OAA while also holding his own at first and second. Historically, his best position is third.
For his career, Drury has had success against left-handed pitching. For his career, he has a 101 wRC+. However, last season, he absolutely destroyed left-handed pitching with a 160 wRC+. That’s not a fluke either as he had a 136 wRC+ against left-handed pitching the previous season with the Mets.
Certainly, that’s a factor in play here. Drury has shown the ability to play well in New York. In fact, he resurrect his career with the Mets in 2021. With him showing his renaissance wasn’t a fluke, it could mean this would be the perfect time for the Mets to bring him back.
Brandon Drury is now 7-for-15 with three home runs as a pinch hitter for the Mets in 2021.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) July 29, 2021
Immediately, you think he could be the perfect platoon partner for this team. He could share third with Luis Guillorme and/or Eduardo Escobar, or he could replace Darin Ruf as Daniel Vogelbach‘s platoon partner while giving the Mets the ability to allow him to spell Pete Alonso at first to help keep him fresh next season.
Again, Drury could very well be perfect, but then again, looking at Ruf could be a real warning when it comes to signing Drury.
Notably, Drury did have a great season with the Cincinnati Reds last season. He hit .274/.335/.520 with 22 doubles, two triples, 20 homers, and 59 RBI over 92 games. This led to Drury being traded to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline.
Drury was a markedly different player with the Padres. Over 46 games, he hit .238/.290/.435 with nine doubles, eight homers, and 28 RBI. He only played one game in the Wild Card Series against the Mets going 0-for-4. While an everyday player after the trade, Drury became a part-time player for the postseason due to his struggles with the Padres.
Looking at Drury’s career, he has always been a bit of a flawed player. He can hit the fastball, but as noted on Baseball Savant, he has long struggled with breaking and off-speed pitches. He thrived in that bandbox called the Great American Ballpark, but he struggled mightily in Petco Park.
We’ve also seen in his career that he’s struggled with the part-time role. Really, his career got derailed in Toronto when they tried to move him into that role. Certainly, the caveat was he thrived with the Mets in a pinch hitting role, but then again, he hit .184/.231/.225 in games he started for the Mets.
This is where the Mets need to be careful. If they pursue Drury, are they fully investing in him as an everyday player, or are they looking for him to be a part-time player? In essence, are they going to risk Drury thriving in a way Ruf could not.
For the Mets, it really may not make sense. The Escobar/Guillorme third base platoon was highly effective. The Mets also may be in a position to just give the job to Brett Baty and may not want to block him from the job in the long or short term. Essentially, the Mets are never going to even contemplate playing Drury at second.
This is the reason why Billy Eppler makes the big money. Decisions on players like Drury make or break seasons. If Drury can handle being a semi-regular who kills left-handed pitching, the Mets go to another stratosphere. If not, they’re stuck with him like they are currently with Ruf. Ultimately, this is the ultimate boom or bust decision.
Go back to 2015. Michael Conforto was a superstar in the making, and Brandon Nimmo seemed like the disappointing prospect. Seven years later everything is different.
Nimmo received the largest contract the Mets ever handed out to a homegrown player, and Conforto is looking for work. As soon as three seasons ago, that seemed completely implausible.
In the 2020 COVID impacted season, Conforto played at an MVP level. It was a level we knew he was capable of playing, and it seemed like his career was just going to take off. It didn’t as he would suffer an injury plagued 2021 season greatly impacting his production.
After rejecting the qualifying offer, he became a free agent. However, he would go unsigned as Conforto would injure his shoulder in the offseason. While rumors surfaced he may sign somewhere, he would sit out the season waiting for this offseason where he could attempt to cash in on a weaker free agent outfield market.
There was a report from Mike Puma of the New York Post Conforto was not looking to return to the Mets because ” the outfielder might want an escape from the narrative that he erred last offseason in rejecting the qualifying offer from the club.” That would be stupid on his part, and as we see with the Mets spending, they may be able to entice him to return.
Better put, the Mets need to entice him to return.
In September and the Wild Card Series, one thing which was readily clear was the Mets had a power outage, and it was impacting their ability to score runs. When you face better pitching, mounting those rallies becomes increasingly difficult, and at some point, you just need a guy who is going to put it in the seats.
Looking at the roster last season, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor were the only two who could consistently do that all season. Eduardo Escobar did hit 20 homers, but he hit eight of those in September, and it became increasingly clear he was really just a platoon option.
With Escobar, the Mets do seem to have Brett Baty ready or near ready to take over for him at third. We should eventually see Francisco Álvarez become the primary catcher. And yet, it does seem the Mets are one power bat short. That goes double with the DH situation and the inability to truly rely on rookies who are questionable to make the Major League roster.
Surveying the Mets roster, it would seem the biggest upgrade possibility would be in left field. Mark Canha did a good job there in 2022, but there remain question marks for him in 2023.
Canha’s defense was bad but not unplayable -1 OAA. His launch angle took a nose dive as did his barrel rates. With his value mostly wrapped in his OBP, it was at least concerning that his walk rate took a considerable step backwards. Again, this is a player in decline. He has value to the roster, but the more you look at him, it does not seem as if he is well suited to be the Mets everyday left fielder.
That’s not necessarily to say it’s Conforto. That said, he was a good fielder the last time he played, and assuming he’s stayed in shape, he promises to be one next season. He also has much more power than Canha, and really, if we want to look towards DH, Daniel Vogelbach. Another point there is Conforto has been able to hit left-handed pitching whereas Vogelbach is worse than a pitcher against lefties.
There’s the other point Conforto can handle New York, and we have seen him deliver in big moments here. When you consider the rules eliminating the shift, he should be even more potent at the plate than he was when he last played. Overall, Conforto should have some big hits in his bat, and the Mets need those big hits. The more you think about it, the more you realize Conforto needs to return to the Mets.
With respect to Daniel Vogelbach, some things should be made clear. The trade did help the New York Mets last season.
Vogelbach was a definitive upgrade over J.D. Davis. He was a DH for a team in need of one. He was cheap in every sense of the word.
Colin Holderman was a light price to pay for an established Major League hitter. His $800,00 contract was absurdly low as was his $1.5 million option.
Vogelbach kills right-handed pitching. He had a 150 wRC+ against them in 2022. In three of the last five years, he’s been a 127 or better, and in four of the past five, he’s been 117 or better.
However, as good as he’s been against right-handed pitching, he’s been even worse against left-handed pitching. For his career, he has a 41 wRC+ against them.
That’s unplayable necessitating the Mets platoon him. The issue there was Davis is/was not good necessitating another trade.
While Vogelbach was cheap to obtain, Darin Ruf wasn’t. The Mets gave up too much to obtain him. No one would normally care all that much, but Ruf was bad.
Ruf did not adapt well to being a strict platoon DH. With the Mets, he had a 24 wRC+. Mets fans may actually be surprised to learn it was that high.
With Ruf being 36 years old, it’s difficult to see him turning things around. After all, he was already having a poor year with the San Francisco Giants.
This does leave the Mets in a position where they’re looking to address the DH position this offseason. As noted, that’s complicated by the presence of Vogelbach.
Remember, Vogelbach is a platoon DH and really nothing else. That hamstrings your roster flexibility. It also restricts who the Mets can use to address the other half of the platoon DH spot.
As we’ve seen, Ruf struggled, and there’s not much hope for a rebound. They won’t want to restrict Mark Vientos as just a platoon DH. Short of a reclamation project like Yoenis Cespedes, it’s difficult to imagine who will want to sign to be a short side platoon DH.
Perhaps, you could force Mark Canha or Eduardo Escobar into the role, but that forces you to make other moves. In some ways, that may make Brett Baty’s readiness to be an Opening Day third baseman the lynchpin to eventually making the Vogelbach trade work.
However you analyze it, it becomes clear Vogelbach has restricted the Mets ability to address the DH spot, and really, improve the roster overall. Yes, in the short term, it was the right move especially given all the costs involved, but in the long term, the trade isn’t working out well for the Mets.