There were rumors Dominic Smith wasn’t going to be happy with a bench or part-time role with the New York Mets, and he wanted one elsewhere. As is typically the case, that came around the time he was almost traded. Well, Smith, himself, put those rumors to rest:
🎥 Following a weekend of pretty serious trade rumors, Dominic Smith acknowledges that while he'd love a chance to play full-time somewhere, he's happy to be in New York and happy to be a Met. pic.twitter.com/tDEJHvJjsh
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 4, 2022
Smith has long made the case he should play everyday. We are seeing it again this spring. His shoulder is healthy, and Max Scherzer noted Smith is hitting balls he hasn’t hit before in his career out for homers. Once again, Smith is poised to have a big season.
More than that, Smith is someone who wants to be a Met. In years past, that is not something which the Mets have actually valued. It is an odd thing to see loyalty and allegiance not valued or honored, but that was the way the Mets were operated under the Wilpons.
That’s not to say those values should be treated in higher regard than performance. However, the Mets have taken poor stock of a player’s drive to succeed not just in baseball but with the Mets. They overlooked skills and conditions which served as detriments to performance. Instead, of removing those obstacles, they just removed the player and later lamented why that player is thriving elsewhere.
It is something we have seen time and again. Justin Turner and his new launch angle approach became an All-Star, NLCS MVP, and World Series champion with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wilmer Flores has been a coveted and very successful role player. The list goes on and on.
That list includes Zack Wheeler. When he and Flores were almost traded for Carlos Gomez, Wheeler went to the Mets and said he wanted to stay. He backed that up by getting healthy and improving each season. In his last season with the Mets, it was apparent he was emerging as an ace.
Wheeler went to the Philadelphia Phillies, and he arguably should have won the Cy Young award in 2021. He was that good, and he will continue to be that good as the Mets continue to try to address pitching depth in their organization. To be fair here, things are much improved under Steve Cohen.
When the Mets have a player who is on the verge of a breakout, and that player wants to be a Met, the Mets need to find a way to get that player to succeed here. Like Wheeler, Smith has. Now, the Mets need to make sure they allow him to succeed in 2022 and beyond. It is the right thing to do for someone who is going to be a very good and impactful player, and it is the right thing to do for someone committed to this franchise.
When you obtain a player at the trade deadline, you are really rolling the dice, and you are hoping that player can have a tremendous impact on your team as it attempts to make it to the postseason. That was exactly what the Mets got out of Yoenis Cespedes in 2015.
The 2015 season was a turbulent one. The Mets had a number of injuries as it saw an early April lead turn into a deficit in July. The Mets offense couldn’t score runs. There was a failed trade which had Wilmer Flores crying, Zack Wheeler trying to convince the Mets not to trade him, and Carlos Gomez stuck (temporarily) in Milwaukee with previously unknown hip issues. It was a mess which led to the Mets acquiring Cespedes.
After a relatively slow start, one where the Mets had gone atop the division, Cespedes went on an epic tear. From August 3 – August 26, he hit .323/.356/.625 with six doubles, a triple, seven homers, and 21 RBI. From August 3 – September 14, he hit .315/.361/.714 with 10 doubles, three triples, 17 homers, and 42 RBI. Rarely have the Mets had as an exciting and dynamic a player as what Cespedes was during this stretch. It wasn’t just that he was hitting. It was the hits he got.
In terms of that season, what really stood out was his Labor Day series against the Nationals which essentially locked up the division for the Mets. In that three game series, Cespedes was 6-for-14 with three doubles, two homers, and seven RBI. Honestly, you could not ask for more from him or anyone.
Keep in mind, it wasn’t just his bat but his defense as well. He willingly bounced back-and-forth between left and center (winning the AL Gold Glove in left), and he would make a number of highlight reel plays. Those especially showed off his great arm.
When the Mets went to the postseason, Cespedes did not have the same level of impact as he did in the regular season. That said, there were two very important plays which come to mind. The first was in Game 3 of the NLDS when he sent Citi Field into an absolute frenzy with one of the best bat flips in Mets history:
The next moment was in Game 1 of the NLCS. In the fifth inning of that game, the Cubs had already tied the game in the fifth inning on a Starlin Castro RBI double. Two batters later, Javier Baez hit a single to right which normally would have scored a run. Normally . . .
The Mets would win the pennant but lose the World Series. After a long odyssey in the offseason which saw the Mets initially try to replace Cespedes with Alejandro De Aza, Cespedes had turned down a deferred contract from the Washington Nationals to return to the Mets on what was essentially a one year deal. Cespedes earned that deal and then some.
It’s odd to think about, but the 2016 season would prove to be Cespedes only real full season in a Mets uniform. In the beginning, it was all fun with the cars and crazy breakfasts. In that season, he was an All-Star, win a Silver Slugger, and he would finish eighth in MVP voting. He did all that despite it being an injury plagued year where he would get criticism for golfing (even if Kevin Long thought it helped his swing). Despite the criticism, the fact was the Mets were a better team with Cespedes on the field.
Part of the reason was Cespedes came up big when the Mets needed him most. In August, as the Mets made their improbable run towards the top Wild Card, Cespedes was torrid hitting .340/.400/.680 with two doubles, five homers, and 10 RBI. That included a walk-off homer against the Marlins.
That Mets team would charge to the postseason, but sadly, they could not advance past the Wild Card Game. This time, the Mets would not let Cespedes linger or risk him signing with another team. Rather, they locked him up quickly. Unfortunately, it has been two injury plagued years as we discovered Cespedes had a double heel problem which required surgery. Things went from bad to worse when he broke his ankle in a wild boar attack.
However, through all of that, Cespedes was a game changing type of bat. That was no more apparent than his last game before his surgeries. After a lengthy DL stint, the myopic Mets activated Cespedes just for the Subway Series. In the lone game he was able to DH, he was 2-for-5 with two runs, a homer, and an RBI.
The hope now is if the Mets ever play in 2020 Cespedes can be that game-changing bat again whether that be as a DH or back in LF. As it stands now, many hoped for more from him in this last contract, but when all is said and done, he is the sixth best Mets LF by WAR, which is remarkable considering he’s played fewer games as a Met than anyone in the top eight and the second fewest among anyone in the top 12. That speaks to how big his impact has been in a short time and why he’s the best Mets player to ever wear the number 52.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver
42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw
46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
When discussing Zack Wheeler, there are some important things to consider. Aside from being an ace level pitcher the past two years, Wheeler wanted to be a Met.
He called Sandy Alderson to tell him he wanted to stay when the Carlos Gomez fell apart. He also came back to the Mets before accepting a discounted deal with the Phillies. Overall, every chance he got, Wheeler averred how much he wanted to remain in the Mets rotation.
Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t care.
Now, these are always difficult situations, and to be fair, there are very few things you can say to come across well. Still, when you offer comments, the goal is to offer platitudes and leave no room for hard feelings. After all, you’re not only dealing with a player who spent many years with the Mets, but you’re also going to have to face him over the next five years.
Van Wagenen botched it saying, ““The value for what we thought the investment [was] didn’t line up. The projections that we had for Zack both short-term and long-term didn’t quite match up to the market he was able to enjoy.” (Tim Healey, Newsday).
Again, this is a player who wanted to be a Met. He was a good Met too. There’s no need to say he wasn’t worth the money. Really, there’s no need to even go there.
It boils down to decency, but beyond that, you don’t want someone with an extra chip on their shoulder to beat you time and again over the next five years.
Well, Van Wagenen decided differently, and Wheeler noticed. As noted in Kevin Kernan’s article in the New York Post, boy did he notice:
“I don’t need any more motivation. I already got it,’’ Wheeler told The Post away from the crush of media. “But that’s his opinion. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but yeah, that may help me out a little bit.’’
Basically, Van Wagenen took a bit of a shot at Wheeler, and Wheeler got the last word. Not only did Wheeler note he’s a little more motivated, but he also took a real shot by following this up by saying, “He watched me I guess when he was watching his other players on the team.”
The “his players” is a barb which hits home with Mets fans.
Jed Lowrie got a two year deal worth $20 million, and in the first year, he had only eight pinch hitting attempts.
At a time when the Mets needed a fifth starter, he signed Michael Wacha, who has a bum shoulder, and when you break it down, he needs to prove he’s capable of being a Major League starter again. Instead of the minor league deal he should’ve received, the CAA client got a Major League deal and was told he’d start.
Perhaps, this is what Wheeler meant when he said “his players.” Maybe it was a Freudian slip. It’s possibly Wheeler was just calling his former teammates Van Wagenen’s guys because they’re still there.
Whatever the case, it’s apparent Wheeler feels slighted. Now, he’s in a position to both beat the Mets and needle them like he did when talking about the Phillies’ analytic department and J.T. Realmuto.
In doing that, Wheeler got the last word. If he pitches like he did over the last two years, he’s going to get the last laugh.
Last week, Zack Wheeler signed a five year $118 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, unlike in 2015, a phone call to the General Manager would not be enough to continue his Mets career. The shame there is in many ways Wheeler always represented hope to Mets fans.
Back in 2011, we were already in the wake of the Madoff Scandal, and it became increasingly clear the Mets were not going to build upon the current core. The first player gone from that core would be Carlos Beltran. With the Beltran trade, the rebuild was officially on, and due to Sandy Alderson’s shrewdness, he was able to acquire Wheeler, who was the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft.
With Wheeler, the Mets had real hope for the future. With him was a plan to contend once again. We could see the plan was to build a great rotation around him, Matt Harvey, and back then it was Rafael Montero as part of the group. That was the Mets future.
While Harvey burst onto the scene, Wheeler’s was more of a steady rise. His Major League debut was promising with his having a 104 ERA+ in 17 starts. He had a mediocre start to his 2014 season, and then suddenly in his last start of June something seemed to click. From June 30 to September 7, he would go 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.
With that finishing kick to the season, you could see him pairing with the returning Harvey and reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom to form a dominant top of the rotation which could bring the Mets back to the World Series. As we know, the Mets did win the pennant in 2015, but Wheeler would not be a part of it.
On the eve of the 2015 season, disaster would strike as Wheeler would tear his UCL. He would miss the entirety of the 2015 season. Due to multiple setbacks in his recovery, he would also miss the entirety of the 2016 season. While he was gone, it does not mean it was an uneventful recovery.
On that fateful July night, it was Wheeler who was supposed to be the key piece in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers reuniting the Mets with CF Carlos Gomez. While Wilmer Flores was crying on the field and Gomez’s medical records were being perused, Wheeler was trying to let the Mets know he wanted to be a part of this team. He wanted to be a New York Met.
Wheeler got through to Alderson, and for his part Alderson made sure to make Wheeler a part of the Mets future. He held onto Wheeler during his struggles after a two year layoff which included his dealing with a stress reaction. Still, the Mets believed in him, and in 2018, the Mets faith in him would be rewarded.
In 2018, Wheeler would emerge as an ace level pitcher. What is odd is it wouldn’t start out that way. He would first begin the year in the minors only to come up to the majors to take Jason Vargas‘ spot in the rotation, and he woudl stay there despite some early season struggles due to Harvey’s being designated for assignment.
Much like 2014, something clicked at the end of June. Over his final 15 starts of the season, he was 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.924 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, and an 8.9 K/9. What is interesting about that finish is even with deGrom clearly being the best pitcher in baseball, Wheeler would have a better second half ERA than him.
Once again, Wheeler’s second half gave hopes for the Mets return to the postseason. This time, Wheeler would be healthy, and despite the Mets nearly playing themselves out of it in the first half, he would get his opportunity to pitch in a postseason race.
Wheeler stepped up his game. From June 22 until the end of the season, he was 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and an 8.2 K/9. While the Mets didn’t get that second Wild Card, he was rewarded for his faith in himself and this team.
The Mets were also rewarded in their faith in him. As alluded to earlier, Wheeler emerged as an ace over the past two seasons.
Wheeler has emerged as a pitcher who gives you 30 starts a year and over 180 innings. That’s equivalent to 6.1 innings per start. His 3.37 FIP over the past two seasons is 10th best in the Majors ahead of pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, and Madison Bumgarner. His hard hit rate put him ahead of everyone except his teammates deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
In total, Wheeler became exactly what was promised when the Mets obtained him from Beltran in 2011. What was promised was not just the hope Wheeler had provided but also the great pitcher they believed he could be. It may have been a turbulent road to get there, but get there he did.
For that, every Mets fan should be grateful to Wheeler. We should be grateful for his giving us hope for nearly a decade, especially at those time when it seemed the most bleak. We should be grateful he became that great pitcher we all hoped he would be. Mostly, we should be grateful he wanted to be a Met, even at the very end when he came back to the Mets and asked them to re-sign him.
To that end, thank you for an eventual Mets career, Zack Wheeler. You were a class act, and you deserve nothing but the best in the future.
As the Mets look to improve their roster, the one gaping hole is center field. It has been a problem for years with the Mets looking at stop gap options like Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto partially due to Juan Lagares inability to stay on the field and his inconsistent production at the plate, and last year, in the field.
Brodie Van Wagenen has said the team is looking for a right-handed bat at the position. On that note, the free agent center field options are quite poor. In fact, some of the more viable options are Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez, three players whom the Mets realized were not real options.
When looking past the right-hand side, the options aren’t exactly great. The best option of the entire group is likely Shogo Akiyama, and he’s a 32 year old who has never played in the Majors. Further compounding that, Akiyama is said to have slipped defensively meaning he should probably move to a corner spot in 2020.
Fact is, there is no real good option. Looking at the trade route, the best known option is Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley hasn’t been a league average hitter since 2016, and he has had consecutive negative DRS seasons. While he can still handle the position defensively, his defense is not at the point where he can justify his bat or a raise from his 2018 $8.55 million arbitration salary.
To that point, Brodie Van Wagenen has said the Mets need to be creative this offseason, so perhaps they should be creative and move Amed Rosario to center.
The impulse to make that move has subsided with Rosario posting a 0 DRS in the second half. That was a significant improvement from his -16 DRS in the first half and the -16 DRS he posted at the position in 2018. With his only being 23, we can expect him to improve, but considering the level he is at now, it is debatable he can ever reach the lofty Gold Glove expectations we all once had for him.
He might be that if he moved to center.
Baseball Savant noted Rosario had a 29.2 ft/sec sprint speed last year. That is essentially the same speed as Victor Robles and Kevin Kiermaier, and it is quicker than Lorenzo Cain and Manuel Margot. Those of four of the top five center fielders in DRS last year. If nothing else, that tells us Rosario has the speed to cover the position.
Looking at last year, Jeff McNeil worked with Luis Rojas during Spring Training to get up to speed quickly on being an outfielder. During the 2019 season, McNeil proved to be a good outfielder with a 2 DRS with his time split between left and right.
Looking at Rosasrio, he has the speed, and he has the coaching. With his tools and drive, he has all he needs to succeed as center fielder. That goes double with him having an offseason and Spring Training to work on it. The only question is why would the Mets do it. Well, there are two reasons.
First and foremost, there are no real center field options available to the Mets. This leaves them having to hope for magic with a retread or for their getting creative with a solution like Rosario. Now, moving Rosario to center would create a hole at short. On that note, there are better options available like Didi Gregorius and Jose Iglesias.
Those two short term options are much more appealing than any of the center field options available this offseason. On the subject of the short term, the Mets also have to take some consideration of Andres Gimenez. While Gimenez struggled in 2019, he did deal with hand injuries, and he did rebound with an excellent stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Ultimately, the Mets may have to find space for Rosario and Gimenez on the same roster. The Mets could faciliate that by moving Rosario to center. It is a good long term solution, and really, considering the options available at both center and short this offseason, it is the best short term solution as well.
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said something very interesting to the press during these GM Meetings. Notably, as transcribed by Mike Puma of the New York Post, he said, “Center field is not as easy as waking up in the morning and finding a solution.”
This is a sentiment which rings very true, and we have seen teams act accordingly. The Minnesota Twins were very patient with Byron Buxton, who was finally a league average hitter in his fifth Major League season. Previously to Buxton, they had been patient with Aaron Hicks until he was traded for John Ryan Murphy, who at the time was a promising catcher.
When Hicks broke out, the Yankees made sure to extend Hicks to a lucrative contract extension. This speaks to how hard it is to get a center fielder. When a center fielder comes available, teams do spend to get them. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain to a five year $80 million deal.
For the Mets last year, there were no easy solutions. Juan Lagares would have the worst year of his career from both sides of the plate. Brandon Nimmo was hurt for much of the year. Keon Broxton wasn’t the player the Mets hoped he would be leading to his designated for assignment followed by failed hopes in the form of Aaron Altherr, Carlos Gomez, and Rajai Davis.
This led to the Mets once again moving Michael Conforto to center. While he has been a good sport, he has proven himself to be a good stopgap and nothing more. This is not too dissimilar from what we saw with Yoenis Cespedes in 2015.
The lesson is when you have a center fielder, you need to hold onto that player for as long as you can. That is what the best run teams in baseball do.
The Mets did have that center fielder in the minors in the form of Jarred Kelenic. In short order, he proved to be a much better player than even the Mets could’ve hoped he would be when they made him the sixth overall pick in the draft.
He has been so good that at the moment, MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 13th best prospect in baseball. He also rose all the way to Double-A at the end of the 2019 season. His likely beginning the 2020 season in Double-A means his making his Major League debut next year is not out of the question. Barring injury, we should see that happen at least by 2022.
Instead of having patience building this Mets team and allowing them to reap the benefits of having a Kelenic in center for a decade or hopefully more, Van Wagenen trying to shortcut the process. He included Kelenic in a deal for a older second baseman in Robinson Cano and a closer in Edwin Diaz.
Aside from the complications Cano and his contract provide, like re-signing Zack Wheeler, the trade itself cost the Mets a center fielder in Kelenic. With Kelenic, Van Wagenen was going to be in a position where he can wake up one day and have a long term solution in center.
Instead, he cycled through option after option in 2019 to no avail. He enters the offseason with few trade assets and little to no budget to sign a center fielder or to take on salary in a trade. The real shame is he eventually learned his lesson after he was all to rash to swing an ill-advised deal trading away a potentially very good center fielder.
The Mets did good by hiring Carlos Beltran as the 22nd manager in team history. In Beltran, they have someone who is a very good communicator who has the ability to unite a clubhouse while also teaching players things to help them significantly improve. Given his skill set, he can be a superstar manager like he was a superstar player.
However, Beltran in and of himself is not going to be enough to take this Mets team over the top.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the team is going to need a fifth starter. At the moment, internal options like Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are not ready to step up to fill that void. The team has mentioned Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as options, but that only serves to further damage what is already a weak bullpen.
In 2019, Lugo and Justin Wilson were the only dependable relievers in that bullpen. When you look at it, even assuming a bounce-back from Edwin Diaz, this team still needs at least two big arms in the bullpen this offseason. They will need more if Gsellman or Lugo move to the rotation making that decision to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The Mets also need a center fielder, third baseman, backup catcher, and just plain old depth. With Juan Lagares having his option declined, they need a defensive replacement. The team cannot rely upon Jed Lowrie to contribute anything. Tomas Nido was a good defensive catcher, but with his complete inability to hit, you wonder how much you can rely upon him to be on the roster for a full season.
All told, this is a Mets roster which needs a lot of work. Given the dearth of prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A level last year, the team is going to have to acquire those players this offseason instead of looking from within. With all the prospects the Mets traded away over the last year, it is going to be difficult to trade their way back to contention.
That leaves the Mets with spending, and with the Mets being owned by the Wilpons, that is a dicey proposition.
Now, there are some who will say the Mets did spend last year. According to Spotrac, the Mets 2019 payroll was $160.5 million which ranked 10th in the majors.
Lost in that was how David Wright‘s $15 million is included in that amount. Wright had a portion of that salary covered by insurance, and the Mets renegotiated future payments with Wright. The figure also included Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary which was covered by insurance. Between Wright’s full salary and 70% of Cespedes’ salary being covered, the Mets payroll was reduced by $35.5 million.
That reduces the Mets REAL 2019 payroll to $125 million, which would’ve ranked 18th in the majors. That number is all the worse when you consider Adeiny Hechavarria and Carlos Gomez were cut before roster bonuses were due, and Jason Vargas was traded so the team could clear payroll space after obtaining Marcus Stroman.
As of today, the Mets payroll is $168.8 million. Now, that figure includes Wright’s $12 million, Cespedes’ $29.5 million, and the $5.1 projected arbitration figure due Joe Panik. On that front, as noted earlier, Wright’s contract was been renegotiated, and it is very likely Panik is non-tendered. With respect to Cespedes, there will be no insurance protection this year.
When you dig a little more, that $168.8 includes Jacob deGrom‘s $27.5 million salary. On that front, the $27.5 million figure is for competitive balance tax purposes only. In reality, deGrom is only making $13 million meaning $12.5 million of his salary is deferred.
This means the Mets ACTUAL payroll obligations are $139.2million. That is before the Mets go forward looking to add players this offseason. Still, people will point to the competitive balance tax as a reason why the Mets can’t spend. Let’s take a look at it for a second.
Putting reason aside, assuming the Mets sign Wheeler to a deal with a $30 million average annual value raising the payroll obligations to $188.8. That puts the Mets $19.2 million short of the $208 competitive balance tax figure.
Taking a more realistic approach, assume the Mets don’t go and sign Anthony Rendon. For a minute, just assume the Mets sign a Mike Moustakas ($10 million AAV), Drew Pomeranz ($8 million AAV), and a backup catcher like Jonathan Lucroy ($2 million AAV). Assume the rest of the roster is filled out for a cost of around $5 million, which is probably the very low end.
Assuming Panik is non-tendered, that puts competitive balance payroll at $213.8 million. That would incur the “tax penalty.” The amount of the penalty? It would only be $1.2 million. That’s it.
When looking at the $1.2 million remember the Mets already have $12 million off the books with Wright and $12.5 million deferred with deGrom. As a result, the $1.2 million is more than covered. When you look at it, the Mets can really blow past that $208 million this year.
In fact, the Mets should considering they have Cespedes’$29 million coming off the books completely, and the same can be said for Wright’s $12 million. Essentially, the Mets have $41 million coming off the books.
Whether the Mets will be proactive remains to be seen. If history is any measure, they won’t. Just remember, when they don’t, we should not let them invoke the competitive balance tax as a reason because it is not in any way a real impediment.
The only impediment to the Mets spending are the Mets themselves, and that is not in any way acceptable.
The New York Mets have begun assembling their list of managerial candidates, and they are beginning to set up interviews with different candidates. Judging from what we heard when he broadcasted Mets games this year, Joe Girardi really wants this job. Given his being a very good manager, the Mets should be doing all they could do to hire him.
But . . .
Even with Girardi being the best candidate available there are some red flags with him. He was fired from the Marlins for an inability to get along with ownership, and there probably aren’t any more meddlesome owners in sports than the Wilpons. While he has managed in New York, and he has worked in the media, he was never great handling the New York press. No, he wasn’t bad, but he does have a tendency to be a bit cantankerous, which does not play well in the press.
In terms of the fanbase, Mets fans who have loudly criticized Mickey Callaway for not having a feel for the game are going to go berserk with Girardi and his binders. There is also the issue of how things ended poorly with the Yankees in terms of communication with the players.
Taking all that into account, Girardi is still an excellent manager who would make the Mets better. Yet, there is one massive reason why the Mets should not hire him.
In Girardi’s last year managing the Yankees, he was making $4 million a year. Even if he accepts some form of a discount, the Mets are still going to owe Callaway $850,000 in 2020. Being that this is the Mets, that money can be damaging.
Adeiny Hechavarria was cut one day prior to his being owed a $1 million roster bonus. Carlos Gomez was cut as he was about to reach bonus levels. That’s at least $1.25 million the Mets could not afford to spend in-season. Connecting the dots further, it appeared the Mets needed to trade Jason Vargas to fit Marcus Stroman into the budget.
The Mets operate with a shoestring budget. Assuming the combined cost of Girardi and Callaway is $4 million, that is going to cost the Mets at least one player, maybe more.
That salary level is just $1 million less than what Justin Wilson will earn in 2020. That means Girardi will cost the Mets a late inning reliever they so desperately need. That puts more of an onus on Seth Lugo and puts the Mets in a position where they will have to completely rely on an Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia rebound.
In addition to the bullpen, the Mets need to add a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler. That extra couple of million to Girardi could make the difference between a trusted arm and them having to turn to Walker Lockett or Corey Oswalt.
The Mets could use some bench help too. The money to Girardi likely means the Mets are stuck with Tomas Nido and his bat as the backup catcher. That means there Mets are likely stuck looking at a series of minor league deals to league minimums for an everyday center fielder or defensive replacement. That’s if they can afford that.
Overall, a few million may not seem as much to normal teams, but to the Mets that is crippling to their ability to add players to the roster. In the end, the Mets really need to ask themselves if Girardi alone is enough to overcome a fifth starter, one or more arms in the bullpen, and/or bench depth.
While Girardi is good, he’s not that good. No one is. As a result, the Mets should probably be looking to hire another (read cheaper) manager.
There were plenty of reasons to fire Mickey Callaway if you wanted. In fact, his incident with Tim Healey in and of itself was grounds for firing. To the extent it was Callaway and not the front office making some of those curious moves, you certainly have further justification.
However, what you really can’t do is pin the Mets failures to make the postseason at Callaway’s lap, which is what firing him does. That was all the more the case when Brodie Van Wagenen was trying to spin the 2019 season as a positive, including but not limited to noting Edwin Diaz had 26 saves.
Before proceeding, some background is necessary here.
By and large, the Mets were seen as a third or fourth place team in the division with around 85 wins. For example, ZiPS predicted the Mets would finish the year 87-75 in a three way tie for second place in the division. Looking at the 2019 season, the Mets Pythagorean was 86-76, and it just so happened, that was the Mets final record as they finished in third place in the division.
To that extend, the Mets neither over nor underachieved. Rather, you could argue they performed as expected. Of course, lost in that was all that happened during the season.
Pete Alonso had a season greater than anyone could’ve imagined. Jeff McNeil was an All-Star. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half. The Mets got more production from J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith than they could’ve reasonably expected.
Looking at that alone, you would say the Mets should’ve finished much better than they did. After all, when you are getting that level of production from your young players, the Mets should have been in the Braves position. They would fall far short of that.
There were many reasons for that. Brandon Nimmo would miss over three months of the season. Jed Lowrie would record no hits in only nine pinch hitting attempts. Robinson Cano had an injury plagued year, and when he did play he was not up to his typical standards. Aside from Seth Lugo, the bullpen was mainly a mess. Noah Syndergaard would struggle with the new ball and the new catcher.
The Syndergaard point brings up another interesting point. All the moves Van Wagenen made this offseason proved to be a downgrade from what was already on the team.
Ramos’ 1.4 fWAR was lower than Travis d’Arnaud‘s 1.6. Another interesting note is d’Arnaud would have a 107 OPS+ with the Rays, which is the same Ramos would have with the Mets the whole year. The Mets would cut d’Arnaud after one horrible game leaving the Mets with Tomas Nido as the backup for the full season. He’d have a -0.5 fWAR, which is lower than both d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (0.2).
Cano’s 0.3 WAR was lower than McNeil’s 5.0. Worse yet, it was only 0.1 higher than Justin Dunn‘s 0.2 in four games with the Mariners this year. In fact, Dunn’s 0.2 WAR was much higher than Diaz’s -0.6. Things get worse when you consider Anthony Swarzak had a 0.0 WAR.
Long story short, the Mets would have been better off in 2019 if this trade was never made. What makes this all the more scary is this was supposed to be the year the Mets benefited most. Things are going to get much worse as Jarred Kelenic continues his way to the majors.
Now, people will want to say not all of Van Wagenen’s moves were bad with Davis being held up as the ideal. On that note, Davis was terrible in the field. Among players with at least 550 innings in left, his -11 DRS was the worst in the National League. Among third baseman with at least 200 innings, his -9 DRS was the third worst in all of baseball.
All told, Davis had a 1.0 WAR on the season. That’s just 0.2 higher than Wilmer Flores despite his having played 51 more games. All told, the Mets would have been better off keeping Flores over trading for Davis and signing Lowrie. It would have been a much better allocation of resources than what Van Wagenen actually did.
Beyond all of that, the Mets had players like Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez serve as outfield depth. They’d cycle through relievers like Tim Peterson, Stephen Nogosek, Hector Santiago, Brooks Pounders, and the like all season rather than adding that one other arm the bullpen needed. That would make Jeurys Familia‘s season long struggles and Justin Wilson‘s needing to be limited all the worse.
In the end, you can see all the good mitigated against all the bad. In fact, you could argue given all that happened, the Mets probably could’ve been worse than their third place finish. This is all to say the Mets probably did about as well as could have been expected.
That brings us back to Callaway.
Given the Mets did not underachieve, you have a difficult basis to fire him. If you want to argue a better manager could have gotten more from this team, you certainly have a point. If that is the case, the Mets have to now go out and get that guy. That means you hire Joe Girardi or maybe Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker.
But make no mistake here. By firing Callaway, the Mets are essentially pinpointing him as the reason why this team missed the postseason. In the end, if the Mets are going to sell everyone Callaway was the problem, the next manager is going to have to take the Mets to the postseason. That is the bar which has now been set.
If the Mets don’t make the postseason, then we’ll know what we have known since Spring Training. The Mets weren’t good enough not because of their manager. No, they weren’t good enough because the Wilpons didn’t invest enough money into this team, and the General Manager they hired failed to assemble the roster good enough to back up the “Come get us!” hype.
Zack Wheeler might’ve taken the loss tonight, but when he stepped off the mound, perhaps the last time as a New York Met, he walked off a winner.
This year was his reward. It was his reward for being the first piece brought in when he was obtained in exchange for Carlos Beltran. It was his reward for telling the team he wanted to stay after the Carlos Gomez deal fell apart. It was his reward for persevering after needing two years to recover from Tommy John.
In those two years, he missed two postseasons. Last year was a lost year. Finally, this year, the Mets battled back to get into the Wild Card race, and Wheeler would be one of the main reasons why.
Entering tonight, he was 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA since August 1. Over his last five starts, he’s allowed just one earned in each starting while averaging roughly 6.2 innings per start.
Tonight seemed more of the same. Over his first seven innings, he allowed just two hits while walking none and striking out 10. With him being under 90 pitches and this perhaps being his final start as a Met, Mickey Callaway let Wheeler go back out for the eighth.
Certainly, he earned that right not just with his pitching but his driving home the first run in the seventh. With Brandon Nimmo following with a sacrifice fly, Wheeler carried a two run lead into the eighth.
The home plate umpire COMPLETELY blew the call. Instead of Tyler Heineman striking out on a pitch down the middle of the plate, it was called a ball.
Look at the 4th pitch to Tyler Heineman in the 8th. The count was 1-2. That’s strike three easily.
Instead, home plate umpire Eric Cooper called that a ball which which evened the count to 2-2.
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) September 27, 2019
Heineman would hit the next pitch out for a game tying two run homer.
When old friend Curtis Granderson homered in what could be his last ever at-bat in Citi Field, the Marlins went ahead 3-2. After Austin Dean homered off Edwin Diaz in the ninth, the Marlins would win 4-2.
With that, Wheeler took the loss. It doesn’t matter because ultimately Wheeler proved himself to be a winner in his Mets career. Hopefully, both he and the Mets can find a way to make that Mets career extend past tonight.