The Mets had a two game set against the Twins as they continued their nine game road trip where they hoped to possibly bring themselves back into the Wild Card race:
1. Amed Rosario is playing the best baseball of his MLB career. Not only has he been red hot in July, but he has also played to a 2 DRS at short since the All Star Break. It’s a small sample size for sure, but it’s all a very encouraging sign.
2. Another good sign from the middle infield is Robinson Cano hitting again. His July numbers are reminiscent of the Cano of old, and like we saw on Tuesday, even when he’s not hitting, he can still drive in a run with an out.
3. Michael Conforto seems to have shaken off the effects of his concussion earlier in the year. In addition to his hitting like Conforto again, he made a terrific play in center field to rob Nelson Cruz of an extra base hit.
4. People calling Conforto overrated or a bust absolutely know nothing about baseball. It should be noted before his concussion, Conforto was hitting ..271/.406/.521 and in the 39 games after leading into the break he hit .217/.309/.420. We should be highlighting with Jason Bay and Ryan Church the Mets have a putrid history of dealing with players with concussions and not how a player struggles after suffering one.
5. Steven Matz‘s final line looked much better than how he pitched. He was hit hard by the Twins, and he was really lucky to allow just two earned over four. Still, it’s a positive step from where he was a month ago, so the hope is he can build off of it. Note, the use of the word hope and not expect.
6. Like Matz, Edwin Diaz has been hit really hard of late, and he is escaping trouble. While he converted that save on Tuesday, that was far too much of a high wire act, and it’s questionable how long the Mets can hang with these 20+ pitch innings and his walking the tightrope.
7. Even with Diaz allowing lasers, the bullpen has been MUCH better of late. After a 7.53 bullpen ERA in June, the team has a 3.78 July bullpen ERA which is tied for 10th best in the majors. This is partially the result of the Mets leaning on Seth Lugo perhaps more than they should and the return of Justin Wilson from the IL.
8. It looks like Ricky Bones helped fixed Jeurys Familia. He had two big and important appearances. We also saw him throwing that 99 MPH sinker again. Maybe this was all just mechanical with him, and that may or may not have been attributable to the shoulder issues. In any event, Familia finally looks like he is back on track.
9. We only get small snapshots of teams in Interleague Play, especially in two game sets, but it’s surprising to see this Twins team being atop the AL Central. Is this the result of the AL depth being that bad, or was this just a bad series? In any event, you take a two game sweep against a good team.
10. That six run inning against the Twins was huge. It took what could have been a tightrope walk with a bullpen leaned on heavily a bit of late, and it allowed the Mets to go to Chris Mazza to eat up two innings. That is a huge development which cannot be undersold.
11. While Dominic Smith hit the go-ahead pinch hit three run homer, it was Pete Alonso‘s 474 foot blast anyone could talk about. Certainly, that’s all Steve Gelbs wanted to talk about with Smith in the postgame. That and his striking out against a position player. To that end, why does everyone find Gelbs so charming? I don’t get it.
12. Gary Discarcina not sending Rosario to go try to get that inside-the-park homer was no fun at all.
13. It is really surprising the Mets would catch Wilson Ramos in a day game after a night game given his injury history and the fact the Mets were about to get on a flight to go to San Francisco after the game. You have to wonder how much the wear and tear here will linger.
14. Mets need to watch their usage of Lugo. As the pressure has ratcheted up a bit, they keep going to the whip there. When they did that with Robert Gsellman earlier in the year, they lost him. Really, at some point, the Mets need to learn this lesson before they lose a key piece.
15. Right now, you should feel good about the Mets. Whether we should feel good a week from now will depend on how they play.
16. With a 0.2 WAR, Wilmer Font was the best performing player Brodie Van Wagenen obtained via trade, and he was designated for assignment and traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations. This is both hilarious and a fine example of how completely inept Van Wagenen has been as the Mets General Manager.
17. Mets fans seem to want to defend the team on designating Travis d’Arnaud for assignment much like how they defend the team’s decisions on Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, Collin McHugh, and others. Really, at what point do fans stop defending the team and just start asking why the Jeff Wilpon led team continues to make poor assessments and decisions like these?
18. Zack Wheeler getting hurt pretty much means the Mets need to hold onto him and offer him a qualifying offer because it’s doubtful the Mets are going to get a return commensurate with the comp pick they would receive if Wheeler rejected the offer and signed elsewhere.
19. People need to stop making luxury tax threshold excuses for the Mets for their building a team in 2020. Remember, that includes $15 million of David Wright‘s contract which is covered by insurance and has been settled by the Mets. Another $29.5 million is from Yoenis Cespedes‘ who has part of his contract covered by insurance. Finally, $12 million of Jacob deGrom‘s $25 million is deferred. The Mets can and should go over the luxury tax threshold next year if they really want to compete.
20. Now that this series is over, the Mets play 20 straight games against teams with a losing record. After that, they have three against the Phillies, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot. If you have hopes the Mets can make a run, there it is.
With Jacob deGrom receiving his contract extension, it appears he is going to be a Mets pitcher during his prime, and it sets the stage for him to join David Wright and Ed Kranepool as Mets for life. With that being the bulk of the list, there is a host of Mets players who got away. The most famous of which was Tom Seaver who headlined the Midnight Massacre. Putting Seaver aside, the Mets bloggers discussed those players who got away:
Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)
Honestly in recent memory John Olerud comes to mind. He had one of the best pure swings I can remember. Other than that I guess you have to bring up Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, but who saw those coming?
Daniel Murphy is the most recent Met to have gotten away. And, I’ve heard there are people in the front office who would like a mulligan on that one as well. Having him in 2016 and 2017 would’ve been huge, and not having him kill the Mets in DC would have been huge too.
Allison McCague (Amazin’ Avenue)
To me the most egregious example of a Met getting away is Justin Turner, simply by virtue of how little it would have cost to keep him. Of course, it was impossible to know that he would put up the numbers he did after leaving the Mets, but unlike the Murphy situation where it was a choice not to sign the player as a free agent, they non-tendered a perfectly serviceable utility man just because they didn’t want to pay him and trashed his character on the way out for good measure. I think a dark horse candidate in this conversation, however, would be Collin McHugh, who changed his approach after joining the Astros by throwing his fastball less often and his off-speed pitches more often to much greater success than he ever had as a Met. And now he remains a key piece in the Astros bullpen as they head into another season where they will likely make a push for the postseason.
I’ll give you Justin Turner for sure. What irks me is he’s a good guy and even in the form he was in when he was here, was a valuable piece for the solution. That he evolved thanks to the tutelage of Marlon Byrd while he was here makes it even worse, since this version of Justin Turner would‘ve unquestionably transformed the Mets.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)
Olerud; he was a far superior player to Todd Zeile. Just look at his seasons 2000-02; think he would have helped? In my opinion, if Mets have Olerud, they win 2000 World Series. My God, remember the Zeile farewell tour? Infamnia!
Tim Ryder (MMO)
I’m gonna hesitantly go with Melvin Mora. The guy he got traded away for, Mike Bordick, was a fine pickup and helped that 2000 team get over the hump, no doubt. But Mora went on to have a solid little career and Bordick was back in Baltimore via free agency the following season.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The Mets let 18-year-old Paul Blair go to the Orioles in the minor league draft of 1962. Blair played 18 seasons in the majors, winning eight Gold Gloves as the premier AL center fielder of his generation.
Then again, had the Mets kept Blair, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Tommie Agee prior to 1968, and Agee robbed Blair in the 1969 Series, so all’s well that ended well, perhaps.
Pete McCarthy (OABT)
I thought Nolan Ryan was the only answer to this question, but there are some fun ones in here. Yay Mets!
Far be it from me to disagree with you Pete but Ryan wanted out as much as the Mets were frustrated with him. It wasn’t so much that they traded Ryan and he became a Hall of Famer after it’s what they traded him for.
Scott Kazmir would like a word.
There is always going to be a part of me who wonders what would have happened if the Mets kept Darryl Strawberry. He would have one good year in Los Angeles before everything fell apart for both him and the Mets. For those who forget, the Mets opted to replace him with Vince Coleman, who was detestable as a Met, and it lead to a series of poor decisions which built as bad and unlikable a Mets team as we have ever seen. For Strawberry, his personal problems were far worse than anything the Mets encountered.
Looking at everything, there are a number of mistakes like trading Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga, but that at least indirectly led to the team signing Robin Ventura. Murphy leaving transferred the balance of power back to the Nationals.
But overall, the one which comes to mind right now is Matt Harvey. For Harvey, it was more than trading him for Devin Mesoraco. It was everything. The 2013 version looked like future Hall of Fame. The 2015 version looked like a staff ace. The ramifications of that 2015 season were far reaching, and we never saw Harvey return, literally and figuratively.
Before you go away from this piece, please sure you click on the links and visit the sites of those who have taken their time to contribute to this roundtable.
Also, a very special congratulations to Pete McCarthy and his wife on the birth of their baby girl!
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.
With the Houston Astros winning their first ever World Series, many fans will be quick to point out how former Mets great Carlos Beltran won his first ever World Series title with the team. The Mets ties to this Astros World Series Championship ballclub extend well past Beltran. In fact, the Astros roster has a few former Mets prospects:
Acquired: Mets 2007 32nd Round Draft Pick
Teams: Gulf Coast (2007 – 2008), Brooklyn (2009 – 2010), St. Lucie (2010 – 2011), Binghamton (2010, 2012 – 2013), Las Vegas (2013 – 2014), Mets (2013 – 2014)
Centeno was seen as a strong defensive catcher who had a questionable bat. His skills behind the plate got him two cups of coffee with the Mets before he was placed on waivers after the 2014 season. For the past three seasons, he would be shuttled between the Triple-A affiliates and Major League teams for the Brewers, Twins, and finally, the Astros. Centeno’s skills behind the dish were enough for him to be named to the Astros postseason roster with him getting just one at-bat in the ALDS against the Red Sox.
RHP Collin McHugh
Acquired: Mets 2008 18th Round Draft Pick
Teams: Kingsport (2008), Brooklyn (2009), Savannah (2010), St. Lucie (2011), Binghamton (2011), Buffalo (2012), Las Vegas (2013), Mets (2012 – 2013)
McHugh made 15 appearances for the Major League team prior to getting traded to the Colorado Rockies for Eric Young. After the 2013 season, he was put on waivers, and he was claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, McHugh would learn the cutter which would transform his career. It would also help transform the Astros from cellar dwellers to a postseason team with McHugh being the second starter for the 2015 team that made this core group’s first foray into the postseason. The highlight for McHugh this postseason was his four shutout innings in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom
Acquired: Mets 1970 1st Round Draft Pick (3rd Overall)
Teams: Visalia (1970), Memphis (1971), Tidewater (1971), Mets (1972)
After being drafted by the Mets and rising quickly through the Mets farm system, and after a rough rookie season, he would get traded to the Cleveland Indians. He’d have a troubled Major League career, which was highlighted by his being the second ever person to have Tommy John surgery. After his retirement in 1977, he would stay out of baseball for over a decade when he’d join the Astros organization in 1989 as a pitching coordinator. After a few stops along the way, he’d return to Houston in 2013 as the team’s pitching coach. He’s had a successful run as the Astros pitching coach where he accomplished many things including helping McHugh become a viable Major League starting pitcher.
Not included in this list is former Mets 2011 25th round draft pick A.J. Reed. The Mets were uanble to sign Reed, and he attended the University of Kentucky before becoming the Astros second round pick in 2014.
Overall, it is great to see some former Mets play key roles in a Houston Astros World Series title. Hopefully, we the Mets minor league system soon produce players who will take part in a Mets World Series title. Perhaps, those players are already on the roster.
The expectation is that with a game changing play, you would expect things to become a little more one-sided, and one team to begin to pull away. As Endy Chavez and Carlos Beltran can tell you, that is not always the case. Last night, there was a myriad of change-changing plays. Here’s a shot at ranking the Top 10:
1. Gurriel’s 3 Run Homer (4th Inning)
Perhaps none of yesterday’s game would be possible if not for Yuli Gurriel‘s three run homer. At that point, the Astros were down 4-1, and their former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel had nothing. While the Astros had already gotten to Clayton Kershaw, it’s still Kershaw. If Kershaw gets Gurriel there, the inning is over, and the game has a much different feel. Instead, Gurriel hit a homer that came out of nowhere and descended us all into madness.
2. Barnes’ Hustle Double (9th Inning)
If you subscribe to the theory home runs are rally killers, Yasiel Puig‘s two run homer in the top of the 9th gave Chris Devenski and the Astros a chance to exhale, get the last out, and win the game. Instead, Austin Barnes stretched what should have been a long single into a one out double. The pressure was back on, and more importantly, the game tying run was in scoring position for Joc Pederson and eventually Chris Taylor, who would deliver to the two out RBI single to tie the game.
3. Taylor Didn’t Go Home (8th Inning)
After Corey Seager hit a one out double off Will Harris to pull the Dodgers to within two runs, Justin Turner hit a deep fly ball to right center. Instead of challenging the arm of Josh Reddick, and pulling the Dodgers within a run, Taylor stayed at third base. The reason was because Minute Maid Park was so loud, he confused third base coach Chris Woodward‘s direction to “Go!” as him saying “No!” Chalk that one up for home field advantage.
4. Altuve Ties It Again (5th Inning)
Narratives exist because things happen. Game 5 was case in point why people say he chokes in the postseason even with his Game 1 peformance. After recording two quick outs, he walked Springer and Alex Bregman back-to-back, and with him at 94 pitchers, Dave Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who had been previously unscored upon this postseason. That changed with the Altuve home run, and it really set the table for the complete inability for the respective bullpens to get the job done.
5. Springer Redemption (7th Inning)
The half inning after Springer made an ill fated dive at a sinking liner in center (more on that in a moment), he would lead-off the bottom of the seventh against an exhausted Brandon Morrow, who had nothing. Springer got back the run he effectively gave up by hitting a monster of a game tying home run. That would spark a three run rally giving the Astros an 11-8 lead.
6. Bellinger Unties It (5th Inning)
After Gurriel hit the aforementioned game tying three run homer, Cody Bellinger hit a three run homer off of the struggling Collin McHugh, who had not pitched since the ALDS. At that time, the Dodgers seemed to have reclaimed momentum, and they gave Kershaw back a sizeable lead he should have been able to protect.
7. Bregman Walk-Off (10th Inning)
It may seem strange to have this so low, but that was the type of game it was. Bregman’s two out walk-off single against Kenley Jansen was the capper in a series of back and forth plays that not only gave fans whiplash but also sleep deprivation.
8. Springer Dove and Missed (7th Inning)
Believe it or not, the sixth inning of this game was scoreless as the bullpens began to settle in a bit after a crazy fifth. A Turner lead-off double of new reliever Brad Peacock created some tumult. Turner would then score easily when Bellinger hit a sinking liner to center. Instead of fielding in on a hop and trying to get Turner at home or decoying him, Springer dove . . . and missed. At the time the Astros fell behind 8-7, and they were lucky Bellinger wasn’t able to score on an inside-the-park home run.
9. The “Double Steal” (1st Inning)
At the outset of this game, you honestly believed a pitching matchup of Kershaw and Keuchel would be a pitcher’s duel. In fact, the Dodgers took Game 1 with both pitchers mostly shutting down the opposition save for three homers in the game. With the Dodgers having a 2-0 first inning lead, they were already in the driver’s seat.
Then, Keuchel made the weakest of pickoff attempts, and in what must’ve been a designed play, Logan Forsythe took off for second. As Gurriel threw it wide of second, Kiké Hernandez broke for the plate. With the errant throw and Forsythe getting in just ahead of the tag, it appeared as if the Dodgers had a commanding 3-0 lead in the game en route to a 3-2 series lead heading back to Chavez Ravine.
10. Correa in Just Ahead of the Tag (4th Inning)
Before the Gurriel game tying homer off Kershaw, Carlos Correa would deliver a one out RBI double to get the Astros on the board. On the play, Correa got in just ahead of the throw of Hernandez, and he would keep his foot on the bag. Had he not stayed on, he’s not on base when Gurriel hits the game tying home run.
Overall, these are just 10 moments from an otherwise Helter Skelter type of game. We all may have a different order, and there may be some plays that should have been included that were not. That’s just indicative of what type of game that was and what type of series this is.
Using Statcast data, Mike Petriello of MLB.com determined pitchers have begun throwing not just more curveballs, but also curveballs with a higher spin rate. Moreover, pitchers are more inclined to use a curveball in any point in the count. One of the major reasons for pitchers using more curveballs is the results it generates. According to Statcast, batters do not have a lot of success against the curveball:
Curves above 2,600 rpm in 2016
Exit velo: 86.8 mph
Whiffs per swing: 32.2 percent
Curves below 2,600 rpm in 2016
Exit velo: 87.7 mph
Whiffs per swing: 30.2 percent
As noted by Petriello, teams are well aware of the trend, and they have been asking their pitchers to throw more curveballs. Notable examples have included Clayton Kershaw, Collin McHugh, and Rich Hill. Over the past few seasons, pitchers who have gone to an increase usage of their curveball have seen better results.
This data is promising for Seth Lugo. Lugo has the highest curveball spin rate ever recorded. In fact, Lugo actually has 43 of the top 50 spin rates ever recorded in the Statcast Era.
When Lugo has gone to his curveball, he has been extremely successful. According to Brooks Baseball, Lugo’s curveball was his toughest pitch to hit. When he threw it, batters whiffed 34% of the time – most notably was the strikeout he recorded on Anthony Rizzo. When batters were actually able to make contact with the curveball, it was a groundball 52% of the time. As a result, batters slugging percentage off of the pitch was a woeful .294.
However, despite the curveball being such a dominant pitch for Lugo, he only threw the pitch 16% of the time. That made it his second least used pitch. Indeed, Lugo mainly threw fastballs, sinkers, and sliders in 2016. Overall, this was effective as Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.094 WHIP. Still, there were warning signs Lugo is due for regression as evidenced by his 4.33 FIP. Overall, Lugo’s numbers were mostly fueled by his ability to limit the damage with runners on base and in scoring position. In fact, batters only hit .149 against him with runners in scoring position and .179 with runners on base.
Depending on your point of view, Lugo’s numbers last year were the result of an innate skill, pure luck, or somewhere in the middle. Quite possibly, it was Lugo’s use of the curveball in high leverage situations that helped him out of those jams. As noted above, batters have a high whiff rate and hit many groundballs against the curveball – that goes double for Lugo. Therein lies the key to his success in 2017 and beyond.
With Bartolo Colon leaving in free agency, there may very well be an opportunity for Lugo to pitch in the rotation at some point next season. If Lugo uses his curveball much more frequently, it is possible he could replicate the numbers he produced last season. Perhaps, he could put together an even better season next year.
Hopefully, he will. As it stands now, other than Noah Syndergaard, there are no guarantees as to who will be ready to start the year in the rotation. Early word on Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz are positive. There has been little to no news on Zack Wheeler since he was shut down with elbow discomfort. With that in mind, Lugo could find himself in a competition with Robert Gsellman for the last spot in the rotation. While Gsellman is coming off a good rookie season himself, he doesn’t have one pitch that can match Lugo’s curveball. As it turns out, not many do.
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.
Last month, The Sporting News ranked Sandy Alderson right in the middle of all GMs in Major League Baseball (15/30). That sounds about right, although I could quibble with the order. To me, when you give Sandy a rating of 15/30, you’re really giving that rating to the entire front office, which includes Paul DePodesta, JP Riccardi, and John Ricco.
Since Sandy Alderson has been the GM for the Mets, he has really been tasked with getting rid of salaries and selling at the trade deadline. To that end, he and his front office have done an admirable job. In my opinion (and most people’s really), his three best trades were to sell and not to buy:
- RA Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas for Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wullmer Becerra;
- Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler; and
- Marlon Byrd, John Buck & cash for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
Looking over the rest of the trades, there really is not much to get worked up about, except the two trades Sandy Alderson made to help the team on the field (and not the team down the road):
- Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon S. Ramirez; and
- Collin McHugh for Eric Young, Jr.
There has been so much written about the first trade. Rather than regurgitate all that has been written, I’m going to make a couple of quick points. First, this was part of a quick hitting series of moves to try to rebuild the bullpen and TRY to take attention away from Jose Reyes leaving. Second, it seems like every year this team is trying to build a bullpen because the prior season’s acquisitions were terrible or everyone got hurt again. Lastly, this trade violated the old adage of “the team that gets the best player wins the trade.” We knew then Pagan was the best player in that deal.
I want to focus on the EY deal because with the Mets rotation, it has largely been ignored. In full disclosure, I didn’t see it with McHugh. I thought he was an AAAA starter or a 12th man in the pen. I didn’t see him finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting last year or having another solid year for the Astros, especially when he pitches half his games is Minute Maid Park.
Just because I didn’t see it, it doesn’t excuse the current front office for this mistake. EY was acquired because Paul DePodesta loves him. In EY’s two seasons with the Mets, he was a 0.9 WAR player, who won a stolen base crown. The Mets were under .500 and had no shot at the postseason.
In the same time, McHugh has combined for accumulated WAR of 5.2, i.e. he has been the best player in the deal. I shutter to think what the careers Cory Mazzoni or Brad Wieck will be.
Now after all of this, how can I be expected to trust Sandy’s regime to properly rate their own prospects? Sure when he has someone of value, he does a good job maximizing the return. However, when he is making a deal to improve his club, he has been shown to undervalue his assets.
This brings me to an extremely important point: Sandy effectively traded a first round pick for Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer hasn’t been himself at the plate or the field (even preinjury), which further exacerbated this “trade.” All in all, I’m not sure we can trust this front office to go out and get a player. With that said, I’m sure I’m just wasting my breath because there is no way the Mets would take on money to improve this team.