If you want to win a game, the best possible formula is Jacob deGrom and Seth Lugo. Tonight, that’s what the Mets had, and it led to a separately needed win against a Diamondbacks team ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card standings.
For his part, deGrom was great furthering cementing his Cy Young case. His final line was 7.0 innings, three hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and 11 strikeouts. That one? Well, that was courtesy of our old “Friend” Wilmer Flores.
But that wasn’t as damaging as a homer as a run against deGrom would normally be as deGrom actually received run support tonight. In fact, two of the three runs scored for him came off the bat of Pete Alonso who hit his 46th and 47th homers of the year.
Your major league HR leader.
4⃣6⃣ and counting… pic.twitter.com/qJWAPd1eSG
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 9, 2019
Is this guy good? Asking for a friend. pic.twitter.com/5r71hysahc
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 10, 2019
The other run came courtesy of an Amed Rosario RBI single in the fourth scoring Wilson Ramos. What made that interesting is Ramos had reached on a double against the shift. That shift was an unorthodox two outfielder shift. Presumably, this was implemented in response to Ramos’ ground ball rates, and yet, his hitting the ball up the middle was an automatic double.
Going back to deGrom, what makes him so impressive is how he is dominant no matter what part of the game. He rips through the order the first, second, and third time through. The lineup turns over a fourth time just briefly. He gets the bad and good hitters. For example, he struck out Ketel Marte three times.
Another note here is deGrom controls all parts of the plate. He gets batters out north, east, south, and west. While we’ve seen his recent rise to dominance correlate to pitching up in the zone, he did it working the lower half tonight.
If a team thought they’d get a respite when he leaves a game, they’d be wrong as Lugo followed him to pitch the final two innings. The fresh Lugo was economical striking out four of the six batters he faced needing just 21 pitches to earn his fifth save of the year.
With the win, the Mets gained a game on both the Diamondbacks and Phillies. It’s still an uphill climb, but the Mets are still alive.
The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:
1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.
2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.
3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.
4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.
5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.
6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.
7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.
8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.
10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.
11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.
12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.
13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.
14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.
15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.
16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.
17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.
18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.
19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.
20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.
The Mets chances of the Wild Card may very well be tied to Steven Matz. He is the starter in whom you have the least amount of confidence, and he has the propensity to blow up at any time. We need not look any further than recent history with him shutting out the Pirates in one start followed by his getting knocked out in the fourth in his next start against the very same team.
The interesting thing with Matz is you usually get a good read on what type of day it is going to be from his first inning. Today, he allowed a leadoff single to Jon Berti, and two pitches later, he got Isan Diaz to ground into a double play. When he struck out Brian Anderson to end the inning, you got a good feeling about him on the day.
People are going crazy for White Paw this summer. ❄️🐻 pic.twitter.com/LZ8wiunUlT
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 7, 2019
One interesting development in Alonso’s career is how he has a good month followed by a bad month. Well, Alonso had the worst month of his young career in July. He has turned things around in August homering in three straight games.
While this was a big development in this game, perhaps a bigger one was Matz navigating his way out of trouble in the second. He got himself into trouble with a leadoff walk to Garrett Cooper, and Cooper would score after consecutive singles from Starlin Castro and Lewis Brinson. Matz would catch a break with a Brinson TOOBLAN as he would get caught in a rundown when Alonso cutoff Jeff McNeil‘s throw. That was a gift out.
From there, the game was basically all Mets as the Mets batters would put on a power show. Michael Conforto hit the first of his two run homers in the third giving the Mets a 4-1 lead. With that homer, he became the 14th Mets player to hit 100 homers, and he joined Darryl Strawberry and David Wright as the only Mets players younger than 27 to hit that mark.
In addition to Conforto, new puppy owner McNeil would keep is end of his bargain with his wife by hitting another homer.
Power surge in the Citi. 💪 pic.twitter.com/ECJwkDUPBv
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 7, 2019
Going back to Matz, he pitched 6.2 innings allowing just two earned on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Since the All Star Break, he’s 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Better yet, he’s 5-0 at Citi Field. When he is going at least six innings like he has in three of these five starts, you seem him as a very good fifth starter. Really, that’s what the Mets need from him.
They also need this continued good work out of the bullpen. Matz would depart with two outs in the seventh leaving Bryan Holaday at second after a two out double. Justin Wilson came on, and despite allowing a single to Martin Prado, he would get the Mets out of the inning preserving what was then a 4-2 lead.
As noted, Conforto and McNeil would each homer in the seventh expanding that lead to 7-2. That was a safe enough lead for Jeurys Familia, who pitched a scoreless inning even with him allowing a walk. Luis Avilan recorded the final three outs in the ninth with the rain looming to get the Mets the four game sweep of the Marlins.
This win completed a stretch of 16 games against teams with a losing record. The Mets took care of business in that stretch going from nine games under .500 to three games over. They have gone from seven games back in the Wild Card standings to just one game out. Now the hard part begins.
Game Notes: The last time the Mets swept the Marlins in a four game series at Citi Field was April 2015. Once again, the Mets did not trust Chris Mazza or Donnie Hart to preserve a five run ninth inning lead.
On Monday, Pete Alonso joined Darryl Strawberry as the only Mets to win the Home Run Derby. When Strawberry won in 1986, he would not lead the league in homers. He would finish that season tied for fifth in homers 10 behind Mike Schmidt.
This year, Alonso is tied with Cody Bellinger for second in homers in the league. Both players are just one behind Christian Yelich. If Alonso could overcome Yelich, Bellinger, and sluggers just behind him, he would become the eighth player to win the Home Run Derby in the same year he led the league in homers. Can you name the seven who have done it? Good luck!
It wasn’t easy with his cousin Derek Morgan throwing wild pitches and buzzing him in a few times, but Pete Alonso won the 2019 Home Run Derby. Alonso joins Darryl Strawberry (1986) as the only other Met to win a Home Run Derby.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 9, 2019
Alonso needed surges to beat Carlos Santana and Ronald Acuna, Jr. in the first two rounds setting the stage for a final against Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Guerrero was the story for much of the night after his breaking single round records and needing a third swing-off to finally beat Joc Pederson. Still, it would be Alonso who won with the Guerrero’s handling it with pure class.
What a show❗️
Congratulations Pete, great performance.
— Vladimir Guerrero (@VladGuerrero27) July 9, 2019
This Home Run Derby was great for baseball. It featured an epic Guerrero/Peterson matchup and some of the best young talent in the game. In the end, Alonso, who never needed his bonus time in any of the three rounds was the winner.
Tonight was the night Guerrero and Alonso were launched to stardom across baseball. With a big All Star Game tomorrow, Alonso could be considering a burgeoning superstar. That’s what happens to players who kill the ball and donate a portion of their winnings to charity.
With Alonso winning, the joke was this was the Mets World Series. For what it’s worth, when Strawberry won it, the Mets won the World Series. For that matter, when David Wright went to the finals in 2006, the Mets went to the NLCS.
On a night like tonight, Mets fans had reason to cheer and to believe anything is possible. For tonight, we get to celebrate and dream. Mostly, we get to appreciate the fact Alonso is a Met.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, the Mets continue to embarrass themselves as an organization, and there is no one to answer for anything other than the manager:
1. Brodie Van Wagenen was real quick to put down Sandy Alderson in saying he was going to be more available to the media, and he was going to build a team with no ifs. Seeing how he is hiding in plain sight, and this team is a bigger disaster than any team Alderson, he should call up Alderson and apologize.
2. It should be noted former executives and players noted Van Wagenen’s behavior was completely unacceptable. Also unacceptable was how Van Wagenen ducked reporters on not just this question but any question. Instead, he would rather berate Mickey Callaway and send him to the wolves. This is the definition of callow.
4. The reports Van Wagenen was angry over the team blowing a Jacob deGrom start just feeds into the narrative Van Wagenen took the job to help his clients.
5. The Callaway criticism among the fanbase is getting way over the top. It’s now at the point where they are criticizing him for being directed by the team’s video review official to challenge a play. That’s not a manager lacking feel. That’s a manager doing his job with the information on-hand. It’s also very doubtful if he passed on the challenging the call because he used his “game feel” the same fans killing him for it would give him credit.
6. Like with the media, Callaway is just a whipping boy. The fact he does this without throwing anyone under the bus is really remarkable. Even with the regrettable Healey outburst, he has shown himself to be the consummate professional. Even if you disagree, you should admit no one deserves to be treated the way he has been.
7. More than Callaway, Mets fans deserve better than this.
8. The state of umpiring in baseball is a joke. Rhys Hoskins was out at the plate, and yet, the umpires were perfectly content being wrong on a potentially game changing play. It’s beyond stupid that tag plays at the plate are not automatically up for independent review like touchdowns.
9. Pete Alonso is quickly becoming like Mike Piazza, Yoenis Cespedes, or Darryl Strawberry. You have to stop to watch when he bats. His homer off Aaron Nola ended the no-hitter, and in the rally later in the game, you were just waiting for that Jeff McNeil hit to get Alonso to the plate as the tying run. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
10. At least at the plate, Amed Rosario has been quite good for over two weeks now. Over the past 19 games, he his hitting .333/.361/.455 with five doubles, a homer, and six RBI. That’s real progress, and if he hits like this he has a spot on this team. Unfortunately, it is increasingly looking like that may not be short.
11. When looking at the trade with the Brewers, everything that has occurred has been reasonably foreseeable. The lone exception may be Edwin Diaz‘s struggles. However, there are indications it may be bone spur related, which was a known problems. So, overall, every disaster that has occurred was foreseeable.
12. A Future’s Game with Anthony Kay, Justin Dunn, and Jarred Kelenic could have been the high point of the season, especially with them being friendly with one another and talking about how much they love and respect Alonso. It was still great seeing Kay pitch a scoreless inning.
13. As if things weren’t bad enough, Jerry Manuel wore a Mets cap as he coached the World Team in the Future’s Game. The backstabbing self-interested walking soundbite sacrificing the team’s youth and potential wearing a Mets cap is just perfect.
14. Somehow, Jake Arrieta hit Todd Frazier and Rosario were hit by pitches, and it was Frazier and Callaway who were tossed from the game. You can say it was unintentional, but Arrieta did hit three in that game which doubled his season total. He also gave that psychopath press conference after the game saying he was going to dent Frazier’s skull.
15. The Mets aren’t going anywhere, and they were heading into the All-Star Break. How the team doesn’t put Michael Conforto on the IL with his stiff back and just give Juan Lagares more playing time in the hopes of creating some sort of a trade market is just plain incompetence.
16. Still no Jed Lowrie.
17. Mets are getting better than can be expected production from Alonso, McNeil, Frazier, Dominic Smith, and Tomas Nido, and they are 10 games under .500. That’s almost impossibly bad and a reflecting on a bad GM making impossibly bad decisions.
18. Steven Matz in the bullpen didn’t exactly look good with him allowing three hits to the five batters he faced in his second game. Of course, you should probably ask yourself why a starter would work in back-to-back games. But that would assume the Mets have a rhyme or reason for what they do.
19. The “Sell The Team” chants need to be much more prevalent in the second half of the season. No, it’s not going to get them to spend or operate this team better. What is will do is embarrass the Wilpons who deserve all the embarrassment they’re due.
20. Alonso has the potential to become a superstar tonight with a big performance in the Home Run Derby. Let’s hope it happens.
On Thursday, I had the honor and the privilege of being a guest on A Metsian Podcast. It was a lot of fun and cathartic, and I would hope you would all take a listen by clicking on the link provided.
I’m not sure if this is a reason to entice you to listen, but during the course of the podcast, I personally mentioned or discussed the following Mets players: Tom Seaver, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Cliff Floyd, Nolan Ryan, Aaron Sele, Jason Vargas, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Roberto Alomar, Juan Samuel, Jim Fregosi, Bret Saberhagen, Vince Coleman, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Flexen, Paul Sewald, Sean Gilmartin, Darren Oliver, Pat Mahomes, Eric Hanhold, Steve Villines, Corey Oswalt, Jacob Rhame, Hansel Robles, Stephen Nogosek, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Darryl Strawberry, and others. This list is off the top of my head.
Looking at that list, maybe that’s why they haven’t brought me back after my last appearance three years ago when I went on a Daniel Murphy rant.
Well, it’s not the Mets unless they do something completely bizarre while also completely blowing an opportunity. Still, this seemed like a new one for the Mets:
1. First things first, we should be talking about Pete Alonso. He already broke Darryl Strawberry‘s rookie home run record, and he now has his sights set on the single season record shared by Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley. He also has his sights on the single season extra base hit mark (80) shared by Beltran and Howard Johnson.
2. What Alonso is doing this year is truly special, and more than anything he needs to be commended. He also needs to be commended for responding for a subpar May with a big June. More than the homers or anything else, that’s special.
3. Of course, we are not talking about Alonso because Mickey Callaway blew up at a Tim Healey of Newsday, and Jason Vargas challenged him to a fight while needing to be held back by Carlos Gomez and an injured Noah Syndergaard.
4. Callaway completely and utterly overreacted to Healey, and as the manager, he can’t do that. There’s no excuses even if the media is out there gunning for his job. As for Vargas, well, it is good to see this team is willing to fight for him, but needing to be held back is taking it way too far.
5. After the incident, the media members took their rounds discussing the altercation. The most eye opening statements came from Mike Puma of the New York Post who said Callaway is a puppet just following orders, inclusive of the bullpen. He also said he thinks Callaway was trying to get fired.
6. On that front, it’s bizarre how the media believes Callaway is a puppet making no decisions, and yet, they want him fired, and they’re not pursuing the answers to the questions they want answered. As a fan, we don’t know anything because it’s not at all being reported.
7. With respect to the blown game, Seth Lugo was pushed too far. He needed to be pulled after the 20 pitch seventh. He didn’t have it, and you got a clean inning out of him. Going beyond that was too greedy. Normally, this is where you criticize Callaway, but after Puma’s comments, who knows anymore?
8. On the bullpen, Brooks Pounders, Chris Flexen, Wilmer Font, and Stephen Nogosek combined to pitch eight scoreless innings in the series. That is a huge accomplishment, especially with the Cubs having the fourth best offense in the National League.
9. While you may want to attribute some of this to Phil Regan, as well as Edwin Diaz‘s clean inning, it would be surprising if this was all because of his working with the staff over a few days and not just things Dave Eiland had been working on with them.
10. With respect to Eiland and Chuck Hernandez, they join Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton as scapegoats for an ill conceived roster. We will see how much further the scapegoating goes as the season progresses. What makes the scapegoating even worse was Brodie Van Wagenen’s refusal to accept any personal responsibility for the failures of the team. That’s callow especially when you’re firing two people.
11. One of the interesting tidbits which emerged after Eiland’s firing was how the pitching staff was frustrated with Wilson Ramos. The pitch framing stats shows part of the reason. You also see it when he seemingly doesn’t even bother on some passed balls and wild pitches. If he’s going to be this way behind the plate, he needs to hit much more than he is.
12. While respect to Zack Wheeler, this is the time of the year he typically turns things around. July is his second best month of his career, and his second half ERA is more than a full run lower than his first half ERA. With the way things are going, it seems like the has time to really raise his trade value.
13. Going back to Diaz, we already know how he’s used it dictated by the front office. Once again Callaway was left holding the bag while the reporters did not ask the specific question whether he was allowed to use Diaz for more than four outs. If you think Callaway is a puppet, the questions need to be asked accordingly.
14. Too much was made of Sunday’s lineup. Players need days off, and Cole Hamels was going. In addition to that, the Mets had Jacob deGrom. You can fly with the defense first lineup in these situations, especially if the team is just going to blow the lead in his starts anyway.
15. Jeff McNeil continues to show just how valuable he is. He played three positions well, hit a homer, and he deked Anthony Rizzo into a TOOBLAN to get Lugo out of a jam. This guy is a real baseball player who is not getting nearly enough attention.
16. The fact McNeil and Michael Conforto were not in the top 20 in outfield voting was a really bad job by Mets fans. On the topic of Conforto, he is as unappreciated a player as there is in baseball and really among this fanbase.
17. Todd Frazier went from a .164/.179/.291 batting line to a .267/.357/.453 batting line with a 1.3 WAR. That is a remarkable turnaround, and it is one of the few things which has kept this team (barely) afloat.
18. With respect to Frazier his throwing his bat in disgust on a homer shows how much the ball is juiced as well as what happens when the ball is blowing out in Wrigley.
19. It’s funny how completely in disarray the Mets have been before and after Sandy Alderson. Say what you want about Sandy, but he was able to control message, deflect attention, and he was able to make the Mets seem like a well run organization. Now that he’s gone, the team looks like a Mickey Mouse operation all over again.
20. The real problem with this team is Jeff Wilpon. Instead of calls for Callaway’s head, we need to have more and more articles and media attention criticizing him. If the attention is on Callaway for following orders, all you’re doing is throwing jabs at Jeff’s designated punching bag.
One of the burdens for a first time dad is figuring out just how you can make your child a Mets fan. The Yankees have long owned New York, they win, and they always have the bigger stars. As a parent, you make do with what you have.
Back in 1983, that was Darryl Strawberry.
Strawberry was the biggest thing to happen to the Mets since seemingly Tom Seaver. He was the first overall pick of the 1980 draft, and he was hailed as the black Ted Williams. He’d be called up in 1983, and he’s actually live up to the hype that year.
Strawberry electrifying baseball and the Mets made selling the team easy to young impressionable baseball fans. The ensuing run for the team made it all the easier. While we talk about players like Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter, and justifiably so, Strawberry was the first to burst onto the scene and give everyone a glimpse into what would soon be.
Some of Strawberry’s Mets rookie records still stand today. That includes his 26 homers, which was 26 if his still team record 252 homers as a Met.
The latter still stands, but for who knows how long. In today’s 10-2 route over the Cubs, Pete Alonso hit his 26th homer of the season tying him with Strawberry atop the Mets all-time rookie leaderboard:
It's June 22nd. pic.twitter.com/CAYrv6u1LP
— New York Mets (@Mets) June 22, 2019
With 85 games remaining in the season, Alonso is not just assured to surpass Strawberry, he’s going to obliterate the record. In fact, Todd Hundley‘s and Carlos Beltran‘s Mets single season home run record (41) is in jeopardy.
Other records like Beltran’s and Howard Johnson‘s 80 extra base hits or Mike Piazza‘s .614 SLG may fall as well. Seeing how these power records are in jeopardy, you understand why Alonso’s at-bats have become must see TV. You have to stop to watch him hit because you don’t know what’ll happen next.
Combine that with his being a great teammate, and his doing fun Step Brothers spoofs with Jeff McNeil, you see how he and his epic home run blasts have made him a fan favorite. Much like Strawberry, you not only see how he provides hope for the future, but you also have a seminal figure who makes it cool to be a Mets fan, which is a relief to fathers everywhere.
So, with him hitting his 26th homer congratulations to tying a record which had stood for over 35 years and a record which exists for a franchise which is 57 years old. More than that, congratulations are in order for being a terrific ballplayer whose skills are only surpassed by being the teammate he is. Overall, congratulations to Alonso for being Alonso. As we see, that’s a very special thing to be.
While Sandy Alderson had his faults as the Mets General Manager, he left the Mets in a very good position. The next General Manager would have at this disposal the assets and core necessary to build a real World Series contender sometime within the next three years. If done, properly, this could have been a stretch akin to the 1980s Mets.
First and foremost, there was a young core still under control. Michael Conforto rebounded from shoulder surgery in the second half, and he appeared ready to return to his All Star form. Brandon Nimmo had a breakout season where he was the second best hitter in the National League. Jeff McNeil emerged to hit .329/.381/.471 in 63 games showing a great contact rate while playing well at second base.
The team still had a very good starting rotation. Jacob deGrom is the reigning Cy Young winner. Zack Wheeler‘s second half was as good as deGrom’s. Steven Matz finally made 30 starts in a season. Noah Syndergaard came back from a finger issue and pitched well. Over his final eight starts of the season, he was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
The team also did not have an onerous long term deal which would stand in the way of really improving the team. After the 2019 season, the contracts of Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Anthony Swarzak, and Jason Vargas were set to come off the books. That was $32.5 million coming off the books. Combine that with Wheeler’s $5.975, and that was $38.475 coming off the books.
With respect to Vargas and Wheeler being pending free agents, the team did have internal options. Justin Dunn had a breakout season, and he re-emerged as a Top 100 prospect with an ETA of last 2019 or early 2020. With a similar 2019 season, you could see him realistically being part of the 2020 rotation or possibly the bullpen.
Behind Dunn, Anthony Kay and David Peterson had an opportunity to make a push to put themselves in a position to have an ETA of 2020. Between the three pitchers, the Mets realistically only needed one more starter via trade or free agency.
Those three pitchers were not the only near Major League ready talent the organization had. Pete Alonso was Major League ready. If he wasn’t, the team still had Dominic Smith who would spend the offseason addressing his medical issues and continuing to get into better shape.
This was all part of a very promising farm system which could have made a charge to the top of the game. In addition to the pitching and Alonso, the team had Jarred Kelenic, who appeared to be a once in a generation talent. Behind him was an impressive collection of teenage talent which included Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and Mark Vientos.
If handled properly, the 2021 or 2022 Mets could have had a rotation with deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and at least one of Dunn, Kay, Peterson, or possibly Simeon Woods Richardson. The infield would been Alonso, McNeil, and two from the aforementioned group of teenage prospects. That’s if Amed Rosario didn’t have a breakout season or move to the outfield. Speaking of the outfield, an outfield of Nimmo-Kelenic-Conforto would have been the envy of the game.
Sure, not all of the prospects would have developed, but you also could have had someone like a Ross Adolph or another prospect emerge much like we saw with McNeil in 2018. There was also the impending 2019 draft class to consider. The overriding point here was the Mets had a deep well of prospects, and they had payroll flexibility.
Whoever was going to be the next General Manager of the Mets was going to be, they were taking over a job in an enviable position. There were difficult decisions in front of them like which players do you extend, and how hard exactly do you push to contend in 2019 or 2020 knowing what was on the horizon. Certainly, you had to do some of that because taking over the job was likely going to require you to sell a vision of contending in 2019.
While players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would have been well worth pursuing, realistically speaking, the Wilpons were not going to green light those signings. On the trade front, the only player available worth the Mets top prospects was probably J.T. Realmuto, but the Marlins have never seemed inclined to be reasonable in a potential deal with the Mets.
With that in mind, whatever the vision for the new General Manager, there needed to be an element of restraint. No matter what the new General Manager did, they needed to maintain that level of payroll flexibility while also not damaging the farm system to pursue short term fixes and/or underselling prospects in order to find ways to circumvent not being able to spend.
Well, in one trade, just one, Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed. In trading Dunn, the Mets lost their lone near Major League ready starter. That was important in case of an injury in 2019, and it was important because with Wheeler and Vargas being free agents, the Mets needed to find at least one cheap option for the rotation.
Worse than that, the team added Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract. Over the next five years, the Mets had $20 million on the books for a player who was going to have a steep decline in one of those five years. That player was coming in at a position already filled by McNeil and at a position which was going to be filled with young talent during the duration of Cano’s contract. You also weren’t moving Cano to first due to Alonso and/or Smith.
Yes, this is where many point out the Mets obtained a cost controlled closer in Edwin Diaz. That’s true. However, he came with a debilitating contract. He also came at the expense of Kelenic. Certainly, a prospect of Kelenic’s level is worth more than a closer both in terms of value in a trade and just in terms of a future impact on a team.
Brodie Van Wagenen would then worsen things. He would trade prospects in Adolph, Adam Hill, Scott Manea, Felix Valerio, and Santana with Bobby Wahl to add J.D. Davis and Keon Broxton (who didn’t last two months with the team). No matter your impression of those players, that’s a big chunk of prospect depth for two players who were really nothing more than bench players.
That’s not a good allocation of your assets, especially when your organization does not have the ability to absorb Cano’s contract in stride and spend their way around losing this prospect depth. Anyone taking over the Mets job knew this, Brodie Van Wagenen included.
However, despite that knowledge he went all-in on 2019. He did not maintain the payroll flexibility needed to address the loss of two rotation spots, a third baseman, and a center fielder in free agency. He traded away not just two top 100 prospects but also quality depth prospects thereby harming their ability to add at this year’s trade deadline (if everything worked out) or to build the 2020 team. Mostly, he lost Kelenic who was a franchise altering prospect, who aside from Darryl Strawberry, the organization has not seen.
Overall, not only did Van Wagenen fail to build the 2019 Mets into a contender, he hamstrung the team’s ability to build that contender in 2020 and beyond. The reason is the team does not have the payroll flexibility or the prospect depth truly needed to overcome the way the Wilpons choose to operate their team.
Consider for a moment if Van Wagenen did nothing, the Mets would have been a fourth place team much like they are now. However, if he did actually do nothing, the Mets would have had a deep farm system and real payroll flexibility to attack this upcoming offseason. That’s all gone now, and seeing what he did to this organization in less than a year on the job, it’s difficult to have any faith he can turn things around and get the franchise back on track.