Daniel Murphy

Good Luck d’Arnaud

With Travis d’Arnaud struggling in his limited chances since returning from Tommy John surgery, he was designated for assignment. Instead of seeking to outright him to Syracuse, the Mets opted to release d’Arnaud. Now, d’Arnaud is reunited with Bob Geren in Los Angeles. It’s easy to forget now, but with Geren being the Mets catching coach, he got the very best out of d’Arnaud.

Back in 2012, the Mets would trade reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package which included d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. At that point, d’Arnaud was the best known prospect, and he was certainly a coveted one having previously been traded the Phillies to the Blue Jays so the team could obtain Roy Halladay.

The book on d’Arnaud was he was going to be a good hitting catcher. Being a good hitter or even a catcher was something which was next to impossible to ascertain when d’Arnaud was first called up to the majors in 2013. He didn’t hit at all, and he struggled mightily behind the plate. After that year, d’Arnaud would put his work in and become a much better player.

While the bat never quite materialized the way we anticipated, he did became very good behind the plate. We saw d’Arnaud become one of the best pitch framers in the game. It was one of the reasons why he was in the top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014, and it was one of the reasons why the Mets would take off in 2015.

Like he would most of his career, d’Arnaud would have injury issues in 2015, but he would be an impactful player when he was on the field. His elite pitch framing helped a staff featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and  Syndergaard not only win the division, but also go all the way to the World Series. It gets overlooked, but d’Arnaud didn’t contribute with his strong play behind the plate, he also contributed as a hitter.

In the 2015 postseaon, d’Arnaud would hit three homers. That included one in Game 1 of the NLCS which would actually hit the Home Run Apple, which led the Mets to put a temporary band-aid on it prior to Game 2.

Of course, the homers overlook his key moments in the NLDS. In a pivotal Game 3, it was d’Arnaud who hit the RBI single which tied the game in the second, and it was d’Arnaud who hit the three run homer in the third which helped the Mets begin to pull away. We also forget with the heroics of deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Daniel Murphy in Game 5, it was d’Arnaud who had the sacrifice fly which had tied the game setting the stage for the Mets to eventually take the lead and head to the NLCS.

After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud would deal with injuries including the torn UCL which practically cost him the entire 2018 season. Still, when he played, he was a terrific pitch framer, who was an asset to his pitching staff. He would still have the occasional highlight like his 16th inning homer against the Marlins.

One thing which really stuck out with d’Arnaud was how he was a team first player. In his tenure with the Mets, he wore three different numbers partially because he changed from number 7 to accomodate Jose Reyes when he returned to the organization. There was also the August 16, 2017 game which will live in infamy.

With both Wilmer Flores and Reyes unable to play due to injuries, and with Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds unable to arrive from Las Vegas in time for the game, it meant someone was going to have to play out of position. That player would be d’Arnaud, who donned David Wright‘s mitt while switching back and forth between second and third with Asdrubal Cabrera. The lineup card was a mess with it reading d’Arnaud played “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B.”

In the game, d’Arnaud would hit a game tying sacrifice fly in the sixth. Despite all of Terry Collins‘ machinations, the ball would finally find d’Arnaud when Todd Frazier popped it up to him in the ninth. With d’Arnaud securing it, he now stands as the Mets all-time leader in fielding percentage among Mets second baseman.

When it comes to d’Arnaud, aside from that magical 2015 season, he was never quite the player everyone hoped he would be. He battled injuries during his Mets tenure, and he was never the hitter everyone expected even if he was above average at the position. Mostly, he was very good behind the plate having been one of the best pitch framers in the game.

His Mets tenure ended with a whimper. While fans villified him for what he wasn’t instead of celebrating him for what he was, d’Arnaud opted for the high road thanking the fans and the organization for everything and expressing his gratitude to all.

While things ended poorly here, he is now playing for his hometown team. It is a team who has his former catching coach, who get everything out of d’Arnaud’s talent. He’s at the place where former Met Justin Turner‘s career took off. He’s playing for a very good team, a smart organization, and he will be put in a good position to succeed.

In his tenure, d’Arnaud was a good Met, and the 2015 run doesn’t happen without him. Despite everything, he never complained, and he was willing to do everything asked of him. Every Mets fan should wish him the best of luck. I know I will.

deGrom Was At His Best With d’Arnaud

Since Jacob deGrom burst onto the scene in 2014, he has emerged as easily one of the five best pitchers in Mets history, and he is arguably third behind just Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden (although Jerry Koosman would like a word here). Going through his career, there are a number of signature performances from deGrom, but as we sort through them all, there are two games which should stand as his signature performances.

The first is Game 1 of the 2015 NLDS. In that game, deGrom out-pitched Clayton Kershaw. In his seven shutout innings, he allowed just one walk and five hits while striking out 13 batters. It was as dominant a postseason performance any Mets pitcher has ever had.

That game set the Mets on a path which had them winning the pennant that year. Of course, they do not win the pennant if deGrom does not survive and get the Mets in position to win Game 5 of that series.

It seemed deGrom was in trouble all six of the innings he pitched that night. What’s insane to think about is deGrom did not have a 1-2-3 inning that game until the sixth. Worse yet, in each of the first five innings, the Dodgers had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs.

Despite all of that, deGrom somehow managed to keep the game tied going into the seventh inning setting the stage for Daniel Murphy‘s homer, Noah Syndergaard coming out of the bullpen throwing 100 MPH, and Jeurys Familia with the six out save.

While deGrom had an all-time Cy Young winning season last year, arguably, the 2015 NLDS was deGrom at his best. One night he went out there, and he just dominated the Dodgers. The next, he used guile to get through that lineup to pick up the win. That series was everything you think of when you think of deGrom, and it happened in the postseason.

His catcher in that series? Travis d’Arnaud.

It’s easy to forget, but d’Arnaud has caught deGrom, and he has caught him well. It was d’Arnaud behind the plate when deGrom emerged from seemingly out of nowhere to win the 2014 Rookie of the Year. It was d’Arnaud behind the plate in the 2015 postseason. It was d’Arnaud behind the plate when deGrom was coming back from ulnar transposition surgery.

There are many reasons why d’Arnaud has caught deGrom well. First and foremost, deGrom is a great pitcher. As we have seen this season, deGrom can pitch great to Wilson Ramos and to Tomas Nido. Second, d’Arnaud has proven himself to be an excellent pitch framer, which allows an already lethal pitcher like deGrom ramp up his game to an unfair level.

Overall, d’Arnaud is a very good receiver who has a rapport with these Mets pitchers. If he didn’t, the Mets would have non-tendered him and kept the much cheaper Kevin Plawecki this past offseason, or they would have stuck with Devin Mesoraco. That goes double considering d’Arnaud was coming off Tommy John surgery.

Overall, the point is deGrom is great because he is great, and as we have seen time and time again, he’s even better with a catcher behind the plate who can steal those extra strikes for him. Ultimately, this is why we have seen deGrom at his best with d’Arnaud behind the plate.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: The Mets Who Got Away

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?

Michael Baron

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.

Michael Baron

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)

Darren O’Day … just because we lost the Rule 5 pick because Omar Minaya didn’t want to put Mike Pelfrey on the disabled list. That still triggers me.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

Joe Hietpas! Got to take the field, but then left without ever getting to bat…he’s Moonlight Graham!

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!

Mark Healey

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.

Metstradamus

Scott Kazmir would like a word.

Mets Daddy

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!

 

Sandy’s Team?

When the Mets were winning the 2015 pennant, there was a push in some circles to refer to that team as Omar’s team. Depending on your point of view, it was intended to either credit Omar Minaya for his leaving behind a better than advertised talent base, or it was to deride Sandy Alderson, who never gained traction with some Mets fans.

Even if it was said in jest, there was a nugget of truth to it. The core of that team, the pitching, was mostly there because of Omar Minaya. In fact, Minaya was the General Manager who drafted Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. The other key starter, Noah Syndergaard, was obtained in exchange for R.A. Dickey, a pitcher who was brought to the organization by Minaya on a minor league deal.

Minaya was also the General Manager who drafted Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy. Jeurys FamiliaWilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Hansel Robles, and Ruben Tejada came to the Mets as international free agents signed during Minaya’s tenure. Minaya’s impact on the team went further than this with Sandy Alderson utilizing players brought to the organization during Minaya’s tenure to acquire Travis d’Arnaud and Addison Reed.

Taking it a step further, Minaya was the Assistant General Manager when David Wright was drafted, and he was the General Manager who gave Wright his first contract extension.

Overall, Minaya’s fingerprints were all over that 2015 team much in the same way Alderson’s fingerprints are all over this year’s Mets team.

Yesterday’s starting lineup featured four former Alderson draft picks (Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil) and the player who his regime gave the second highest international signing bonus in team history (Amed Rosario). Robinson Cano came to the Mets when Brodie Van Wagenen traded two former Alderson first round draft picks (Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn) and two players Alderson had signed in free agency (Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak).

Looking further, the lineup also had two Minaya holdovers, one of which in Lagares who Alderson gave a contract extension.

Really, when you truly break it down, the only player on the Mets Opening Day lineup who has zero ties to any previous Mets regime was Wilson Ramos.

When you break it down further, the only Mets players who have no ties to previous regimes were Ramos, Luis AvilanJustin Wilson, and Jed Lowrie, a player who opened the season on the Injured List and who currently has no timetable to return. Considering Familia was a free agent signing, you could potentially credit him solely to Van Wagenen even if he was seeking to return to the team. The other 20 players on the Opening Day roster were either players brought to the team by Alderson, or they were players who were acquired utilizing players Alderson brought to the organization.

Given the narrative which was in place four years ago, the question should be presented whether the 2019 Mets are Sandy’s or Brodie’s team.

The answer is this is definitively Brodie’s team. As the General Manager, he was the one who set into course a series of transactions made to build the Mets in his image. It was he who decided to extend deGrom and to bring in Cano. When you are the General Manager, you are the one making the decisions, and you should receive the credit or blame if your decisions succeed or falter.

As for Sandy Alderson, Mets fans should be appreciative of the talent he acquired during his tenure. Alderson not only left behind a talented group of players, but he left behind a very likeable group of players. In the end, the Mets were better off for him having been the General Manager, and we can only hope we can say the same when Van Wagnen’s tenure as the Mets General Manager ends.

Why Nationals May Not Be Better Than Last Year

Surprisingly, even with losing Bryce Harper, the Nationals are projected to win the National League East. For example, Fangraphs has the Nationals as six games better than the Phillies with a 55.9 percent chance of winning the division.

The reason is the Nationals rotation is deeper and stronger with the addition of Patrick Corbin. Their bullpen, which is a perpetual problem, is much stronger with Kyle Barraclough, Trevor Rosenthal, and Tony Sipp. All of these pitchers will be much better with Yan Gomes behind the plate. Moreover, they will have a full season from Juan Soto and Victor Robles.

That’s even before you consider Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon, both of whom can realistically be MVP candidates in 2019. It is a lot to get excited about, but it’s far from perfect.

First and foremost, the Nationals have injury issues. Stephen Strasburg hasn’t reached 30 starts since 2014. Sean Doolittle has been on the DL in each of the past six seasons. Barraclough has spent time on the DL in each of the past two. That’s just from their top end pitchers.

Adam Eaton has had two injury prone seasons. Gomes hasn’t played at least 115 games since 2014. After having a healthy 2017 season, Ryan Zimmerman was back on the DL last year. Speaking of Zimmerman, there’s an issue regarding older players performance.

Even with Zimmerman reducing his strike out rate and increasing his walk rate, his wRC+ dropped 19 points. If he reverts back to his career norms while seeing his ISO and other power numbers decline, he could revert back to his pre-2017 form.

The Nationals are also trying to replace Daniel Murphy with Brian Dozier. Last year, Dozier cratered hitting .215/.305/.391 in an injury plagued year. While his production may rebound with better health, Dozier will be 32 in May, and he has seen a three year drop in his wRC+ and his HR/FB.

With respect to Gomes, he had a bounceback 2018 season offensively, which does not seem repeatable. His walk rate dropped, and his BABIP was the highest it was since 2014. If he reverts to what he was the past few seasons, he’s not the upgrade the Nationals will need.

Now, the Nationals have younger players who could have breakout seasons, which could offset the decline and under-performance of their veterans. To that end, they’ll need Soto to replicate his surprise 2018 season, which he could do, and they’ll need Robles to be the player they’ve been touting for years. Based on a small sample size last year, he can do that.

The question is whether that’s enough. Arguably, there are very few teams in baseball who could tout a top four position players like Turner, Rendon, Robles, and Soto. That’s a dangerous core made all the more dangerous by the presence of Max Scherzer. There’s also Corbin, who they desperately need to be the pitcher he was last year and not the pitcher who was league average (101 ERA+) over the prior two seasons.

Still, the Nationals had Turner, Rendon, and Soto playing at a high level last year, and Scherzer was as dominant as he always was. The team had Harper last year, and he was the fourth best hitter in the division last year. That all amounted to an 82 win season. So certainly, it’s possible for things to break right for the Nationals and for them to be on the outside looking in come postseason time.

McNeil Needs To Be McNeil To Succeed At The Plate

When Jeff McNeil was finally called up to the majors, he took full advantage of his opportunity. In 63 games, McNeil hit .329/.381/.471 with 11 doubles, six triples, three homers, and 19 RBI. Looking at the advanced statistics, this equated to a 137 wRC+ and a 140 OPS+. If he were able to replicate that going forward, he would not be just one of the best hitters on the Mets, he would be one of the best hitters in all of baseball.

John Edwards explained McNeil’s early season success in The Athletic. Boiling it down, McNeil does not swing and miss. Moreoever, with his approach at the plate, he is also not getting called strikes against him. Certainly, this was a recipe for success for McNeil in 2018, but the larger question for the Mets is whether it will be a recipe of success in 2019 and beyond.

While his contact rate is extremely promising, his other numbers were not. His 5.6 percent walk rate is downright bad. In fact, it is just a hair above Amed Rosario‘s, but as we know Rosario has not had the same level of success at the plate McNeil exhibited in a small sample size. This shows McNeil’s ability to get on base was almost purely BABIP driven.

While we are not yet quite aware of what McNeil’s true BABIP talent is at the Major League level, it is generally accepted a player’s BABIP typically falls around .300. Last year, McNeil’s BABIP was .359. If McNeil was to repeat his approach at the plate next year, he is going to have to yield a similar BABIP to be a productive hitter.

As Devan Fink examined in Beyond the Box Score, it is possible for players to maintain a high BABIP. For example, Aaron Judge has been able to maintain a career .356 BABIP partially due to his hard hit rate, which has been over 48 percent in two out of his three years. Last year, McNeil’s was just 30.2 percent.

In addition to hard hit rate, there has been some correlation between line drives and BABIP. For example, reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich has a career .359 BABIP and a career 22.3 percent line drive rate. That includes last season when he had a .373 BABIP and a 24.7 percent line drive rate. Last year, McNeil had a 21.6 percent line drive rate, which is a little promising.

The last potential factor is speed. While Fangraphs once noted the correlation between speed and BABIP isn’t a pronounced as many believe, there is some correlation. For example, according to Baseball Savant, Trevor Story has elite sprint speed traveling 29.6 ft/second. With his sprint speed, he had a .345 BABIP last year and a .340 BABIP for his career. Last year, McNeil had good, but not great, speed traveling 27.8 feet/second.

Breaking it down, other than the ability to make contact, there is not one outstanding skill McNeil exhibited in his 63 Major League games, at least not one which would indicate his ability to replicate that BABIP. It’s even more dubious if he’s as aggressive at the plate.

Fortunately, McNeil does not need to be reliant upon a high BABIP to have another good offensive season. When you look at his minor league numbers, he was not called up to the majors because he swung at a high rate of pitches while making a high rate of contact. No, McNeil was called up to the majors because he had a Daniel Murphy type of transformation.

Beginning with Binghamton, McNeil increased his walk rate to a slightly above average 9.4 percent. He combined that with an excellent 10.9 percent strike out rate. Judging from his time in the majors last year, we saw his contact rate translated well. Now, it is time for him to begin the process of better identifying his pitches to hit. If he can replicate that like he did in Double and Triple-A last year, we should see him hit for much more power.

Basically, McNeil has the skills to be a very productive hitter in the Major League level next year, and he showed how well some of those skills translated at the Major League level. If he is able to incorporate more plate discipline, he should be able to drive the ball more and become an even more dangerous hitter. If that is the case, the Mets will be an even more potent and dangerous lineup than initially believed.

Patriots Winning The Super Bowl Is A Bad Omen For The Mets

Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:

2002
Super Bowl XXXVI
Mets: 79-86

After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.

What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.

2004
Super Bowl XXXVIII
Mets:
71-91

This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player.  Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.

As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.

As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.

Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.

2005
Super Bowl XXXIX
Mets:
83-79

With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific  collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:

The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.

Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.

2015
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1

Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.

2017
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: 70-92

The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.

Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.

Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.

As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.

2019
Super Bowl LIII
Mets: ?

This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.

The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.

Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.

Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.

 

Mets Risking Almost Everything With Peter Alonso

The Mets made a blockbuster deal with the Seattle Mariners where they gave up two former first round draft picks in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. At the moment, the Mets are in the midst of trying to negotiate a trade to obtain J.T. Realmuto. In those discussions, we have heard the Mets potentially trading any one or a combination of Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, or Mark Vientos.

What is interesting is we have not yet heard Peter Alonso‘s name attached to any rumor. Seeing the power and arguably unprecedented exit velocities combined with his status as a clear-cut T0p 100 prospect, it would be really hard to believe neither the Mariners nor the Marlins would have any interest in Alonso.

This would lead you to believe the Mets are making Alonso untouchable in trade discussions. With the Mets seemingly having penciled him in as their 2019 first baseman, you could understand the idea. On the other hand, why would the Mets make him more untouchable than their other players or prospects?

Looking at the infield right now, you could win by playing Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier, and Rosario in the same infield. Certainly, that infield and lineup would look all the better with Realmuto.

If you don’t want Cano, Frazier, or even McNeil being your everyday first baseman, there are still free agent first baseman available. Mark Reynolds, who has a 103 OPS+ over the last three years, is available. Matt Adams is a platoon bat who has a 119 wRC+ against right-handed pitching over the past two years. This is also a scenario where bringing Marwin Gonzalez aboard makes sense. With first base effectively vacant, you could have sufficient playing time between him and McNeil at first base, second base, third base, and the outfield.

There are also former Mets like Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores, who we know can handle first base and New York. If you are so inclined, you could probably even sign Asdrubal Cabrera the job. He has shown himself to be a different hitter in a Mets uniform, and it is possible playing first over a middle infield position keeps him fresher and healthier.

Arguably, any of these options are better than Alonso. While there may be some flaws, it is notable that Steamer has projected Alonso to hit .241/.318/.458. It is interesting to note Fangraphs Depth Charts comes to the same slash line albeit while giving Alonso a higher projected WAR.

Again, these projections may be flawed, but they may also not be. That’s the risk when you play an unproven rookie at first base.

The bigger risk for the Mets is trading Conforto or Nimmo. This is not an organization blessed with any outfield depth. Beyond them is Juan Lagares, who is injury prone, Yoenis Cespedes, who may not even play next year, and a collection of prospects who will likely not be in a position to contribute at the Major League level. Looking at the free agent class, you see a number of players who have considerable age or health concerns. Mostly, you see a group who will most likely not contribute at the level Conforto or Nimmo will next season.

That brings us back to Alonso. If the Mets haven’t already, shouldn’t they put his name on the table to see if that moves the needle on Realmuto? After all, the Mets window is likely two years, maybe three. While Alonso is very, very intriguing, he’s not a sure thing, and you can go get a first baseman who can produce for you while simultaneously getting production from Conforto and Nimmo while watching Rosario build off his improved second half.

Overall, when you break it all down, you really have to question the Mets seemingly counting on Alonso instead of one of their players who have actually produced and shown an ability to improve at the Major League level. That plan becomes all the more dubious when you consider the free agents available and the depth at certain areas of the Mets farm system.

REMINDER: Mets Went To A World Series With d’Arnaud & Plawecki

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.

Reasons Mets Are Justified In Not Pursuing Manny Machado

According to Jon Heyman of Fancred, the New York Mets are not pursuing Manny Machado this offseason as they “don’t see him as the right player to spend big on.”  While this may create an uproar amongst Mets fans and Mets critics, the is 100% the correct move for the Mets franchise.  There are several reasons why:

  1. Machado only wants to play shortstop, and as we saw with Kazuo Matsui displacing Jose Reyes, moving Amed Rosario off shortstop is a bad idea;
  2. With David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets already have two $100 million players.  You don’t need three.
  3. Carlos Beltran was the last under 30 year old who the Mets signed to a $100 million contract. Do we really want the Mets to sign someone who is just going to strike out looking anyway?
  4. The last Orioles shortstop to play for the Mets was Mike Bordick, and he hit .260/.321/.365 in 56 regular season games with the Mets before getting benched for Kurt Abbott in the World Series.
  5. With Jack Reinheimer, the Mets already have a 25 year old shortstop.
  6. Infamously, Timo Perez did not hustle in the World Series.  After the World Series, Perez would hit .275/.311/.394 with the Mets.  If that’s what we can expect from players who do not hustle in the postseason, giving Machado a megadeal will be a disaster.
  7. The Mets gave Ronny Mauricio a $2.1 million signing bonus.  You cannot give him that type of bonus and then block his path to the majors by giving Machado a huge contract.
  8. For the price of Machado, you can sign eyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Oliver Perez, Rene Rivera, Devin Mesoraco, Lucas Duda, Carlos Gomez, Eric Young, Jr., Chris Young, Tyler Clippard, and still have room to make strong offers to Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson.
  9. Machado, like Alex Rodriguez, will prove to be a 24+1 player, and you cannot possibly win with an A-Rod on your team.
  10. It will be hard to free up the funds to sign him with the Mets still paying Bobby Bonilla.

So really, when you break it down and look at the reasons, the better question is why should the Mets even consider signing Machado?