In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals. With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:
East – Boston Red Sox
Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)
Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.
RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)
Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.
RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)
Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.
OF Chris Young (2014)
After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.
Central – Cleveland Indians
First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)
Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007. He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.
RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)
Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.
RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)
Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons. Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.
West – Houston Astros
DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)
Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform. Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.
C Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)
Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)
Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.
Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)
Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark. While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)
Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick. He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)
Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.
Wild Card – New York Yankees
RHP Luis Cessa
Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
Wild Card – Minnesota Twins
Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)
While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.
RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)
“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse. There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.
RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)
Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability. He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.
East – Washington Nationals
OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)
De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets. He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.
Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)
Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.
2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)
Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase. Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant. Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.
LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)
Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season. He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract. Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.
Central – Cubs
Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)
“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.
C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)
Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners. It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.
West – Dodgers
Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)
Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers. Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.
OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)
Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform. He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most. Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series. His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.
3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)
Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible. Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.
Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)
Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.
Wild Card – Diamondbacks
RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)
Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed. While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.
Wild Card – Rockies
Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League. Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.
At this point, no one should expect anything from David Wright in 2017. He has been limited by the spinal stenosis. He’s going to be further limited by the cervical fusion. He’s going to be limited by the sheer fact that 34 year old players tend to at least be on the beginning of the downside of their careers. Anything, and I mean anything they get from him in 2017 is gravy.
With that said, there are certain things we might be able to see out of Wright during the 2017 season.
For starters, we know that he can still get on base. In fact, he’s still one of the best Mets in terms of his ability to get on base. Over the past two seasons, even with the spinal stenosis, Wright has a .365 OBP. While anything Wright does comes with the caveat he has only played limited playing time, his .365 OBP ranks the best on the Mets over the past two seasons.
We also know Wright can make solid contact. According to Statcast, Wright led all major league batters with “barrels” during the 2016 season. A barrel is defined as “a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees.” With Wright’s ability to barrel a ball effectively, nearly one-half of his 31 hits went for extra bases.
Fortunately, even with his health issues, Wright can still catch up to a good fastball. As we saw in the 2015 World Series, he was able to hit the late Yordano Ventura‘s 96 MPH fastball, which was up in the zone, for a home run. Wright’s ability to not only catch up to the pitch, but also hit it for a home run shows he can change his approach depending on the type of pitcher on the mound.
Simply put, Wright still knows how to hit. Even with his health issues and his aging, Wright is still an effective hitter that can hit anywhere in the lineup. And for as long as Wright remains an effective hitter, he is going to be an asset to this team going forward.
Unfortunately, Wright is also declining in the field. While it is true that single season, especially partial season stats, should not be over-analyzed, Wright’s defensive numbers should not be ignored. Over his past two injury riddled seasons, Wright has averaged a -4.4 UZR with a -10 DRS. Using UZR/150, which estimates what a player’s UZR would be at a certain position over 150 games, Wright’s average UZR/150 over the past two seasons would be -19.5, which would rate among the worse in the major leagues.
This means when the Mets have the lead late in games, the team should probably lift him late in games for defense for either Jose Reyes or Wilmer Flores. This would also have the added benefit of saving him some wear and tear on his body over the course of a full season.
The overriding issue with Wright is he is going to try to do too much out there. There was at least one known incident last year where Wright was not forthright with his manager about his ability to play. Once Terry Collins was tipped off by the training staff of Wright’s physical struggles, he sat him despite Wright’s wanting to play.
More than Wright wanting to play when he shouldn’t, he is trying too hard at times during the games. In the second game of the season, Wright attempted two stolen bases against Salvador Perez of all people. It is important to note these stolen base attempts came on the heels of a complete overreaction by almost everyone to Wright’s going hitless with two strikeouts on Opening Day. Wright’s stolen base attempts that day could be construed as him trying to prove everyone he was still capable of being the David Wright of old. To be fair, it could have been Wright showing his veteran savvy by trying to attempt stolen bases off his former teammate Chris Young, who is notoriously slow to the plate.
When trying to project what Wright can contribute in 2017, the safest bet when it comes to Wright is he is going to miss a number of games next year. The hope is the Mets can manage his condition and prevent him from having to go on the disabled list. Another hope is that if he winds up on the disabled list, it is due to a flare up of one of his conditions as opposed to a worsening of his back or neck. At this point, we don’t know if that is going to happen.
And that is the overriding theme of Wright’s 2017 season. We have no idea what is going to happen. While there is room for optimism, it is skeptical optimism. On the field he has shown he can play when he can play, but he hasn’t played more than 38 games in a season with his condition. Hopefully, he will be able to play in more than 38 games. Hopefully, when he does play, he can be as productive as his past stats indicate.
More than any of that, the hope is he can get a World Series ring before he retires. He’s almost literally given everything he can give to the Mets. With that, he deserves a ring. Hopefully, the Mets will surround him with a team that can win. If they do, the hope is he can contribute to that win.
Syndergaard was throwing so hard he broke the radar guns in Citi Field. With that said, he wasn’t dominating. Of the seven innings he pitched, he had only two 1-2-3 innings.
However, just because he wasn’t dominating doesn’t mean he wasn’t intimidating. In Billy Hamilton laid down a bunt single in the third inning. He then stole two bases leading to the Reds’ only run of the game. Hamilton’s next at bat? Syndergaard buzzed him inside reminding Hamilton he’s 60’6″ away.
Still Syndergaard had some problems. In the sixth, the Reds had runners on second and third with one out. Syndergaard would then strike out Devin Mesoraco and Adam Duvall to get out of the jam. He got them both with sliders.
Speaking of the slider, Syndergaard went to that well too often. After he passed 100 pitches, and the Reds were going to the fourth time through the lineup, they were able to get a two out rally started.
Zack Cozart would chase Syndergaard in the seventh with an RBI single before Antonio Bastardo came in and showed signs of over use. He walked the first batter he faced before allowing a game-tying single to Joey Votto. Logan Verrett came on in relief and got the Mets out of the jam leaving the score tied 3-3.
Syndergaard’s final line was 6.2 innings, seven hits, three earned, no walks, and nine strikeouts.
The Mets would retake the lead on yet another Neil Walker homerun:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 25, 2016
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 26, 2016
For his part, Conforto couldn’t make an out. In the first inning, he hit a homer. He followed that with a single in the third. He got a shift double in the fifth. He hit a bloop by the left field line. Suarez got under it, but he still couldn’t make the play. It bounced into the stands for a ground rule double. He walked in the seventh. The cycle was not to be. He’s been amazing since he was called-up, and he’s been better since he started hitting third:
Since moving to the three spot, Conforto is 12-for-35, with eight runs, four doubles, three homers and eight RBIs in 10 games. OK, I guess.
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) April 25, 2016
By the way, Lucas Duda hit another homerun:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 26, 2016
In what was a good night overall, there was some cause for concern. Travis d’Arnaud continues to struggle behind the plate. While Syndergaard doesn’t hold runners on well, d’Arnaud’s throws were terrible. He was palming the ball. He was winding up too much. He seemed to be thinking more than reacting. Overall, the Reds were 5-5 in stolen base attempts.
The game was tougher than it should have been, but it’s still a win. It extended the Mets winning streak to four games. The streak should continue as the Mets are pulling it all together and are beating bad teams like they should.
It was not that long ago that the Mets had no hope. It was not that long ago the Mets looked like they would never compete with the Nationals. It was not that long ago the Mets sought discounts to help them improve their offense. This was all last year when the Mets had Magic Number 1 Chris Young:
The Mets signed Young hoping he could reclimate his career. With the Mets, Young would hit .205/.283/.346. It was a continuation of his decline. It would only be 88 games before the Mets would release him. At that point, the Mets were in fourth place at 58-65. After his release, the Mets would slightly improve, but they would finish 79-83.
Because life isn’t fair, Young went to the Yankees and hit .282/.354/.521. This was the type of season the Mets were hoping that Young would produce for them. Young re-signed with the Yankees, and he appears to be heading to the playoffs. However, so are the Mets.
With Matt Harvey getting healthy, the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer because they thought they could win. When that didn’t work, they traded for Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets finally had hope this year, and they went for it.
It was not that long ago there was no hope. It was as soon as a year ago. Now the Mets are on the verge of the playoffs where the worst case scenario is a tie atop the division. Long gone are the days of no hope and discount players.
So with that let’s offer a tip of the cap to Magic Number 1 Chris Young. Whe you’re holding those caps up, wave goodbye to the tough times.