— New York Mets (@Mets) May 10, 2019
By the time the first inning was over, it was 8-0 Mets, which essentially meant it was game over. Really, the Mets abused Lopez. The young pitcher allowed 10 earned over two innings.
Conforto crush job. 😳 pic.twitter.com/W0bmgxJaSP
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 10, 2019
Conforto snapped an 0-for-12 streak heading into the game. He would not make an out going 3-for-3 with a walk, HBP, three runs, and the aforementioned homer.
Later in the game, Jeff McNeil hit a homer of his own, and Nimmo had an RBI single giving the Mets an 11-2 lead.
Every Mets starter, including Wheeler, reached base safely. Pete Alonso was the only Mets starter without a hit, and he’d still walk twice and score a run.
Overall, a Mets team scuffling and incapable of scoring runs got real healthy against a terrible Marlins team. This is what the Mets are going to have to continue to do to not just get to .500, but also make headway in the division.
This past offseason in an effort to build outfield depth, Brodie Van Wagenen traded prospects Adam Hill and Felix Valerio along with Bobby Wahl to the Brewers for Keon Broxton. With Wahl suffering a torn ACL in his knee, it does not appear like the players given up by the Mets will haunt them this year. It will be quite a while before Hill or Valerio have a chance to establish themselves, and by that point, this trade will largely be a distant memory.
When looking at this trade, the issues aren’t so much the prospects traded. It is about Broxton as a player.
After impressing as a 26 year old rookie in 2016, Broxton has not been a good baseball player. In his only full season as a starter, he had an 85 wRC+ and a – DRS meaning he was subpar at the plate and in the field. Certainly, this was one of the reasons which drove the Brewers to sign Lorenzo Cain as a free agent.
As a bench piece last year, Broxton did show some value as a defensive replacement. In 134.1 innings, he had an 11 DRS and a 6.5 UZR. Now, the UZR was a complete outlier for him, but it should be noted Broxton did have a 9 DRS two seasons prior. In essence, there was every reason to believe Broxton was a good defensive outfielder. He may not have been great, but you could make the case he was good.
When you look at the Mets team, they didn’t have a need for that type of player. In fact, the Mets already had that in Juan Lagares, who the team was already scheduled to pay $9 million. Considering Lagares’ contract was going to be next to impossible to move, the team was really adding a duplicative player who played worse defense.
There could be an argument here that even at 28 Broxton had some untapped offensive potential. After all, this was a guy who had good power, and he had a very good 24.1 percent HR/FB ratio. If you could get him to stop striking out at an insanely high clip (36.9 percent) and get him to lift the ball more (1.45 GB/FB), maybe you had something there. Reasonably, the Mets could have believed Chili Davis was the hitting coach to bring that out of him.
Herein lies the issue with Broxton. The Mets needed a contingency for what if Davis couldn’t get through to him right away. Typically speaking, you’d like to send a player like that down to the minors, especially since you have a player like Lagares on the roster. However, the Mets can’t do that because Broxton is out of options.
To make matters worse, the Mets are bereft of outfield depth. That’s one of the reasons why Jeff McNeil became an everyday outfielder on this team (the other is the team has far too many duplicative infielders). Partially due to Broxton’s presence, the Mets sat idly by while quality outfielders like Curtis Granderson (who also could have served as a left-handed bat off the bench) signed cheap free agent deals with other teams.
So far, the Mets have made a mistake bringing Broxton aboard. He is someone who is duplicative, and he is someone without options. Unless Van Wagenen is willing to do to Broxton what he did to Travis d’Arnaud, Broxton is going to continue taking up space on this roster while contributing very little. There is time for that to change, but it’s hard to see it changing without Broxton getting the at-bats he needs to improve as a player.
Brandon Nimmo got it started with a leadoff single, and he would end the inning with a groundout. It was exactly that type of start with the Mets scoring five runs in the first highlighted by RBI singles by Wilson Ramos and Dominic Smith and an RBI double by Amed Rosario.
In the first, Vargas would make that lead look tenuous. Starting with old friend Curtis Granderson‘s double, the Marlins were hitting the ball very hard off Vargas. Really, as Tim Ryder pointed out, the Marlins were hitting rockets off him.
It was a miracle Vargas only allowed two runs on eight hits through five innings.
The Mets would have spurts here and there, but it would not be until the seventh that the Mets scored another run, and it would cost them.
The Mets loaded the bases against Nationals reliever Wei-Yin Chen. One of those hits was an opposite field single. His two opposite field singles on the day were reminiscent of Tony Gwynn and the 5.5 hole.
Entering the game, Nimmo was struggling mightily going 1-for-13. Today, he looked much more like Nimmo going 1-for-3 with a run, walk, and HBP. The HBP forced home a run, and it would be costly as it forced him from the game. While preliminary x-rays were negative, the hand tends to be fickle.
After two quick outs in the seventh, JT Riddle singled. Lugo then hit Jorge Alfaro before allowing RBI singles to Lewis Brinson and Peter O’Brien (who was apparently taking the night off from kicking puppies).
Now, Lugo had been double switched into the game with Jeff McNeil again being the player lifted from the game. This was an indication Mickey Callaway was looking for two innings from him. Still, seeing Lugo’s seventh, bringing him in would be completely tone deaf.
Apparently, Callaway is time deaf.
Wilson came up huge getting Riddle to hit an RBI groundout before striking out Alfaro to escape the jam.
Then, for some reason, even though he’s not a real multi-inning reliever, Callaway kept Wilson in to get the save.
Fortunately, two of those hard hit balls were liners right at Rosario. The latter of which Rosario turned into an inning ending double play after O’Brien fell trying to get back to second.
The Mets needed all the help and luck they could get, and they got it. As a result, they overcame poor starting pitching, a struggling Lugo, and an asleep at the wheel Callaway in the 6-5 win.
Game Notes: Smith got his first start and went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Pete Alonso got the night off and struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh off Chen. Despite going 0-for-4, Juan Lagares was on base three times tonight (fielder’s choice, wild pitch on strikeout, walk).
Like with most prospects, Pete Alonso has been mostly adjudged by his tools and his production on the field. His biggest proponents see a power hitter whose game translates well to the Major League level. His detractors see a poor fielding first baseman who may never hit quality pitching. Universally, people who have met or analyzed Alonso come away with the impression that he is a hard working player who is going to get the most out of his talent.
Over the past year, another factor is becoming increasingly obvious. Alonso has not only been a popular teammate, but one who has seen his former teammates jump at the chance to either laud him or come to his defense.
For most people, we first became aware of how good a teammate Alonso was in July 2018. In response to a question about Jeff McNeil‘s projectibility at the Major League level, ESPN‘s Keith Law largely discredited McNeil’s production citing his age and the hitting environment. Alonso did not miss this exchange, and he felt compelled to stick up for this teammate:
@keithlaw The kid rakes and has hit pretty much everywhere he’s been. How can you discredit a .400 average in AAA?
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) July 6, 2018
As we know now, Alonso and McNeil had grown close during that 2018 season as both players were doing all they could do to force the Mets to call them up to the majors. Whenever asked the question, McNeil would say how Alonso is going to hit for power at the Major League level, and he made it a point to show Alonso’s highlights on his Twitter account.
With Alonso, it is more than just his teammates having fun and sharing in his highlights. Recently, we have also seen his teammates come rushing to his defense in a similar fashion to which Alonso once did for McNeil.
Notably, when an unnamed scout told Baseball America Alonso has never hit a slider and may not have the “skills to be a hitter,” his teammates would have something to say about it. Among those players expressing bemusement or stepping up to defend Alonso included Anthony Kay.
When he was called up to the majors, most of his former teammates took time to celebrate and congratulate him. In that first game, Alonso was one the first guy to congratulate Dominic Smith after he scored the second run of the game. What made that moment all the more inspiring was how these two players are rivals for the same position, and if Alonso were to slip up, Smith would be in a position to take over his role. That didn’t matter to Alonso, who was just happy for his team and his teammate.
This should come as no surprise as Alonso said of Smith during Spring Training, “Me and Dom, we played together last year, we spent some good time this year. I’m really happy he’s playing well this spring. I don’t want anyone to do bad. He’s a teammate of mine. I want him to do his best as he can and do the best I can.” (Matt Ehalt, Yahoo).
That attitude has long been noticed and appreciated by his teammates as he has gone through the Mets minor league system. That’s why when MMO‘s Michael Mayer shared the moment on Twitter, former Mets prospect Anthony Dimino would tweet, “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking the field with! Deserves to be up there and will be for a long time.”
While we have seen the prodigious homers from Alonso, we are now seeing how his power may pale in comparison to the type of person and teammate he is. These are the qualities which once endeared Mets fans to Curtis Granderson, and it is the type of qualities which will make Alonso a fan favorite in very short order . . . if he isn’t one already.
During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
Back in 1987, well after Spring Training had begun, a defeated and dejected Andre Dawson went to the Chicago Cubs and gave them a blank contract where they could fill-in his compensation. Dawson was forced to do that because no Major League team, not even the Montreal Expos where he had spent 11 years, had shown an interest in signing him.
At that time, Dawson was 31 years old, and he was coming off a season where he hit .284/.338/.478 with 32 doubles, 20 homers, and 78 RBI. In his then 11 year career, he already had won the Rookie of the Year, six Gold Gloves, and he was a three time All-Star. To think no one wanted his services is beyond ludicrous.
As we would later discover, this was the result of collusion among owners, which continued to sow the mistrust between owners the MLBPA.
Since that time, things have dramatically improved to the point where the last two Collective Bargaining Agreements were ratified without so much as a hint of a work stoppage. Owners, players, and even fans have been able to enjoy the financial success of the sport, and they have seen the sport grow.
However, now, there are the seeds of mistrust being sown again.
This is something which has been building for a while now. It seems each offseason there is increasingly less activity during the Winter Meetings. Seemingly, teams are all individually yet collectively trying to wait out the market. Teams will tell you they are smarter than they have been in the past, and maybe they are, but there is something suspicious about what is transpiring.
Pitchers and catchers have less than one week before they have to report to Spring Training. Typically, this is the time of year where teams are finding their last pieces of the puzzle. They are signing cheaper veterans, and they are looking to hand out minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training to help sure up their bench and depth.
That’s not the case this year. Rather, there are real difference makers still available in free agency in a way that we have never seen before in the history of free agency:
Craig Kimbrel is the active saves leader, and he is coming off his third consecutive All-Star season where he saved 42 games, which was the third most in the Majors last year.
Gio Gonzalez is one year removed from a top six Cy Young finish, and he was 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts for the Brewers as they fought for the Central Division title down the stretch.
Additionally, Mike Moustakas has the third most homers among third basemen over the past two seasons, and Adam Jones is a five time All Starhe has been an above average league hitter in nine of the past 10 seasons including his being just one of 37 outfielders with a wRC+ over 100 over the past two seasons.
While you can make a case for or against each one of these players, the fact these players remain on the free agent market in addition to other valuable commodities is ponderous. There is also the issue with Curtis Granderson and Jerry Blevins needing to accept minor league deals despite having been valuable Major League players for the past few seasons.
As bad as these instances are, there is Jacob deGrom.
Just last summer, his agent said, “We have discussed Jacob’s future with the Mets at length. Jacob has expressed interest in exploring a long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come. If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”
This was as soft a trade demand as you can get. Really, this was a demand for a contract extension. The hope was with a new General Manager in place with a new plan, the Mets could pursue that extension. The only problem is the Mets would hire deGrom’s agent as their new General Manager, and Brodie Van Wagenen has not seemed intent on giving his former client the contract extension he asserted deGrom deserved.
That’s the current state of affairs between the players and owners. The owners are keeping player salaries down, and they are hiring player agents and having those agents not making good on their own demands. Even if you think what the owners are doing is justifiable, it is clear the players are not getting the same deals they once were on the free agent market.
This is why you see players like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt looking for contract extensions with their current teams so as to not be in the same position as this year’s group of free agents. It is why you will eventually see the union striking before the end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Today is the three year anniversary of Yoenis Cespedes officially signing a three year $75 million contract with the New York Mets. The contract came with the opt out the Mets had said they didn’t want to offer anyone, and it was a surprise for a team who had seemed to move on from Cespedes early in the offseason.
For those who recall, the Mets had signed Alejandro De Aza on December 23, 2015. With his signing, the plan was apparently to have him platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. He would be in the same outfield as Michael Conforto, who after a promising 2015 season, looked primed to be an everyday player and Curtis Granderson, a man who was a series of infield and managerial gaffes away from being the World Series MVP.
That was a respectable, but not an especially formidable outfield for a Mets team who had designs on winning a World Series. It caused frustration because the De Aza signing didn’t exactly put the team over the top. The money saved on Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement was arguably poorly spread between De Aza, Jerry Blevins, Antonio Bastardo, and Bartolo Colon.
No, this team needed Cespedes.
What was odd was Cespedes was still a free agent. Sure, there were better regarded free agent outfield options in Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. There were other attractive options available as well. Still, this was a player who thrived in the biggest market in the world hitting .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 homers, and 44 RBI in 57 games.
Extrapolating that over a 162 game season, and Cespedes would have accumulated 40 doubles, 11 triples, 48 homers, and 125 RBI. Now, it shouldn’t be anticipated Cespedes could do that over a 162 game schedule. However, what we did see is Cespedes is a difference maker just like he was with the Athletics.
Yet, still he lingered with little interest. Sure, the Nationals were rumored to have offered Cespedes $100 million, but it was the typical Nationals offer with deferred money, which did not seem to interest Cespedes. The fact this was the only real offer kept him around thereby allowing the Mets to swoop in and get Cespedes on a good deal for both sides.
It was a coup by Sandy Alderson. It was a necessary move which helped the Mets reach the postseason again in 2016. It marked just the second time in team history the Mets would go to consecutive postseasons. It happened because Cespedes lingered allowing the Mets to make a bold move.
Somehow, some way, the two best free agents entering this free agent class are still available. For reasons unbeknownst to us, there are few teams in on either one of these players. In adding either one of these players, the Mets would take their 2019 team and put it over the top. A team who is projected to win around 85 games would move into the 90+ win range. That’s what happens when you add superstars and potential Hall of Famers.
The Mets took advantage of unexpected opportunities. They struck when no one else expected them to strike. The result was a period of relevance, winning, and increased attendance. The chance is there. The Mets need to strike now and bring in one of Harper or Machado. The 2019 season rests on it.
Yesterday, there were two bits of relatively important news. First, we discovered Curtis Granderson intends to play another season. Second, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said the team was not prioritizing the outfield as he believes the team is set there partially because Jeff McNeil is going to move out there.
There are a number of ways to interpret Van Wagenen’s statement with the most likely being the team is not going to sign an everyday outfielder. This means no Bryce Harper or even A.J. Pollock. We can discuss the wisdom of that decision, and we definitely should, but at the moment, the question is whether the Mets are really set in the outfield.
Juan Lagares could be an everyday player for his glove alone, and he showed some promise at the plate. With a new approach, he hit .339/.375/.390 in very limited duty. Certainly, you could argue with this being his contract year and with Chili Davis being the new hitting coach, Lagares is primed for a big season. However, that overlooks the fact he has not played at least 95 games since 2015.
Behind him is Keon Broxton. Over the past two years, Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419. For all of the compliments of his defense, in his only full season in center, Broxton had a -7 DRS and a -2.6 UZR. Even as a part-time player, you really can’t rely on him producing.
Past Lagares and Broxton are Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco. These are two players who are over 35 years old, and they have not been productive Major League players since 2015, and it is hard to imagine 2019 will be the year they turn back the clock.
This places much onus on McNeil. There is every reason to believe McNeil can adapt to the outfield, and even with his questionable peripherals, there is a sufficient basis to believe he can hit at the Major League level. Fact is, he’s a Major League caliber player.
However, the Mets infield has a lot of age. Robinson Cano is 36. Todd Frazier will soon turn 33, and he is coming off his first injury plagued season. Behind both of them is Jed Lowrie, who has been quite good the past two years, but he will be 35 next year. When you factor in the possibility Peter Alonso may not be ready, and you are in a position where McNeil may be needed to return to the infield thereby leaving a thin outfield another outfielder short.
Granderson may be older, but he has always been durable. More importantly, Granderson has remained a productive player, and he effectively transitioned to being a part-time player. Last year, Granderson hit .242/.351/.431 with a 115 OPS+. As a pinch hitter, Granderson hit .375/.483/.500, and that doesn’t include the big pinch hit double he had in Game 5 of the NLCS.
The days of Granderson playing everyday are long gone. Still, Granderson is capable of playing for long stretches in a pinch, and he is someone who you want in your clubhouse mentoring your younger players like Alonso and McNeil. He’s a popular player, and he is someone who has shown the ability to play well in a Mets uniform.
Granderson may not be perfect, but the Mets don’t need perfect. They need a good player and someone who compliments this roster. Right now, that player is Granderson, and he should be back wearing his number three in blue and orange.
One of the narratives which has taken hold of late is how the Mets catching situation is what has been holding them back. To a certain extent, there is a point. Travis d’Arnaud cannot stay on the field, and Kevin Plawecki has yet to fully maximize the chances he has been given to establish himself as even a clear-cut starter at the MLB level.
When looking at this offseason, there are plenty of players available who could be upgrades for the Mets. On the free agent front, there’s Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. On the trade front, there is J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli. Even if you argue all of these players are not definitively better than what a healthy d’Arnaud can give you, their ability to stay on the field makes them upgrades. More than that, it provides the Mets with depth at the catching position.
As we saw with the Mets playing Jose Lobaton and Devin Mesoraco, depth is vitally important at the catching position. More than that, the Mets need a real depth of talent on the roster. If you build a roster with talented players, an upgrade at catcher isn’t that desperately needed.
For those who don’t remember, the 2015 Mets were able to make it to the World Series with d’Arnaud behind the plate. There were several reasons why. Daniel Murphy was just beginning to become the feared hitter he would become. Curtis Granderson was a leader on and off the field. David Wright was having that one last great stretch in a terrific career. Yoenis Cespedes was phenomenal. There was real depth with Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Wilmer Flores.
Mostly, it was the pitching, and d’Arnaud played a big part of that with his pitch framing. This path to the World Series isn’t an anomaly either. Just this past season, we saw the Red Sox go to the World Series with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate. Much like the 2015 Mets, the reason the Red Sox were able to do this was because they had great players like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale in addition to terrific situational/platoon players like Steve Pearce and Brock Holt.
The overriding point is there are many ways for the Mets to go back to the World Series, and they don’t have to upgrade at catcher to do it. Instead, they need to look at the best possible players they can add to the roster.
They need to build on a pitching staff which already includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, and Seth Lugo. They need to add to a lineup which already features Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Robinson Cano.
If building up the lineup and roster comes at catcher, great. If it doesn’t, that’s good too because we already know d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate can bring you to a World Series. For that matter, Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Rene Rivera brought the Mets to the Wild Card Game.
In the end, there needs to be much less of a fixation on improving just one roster spot for the sake of another. For example, don’t trade Nimmo for Realmuto. Instead, the Mets just need to focus on getting better players on this team much like how they added Cano even though they already had McNeil.
In the end, if the focus is better players and a deeper roster, you will win games. You see it time and again. The Yankees dynasty had a black hole in left field. The Red Sox had nothing at catcher, second, and third. The 1986 Mets had Rafael Santana. The 2018 Mets can have d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, a tandem we already know can get you to the World Series.
According to recent reports, the Mets are pursuing J.T. Realmuto. Purportedly, the Marlins want a combination of young MLB players under control plus some prospects for Realmuto. The MLB players mentioned were Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Brandon Nimmo. If that’s the cost, especially Nimmo, the Mets should tell the Marlins there’s no deal.
In fact, if anyone approaches the Mets about Nimmo, they should hang up the phone.
Last year, Nimmo was one of the best players in the National League. In fact, if not for the Mets completely falling apart in the May, it is quite possible Nimmo would have been one of the top five in MVP voting. No, this is not hyperbole.
In 2018, Nimmo was second in the National League in both wRC+, OPS+, and OBP. He had the third highest WAR among National League outfielders. He was fourth in the league in triples. He was ninth in walks and first in HBP. Taking all of this into account, Nimmo profiled as the best lead-off hitter in the National League, and if Mookie Betts wasn’t a lead0ff hitter for the Red Sox, you could probably argue Nimmo was the best leadoff hitter in baseball.
When you take Nimmo’s production and you combine it with his not yet being arbitration eligible, you have one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. Nimmo is playing at an All Star level, is still just 25 years old, and he is under team control through the 2022 season. This is the type of asset you build upon, not one you trade away when you can simply sign other players to fill other voids.
Speaking of voids, trading Nimmo leaves a huge one. If you are going to look to replace him, you are talking about injury plagued players like Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock. There’s also veterans on the backside of their careers like Andrew McCutchen or Adam Jones. Past that, and you’re really rolling the dice that Curtis Granderson or Nick Markakis have just one year left in them.
Sure, you can mention Bryce Harper, but if you have the money to sign him, just go ahead and sign him. He is supposedly willing to play first base. If he isn’t, Nimmo can play center. He was a -2 DRS in 350.1 innings there last year, but according to Baseball Savant he has the same spring speed as Juan Lagares, which at least suggests he can make improvements if he were to remain at the position (no, this is not to say he’s going to win any Gold Gloves).
Overall, Nimmo is a cost controlled outfielder who was one of the best hitters in all of baseball last year. He is a driven to get better, and he is versatile in the outfield. With him not yet being arbitration eligible and under team control for four more years, he is as untouchable as any player, pitchers included, on this Mets team.