Corey Oswalt

Bet Mets Wish They Didn’t Force Getting This One In

The Mets have a big Noah Syndergaard Game of Thrones Bobblehead on Saturday, so they were playing tonight even if it meant starting the game at 10:00, or in this case 9:52.

It didn’t matter Jacob deGrom was making the start after coming off the Injured List. It didn’t matter Juan Lagares suffered a severe injury in similarly poor field conditions last year. The Mets just had to play this game.

To that extent, the Mets organization suffered the loss they so richly deserved.

The tone was set with Lorenzo Cain robbing Todd Frazier of a homer in the second inning.

In the ensuing inning, the Brewers put up a five spot against deGrom. Basically, while deGrom was able to navigate out of trouble in the first and second, the dam burst in the third.

His final line was an unsightly 4.0 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. It’s almost like it’s a terrible idea to have a pitcher who is coming off an injury and hasn’t pitched in nearly two weeks sit around and mess up his routine to get in the game.

If there was any hope of a comeback, Corey Oswalt would dash them. In the fifth, he’d allow four runs to put the game completely out of reach.

By the time this was written, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez are going through staff Instagrams to discuss their offseason vacations. In essence, they’ve stopped feigning interest in this 9-2 game, which should not have been played today.

Game Notes: Jacob Rhame is appealing his suspension but will do so in the minors. Both he and Luis Guillorme were sent down to make room for deGrom and Oswalt on the roster.

Craig Kimbrel Should Be The Mets Closer

In a nine year Major League career, Craig Kimbrel has saved 333 games, which is the 14th most all-time. His career 1.91 ERA and 211 ERA+ is the best all-time for a reliever. He is a seven time All-Star, and he has finished in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting in five of his nine seasons. How Kimbrel performs during this next contract will go a very long way in determining whether or not he goes to the Baseball Hall of Fame when he retires.

With the Hall of Fame on the line and with his being an elite closer for NINE SEASONS, you can understand why Kimbrel would insist on remaining a closer. While there are no public statements confirming this is Kimbrel’s hold-up, there have been a number of outlets who have drawn the inference.

According to recent reports, the Mets are not willing to have Kimbrel pitch the ningth. To put it as simply as it can be put, if the only hold-up with Kimbrel right now is he wants to close, the Mets as an organization are stupid for letting that be a hold-up.

No, this is not an indictment whatsoever on Edwin Diaz. So far this season, Diaz has been everything the Mets could have possibly asked him to be. He is a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities with a 16.4 K/9. His 11th inning save against the Phillies where he mowed down Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto on 11 pitches was awe inspiring.

Understandably, you want to have a pitcher like Diaz closing out games in the ninth. However, you also want a closer like Kimbrel closing out games in the ninth. What you don’t want is the current state of the Mets bullpen.

What is not great is the rest of the Mets bullpen. So far, Jeurys Familia has been a massive disappointment. We have also seen some unexpected struggles from Seth Lugo. In the long run, both pitchers should be fine, and with Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, the Mets do have the pieces for a good bullpen.

Still, there are major issues in the bullpen. Luis Avilan has been used as more of a mop up reliever than a LOOGY, and frankly, there is no way he is going to succeed in that role. Worse than that, the Mets have had a revolving door this year of Tim Peterson, Drew Gagnon, Paul Sewald, Jacob Rhame, and Corey Oswalt for the last spot in the bullpen.

Realistically speaking, the Mets cannot expect any of those pitchers to truly succeed at the Major League level. Exacerbating a very soft spot in the bullpen is the fact the Mets entered the season with just four MLB caliber starting pitchers in their rotation. As a result, at least every fifth day, the Mets are going to need to get some quality innings from their worst relievers. Put another way, the Mets can ill afford to have a weak spot in the bullpen when they have a glaring hole in the rotation.

That hole in the bullpen can be repaired with Kimbrel. Moreover, if you put Kimbrel in the ninth inning, him and Diaz pitching the final two innings makes every game a seven inning game for the Mets. The tandem would combine to make the best 8-9 combination in Major League history.

Really, there is no good explanation to not give Kimbrel the ninth. While you could argue the Mets did not give up Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to have Diaz as a set-up man, the obvious counter-argument is the Mets did not give up those players to have relievers like Rhame derail games and ultimately the season. Additionally, with how great a pitcher he has been, no one should expect Diaz to falter in the eighth.

Overall, when you break it down, if the ninth inning is a breaking point for Kimbrel, just give it to him. He has the resume to justify such a demand, and really, he has the ability to not come to the Mets. Worse yet, he could go to Philadelphia to stick it to the Mets.

Of course, that would be the ultimate irony. The Mets gave up Kelenic to keep Diaz away from the Phillies, but they weren’t willing to have the best bullpen situation in Major League history to keep him away from Philadelphia.

 

Gio Gonzalez Should Be Pitching a New York Team Tomorrow

According to his deal with the New York Yankees, Gio Gonzalez can opt out of his minor league deal today. If and more likely when he exercises his opt out, the Yankees have 48 hours to decide whether or not they want to call him up to the majors or release him.

Now, calling him up may not be as clear cut with him due $300,000 per start. If he were to make even 20 starts, he’d be due $6 million on top of his $3 million base salary. You’d have to imagine even for the Yankees $9+ million is a lot for a sixth or seventh starter.

Of course, the Yankees could circumvent this two ways. First, they can use their exclusive window to renegotiate a deal. On that front, it is interesting to see if Gonzalez switching from Boras to CAA would serve as a benefit or impediment in those discussions.

The other option would be to call him up and put him in the bullpen. If he was in the bullpen, he’s not earning $300,000 per appearance. It should be noted this isn’t necessarily a bad faith decision as Chad Green and Jonathan Holder have gotten off to poor starts.

In the short term, Gonzalez can be a boost in the bullpen, and in the long term, he’s insurance for a Yankees rotation who still does not know when or if Luis Severino will return.

While the Yankees have plenty of incentive to keep him, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports the Yankees are not expected to keep Gonzalez thereby making him a free agent.

If the reports are true, the Mets need to immediately pounce.

With the news Jacob deGrom is headed to the Injured List with a not yet known elbow injury, we’re reminded how thin the Mets starting pitching depth is. We’re also reminded how much the Mets rotation needs another starter with each and every Jason Vargas start.

With respect to Gonzalez, he has been good in his last two Triple-A starts. Over his last 11 innings, he has allowed two earned while walking three and striking out 18. It should be noted that’s good, not great. But by the same token, unlike Dallas Keuchel, he has actually pitched in competitive games and can be ready to pitch literally tomorrow. For that matter, he promises to be much cheaper.

With respect to Gonzalez, it’s difficult to argue he’s much more than a fifth starter. He walks too many, and his strikeouts have continuously declined since 2012. Last year, he walked 4.2 per nine while striking out just 7.8 per nine. That’s a rather unacceptable 1.85 K/BB.

According to Baseball Savant, Gonzalez did have excellent spin rates while being above average in yielding hard hit balls and exit velocities. Still, Gonzalez has been quite hittable, and as noted, he makes matters worse with the free passes.

And yet, he’s a better option than Vargas, who has pitched just 9.1 innings over three starts because the Mets have no faith in him past 80 pitches. That’s if they even have faith in him with his first 80.

At the point, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, and Drew Gagnon have yet to prove themselves at the Major League level. We can ascertain the Mets level of faith in each of them by them not really being put in a position to push Vargas during Spring Training.

So overall, it’s fairly clear the Mets need another starter, and they need that starter now. While Keuchel is the pitcher most everyone wants, Gonzalez is the guy who is cheaper and will be ready to pitch sooner. When you break it down, the Mets can do worse than Gonzalez.

In fact, the team has been doing worse than him, which is why they need to act fast to sign him as soon as he becomes available.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Waste Another Opportunity

The Mets went to Atlanta in first place, and they leave a half-game back. At one point, it didn’t seem like it was going to be the case, but that is how it proved to shake out. There were a number of reasons why:

  1. The Mets had the Braves on their heels, and they were in a position for a statement making four game sweep. Instead, they walk away with a split. The biggest reason why is they started Jason Vargas.
  2. The Mets need to give Corey Oswalt an opportunity to succeed. They had him rush to be ready to relieve on three days rests, and they instead had him on extended rest. They then decide to have him rush his warm-ups to enter a game with runners on base. How did they think his outing on Saturday was going to go.
  3. The Mets have to make a decision once and for all with the fifth starter spot. Enough of these half measures. It’s either Vargas or an open try out. You can’t keep pushing Vargas back and putting more pressure on the rest of the rotation. It’s still April, and the Mets are running their rotation like it’s late September and there’s a postseason spot on the line.
  4. Dave Eiland said it well when he said no one can succeed with how the Mets are handling Vargas. If the team doesn’t trust him, name Oswalt or Chris Flexen the fifth starter or sign Dallas Keuchel. If they do trust him, keep him in the rotation on regular rest. Overall, don’t make things worse than they already are.
  5. If the Padres get Keuchel on top of signing Manny Machado and having Fernando Tatis Jr. being the season in the majors, the Padres will be everything Brodie Van Wagenen has purported the Mets to be.
  6. The Mets sold us they needed Pete Alonso on the Opening Day roster to win the division. In that time, they won eight games. With their starting Vargas, they gave one of those wins back, and Vargas (or the fifth starters spot) has at least 28 starts to go.
  7. Just as we all expected, Steven Matz has been the best pitcher in the Mets rotation. If he continues to be so, he’s going to help overcome a lot of the problems created by the fifth starter spot.
  8. Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo showed in Atlanta we should not overreact to slow starts from people who have historically performed. That is something to remember as Robinson Cano is hitting .183 with a -0.3 WAR.
  9. Michael Conforto is playing like an MVP candidate. Mets should be looking to lock him up, and don’t play the Scott Boras card. The Nationals locked up Stephen Strasburg. It may be an uphill climb, but it is possible if you have the will.
  10. With Jacob deGrom struggling with Wilson Ramos behind the plate, we can probably put to rest the insane notion deGrom’s last start was attributable to Travis d’Arnaud.
  11. The biggest warning sign with deGrom is batters hitting the long ball against him again. It may be just a slight adjustment, but he needs to find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark again. On the other hand, deGrom is striking out batters more than he ever has (14.7 K/9).
  12. Ramos really needs to step up his game. He’s been quite poor behind the plate with very poor pitch framing and balls getting by him. While he’s hitting, he’s bound to regress as he’s hitting for no power, and he’s hitting the ball on the ground.
  13. While J.D. Davis hit that homer, his defense is hurting the team. Yesterday, his inability to make a play on an Ender Inciarte infield single helped drive up deGrom’s pitch count, and it led to deGrom not being able to have the pitcher lead off the top of the third. These little things always look large.
  14. Mets defense is the worst in the National League, and Davis leads the way with a -5 DRS. This is why when Todd Frazier is ready, the team should give consideration to keeping Luis Guillorme up. Another reason why is Amed Rosario (-3 DRS) has not played a particularly good shortstop.
  15. If Frazier was smart, he would not come up one second before he was ready. He can ill afford another injury plagued year, and with the team’s depth, if he doesn’t get off to a hot start, he may never get off the bench.
  16. It’s odd how quiet things are surrounding Jed Lowrie.
  17. Sometimes we over focus on what guys are instead of understanding their roles. Paul Sewald is well suited for mop up duty and for eating up innings. The 1.1 innings he gave yesterday helped save the pen a bit.
  18. The Mets offense is humming, but there are some warning signs. Alonso is striking out 30.6% of the time. Jeff McNeil has a .439 BABIP. Ramos has a 64.1% ground ball rate. Who knows what to make of Rosario yet?
  19. The Mets have missed an opportunity in the past two division series losing a series to the Nationals at home and missing a chance to win or sweep a four game set against the Braves.
  20. With Tiger Woods winning The Masters, the Game of Thrones premiere, and the extensive Hank Aaron interview during the game, the Mets were a complete afterthought yesterday, which is a shame because that was a first place Mets team playing a bitter rival.

Mets Get What They Deserve In Starting Vargas

For all the talk about every game counts, Jason Vargas entered the season as the unchallenged fifth starter. Somehow, he’s failed to clear the subterranean bar set for him this season with tonight being his worst performance.

Vargas lasted just one-third of an inning allowing four earned on two hits and three walks. Now, you may want to say two of those runs were scored after he left the game, but that would be wrong considering he needed 36 pitches to get just one out.

This put the game in Corey Oswalt‘s hands to salvage.

While Oswalt did get out of the inning, the Braves got to him as well scoring four runs off him in the second. To be fair to Oswalt, just like all of last year, the Mets once again put him in a position to fail.

Oswalt was called up earlier in the week to be prepared to make a relief appearance on just three days rest. Then, after the team didn’t pitch him, they had him trying to stay sharp on what was now extended rest. Finally, they asked a starter to hurry up and loosen up to enter a game with runners in scoring position. This is not how you handle or develop pitchers.

Partially because of the Mets being stubborn and plain stupid in trusting Vargas as the fifth starter and partially due to their mishandling of Oswalt, they’d lost what was a winnable game.

Like Vargas, Braves starter Sean Newcomb was bad. After escaping the first inning due to a questionable base running decision by Pete Alonso, he was bad and would not escape the second.

Travis d’Arnaud got the rally started with his first hit since coming off the IL. He and Keon Broxton would score on a Juan Lagares RBI double. Oswalt would help himself and tie the score with a sacrifice fly.

After the aforementioned bad top of the third for Oswalt, the Mets were chasing the Braves all night. The key difference between the Mets and Braves was while the Mets messed around with Oswalt, the Braves had Touki Touissaint. Touissaint was very good for the Braves stabilizing the game and saving their bullpen.

This meant even though Chad Sabodka was shaky in the final two innings, the Braves still had plenty of cushion in what would become an 11-7 Braves.

As if this were not enough, Ron Darling announced he needs to take a leave of absence to have surgery to remove a mass in his chest. More than anything that happened on the field, this was the absolute worst development of the day. Thoughts and prayers go to Darling for a speedy recovery.

Game Notes: Oswalt became the first Mets pitcher since John Maine in 2007 to have a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt. Mickey Callaway was ejected in the first for arguing balls and strikes.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Split Up The Twins

The Mets finished their first homestand of the season going 2-3, and now they are embark on a brutal road trip taking them through Atlanta, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Here are some observations before the Mets set off for that trip:

  1. Jacob deGrom just didn’t have it. It was bound to happen, but it was still startling to see.
  2. Anyone who even suggests deGrom’s struggles were related to Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate simply doesn’t know anything about baseball. It wasn’t d’Arnaud who caused the chilly weather, nor was it the weather which caused deGrom to miss his pitches by a foot.
  3. Baseball is funny sometimes. After thorough research shows Citi Field suppresses exit velocities, the ball was flying out of Citi Field. Of course, when you have power hitters like Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto that will happen anyway.
  4. In one series, Mitch Garver went from a nameless guy to the second coming of Mike Piazza.
  5. Jason Vargas was terrible, and it is simply inexcusable he was not so much as challenged for the fifth starter spot.
  6. The Mets have gotten away with calling up Alonso saying every game matters while carrying Vargas as the fifth starter and having Tim Peterson in the bullpen. Why do fans just let the Mets get away with pushing narratives like this?
  7. The booing of Brandon Nimmo and d’Arnaud was embarrassing. Mets fans should be better than that.
  8. And just like that, in his last three games, Nimmo is 4-for-10, with two doubles, a homer, three RBI, a walk, and a HBP.
  9. What the Mets did to Corey Oswalt is inexcusable. He effectively lost a year getting jerked around by the team, and the first chance this new regime gets, they call him up on three days rest to sit in the bullpen.
  10. Oswalt should be making Vargas’ start this Saturday, and if he doesn’t the Mets cannot pitch Oswalt until then because they may need him to piggyback that start.
  11. These two games were miserable creating difficult pitching situations. It led to deGrom’s struggles, and it likely led to Jeurys Familia‘s, but that’s now two bad outings from him. Too soon to overreact, but not too soon to take notice.
  12. After J.D. Davis‘ two home run game, he’s back to being Davis. He his 42.9% of his balls on the ground, and he has hit 45.8% on the ground this year. His inability to make a play at third led to Familia getting in trouble, and he almost botched a double play only to be saved by Luis Guillorme making an amazing turn.
  13. With Todd Frazier getting a rehab start at SS, it would seem Guillorme will be the odd man out, which is a shame because he’s doing everything he could do to stay. It’s at the point where he’s having to wear batting gloves because he has blisters from all his extra batting practice. He’s also been really good in the field.
  14. When you have players fighting this hard to stay in the majors, you will get the best results not just from them, but also from the players they are pushing. We are seeing some of that with this team.
  15. Robinson Cano has a knack for the moment with two big home runs already and a walk yesterday. That said, his overall body of work has not been good. He may be a slow starter, but he has never been this slow. It’s something worth monitoring with his age, PED suspension, and the Mets history on this front (Roberto Alomar).
  16. Mets are going to regret waking up the Nationals. They went from a team in trouble to a team who took consecutive road series from the red hot Mets and Phillies.
  17. There may be some holes and warning signs with Alonso here and there, including his having difficulty on two grounders this series, but pointing them out would be being a killjoy. So far, Alonso has been great, and the only things people should point out is how great he has been.
  18. We should not care what his final stat line said. Noah Syndergaard was dominant yesterday, and when you consider how everyone else pitched, he looked all the more so. Really, if not for some poor defense, he gets through the eighth unscathed.
  19. Good for Jay Bruce hitting seven homers so far this season and helping the Mariners to a 12-2 start. He gave the Mets everything he had, and it was not his fault it was a poor fit.
  20. In waht was promised to be a tight NL East, we have the Mets, Braves, and Phillies tied atop the division with a 7-4 record with the Nationals right behind them at 6-5.

Gsellman Needs To Open Vargas Starts

After last night’s game, Mickey Callaway indicated the team was looking to get only five innings out of Jason Vargas. This was the plan even with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia being unavailable and with Seth Lugo feeling sick. With the Marlins hitting rockets off Vargas, Callaway held hard and fast to the plan removing Vargas after just 74 pitches.

While the win was nice, Vargas’ performance and the plan for him is troubling. After all, if the Mets cannot trust Vargas to go more than five innings against the Marlins, what are they going to do when he faces the other teams in the division? Do the Mets see him even reaching the fifth against lineups featuring Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, or Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto?

The answer is probably no, and the question is how the Mets plan to adapt.

The obvious choice is to remove Vargas from the rotation. The issue there is their Triple-A starters did not fare well in the Majors last year. While you may believe in Corey Oswalt‘s increased Spring velocity or Chris Flexen‘s new physique, it would be wise to give them time in Syracuse first to see if their offseason progress translates to results.

Since dipping into Triple-A isn’t the answer yet, nor is rushing David Peterson or Anthony Kay, the Mets most likely and perhaps most successful option would be to utilize an opener.

Last year, the Rays were the first to utilize an opener. In tabbing Sergio Romo as his opener, Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “The way that their lineup stacks generally speaking is very heavy right-handed at the top It allows us in theory to let Sergio to come in there and play the matchup game in the first . . . .” (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times).

In essence, the goal of the opener is to get a traditional reliever to start the game and face a platoon advantage in the first. After the reliever gets through the top of the order, the starter can come in and “start” his game against the bottom of the lineup thereby permitting him to not only get an easier start to the game, but arguably, to get deeper into the game.

In the case of Vargas, you saw the Marlins stack right-handed batters against him. After all, it makes sense with right-handed hitters hitting Vargas well. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, right-handed batters are hitting .262/.324/.464 off of him, which translates to a 4.74 FIP.

As a result, the Mets need an opener who can counteract a team loading up their right-handed batters against Vargas. Given his history as a starter, it would make sense for the Mets to make Robert Gsellman as the opener on the games Vargas starts.

From what we see so far this season, Gsellman is not part of the late inning mix. That is reserved for Diaz, Familia, Lugo, and Justin Wilson. Rather, Gsellman is going to be used like he has been so far in this series. When the starter goes five (or less), he is going to be the first guy out of the pen to eat some innings before handing it to the late inning relievers.

If the team is going to use Gsellman for an inning or two whenever Vargas starts, why not make it at the beginning of a game? Why not put pressure on the opposing manager to opt for either having right-handed batters face Gsellman so they’re in place to face Vargas later, or to start their left-handed batters and have a wave of substitutions to face Vargas?

The point is by starting the game with Gsellman, Callaway would be creating a situation that is beneficial for Vargas to enter the game. If you are only getting five innings from him, why not make it against a team’s worse hitters? Why not use Gsellman against a right-handed lineup without fear of seeing a pinch-hitter? If nothing else, it can’t hurt.

2019 Mets Postseason Doppelgangers

There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.

When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud (Todd Pratt) – d’Arnaud may very well be pressed into action more than anticipated, and as we saw in the 2015 postseason, he can deliver some big hits when needed.

Tomas Nido (Jerry Grote) – A defensive oriented catcher who helps takes his pitchers over the top and more than makes up for whatever offensive issues he may have.

Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.

Infield

Pete Alonso (Michael Conforto) – Alonso is the young prospect who is getting thrown into the fire and expected to be a key bat in a lineup who are trying to overcome the Nationals.

Robinson Cano (Rickey Henderson) – Cano was brought in to be the Hall of Fame caliber player who could take this team over the top.

J.D. Davis (Matt Franco) – Players who will predominantly be pinch hitters who are going to be counted upon to provide those key unexpected game winning hits.

Todd Frazier (Ed Charles) – Both were better before joining the Mets, but they proved to be glue guys in the clubhouse making the team better for their presence alone.

Luis Guillorme (Anderson Hernandez) – Tremendously gifted middle infielders whose gloves helped earn them a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Jed Lowrie (Jose Valentin) – Switch hitters who were brought to serve as a bench piece for the Mets who could be pressed into duty more than anticipated, which could be of great value to the team.

Jeff McNeil (Cleon Jones) – Homegrown Mets ready who show their previous year breakouts were not flukes, but rather an indication they are key members of a winning team.

Amed Rosario (Jose Reyes) – Reyes figured it out in 2006, and he became a dynamic and exciting player. This can be that year for Rosario.

Dominic Smith (Ed Kranepool) – Both probably rushed and mishandled as prospects, but they both still had a lot of hits in their bats making them valuable pieces for their club.

Outfield

Keon Broxton (Xavier Nady) – The imported outfielder who has not yet lived up to expectations has an opportunity to prove himself on a talented roster.

Yoenis Cespedes (Donn Clendenon) – The Mets are relying on a big bat to come after the All-Star Break and get this team a World Series, who better than the guy who delivered that in 1969?

Michael Conforto (David Wright) – The time is now for the homegrown player to put it all together and have an MVP caliber season to put this team over the top.

Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.

Brandon Nimmo (Edgardo Alfonzo) – Homegrown Met oft overlooked who may actually prove to put up the best season of all the players on the roster.

Starters

Jacob deGrom (Tom Seaver) – deGrom is the staff ace coming off a historically great season, who needs to stay at a high level for the team to make the postseason.

Noah Syndergaard (Noah Syndergaard) – The Mets need Thor to be Thor.

Zack Wheeler (Jacob deGrom) – It was deGrom’s building off of a surprising 2014 season which helped take the Mets over the top in 2015. It’s exactly what everyone is expecting from Wheeler in 2019.

Steven Matz (Al Leiter) – Hometown left-handed pitchers who have a chance to help be a big part of the reason why the Mets make a run to the postseason.

Jason Vargas (Bartolo Colon) – Vargas is the veteran below-league average starter who needs to stick in the rotation while just eating up innings.

Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.

Chris Flexen (Octavio Dotel) – Spot starters who have the repertoire to potentially do much more damage in the bullpen.

Hector Santiago (Darren Oliver) – Pitchers who once had success starting who could be valuable long men in the bullpen.

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz (Billy Wagner) – Wagner was the sure-fire reliever at the end of the bullpen who helped make games an eight inning affair.

Jeurys Familia (John Franco) – One time great Mets closer is now serving as the set-up man for a young brash fireballer brought in during the offseason.

Seth Lugo (Nolan Ryan) – Just pure dominating stuff out of the bullpen from a guy who would probably be a starting pitcher for any other Major League team.

Robert Gsellman (Pat Mahomes) – The key piece of the 1999 bullpen who permitted the Mets bullpen to be as great as it could possibly be.

Justin Wilson (Dennis Cook) – Pitchers who are more than LOOGYs who raise their game in the biggest stages.

Luis Avilan (Pedro Feliciano) – Feliciano was the LOOGY out of the bullpen who was a weapon the Mets could utilize to neutralize the opponent’s top left-handed batters.

Tim Peterson (Greg McMichael) – Strike throwers who don’t have dominating stuff.

Jacob Rhame (Heath Bell) – The guys whose stuff have not quite yet translated to performance leading them to bounce between Triple-A and the Majors.

Paul Sewald (Carlos Torres) – Jack of all trades reliever who does yeoman’s work eating up innings.

Daniel Zamora (Royce Ring) – Promising young LOOGYS who should dominate in their limited opportunities.

And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.

 

Mets Should Hire Johan Santana In Addition To Leiter, Franco, And Mendoza

During this offseason, the Mets have certainly made splashes hiring David Wright, John Franco, Al Leiter, and now Jessica Mendoza in a player development role for the organization. These are all intelligent baseball people, who if utilized properly, can have a profound impact upon the Mets organization.

Seeing how three of these hires were popular Mets players, the team should consider doing the same and bringing back Johan Santana.

There are plenty of superficial reasons why the Mets should bring Santana back to New York. He is the only pitcher in Mets history to pitch a no-hitter. His 2008 season was great, and he would pitch the last great game seen at Shea Stadium. To this day, he remains popular with the fanbase. All that said, the real reason the Mets should bring back Santana is his change-up.

Santana’s changeup was a truly great pitch. It was a pitch he used to win two Cy Young awards in what was a borderline Hall of Fame career. It was a pitch which earned him a massive contract with the Mets. It was the final pitch he threw to strike out David Freese to end his no-hitter. It was the pitch he taught to Jacob deGrom, which forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career.

Back in 2011, deGrom was rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, and Santana was rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. As the two worked at the team’s rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, their paths would cross. As reported by the New York Times, Santana would teach deGrom the pitch that made Santana a Cy Young award winner and would one day make help make deGrom one as well:

[W]hile doing his rehabilitation work at the Mets’ rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., deGrom fell into conversation with Johan Santana, the Mets’ injured ace. Santana proceeded to teach deGrom his famous changeup, how to grip the ball, how it should look the same as a fastball coming out of his hand. Santana told him to practice throwing at 180 feet. If he threw it correctly, the ball would fall well short.

As noted by the Fangraphs, deGrom’s changeup was the second most valuable changeup in all of baseball last year making it his best pitch last year. According to Brooks Baseball, opposing batters hit just .139 off of his changeup. The pitch is a large reason why deGrom was second in the league in getting batters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, and why he had the fifth most swings and misses against him.

Much of what deGrom accomplished began when he was rehabbing at the same time as Santana. If the Mets were wise, they would bring back Santana to have a profound impact on someone else’s career. He may help Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen go to that next level. It’s possible David Peterson, Anthony Kay, and Thomas Szapucki each take a huge step forward in their development.

Perhaps, there is some pitching prospect who is not well known at this time who could learn Santana’s changeup and have his career take off. After all, that’s what happened to converted shortstop and former ninth round pick Jacob deGrom.

 

Mets Have Insufficient Depth

With the signing on Jed Lowrie, the Mets have been talking about just how deep this roster is. To a certain extent, they are right. Having infield options which include Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario in conjunction with Lowrie is incredible depth. However, that does not mean the Mets are a deep team.

First and foremost is the outfield. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two healthy everyday outfielders on the roster. Juan Lagares has the glove to justify playing everyday, but he has hasn’t played more than 94 games since 2015, and in that season the Mets were desperate for an upgrade as they were making a postseason push.

Keon Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two seasons indicating he has no business playing everyday. As bad as that is, Broxton is the last MLB outfielder on the 40 man roster.

After Broxton, the Mets are gambling on McNeil successfully transitioning to the outfield. It’s not an unreasonable gamble, and it is one we can expect to pay off. However, McNeil being an outfielder means the infield depth has taken a hit, which is a real issue should Alonso not be able to play first at the MLB level, or there are multiple injuries.

After McNeil is Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, both of them are over 35 years old, and neither of them have had a good season since 2015. Having just two starting outfielders with a couple of has beens and never will bes is not outfield depth.

And no, Yoenis Cespedes cannot be relied upon. He underwent double heel surgery, and no one can reasonably pinpoint when he is returning to the lineup, nor can anyone have any indication of what he will be when he is able to return.

With respect to the catching situation, the Mets are undoubtedly better with the signing of Wilson Ramos. However, that does not mean there is sufficient depth. Both Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud are injury prone putting more emphasis on Tomas Nido, who has hit .181/.210/.255 in limited Major League duty on top of hitting .272/.300/.431 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

There is a real chance at least two of those catchers are injured as the same time leaving the Mets to depend on Patrick Mazeika and/or Ali Sanchez. Basiscally, this isn’t much different than during the 2015 season where the team grasped at straws cycling through Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Recker, and Johnny Monell while they pieced together the catching situation in d’Arnaud’s absence.

Then there is the rotation. All five of the Mets starters have significant injury histories. Jacob deGrom is the only starter to have consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts. Jason Vargas is the only other starter with 20 plus starts in each of the last two seasons. Behind this thin rotation, with Vargas having a 64 ERA+ and a 5.02 FIP last year, is very questionable starting pitching depth.

Looking at the roster, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and P.J. Conlon. all posted an ERA over 5.00 in the majors last year. Hector Santiago was moved to the bullpen partially because he has had a 4.06 ERA since 2016. Kyle Dowdy, the Mets Rule 5 pick, had a 5.15 ERA between Double and Triple-A last year, and with the team being forced to keep him on the roster or return him to the Rays, he is going to be a bullpen option.

Now, to be fair, the Mets do have bullpen depth. The back-end with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia is as good as it gets. You can also say the Mets swing men, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, are the best combination in the Majors. From a left-handed relief option, Daniel Zamora has exception spin rates, and former White Sox Luis Avilan and Santiago have pitched well out of the bullpen.

Beyond that group, the Mets have promising young right-handed power arms in Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, Ryder Ryan, and Drew Smith. Combine that with Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame, the Mets have sufficient numbers and depth in the bullpen, albeit not the big seventh inning reliever you would want.

In the end, yes, the Mets have admirable infield depth, and there are enough arms here to at least figure out a good bullpen. However, past that, this is a paper thin roster at outfield, catcher, and starting pitcher. If the Mets face a number of injuries, and based on their history, they will, the 2019 Mets are going to be in real trouble.