Reports are Steve Cohen and the New York Mets believe they still need to add a bat to this roster. In reality, they are quite right in that assessment. They may not be entirely correct in their pursuit.
According to those reports, the Mets are pursuing Michael Conforto and JD Martinez. As previously explained, Conforto would be a very good fit for the Mets roster, and really, it would be a good spot for Conforto to return to familiar surroundings to rebuild his value.
When it comes to Martinez, the Mets should avoid him. He is a very poor fit for this team, and in reality, he may not have anything left.
Martinez will be 35 next season. His sprint speed is 26.1 ft/sec. He didn’t play a single inning in the outfield last season. He has never played first base. The long story short is he’s only a DH at this point in his career. As a result, his ability to provide any value to his team will solely be wrapped up in his ability to hit.
That can be problematic.
Martinez was productive in 2022 with a 117 OPS+ and 119 wRC+. That mark ranked him as the seventh best DH in all of baseball. For a Mets team had the worst DH production for most of the 2022 season that would be an upgrade. However, it is probably not an upgrade from what is here already.
Last season, Daniel Vogelbach had a 150 wRC+ against right-handed pitching and has a 127 mark for his career. Looking towards 2023, he could share that role with one of Francisco Álvarez, Mark Canha, and/or Eduardo Escobar (133 wRC+ against left-handed pitching in 2022). All three of those players provide the ability to play in the field as needed.
Last season, Martinez had a 175 wRC+ against left-handed pitching and a 103 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Therein lies part of the problem.
If you sign Martinez, you are signing him to DH everyday. However, we see while he kills left-handed pitching, he is not hitting right-handed pitching anymore. Considering the vast majority of Major League pitchers are right-handed, that is a problem. That is also the tip of the iceberg.
Looking over at Baseball Savant, Martinez is in decline like you would expect for a 35 year old baseball player. His exit velocities and launch angles were down. He struck out slightly more and his walks have dipped (both not to the point of any real concern). As a result, his hard hit rates are down as well. Digging deeper, he’s starting to struggle hitting the fastball with his xBA in a steep decline from 2017.
Again, this is what you get from a 35 year old player. That is even if you want to point out much of the regression in his production was related to back issues. Certainly, people will point to Martinez having a bad second half as evidence that the bat will be there now that Martinez has had an offseason to recuperate
If you recall, this is a game the Mets played in 2008 with Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez was 36 with back issues, and he played like a 36 year old with back issues. Maybe Martinez is different, but when you’re a win-now team spending upwards of $400 million, this is not the risk you want to take.
For the Mets, their options should be sign Conforto, stand pat, or do something else. The answer is not J.D. Martinez, and really, they should avoid him at all costs. .
Right now, the New York Mets are rumored to be listening to offers for Carlos Carrasco. This makes sense because the Mets should listen to offers on all of their players and make deals if it improves the team. That should go without saying.
There is also the matter of clearing up payroll to permit the Mets to address their bullpen, outfield depth, and find a better solution than Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf at DH. Mostly, the Mets would be better served by having David Peterson in the rotation.
Peterson, 27, was the Mets 2017 first round pick (20th overall) out of the University of Oregon. At his age, this is exactly the time you would be expecting his career to take off, but frankly, to date, it has not gotten started. There are several reasons why that has happened.
After a promising 2020 rookie year in the pandemic shortened season, he predictably struggled in 2021 before succumbing to a shoulder injury. This would have the Mets under Steve Cohen bypass him as they looked to build an elite rotation designed to win the World Series. Despite that, Peterson would be needed, and he would have his moments.
Overall, as a starter, Peterson was 6-5 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.341 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, and a 10.9 K/9. He would also average 4.2 innings per start. The caveat there was in two September starts, he threw four innings total over two horrific starts. This came at a time the Mets were working to move him to the bullpen for the postseason. Without those two starts, he averaged 5+ innings per start.
No, these aren’t earth shattering numbers, and yes, the walks/control were an issue. However, there are some caveats with these numbers. He was bounced back-and-forth from the rotation and bullpen AND between the majors and Triple-A. That takes its toll on a player. Notably, Peterson did perform better in the majors than in Triple-A.
Another factor is Peterson did not get to really work with Jeremy Hefner the way the rest of the Mets pitching staff did. Notably, we did see Hefner help hone pitchers mechanics and work on their control. This was most notable with the work Hefner did with Edwin Díaz to get him to repeat his landing spot on the mound. As a result, we not only saw the best we’ve seen from the closer, but we also saw Díaz go from a 4.9 BB/9 in 2020 to a 2.6 last season.
Arguably, if Peterson is going to take that next step, he is going to need Major League coaching, be surrounded by pitchers like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander for a full season, and really, he is going to need a chance.
Looking at the data, he is worth that chance. Per Baseball Savant, Peterson generates excellent extension, and he has a very good whiff%. That is shown with Peterson striking out 27.8% of the batters he faced last season, which is excellent. Part of the reason for that is despite lower fastball velocity and spin (which should be expected with a sinker) is Peterson’s excellent slider numbers.
Highest single-season slider whiff% by a lefty pitcher in the Statcast era (min. 250 sliders swung at):
Andrew Miller: 54.7% ('15)
Amir Garrett: 53.7% ('19)
Patrick Corbin: 53.1% ('18)
Corbin: 51.4% ('19)
Robbie Ray: 49.5% ('17)
Corbin: 49% ('16)
DAVID PETERSON: 47.9% ('22) pic.twitter.com/vSAd5nAdLQ
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) December 1, 2022
It is genuinely a strikeout pitch. Batters whiffed 47.9% of the time against the pitch. In and of itself, it is worth investing in that pitch to see what more the Mets could be getting out of Peterson. That slider is a hidden gem on this Mets staff, and they need to see it in the majors instead of Triple-A.
Put another way, Peterson still has a lot of upside. In many ways, he is still raw and needs more coaching and opportunities. For an older Mets rotation, they actually need Peterson’s upside. They need the younger starter who can surprise and have a good year. Somehow, some way, the Mets just need to get Peterson into the rotation and watch him take that next step because that next step could help the Mets win the World Series.
Go back to 2015. Michael Conforto was a superstar in the making, and Brandon Nimmo seemed like the disappointing prospect. Seven years later everything is different.
Nimmo received the largest contract the Mets ever handed out to a homegrown player, and Conforto is looking for work. As soon as three seasons ago, that seemed completely implausible.
In the 2020 COVID impacted season, Conforto played at an MVP level. It was a level we knew he was capable of playing, and it seemed like his career was just going to take off. It didn’t as he would suffer an injury plagued 2021 season greatly impacting his production.
After rejecting the qualifying offer, he became a free agent. However, he would go unsigned as Conforto would injure his shoulder in the offseason. While rumors surfaced he may sign somewhere, he would sit out the season waiting for this offseason where he could attempt to cash in on a weaker free agent outfield market.
There was a report from Mike Puma of the New York Post Conforto was not looking to return to the Mets because ” the outfielder might want an escape from the narrative that he erred last offseason in rejecting the qualifying offer from the club.” That would be stupid on his part, and as we see with the Mets spending, they may be able to entice him to return.
Better put, the Mets need to entice him to return.
In September and the Wild Card Series, one thing which was readily clear was the Mets had a power outage, and it was impacting their ability to score runs. When you face better pitching, mounting those rallies becomes increasingly difficult, and at some point, you just need a guy who is going to put it in the seats.
Looking at the roster last season, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor were the only two who could consistently do that all season. Eduardo Escobar did hit 20 homers, but he hit eight of those in September, and it became increasingly clear he was really just a platoon option.
With Escobar, the Mets do seem to have Brett Baty ready or near ready to take over for him at third. We should eventually see Francisco Álvarez become the primary catcher. And yet, it does seem the Mets are one power bat short. That goes double with the DH situation and the inability to truly rely on rookies who are questionable to make the Major League roster.
Surveying the Mets roster, it would seem the biggest upgrade possibility would be in left field. Mark Canha did a good job there in 2022, but there remain question marks for him in 2023.
Canha’s defense was bad but not unplayable -1 OAA. His launch angle took a nose dive as did his barrel rates. With his value mostly wrapped in his OBP, it was at least concerning that his walk rate took a considerable step backwards. Again, this is a player in decline. He has value to the roster, but the more you look at him, it does not seem as if he is well suited to be the Mets everyday left fielder.
That’s not necessarily to say it’s Conforto. That said, he was a good fielder the last time he played, and assuming he’s stayed in shape, he promises to be one next season. He also has much more power than Canha, and really, if we want to look towards DH, Daniel Vogelbach. Another point there is Conforto has been able to hit left-handed pitching whereas Vogelbach is worse than a pitcher against lefties.
There’s the other point Conforto can handle New York, and we have seen him deliver in big moments here. When you consider the rules eliminating the shift, he should be even more potent at the plate than he was when he last played. Overall, Conforto should have some big hits in his bat, and the Mets need those big hits. The more you think about it, the more you realize Conforto needs to return to the Mets.
With respect to Daniel Vogelbach, some things should be made clear. The trade did help the New York Mets last season.
Vogelbach was a definitive upgrade over J.D. Davis. He was a DH for a team in need of one. He was cheap in every sense of the word.
Colin Holderman was a light price to pay for an established Major League hitter. His $800,00 contract was absurdly low as was his $1.5 million option.
Vogelbach kills right-handed pitching. He had a 150 wRC+ against them in 2022. In three of the last five years, he’s been a 127 or better, and in four of the past five, he’s been 117 or better.
However, as good as he’s been against right-handed pitching, he’s been even worse against left-handed pitching. For his career, he has a 41 wRC+ against them.
That’s unplayable necessitating the Mets platoon him. The issue there was Davis is/was not good necessitating another trade.
While Vogelbach was cheap to obtain, Darin Ruf wasn’t. The Mets gave up too much to obtain him. No one would normally care all that much, but Ruf was bad.
Ruf did not adapt well to being a strict platoon DH. With the Mets, he had a 24 wRC+. Mets fans may actually be surprised to learn it was that high.
With Ruf being 36 years old, it’s difficult to see him turning things around. After all, he was already having a poor year with the San Francisco Giants.
This does leave the Mets in a position where they’re looking to address the DH position this offseason. As noted, that’s complicated by the presence of Vogelbach.
Remember, Vogelbach is a platoon DH and really nothing else. That hamstrings your roster flexibility. It also restricts who the Mets can use to address the other half of the platoon DH spot.
As we’ve seen, Ruf struggled, and there’s not much hope for a rebound. They won’t want to restrict Mark Vientos as just a platoon DH. Short of a reclamation project like Yoenis Cespedes, it’s difficult to imagine who will want to sign to be a short side platoon DH.
Perhaps, you could force Mark Canha or Eduardo Escobar into the role, but that forces you to make other moves. In some ways, that may make Brett Baty’s readiness to be an Opening Day third baseman the lynchpin to eventually making the Vogelbach trade work.
However you analyze it, it becomes clear Vogelbach has restricted the Mets ability to address the DH spot, and really, improve the roster overall. Yes, in the short term, it was the right move especially given all the costs involved, but in the long term, the trade isn’t working out well for the Mets.
The writing had been on the wall, and now, it’s official. With the New York Mets non-tendering Dominic Smith, his tenure with the team has now ended.
In many ways, it never really began.
Despite Smith being a first round pick and top 100 prospect, he was only given 49 games in 2017 to claim the first base job. This was at a time when he had undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea.
That sleep apnea interfered with his chances of winning the first base job over Adrián González. It should be noted here the Mets brought in competition for Smith’s job but not Amed Rosario’s.
Rosario was never challenged for his job despite his failures. Smith was never given the chance to succeed.
In Smith’s entire six year career with the Mets, he entered Opening Day as the team’s first baseman zero times. Yes, Pete Alonso had a lot to do with that, but the organization’s unwillingness to give him the job played into it more.
Remember, after González was designated for assignment in 2018, Smith was not recalled to play first despite the team being effectively eliminated from postseason competition in May.
Over six years, Smith, a pure first baseman, has logged more innings in left than at first. Notably, left is out of position for Smith, and he suffered injuries each year he was asked to play extended time there.
On that note, the only time he was given a steering job out of Spring Training was 2021. He’d hurt his shoulder and play through it partially because of all of the Mets injuries.
He earned that chance because of a great 2020 pandemic season. That was the only time in his Mets career he was healthy and given a chance to play first. He thrived.
To the apparent shock of the Mets, Smith did not thrive playing out of position or when injured. It’s shocking they didn’t realize this because they only had to go as far back as Lucas Duda to figure that out. This being the Mets, they didn’t.
In 2022, the Mets opted to first go with Robinson Canó then J.D. Davis at DH before trading for Daniel Vogelbach. No, Smith was not given a chance to win that job in-season.
Smith was a DH fewer times than Alonso, who only served that role 27 times all season. Smith was the DH in just eight more games than Mark Vientos. Vientos was a short side platoon DH called up on September 11.
Barely getting more reps at a position than a part time player called up with less than a month remaining in the season is proof positive he wasn’t given a shot to win the job.
There are obvious and fair criticisms of Smith in 2022. He didn’t hit a homer in the majors all year. He didn’t hit much at all. Then again, his playing time was very sporadic.
Still, when you don’t produce, you’re going to be benched. Moreover, when the Mets were in need for pitching, they needed to send Smith down.
What’s truly bizarre is we never saw Smith in September. That was even with him hitting, and the Mets needing offense, offense the rookies were not providing. For Smith’s Mets tenure, it was par for the course.
Now, Smith is going to be free to sign with a team willing to play him at first. He’s going to get to show when playing first he can be that guy he was in 2020. Conversely, he also gets the chance to prove he’s not that guy.
Put another way, Smith is finally going to get his chance. Here’s hoping he takes full advantage and produces like we know he can.
Billy Eppler joined Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman on a New York Post podcast to discuss the New York Mets offseason plans. In reviewing the podcast, Eppler didn’t say anything really all the surprising, which we should expect from a seasoned front office executive.
The Mets want Edwin Diaz to return. They also want Brandon Nimmo, but if they can’t keep him they will consider Starling Marte in center. They want and can keep Jacob deGrom. Basically, everything you expect is in there inclusive of Eppler saying he is in charge of the baseball operations.
That’s where things get a little dicey based on past performance.
In 2014, Jerry Dipoto built a Los Angeles Angels team which finished atop the American League West division before they were swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately for him, he clashed with Mike Scioscia, and he lost leading to him resigning the following season. That led to Billy Eppler’s hiring.
When Eppler took over, he had Mike Trout, but he already had that albatross Albert Pujols contract. It was a roster that was somewhat flawed, but it had a good, young, and emerging starting staff with Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, and Andrew Heaney. They also had a very good bullpen with Huston Street, Joe Smith, and Fernando Salas.
In many ways, this was a great job to have. There were pieces in place to make the Angels a winner and a deep pocketed owner. There is the caveat the farm system was not great, but overall, this was a good job to have. Well, while it looked like it was a good job to have, things would completely unravel.
The Andrelton Simmons trade did not pan out as he had hoped. That would become a habit for him with the same happening in future years with Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa, and Ian Kinsler. His signings never really panned out with Justin Upton never working out for the team. He began dabbling on the fringes of the pitching markets getting players like Matt Harvey for far too much while eschewing the higher priced and more established starters.
Making matters worse was the Angels farm system never really improved under Eppler. They were bad when he took over, and when he left, they were still bad. During his tenure, he never really had a player he drafted come up to the majors and be an impact player for him.
All told, Eppler only had three real accomplishments. First, he signed Trout to an extension. Second, he landed Shohei Ohtani. Finally, he did what Dipoto wasn’t able to do by outlasting Scioscia. Despite all that, his tenure was largely a disappointment and failure.
With the Mets, the good news is he built a very strong roster in his first season. He added Chris Bassitt, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, and Max Scherzer. His peripheral moves to address the bullpen like Adam Ottavino worked. All told, it was a 101 win team that tied atop the NL East (still losing the division due to Rob Manfred’s gimmick rules and postseason).
In year one, we saw Eppler have a stronger offseason than he ever had in any year with the Angels. Part of that was Cohen having the checkbook to add players like Marte and Scherzer. With Joely Rodriguez, Tyler Naquin, and Darin Ruf, you saw he still has a lot of work left to do in terms of trades, we should give him a lot of credit for Bassitt.
Overall, it is still difficult to ascertain if Eppler has learned from his previous mistakes and errors as the Angels GM. What we do know is Cohen is a better owner with more money than Arte Moreno. We also know the Mets have a far better farm system with Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos nearly ready to be Major League contributors.
Put another way, we are going to learn a lot about Eppler this offseason. We will see how he handles players like deGrom, Diaz, and Nimmo. We will see how he address the Mets need for power while having contracts like Canha and Daniel Vogelbach seemingly standing in the way of doing that.
This is a critical offseason for the Mets and Eppler. This offseason will go a long way to determining if the Mets can contend in 2023 and beyond until the farm is fully up to speed to provide depth to the Major League roster. It will also go a long way in determining just how good of a GM Eppler truly can be.
The popular sentiments is for the New York Mets to part ways with James McCann. Seeing the way he has completely underperformed his contract, you can certainly understand the sentiments. However, looking solely at the contract is misguided.
When looking at McCann, the discussion should be over what exactly he can provide to this franchise. Moreover, this should be an analysis over what exactly is out there as a replacement. On that point, lets look at what McCann is at the moment.
In 2022, McCann was limited to 61 games partially because of injury and partially because he was surpassed by Tomas Nido as the Mets primary catcher. While one of the reasons the Mets obtained him was the bat, he had a career worst 59 wRC+. For a second straight season, his hard hit rate was too low to provide any sort of power.
Realistically speaking, McCann is just not going to hit. He is a ninth place hitter. He is not providing anything with the bat. However, he is going to provide something behind the plate.
While not as good as Nido, he was top 20 in the majors in pitch framing. We saw during the season, he was able to get on the same page as his pitchers. That was especially true with Chris Bassitt who struggled at first when McCann went down. In fact, looking at the starting staff Max Scherzer was the only pitcher who pitched better with Nido.
In fact, looking at pitchers for next season, Tylor Megill and David Peterson were considerably better with McCann. Aside from Scherzer, those are probably the one two pitchers as close to guaranteed to be returning to the Mets next season.
The major caveat here is we are dealing with small sample sizes. However, behind that small sample size is something worth analyzing. Looking at Bassitt in particular, McCann seemed better than Nido when it came to getting on the same page as his pitching staff and calling games. This is an intangible skill for a catcher which should not be overlooked.
Of course, the big elephant in the room is Francisco Álvarez. He was called up at the end of last season, and it would seem to everyone he should be the Mets starting catcher in 2023. However, that could be more fan than organizational reaction.
At the moment, we really do not know what the Mets plans are for Álvarez next season. Perhaps, he will be the starting catcher. Maybe, they wanted his bat in September but still think he needs more time to work on his defense. The Mets may even want to try to manipulate his service time for a bit. At this moment, it is still a bit of a mystery.
What we do know is by its nature the catching position is one with a number of injuries. We saw the Mets have to make an emergency trade for Michael Perez and play him last season. Much like with starting pitching, the name of the game is depth. You really cannot have enough Major League caliber catchers.
Like it or not, that is McCann. You can argue it would behoove the Mets to carry both McCann and Nido and wait for one of them to get injured before calling up Álvarez. At that point, if Álvarez claims the job outright, you can look to trade one of McCann or Nido or just outright designate them for assignment.
The Mets could also have all three catchers on the roster. With Daniel Vogelbach, Álvarez could be the answer for the right-handed platoon option. We can see McCann and Nido link up with starters to become their personal catchers. The Mets could rotate them as needed to ensure all of them are fresh throughout the season. That goes double for Álvarez who has never caught 80 games in a season.
Another benefit of the three catchers is permitting McCann to mentor Álvarez. He can help him work on game plans and building a rapport with pitchers. McCann could be that veteran leader to help Álvarez. Certainly, seeing Álvarez’s future and McCann’s contract at its inception, you had to imagine on some level that would be the Mets plan.
Whatever the case, it would seem McCann serves some purpose to the Mets in 2023. He works well with the pitching staff. He frames very well. He provides depth at a position where teams need it. He can serve as a mentor for Álvarez. Overall, it would seem McCann has value to the Mets next season, and unless the right move is there, they should strongly consider bringing him back for at least one more season.
We still do or do not know if Shohei Ohtani will be traded this offseason. The Los Angeles Angels are up for sale, and with a sale process ongoing, we may not see the superstar traded.
As a franchise, now may be the time to trade him. He’s a year away from free agency. He’s voicing his discontent. Even with Ohtani and Mike Trout, this is a team nowhere close to contention. That goes double when you consider what the Houston Astros are doing and the Seattle Mariners young core.
If Ohtani were available for trade, it would behoove the Mets to do everything they can do to get him right now. No, they should not wait around and hope to flex Steve Cohen’s financial muscle in the ensuing offseason.
The biggest reason why is you don’t know if he will even be a free agent. Years ago, Mets fans were awaiting Cohen to purchase the team, and the prevailing “wisdom” was not to go out and get Mookie Betts. because the Mets could just sign him after the offseason. Well, Betts signed a massive extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
We did see Cohen act similarly. The Mets went out and traded for Francisco Lindor. Cohen then gave him the biggest contract for a shortstop in Major League history to ensure Lindor would not hit the open market. We can go back over 20 years ago when the Mets obtained Mike Piazza from the Florida Marlins and then gave him a record contract during their exclusive negotiating window before the start of free agency.
When a team trades for and obtains a superstar, they get a chance to put on the full court press to sign that player to an extension with zero competition. Cohen has already once used that tactic for his benefit, and given the right player, he can do that again. Make no mistake, Ohtani is that player.
Heading into the offseason, the Mets likely want a course correction on their DH situation. While Daniel Vogelbach performed, their right-handed platoon options faltered. That leaves the Mets looking to upgrade from Darin Ruf or looking to start anew. Ideally, they would look to start anew.
Certainly, the Mets could look to blow that situation up for the right player. Ohtani is the right player. Since his rookie season in 2018, Ohtani has a 137 wRC+. That is second only to Yordan Alvarez among designated hitters. Really, Ohtani has become the second best DH in all of baseball.
We also see the Mets need to address their starting pitching. Jacob deGrom is going to opt out. Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker have player options. The Mets need to make a decision on how to rebuild their rotation.
Since undergoing Tommy John, the 2022 season was Ohtani’s first real full season as a starter. For a bad Angels team, he was 15-7 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.027 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, and an 11.9 K/9. That K/9 figure lead the American League and was second in all of baseball. He also averaged nearly six innings per start.
Revisit the Mets situation for a second. They need to address their DH spot. Ohtani is the second best in the sport. They need to rebuild their rotation. Ohtani has pitched like a number two starter. Ohtani has a good relationship with Mets GM Billy Eppler, and Cohen has the financial might and will to sign Ohtani to an extension. Certainly, the marketing locally, nationally, and abroad makes him all the more enticing to the Mets.
The only thing standing in the Mets way will be the Angels asking price. If there is the opportunity to sign Ohtani to an extension, the Mets should meet whatever price the Angels are asking. Really, there are no untouchables in the Mets organization when it comes to Ohtani.
Francisco Álvarez? Without a doubt. They want Pete Alonso? Well, they can have him. Again, there are no untouchables.
Sure, there may be a limit as to the package you may be willing to offer, but the Mets must keep in mind they are getting TWO players with Ohtani. They’re getting a star DH. They’re getting a top of the rotation caliber pitcher. They’re getting a superstar with immense likeability and marketability. He is going to make the Mets significantly better, and he is going to make them a ton of money.
Ohtani in a Mets uniform would be a dream come true for the Mets. He is everything they want and need. If he’s out there on the trade market, the Mets absolutely must do everything in their power to make him a Met for the rest of his career. That starts in 2022.
Things with Yoenis Cespedes did not end well with the New York Mets. After signing his second extension, he had the double heel surgery against Mets wishes, which was something of a Jeff Wilpon specialty with him trying the same with Carlos Beltran‘s career saving knee surgery.
During his rehab, he had the incident with the wild boar. His return was kaput as he now had to contend with a broken ankle. He would return in 2020 for eight games actually hitting two homers before leaving the team.
He opted out like many others did during COVID. While Cespedes told his teammates and the organization, an account backed up by players like Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto, Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets lied to the public saying they had no idea. After that, there was a significant amount of backlash against the player.
What is interesting is Cespedes was supposed to be one of the players who was to return for Old Timers’ Day. However, he didn’t. This was not a snub, but it had more to do with Cespedes looking to make a return to the Major Leagues. So far, Cespedes is off to a great start in the Winter Leagues:
Yoenis Céspedes had a monster night in the Dominican Winter League:
4-for-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI
— Michael Mayer (@michaelmayer22) October 20, 2022
Does this mean Cespedes can return and be an impact player in the majors? No, we absolutely cannot ascertain anything from one game against lesser competition. Still, with Cespedes, we see he can still have some of that magic in his bat.
This is the type of player for whom a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training exists. In terms of Cespedes, he actually could fill a need for the Mets.
At the trade deadline last year, the team acquired Daniel Vogelbach. That necessitates a right-handed platoon partner. That was supposed to be Darin Ruf, and that did not end well with his 20 OPS+. With Ruf under contract next year, there needs to be competition for him next year.
Internal solutions could be Francisco Álvarez or Mark Vientos. However, they are prospects, and the Mets do not want to have them be a short-sided platoon partner getting very limited plate appearances. That’s not good for them or the organization.
This is where Cespedes could help. He could be competition for Ruf. He is that rare player who raises his game on the New York stage. If there is anything left, the Mets could use it. There is still plenty of time in the Winter Leagues to look at Cespedes more, but the Mets should be tracking him intently while looking to bring him back to the organization.
Last offseason, the New York Mets sought to hire a President of Baseball Operations. Unfortunately, they struck out for a consecutive year.
This had them shift their focus to GM. Eventually, they landed on Billy Eppler, who seemed more consolation prize than getting who they wanted.
The who, what, where, when, and why doesn’t matter. Eppler had the job. With that job came opportunity.
Eppler did the job building a team which won 101 games. The owner wanted the big fish in Buck Showalter and Max Scherzer, and Eppler reeled them in.
However, when you don’t win the division, and you’re out in the first round of the postseason, you didn’t do enough. For Eppler, there are a few areas where this definitely applies.
One criticism down the stretch was the Mets waited too long before calling up Francisco Álvarez and Mark Vientos. That may or may not be fair. On that point, it didn’t seem fair to declare them not ready all season only to throw them into a pennant race and demand/need performance.
After the organization tried Robinson Cano and J.D. Davis at DH, they pursued the platoon option at the position by obtaining Daniel Vogelbach. Vogelbach did his part well.
The issue is that trade and not giving the prospects a look earlier forced his hand on Darin Ruf. With Ruf and Tyler Naquin, it was certainly a forgettable trade deadline for the Mets. For his part, Eppler has no remorse:
Billy Eppler does not feel that the Mets' decision to prioritize long-term thinking at the trade deadline impacted their chances to win this season:— SNY (@SNYtv) October 14, 2022
"It's hard to pinpoint what would've been better" pic.twitter.com/vN8DK082Mv
To a certain extent, only he knows whether he could’ve or should’ve done more. What we know is the Naquin and Ruf trades were maligned at the time (the packages, not the players), and the Mets didn’t win.
When a team wins, there is forgiveness on overpaying in trades or missing out on players. That’s the way it is and should be because at the end of the day, it’s about winning in both the short and long term.
Fact is, the Mets didn’t win. With that, Eppler blew his opportunity.
Yes, the Mets announced he was returning as the GM. As Eppler indicated, Steve Cohen wants him to immediately get to work. The Mets need that because there is a lot of work to do on the roster.
That all said, the Mets have said they’re looking to hire a President of Baseball Operations. It’s something they’ve been trying to do since Cohen purchased the team.
With that comes someone working over Eppler. Eppler’s autonomy and control goes away. He now reports to someone who also can recommend firing, retaining, or reassigning him.
At least in theory, if the Mets win the division and World Series, he becomes the POBO. Perhaps, the Mets don’t pursue one. After all, why hire a decision maker over the guy who just built a World Series winning roster?
However, the Mets didn’t win. Both Ruf and Naquin didn’t perform with Naquin being left off the postseason roster. The Mets are pursuing a POBO to whom Eppler will report.
In the end, Eppler blew his opportunity. He will now be second in command, and his power will be at the whim of the POBO and Cohen.
Hopefully, this is the best case for the Mets organization. For Eppler, it’s not the worst case, but it is also not ideal. After all, this is a job he certainly wanted.