Carlos Gomez

Wheeler Pitching Like He Wants To Get Traded

Zack Wheeler took to the mound three years to the date he and Wilmer Flores were almost traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Gomez. While we got to see Flores’ reaction to the trade, we never did quite see Wheeler’s reaction.

At the time, he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery; a result of him being diagnosed with a torn UCL on the eve what would be a magical 2015 season.  Wheeler would sit down with Sandy Alderson to tell him he didn’t want to leave.  He wanted to be a part of this team and whatever they could do next.

Even in this lost season, Wheeler has consistently maintained he wants to be a Met.

Well, if Wheeler really wants to be a Met, then he needs to stop pitching this well as Major League Baseball heads towards the trade deadline.

Wheeler completed dominated a Pirates team in the thick of the Wild Card race.

Wheeler would put on a show pitching six scoreless against a Pirates team in the Wild Card race.  He would pitch six scoreless in an all around dominant effort with him walking out just one batter and striking out seven.

With the Mets giving him Jacob deGrom like run support, Wheeler would take matters into his own hands.

After a Luis Guillorme two out single, Wheeler would double him home to give him a 1-0 lead. This would make the second straight game he has hit a double, which would make him a much hitter than Jose Reyes:

In the top of the seventh, Mickey Callaway would have a decision to make.  The Mets had runners on second and third with two outs and Wheeler’s spot coming up.  Even with Wheeler being one of the better hitters in the lineup, Callaway opted to go with Michael Conforto.

Conforto would not start the game because he jammed his thumb.  Even with the jammed thumb, the Pirates were scared enough to intentionally walk him to face Amed Rosario.  Rosario didn’t come through, but he Mets bullpen would.

First, Seth Lugo pitched two scoreless before giving the ball to Anthony Swarzak, who converted his second save chance with the Mets.  With respect to Swarzak, he’s been much better since Jeurys Familia was traded.  There may be any number of factors, including his getting fully healthy and his making adjustments.  Whatever the case, he’s looked and been dominant, giving the Mets a real weapon in the ninth inning.

But the story was Wheeler, who for the first time in his career, has won three consecutive starts.  In those games, he has a 2.61 ERA, 1.016 WHIP, and a 4.25 K/BB ratio.  This has left the Mets with a dilemma.  Do you keep him and have him take a step further forward next year, or do you cash in now?

Given how he wants to be here, and how he’s pitching, it may just make sense to keep him.

Game Notes:  With the split, this marks the first time the Mets did not lose consecutive series since May 15 – 20 when they split a two game series with the Blue Jays and swept the Diamondbacks.

Mets Fans Should Monitor Jason Kipnis’ Production

During the offseason, there were reports the New York Mets had a deal in place for Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, but the deal never did happen.  As noted by Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports, the purported trade wasn’t killed over prospects, but rather, “it was killed by someone at the top, very likely over money.”

The money the Mets would have given to Kipnis eventually went to Jay Bruce despite the team already having Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto tabbed as the corner outfielders over the next three seasons.

This is important to note because after all the moving parts to this offseason, the Mets have a trio of players in Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and Jose Reyes, who both struggle defensively and against right-handed pitching.  Moreover, the triumvirate are also injury prone.

That’s where things were interesting with Kipnis.  Like most anyone who was on the Mets roster last year, Kipnis’ 2017 season was a nightmare.  He had shoulder and hamstring issues.  While we can reasonably believe the hamstring issues will be resolved heading into this season, there could be room for doubt over Kipnis’ shoulder.

At this point, it is important to remember this wasn’t the Carlos Gomez trade.  The Mets killed that deal over physicals.  The Kipnis deal was killed because the Mets couldn’t justify paying him $30.7 million over the next two years.  That’s really interesting.

In 2015 and 2016, Kipnis was a .289/.357/.460 hitter who averaged 42 doubles, 16 homers, and 67 RBI.  It was part of the reason why he averaged a 4.3 WAR over that two year span.

The last time a Mets position player had a WAR that high was Curtis Granderson in 2015 when he had a 5.1 WAR.  The last time the Mets had a position player have consecutive seasons with a 4.0 WAR or greater was David Wright in 2012-2013.

The inability to maintain that high level of production when healthy was not an impediment to the Mets giving large free agent deals to Cespedes or Bruce.  However, for some reason, it was an impediment for the Mets acquiring a player who would have resolved their second base situation for the next two seasons.

With Kipnis, it’s more than just those two years too.  Since 2012, he has posted a 3.9 WAR or higher in four of the last six seasons.  For the sake of comparison, Bruce has had a WAR that high just twice in his 10 year career, and Cabrera has done it just twice in his 11 year career.  For both players, those high WAR seasons came a long time ago.

For Kipnis, he did it recently, and he appears to be that player again.  Yes, Spring Training stats are flawed and shouldn’t be used as a barometer for future success, but Kipnis is 8-14 with five homers.  If nothing else, it tells us he’s healthy and primed to be the 4.0+ win player he has been.

We can’t say the same about Bruce or Cabrera even when they are healthy.  However, for some reason the Mets found the money to pay them and not Kipnis.  In the end if you want a real barometer for how good an offseason the Mets have had, watch how Kipnis produces this season.

If Kipnis is Kipnis while Bruce and Cabreara are Bruce and Cabrera, the team should have some explaining to do.

Mets, Cespedes, And The Difference Between Being Patient And Being Idle

If you look around the free agent landscape, you will see that most Major League teams have yet to make any significant moves.  Even those who have, like the Cardinals, who have obtained Marcell Ozuna, or the Yankees, who obtained Giancarlo Stanton, are still looking to make additional moves to complete their 2018 rosters.

And there are still plenty of real difference makers on the free agent market.  That goes for all positions.  Really, you could build an All Star roster over the players still available:

With all of these players still available, we have begun to hear from different sources how Sandy Alderson has made yet another master stroke.  He is successfully waiting out the market, and as a result, the Mets are bound to get a bargain in free agency.  For proof, we need not look any further than how Alderson signed Yoenis Cespedes in the offseason after the 2015 pennant.

For those that remember, early in that offseason, the Mets had moved on from Cespedes instead signing Alejandro De Aza to take part in a center field platoon with Juan Lagares.  The plan was to go with Curtis GrandersonMichael Cuddyer, and Michael Conforto in the outfield.  From there, things changed rather dramatically.

First, Cuddyer unexpectedly retired.  Perhaps more unexpected than that was no one wanting to give Cespedes a big contract after his terrific run after his getting traded to the Mets.   Part of that was some questions marks that began with his time in Boston.  Another issue was Cespedes being just one huge free agent in a loaded free agent class that included Chris DavisAlex GordonJason Heyward, Justin Upton, and many more.  The other Major League teams chose the other players.

This had left Cespedes as the last major free agent on the board.  While many credited the Mets with sticking it out and getting Cespedes on what was effectively a one year deal, the truth of the matter the team was lucky.  If the Nationals had not deferred much of the money in the 5 year roughly $100 million contract offer they made to Cespedes, it is likely Cespedes would have joined Daniel Murphy on the Nationals.

However, credit is due to the Alderson taking advantage of the situation and getting his man.

If we are being honest with ourselves, that was a bit of a miracle.  It was not a plan that can be emulated.  That goes double for this offseason with so many teams left looking to make moves this offseason.  There are many teams with more money who are looking to fill the same exact holes the Mets are.  The difference between those teams and the Mets is money.

By many accounts, the Mets only have roughly $10 million to spend this offseason.  That is unless they are able to move a contract like Lagares’.  For what it’s worth, if you are a Major League team looking for a center fielder, Cain, Jarrod DysonAustin JacksonCarlos Gomez, and Jon Jay are still available.  Why would you take on Lagares, when you can just sign one of these free agents?

So no, the Mets are not going to free up payroll.  Ultimately, this does not mean the Mets have been patient this offseason.  Instead, the team is being idle.  The key difference between the two is that when you’re patient you’re waiting for something to happen whereas an idle team moves along the offseason hoping for something to happen.

When you have $10 million to spend, are desperately attempting to attach yourselves to a number of rumors to keep the fans happy, and need to add at least five more key players this offseason to be relevant in 2018, you are idle.

One Positive Aspect Of The Mets Season

The one thing we never got to see with Generation K was Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson in the same rotation.  In fact, we have never seen them all in the same pitching staff.  That never happened because of all the injuries they suffered.  Then we saw Isringhausen and Wilson traded in successive years to help the Mets chances of winning a World Series instead of them pitching the Mets to the World Series.

Whatever you want to call the group of Mets young starters (most seemed to like the Five Aces), they never appeared in the same rotation.  The closest we got was seeing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in the same rotation in 2015.  Coincidentally, that was also the year the Mets went to the World Series on the strength of their pitching.

The reason Zack Wheeler was not a part of that group that went to the postseason was because he suffered an injury in Spring Training.  In fact, Wheeler would be gone for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.  For a moment, it seemed as fait accompli the group would never pitch in the same rotation because Wheeler was almost traded to the Brewers with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez.  In fact, if not for Gomez’s hip, the dream would have died there.

Still to this day, we have never seen the five in the same rotation.  However, we have seen them all pitch in the same season in the rotation.  It may not seem like much, but it’s something.  It’s also a step closer to seeing them all in the same rotation.  It may finally happen next year.

Matz should be ready for Opening Day after the surgery to repair his ulnar nerve.  This was the same surgery deGrom had last season, and he was able to last the entire season injury free.  Both Harvey and Syndergaard were able to return and pitch before the season was over.  Like in 2015 and 2016, the only question is Wheeler.

In the end, the Mets are a step closer to having all five of their proverbial aces in the rotation.  At a minimum, they are a step closer to seeing them all on the same pitching staff.  If it does happen, one of the open wounds Mets fans have suffered will close a bit.  Howeve,r that wound will not fully heal until we see this group pitch the Mets to a World Series title.

Mets Straight Flexen

After two straight tough starts to begin his career, Chris Flexen finally had that magical major league experience every organization’s young top prospect envisions they’ll have. 

Staked with a 4-0 lead on the strength of homers hit by Michael ConfortoYoenis Cespedes, and Travis d’Arnaud off Rangers starter A.J. Griffin, Flexen was able to go out there and just focus on getting the batters out. 

Now, it wasn’t always pretty. He did wind up walking three batters. He also came close to hitting a few batters until he finally plunked Rougned Odor in the fourth. With that said, Flexen pitching inside was a welcome change, and it was part of his effectiveness. 

The Rangers wouldn’t score off of him until a Joey Gallo homer to lead-off the fifth. 

Despite the homer in the fifth, Flexen would start the sixth. He would come just short of finishing the inning. If he had, he would’ve doubled the amount of innings he lasted in his first two starts. 

First, it was an Adrian Beltre homer. After a Carlos Gomez two out walk, Terry Collins pulled his young starter and entrusted Erik Goeddel to get the Mets out of the jam. Goeddel would first allow Gallo to hit an RBI double to pull the Rangers to within 4-3 before Goeddel would get out of the inning. 

Flexen’s final line in his first career win was 5.2 innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, three walks, and four strikeouts. In addition to that, Flexen would double in the fifth to collect his first career hit. 

The win would be secured with some good bullpen work from Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos, who collected his first save in a Mets uniform. 

It also helped Asdrubal Cabrera hit an RBI double scoring Conforto in the seventh to provide an insurance run in the 5-4 victory.  That homer loomed large with the Robinson Chirinos two out homer in the ninth. 

The game certainly earned Flexen another opportunity to start. That’s a good thing when you consider the Mets are stubbornly playing their vets over the young kids. At a minimum, we can see the maturation of Flexen. 

Game Notes: Neil Walker had his first career start at first base. Matt Harvey threw a 25 pitch bullpen before the game. 

How Did Wheeler Become The Mets Ace?

Back when the Mets traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler, the Mets touted the trade as the team adding another potential ace that would one day serve as one of the cornerstones of a rotation that would bring the Mets their third World Series title.  Unfortunately, with Wheeler missing two years after his Tommy John surgery, it hasn’t happened that way.

In the time he was gone, he almost became expendable.  Matt Harvey was the ace in 2013, and he was well on his way in 2015 to re-claiming that spot.  Jacob deGrom went from 2014 Rookie of the Year to the Game 1 starter of the 2015 NLDS.  Noah Syndergaard brought a repertoire that included a 100 MPH fastball and a mid 90s slider.  Throw in the tantalizing talent of Steven Matz, and the Mets almost moved Wheeler in 2015 as part of the ill-fated Carlos Gomez deal.  With Gomez’s hips, Wheeler remained a Met, but after he missed all of 2016 as well, he was almost an afterthought.

Now, he has gone from damaged goods to the staff ace.  After shaking off some rust in the early part of the season, he really has been a dominant starting pitchers.  Since May, Wheeler has made six starts going 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.431 WHIP, and a 7.7 K/9 while averaging over six inning per start.  Last night, we watched Wheeler play the part of the stopper with him going seven strong and giving the Mets a chance to snap the Mets out of a funk that saw the team lose five out of its last six games.

Now, many would point to the fact Wheeler is now the staff ace because the rest of the rotation is either injured or has struggled.  Syndergaard is likely gone for the year with a torn lat.  Matz and Seth Lugo have yet to throw a pitch this season.  Harvey and deGrom have not been the same pitchers after last year’s season ending surgeries.  And frankly, anyone is better than Rafael Montero, Adam Wilk, and Tommy MiloneStill, even if everyone was pitching to their best abilities, Wheeler would stand out.

It’s easy to forget, but we did get a taste of this with Wheeler.  In 2014, Wheeler had a stretch from July until September 6th where he made 12 terrific starts.  In those starts, Wheeler was 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9.  During that stretch, Wheeler looked like the ace the Mets thought they were getting when they traded away Beltran.  It was during that stretch where you believed the three starters who would carry the Mets to the World Series were Harvey, deGrom, and Wheeler.

It seems as if Wheeler is recapturing some of what he was back in that terrific 2014 stretch.  If he is, he is certainly becoming the ace the Mets believed he could be.  More than anything, he is the ace the Mets need right now.

Where Are They Now: The 2006 Top 10 Prospects

At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series.  At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman.  Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury.  However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.

Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:

Lastings Milledge

The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues.  He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder.  Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.

Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury.  Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight.  That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old.  In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI.  He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.

Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career.  Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish.  In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons.  He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011.  From there, he would play four years in Japan.  In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes.  Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.

Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015.  No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016.  In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.

Yusmeiro Petit

Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team.  The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado.  Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history.  For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.

Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012.  Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen.  In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.

His best work was in the 2014 postseason.  That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game.  Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher.  In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.

In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016.  He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.

In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP.  Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.

Gaby Hernandez

The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca.  Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.

Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks.  While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it.  He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.

Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream.  Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues.  Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball.  He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP.  At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.

Mike Jacobs

The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado.  The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.

In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games.  While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels.  Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues.  His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.

After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012.  In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI.  As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI.  If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.

At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.

Philip Humber

The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.

The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.

With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good.  With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system.  Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss.  This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets.  In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.

Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets.  Santana and Humber would both enter immortality.  Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history.  Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game.  It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history.  He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game.  He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets.  Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.

In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons.  In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP.  He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts.  In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate.  In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.

Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016.  He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016.  He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.

Carlos Gomez

Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects.  He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.

In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder.  He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins.  However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level.  Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.

In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star.  He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores.  As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.

Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision.  Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers.  In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline.  The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.

Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases.  He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.

Fernando Martinez

From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect.  Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran.  Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.

F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets.  Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions.  As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.

F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI.  Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros.  With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.

In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth.  After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.

In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues.  Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.

Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball.  Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds.  Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.

Anderson Hernandez

The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop.  The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.

Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman.  On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch.  However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level.  That fact may have forever changed Mets history.

Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster.  In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles.  Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game.  Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases.  From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end.  Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.

Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level.  The Mets gave up waiting.  In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.

Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI.  While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.

From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA.  For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues.  In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey.  It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.

Brian Bannister

Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC.  He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets.  Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation.  There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.

Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP.  While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts.  Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year.  By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation.  With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.

With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos.  It was a trade that was detrimental for both players.  Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP.  Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.

After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants.  Bannister would never pitch for the Giants.  After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball.  Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.

Alay Soler

In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba.  The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.

Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006.  He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP.  His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.

Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007.  In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues.  He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010.  In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues.  Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.

At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.

What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short.  This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit.  Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.

Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust.  It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons.  Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series.  There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group.  While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.

Mets Final Season Grades – Opening Day Rotation

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

Matt Harvey D

By now, it is readily apparent Harvey never should have pitched in 2016.  First, there was the blood clots in his bladder that led to him having an abbreviated Spring Training.  Then, it was his complaining about his mechanics.  He just wasn’t himself on the mound, and the Mets began to have discussions about sending him down.  Harvey calmed those concerns a bit by carrying a no-hitter into the fifth against the White Sox.

Even with that start, there was something not quite right with Harvey.  As it turns out, he needed season ending surgery to remove a rib to address his thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).  The TOS was the main culprit for Harvey going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.468 WHIP.  With Harvey having the surgery, we can expect hi to get back to his dominant form instead of the struggling pitcher we saw in 2016.

Jacob deGrom B

Like Harvey, deGrom had some issues of his own.  He had an abbreviate Spring Training due to his newborn son’s health issues.  He had an oblique injury that robbed him of some velocity and movement.  Finally, he had to have season ending surgery himself to address a nerve irritation that was preventing him from pitching.

Ultimately, deGrom adapted to the reduced velocity and movement by locating, and he dominated in day games like he always has.  However, deGrom was not up for the big game like we saw from him.  That was prevalent in an August match-up against Madison Bumgarner that saw both pitchers fail to live up to the pitcher’s duel billing.  In reality, the nerve issue was too much for him towards the end of the season.

Still, it was a good season for deGrom.  It just wasn’t the one we expected from him after he emerged as the Mets ace in 2015.  Overall, deGrom made 24 starts going 7-8 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.203 WHIP.  He should be much better next season.

Noah Syndergaard A

During the second game of the season, Syndergaard showed off a 95 MPH slider.  With that he announced to the world, he was taking the next step forward in a season where he would emerge as the Mets ace.  He would also emerge as a Cy Young candidate.  Syndergaard might have won the Cy Young award too had it not been for the bone spurs he had to learn to pitch with during the middle of the season.

Dealing with the bone spurs was not the only challenges Syndergaard overcame.  He also had to address how he held runners on base.  Gradually throughout the season, and with some help with Rene Rivera behind the plate, he addressed that issue to the point where teams were no longer running at will against him.  He also had to adapt to being able to carry an injury plagued pitching staff.  One of the main things lost in the season was at the end of the year, Syndergaard was really all the Mets had left in the rotation.  He handled the pressure of not just being an ace, but also being the Mets best chance of winning games.  That was most prevalent when he threw seven shutout innings in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game.

For the season, Syndergaard was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP.  He was the league leader in FIP and home runs allowed per nine innings.  Lost in those numbers was a two home run game in Los Angeles and his getting thrown out of a game for throwing at Chase Utley.  It was an eventful year that saw Syndergaard take the next step.  It will be fascinating to see him improve even more next year.

Steven Matz C

Matz’s season was reminiscent of a scene in the the movie Major League.  Announcer Harry Doyle stated as Willie MaysBar Hayes stepped up to the plate that many say you can tell a lot about how a season is going to go based upon the team’s first at-bat of the season.  Well, if you judged by Matz’s first start of the season, you knew it was going to be a rough year for him.

In his first start, Matz couldn’t get out of the second inning after allowing seven runs to the Marlins.  To his credit, Matz would move past that start, and he would start putting together a season worthy of Rookie of the Year consideration.  In fact, by the end of May, Matz would lower his ERA from the gaudy 37.80 it was during his first start all the way down to 2.28.  It was around this time that Matz began dealing with bone spurs in his elbow that changed the way he pitched.

He couldn’t utilize his slider or breaking pitches as often as it caused him pain.  Accordingly, he was less effective on the mound, and he would pitch to a 4.21 ERA until August.  At that point, Matz just couldn’t do it physically anymore.  He needed season ending surgery to remove what was described as a massive bone spur.  The surgery put an end to what was an uneven season from him.

Overall, Matz made 22 starts going 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.209 WHIP.  During the season, he did much to confirm people’s preconceived notions about him.  If you saw him as a possible future ace to join an elite rotation, you saw definitive glimpses of that.  If you saw him as an injury prone pitcher that will never put it together, you saw that as well.  Right now, it is difficult to glean exactly what Matz is and what he will be as a major leaguer.  The 2017 should go a long way on that front.

Bartolo Colon B+

Colon was supposed to be removed from the rotation by the All Star Break.  Instead, he was the only pitcher who didn’t need to skip a start this season.  With the Mets rotation getting decimated by injuries throughout the season, they needed a pitcher like Colon to go out there and not only eat innings, but also to be a reliable pitcher when he took the mound.  Colon responded by having his best year as a Met.

The innings was only part of the Colon story.  In April, he tied Pedro Martinez on the all-time wins list meaning he has won the second most games by a Dominican born pitcher.  Colon would then pass Pedro in May.  Also in May, Colon would actually hit a home run off of James Shields.  These are but a few of the highlights that also included Colon being the best defensive pitcher this season.  It was your typical Colon roller coaster ride that fans seemed to love with the exception being that he actually pitched well this season.

Overall, Colon made 33 starts and one relief appearance going 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.210 WHIP.  He led the majors with the fewest walks per nine innings.  It was the type of season that will help fans remember him fondly when he is pitching for the Braves next season.

Zack Wheeler Incomplete

At the Carlos Gomez trade fell through, Wheeler famously called Sandy Alderson and asked him not to trade him.  The rehabbing pitcher wanted to be a part of a Mets team that was poised to win again in 2016.  It didn’t happen as he did not throw one pitch for the Mets in 2016.

Wheeler’s rehab was plagued with setbacks.  First, he needed surgery to remove an undissolved stitch.  He then experienced elbow discomfort which turned out to be an irritated nerve requiring a cortisone shot.  In August, he was finally able to start facing batters again, and he again experienced elbow discomfort which turned out to be a strained flexor tendon.  With that his season was over before it ever began.

At this point, no one quite knows what to make of Wheeler.  He hasn’t pitched in two seasons, has had two surgeries, and has had a number of elbow issues.  While all indications are that he will be ready to start the 2017, we are at the point that we will believe it when we see it.

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

The Non-Cespedes Mets Outfield Options

With reports that the Mets do not expect they will be able to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, and that was before Neil Walker accepted the $17.2 million qualifying offer, the question is how do you replace the irreplaceable?  Here are some options:

FREE AGENTS

Carlos Gomez

As explained in an earlier MMO article, a rejuvenated Gomez could help the Mets by continuing to play a good center field and by providing another right-handed bat in what protects to be a heavy left-handed Mets lineup.

Ian Desmond

After not getting a significant contract offer with a qualifying offer attached to him, he bet on himself taking a one year $8 million deal from the Texas Rangers.

Desmond was an All Star who hit .285/.335/.446 with 29 doubles, 22 homers, and 85 RBI.   However, Desmond does have some red flags:

  1. He rated below average defensively in center field (-4.5 UZR);
  2. He hit only .269/.324/.429 off right-handed pitching; H
  3. He fell apart in the second half hitting .237/.283/.347; H
  4. He hit .330/.368/.497 at hitter friendly Ballpark at Arlington and .241/.305/.398 in the road; and
  5. He may get a qualifying offer.

Matt Holliday

Infamously, the Mets chose Jason Bay over him heading in the 2009 offseason. Bay would struggle immensely at Citi Field while Holliday would win a World Series with the Cardinals.

While Holliday has been injury prone the past few years, he has still hit. He has always been an average to below average left fielder, and the 37 year old is coming off his worst year out there. It is part of the reason he began transitioning to first base with the Cardinals. If the Mets were to sign him, he could fulfill the role the Mets envisioned Michael Cuddyer would have.

Jose Bautista

Of all the available free agents, Bautista is the one who is best suited to replicate the offensive production Cespedes provided the Mets.  Over the past three seasons, Bautista has hit .259/.383/.508 while averaging 32 homers and 95 RBI.  If you are looking for a difference maker in the lineup, Bautista fits the bill.

However, there are some reason to be hesitant to sign Bautista.  First, he is a 36 year old coming off his worst season since 2009 (as per OPS+).  Second, he has been in decline as an outfielder over the past three seasons.  Third and most importantly, he is going to be expensive.  It is anticipated Bautista will received a qualifying offer, and he reportedly wants 5 years $150 million in free agency.

Mark Trumbo

Trumbo certainly enjoyed hitting at Camden Yards for a full season.  Trumbo went from a career .251/.301/.460 hitter who averaged 26 homers to a .256/.316/.533 hitter who led the majors with 47 homers.  Naturally, when there is a jump like that with a player, there are a number of reasons why a team like the Mets should shy away.

Throughout his career, Trumbo has struggled against left-handed pitching.  This isn’t exactly appealing when you consider he would be joining an outfield with three other left-handed hitters.  Furthermore, he did most of his damage this past season at Camden Yards showing much of his career year was generated by his home ballpark.  Lastly, Trumbo is really a 1B/DH masquerading as an outfielder.

Carlos Beltran

Reuniting with Beltran certainly seems like it would be a stretch considering he has already stated his intentions that he wants to DH next year, and he wants to return to the Texas Rangers.  It is certainly understandable considering he will be 40 next season, and he has been a below average right fielder the past three years.

Still, Beltran can his positive attributes.  Over the past three years, Beltran has hit .271/.327/.468 while averaging 21 homers and 70 RBI.  We know from his time with the Mets, he is great in the clubhouse, and he helps younger players with the preparation and conditioning aspect of the game.  It is something Beltran did with both David Wright and Jose Reyes immediately upon joining the Mets.  Finally, Beltran is one of the greatest postseason hitters of all time.  For a team with World Series aspirations, Beltran could help on that front.

THE TIGERS

Justin Upton

As luck would have it, the Padres rejected the Mets offer of Michael Fulmer for Upton leading the Mets to offer him in exchange for Cespedes.  Once again, the Tigers are looking to trade an outfielder, and the Mets may have interest in a player like Upton.

Upton has always been a good hitter in his major league career.  In his nine years as a starter, he is a .270/.349/.476 hitter who averages 24 homers and 77 RBI in his nine years as a starter.  Generally speaking, he has never been a guy that will hurt you in the outfield even if he is coming off a poor year offensively.  Between his offense, his defense, and his friendship with Wright, you could make a very good case why the Mets should purse Upton.

There is also over $110 million reasons why you would want to avoid Upton.  If Upton were not to exercise he opt out clause, which he would use after the 2017 season, the Mets would be on the hook for the full amount of the remaining $110.625 million remaining on his contract.  Typically speaking, the Mets have not shown the interest in adding contract like that to the payroll.

Now, Upton could also opt out of his contract, which would put the Mets in the same position as they are this offseason.  They will likely be unable to re-sign him, and in return, all they can recoup for him is a compensatory first round draft pick.  Compensatory draft picks are great when they become players like Fulmer who are real assets that can help the major league team.  They are also suspect when they become players like Anthony Kay, who failed a physical and needs Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a professional pitch.

J.D. Martinez

Over the last three seasons, Martinez has blossomed into a terrific hitter.  In Detroit, he has hit .299/.357/.540 while averaging 28 homers and 82 RBI.  Up until this year, he has also been a solid outfielder.  You can do a lot worse than Martinez in trying to replace Cespedes.

That’s part of the reason why he will be difficult to obtain.  Next year is the final year of his contract that pays him $11.75 million.  While the Tigers are looking to shed payroll, they will likely seek a king’s ransom in exchange for a player that has a very favorable contract for next season.  With the Mets having traded away some many big pieces over the past two seasons, and with them being reluctant to trade players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, it is hard to see them pulling off a trade for a cheap outfielder who has terrific production.

INTERNAL OPTIONS

As it stands right now, the Mets have two corner outfielders in Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson who are coming off 30 home run seasons.  With them at the corners, it is possible the Mets feel as if they are already set in left and right field even with one of them having to change positions.

The Mets may even have more faith in their outfield as is with Michael Conforto.  In his young career, he has shown the Mets glimpses of his being a brilliant hitter.  He was undaunted as a rookie in 2015.  He was perhaps the best hitter in baseball in April 2016.  He responded to a demotion after a wrist injury and his slumping by hitting .493/.541/.821 with six homers and 13 RBI in 17 August games in AAA.  With Conforto having shown glimpses of what his true talent level is, and with him showing the willingness to put in the work, the Mets may very well gamble on Conforto in 2017.

The fact that Granderson and Conforto can also play center field gives the Mets options on a game to game basis.  It allows them to put all three out there, and it allows them to sit one for rest or to avoid a tough left-handed pitcher to get Lagares’ glove in the outfield.  Overall, the Mets may very well stay internal to replace Cespedes’ production.  It is a gamble, and that gamble may be the difference between going to the postseason or staying home in 2017.

Editor’s Note: a version of this article was first published on Mets Merized Online

Carlos Gomez – Because the Mets Are Counting on Justin Ruggiano

Reports are that Justin Ruggiano has begun his rehab assignment in Las Vegas.  It’s strange to think that is the case because Ruggiano was released from the Texas Rangers while he was in AAA before the Mets picked him up.  Apparently, it is because the Mets believed he was a better option in center field than just about anyone, including Michael Conforto.

It was an odd decision considering Ruggiano is not a particularly good defensive center fielder.  Over the course of his career, he has a -6.4 UZR and a -9 DRS.  If the Mets were looking to add him for offense for when the team faces left-handed pitching, their decision making is equally misguided as Ruggiano is a career .271/.334/.516 hitter against them.  Overall, the addition of Ruggiano could be classified as a bit of a panic move as Yoenis Cespedes is unable to play center field for the rest of the year, and Terry Collins has outright refused to play Conforto and Brandon Nimmo against left-handed pitchers.  Long story short, the Mets are without a true center fielder, especially when there is a lefty on the mound.  In some ways, the Mets signing Ruggiano was the team making the best out of a bad situation.

However, now there is a better center field option available as the Houston Astros have released Carlos Gomez.

Now, the Astros released Gomez as he has been terrible for them.  Since he joined them last year, Gomez has hit .221/.277/.342 as an Astro.  With each and every game, Gomez faltered, and he justified the Mets decision to void the trade to acquire him for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores due to concerns about his hip.  However, now, the Mets can acquire Gomez, and they should be interested.

From 2013 – 2015, Gomez averaged an 11.7 UZR and a 13 DRS in center field.  Now, his defense has slipped from his 2013 Gold Glove caliber season, but judging on the advanced defensive metrics, Gomez has been an average at worst defensive center fielder no matter what Collin McHugh thinks:

Look, Gomez is available because he has been a bad baseball player for the past year.  However, he is not that far removed from being a very productive major leaguer, and he is still only 30 years old.

If the Mets really want a right-handed bat as a platoon option, if the Mets want a player who still may have upside, and a player that can actually play center field, the Mets should go out and get Carlos Gomez.  But they won’t, and it shouldn’t come as any surprise as this is a team that truly believes Ty Kelly is currently a better option in the outfield than Conforto right now.  This is a team that passed over Juan Uribe to keep Kelly on the roster.

Passing on Gomez in favor of Ruggiano will become just the latest in a series of curious roster decisions the Mets have made this season.